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

Monday, January 30, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Birthday Worth Celebrating

This past Saturday my husband turned 40.

It seemed to me that this is a milestone worth celebrating.

It's not every day that you turn 40, and while birthdays do seem to be a regularly occurring phenomenon, the way that we celebrate them changes vastly over the course of our lives (at least it has for me).

Despite that, I still hear of older adults celebrating their birthdays with wild parties, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I was nervous about how Husband might choose to celebrate his.  (I've never thrown a wild party in my life, and I'm not too interested in starting now.)

But you know what he asked for?  To go out to eat with as a family and to spend the day with the kids.

He specifically said no party.  He didn't have a list of presents that he wanted to appear beside his breakfast plate, and he didn't ask me to make him a fancy breakfast in bed or a four-tier birthday cake.

He wanted nothing more than a day with his family.  That I could make happen.

When he came home from work on Friday, the van was packed and his clothes laid out on our bed.  I asked him to change, and with the kids hopping with excitement, we kidnapped him and headed out.

Our Little Man had asked to have a movie party with his daddy, so we had rented a few movies after school, and with me behind the wheel, the three of them watched movies while I drove us to Wilmington, my husband's college town.

We spent the weekend basking in the near 70 degree temps and enjoying the many fun activities this beach-side town has to offer.

While visiting a barbecue contest, we saw this sign beside a bridge.  Be sure to read the middle rule.  Honestly?  

Next he chose the Fort Fisher aquarium, which totally thrilled our sea creature-loving kids.

The men got really interested in the snake tanks.

After that, although my man is not a fan of the beach in the wintertime, we went there - because our kids are.  They loved racing their daddy along the water and picking up all sorts of strange shells.

They were all in their element.

We ate at two of our favorite restaurants there, this being Husband's college haunt.  He got a huge kick out of our Little Man attempting to eat this monster-sized sandwich!

The boardwalk area of Wilmington is beautiful, too, with lots of artsy businesses by the water and the bridge and battleship on other side of the river.  The kids loved seeing the carriages and the boats and all the people - and it was fun to watch them get so excited about the place we love to visit.

After convincing the kids that we really can't move to Wilmington right now, we headed home.  It was a fun birthday all around  - fun to spend the weekend together, away; fun to be without a set schedule, free to check out whatever interested us; free to linger over breakfast and watch the boats over lunch and to change the seagulls at the beach.

Best of all, though, is that this is the type of celebration my husband wanted.  He didn't want the party, the loud music, the escape from home and hearth and family, but instead just quiet time together.

He's always been a family man, but I'm proud of him for being the type of father who would choose to spend his free time with his children.

For what are you grateful today?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Dinah Harris Trilogy: "The Shadowed Mind" by Julie Cave

Having lost her career as an FBI agent but gained her sobriety, Dinah Harris is ready to begin her new career:  as a private consultant.  With the a shady senator keeping his eye on her while she tracks a serial killer, Dinah is challenged to stop the man killing society's most undesirables - before his aim settles on her.

Peace does not yet reign supreme in Dinah's mind.  Although she desperately wants the new life she has found in Jesus, she isn't sure yet how to make that happen.  Staying sober continues to be a struggle even as she hates the part of her that craves alcohol, and thus makes her a target for the eugenics killer.

Eugenics, defined by as the practice of improving the human race by discouraging the reproduction of people with defects, is a main theme of this book.  The history of eugenics in America - yes, America! - plays a large role in solving this case.  Like in Deadly Disclosures, the information is passed to the reader from experts consulted throughout the investigation.  Because the information trickled through the suspects as new evidence was revealed, it flowed naturally.

Dinah Harris is one of my new favorite characters.  Her enthusiastic desire to create a new life for herself is inspiring, and she tackles each mystery with bulldog tenacity.  If I needed her superior investigative skills, I'd want her on the case.

The Shadowed Mind is a realistic suspense with a clear view of how easily we humans can lose sight of kindness and good will when we take our minds off of the One who created them.  A cut above your ordinary mystery, this book is not merely 200 pages of mysterious fluff but the well-crafted work of an educated, inspirational author.

I received a free copy of The Shadowed Mind from Julie Cave in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions are my own.

Want to win a copy of the entire Dinah Harris trilogy?  Julie Cave could send YOU the entire set!

To win, do one or more of the following:

  • Leave a comment on this post telling me what YOUR favorite book is.
  • Leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite type of character.
  • Share this giveaway on your favorite social media site - and leave a comment saying you've done so.
A winner will be chosen randomly on February 8th at noon.  The winner will be emailed shortly thereafter and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.  Entries without a valid email address will be disqualified.

This post was shared at:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Mornings with Jesus" Review & Giveaway



Do you ever feel as if you must hit the ground running each morning just to keep up?  As if there's not another minute to spare in your day - and yet somewhere, somehow, you want a few minutes' peace with scripture?

This is the book for you!

It's hard for busy women to find those quiet moments with God, but Mornings with Jesus is designed to maximize your every second by helping you prioritize and then chew on scripture throughout the day.  This book features 366 devotions specifically for 2012 that begin with scripture and then are followed by a short devotion and action step.  Because each complete devotion fits on less than one page, it takes very little time to read - but the action step and scripture passage is designed to remain on your heart throughout the day.

Having jumped ahead a bit and read through most of this book already, my favorite devotions are the ones that feature stories from the authors' lives.  I love reading how other wives and mothers encountered difficulties in their own lives that may be similar to mine and yet came through them stronger.  Reading others' stories of survival and success encourages me on those days when my to-do list seems longer than Santa's.

One devotion by Tricia Goyer particularly stood out.  She shared about how overwhelmed she felt at a teen mom's meeting, where she knew that they needed to learn more about Jesus and yet she didn't know how to find the time to mentor each one individually - when she realized that the best way she could help was to pray for them and be open to the Holy Spirit's leading.  Our Sunday School class is currently studying 'neighbors' and ways that we can reach out to those in need, and the stories of other churches who have raised millions of dollars for starving people overseas is inspiring - and also scary.  The need is great, and our numbers are small, but Goyer's story reminds us that we don't need to worry about doing it all - only to pray and do as He leads.

Don't take my word for it; Mornings with Jesus will challenge you to apply His words and make time in your busy schedule to spend Him.  Check out what others are saying here.

I received a copy of Mornings with Jesus for free from the LitFuse Group in exchange for an honest review.  The above opinions are my own.

They also gave me a copy to give away!

Here's how you can win your own copy of Mornings with Jesus.  You can earn multiple entries by completing more than one below and leaving a separate comment for each.

  • Leave a comment sharing why you want to win this book.
  • Enter my other giveaway happening here.  It will make you think hard about your faith, as well.
  • Share about this giveaway on a social media site and tell me which one.

A winner will be chosen on February 1st at noon.  Entrants without valid email addresses will be disqualified.  The winner will be selected randomly and will have 48 hours to reply or another winner will be chosen.  I apologize to other readers, but I can ship to US addresses only at this time.

Don't want to wait 'til the giveaway is over to start reading?  You can buy Mornings with Jesus here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

GratiTuesday - A Friend's Call

Have you ever had one of those days where everything just feels crazy – where it seems as if you just can’t possibly do one more thing or handle one more piece of stressful news?

That’s how today has felt to me.

There were good things happening; I knew there was, but they seemed to be far away.  Kind of like the opposite of looking through rose-colored lenses, I think mine were midnight blue.

The things happening lately just weren’t of the run-of-the-mill variety, and while nobody was losing an arm or some such thing, these aren’t normal times.

  • One grandmother had eye surgery.
  • The other grandmother had corrective heart stuff procedures.
  • A friend’s husband had preventative medical tests.
  • The famous Joe Paterno died.  That may seem unconnected in light of the other things, but anytime some dies, it just casts a pall.  With the recent death of my teacher and JoePa’s legendary status (I’ve watched him coach; I’ve studied in his library; I’ve eaten his Peachy Paterno ice cream; the list goes on), it’s definitely an Event for this central PA girl.
  • Four years ago today, my grandfather died.  Having all of these other things happen TODAY has made them harder, I think.
 I think I gave new personal meaning to the term ‘pray without ceasing’ today.  Having a family birthday to celebrate almost made all the rest harder, and this evening felt a bit crazy.

Until the phone rang, and a friend called.

She didn’t know that any of this was happening.  She didn’t know that I’m quite stressed over this week’s birthday celebration (for which plans are finally coming together) or that I’m working a record number of days this week, making regular chores and school times difficult.

She just called with an invitation and to catch up a bit, and it was perfect.

Friend time was exactly what I needed, and my gloomy lenses were replaced with the proper rosy lenses.

Now I can see clearly all the good things that God has been providing:
  • Successful procedures for both grandmothers.  Yay!
  • A second chance at some pictures I’d like to take.
  • The kids worked together to make a banner for one of the grandmothers.  My Little Man colored and drew dinosaurs and snowmen on it the whole time.  They may have been blue snowmen, but still … that’s dedication for him.
  • My husband did the dishes for me – the second time this week!  AND he unloaded the dishwasher.  That is not my favorite chore.
  • This is our last week of work – hooray!  Our time will be our own again starting next week.
  • I won a bloggy giveaway today.  Isn’t it so fun to win something?

Catching up with my friend tonight was wonderful.  I need to be more intentional about setting aside time for friends – tonight she had perfect timing.

Thanks, Danielle!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

PS - I'm giving away some really great books this week!  You can check them out and enter to win here and here.

Menu Plan Monday - January 23, 2012

This is my last regular week of helping my friend - yay! - and then My Little Man and I will be back to our regular schedule.  She needs a LOT of help this week, though, so we're working three days instead of one.  I'm thinking that my Crock Pot will get a workout this week!

We'll be keeping breakfasts simple with yogurt, fruit, and granola parfaits.  I'll post the recipe for my homemade granola on Thursday.

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers or sandwiches with fruit or veggies and cheese.

- chicken pot pie soup, biscuits
- Mexican pizzas with beef and beans, corn, rice
Crock pot lasagna, garlic bread

- hot dogs cooked in the fireplace (my son's request!), baked sweet potatoes, carrot sticks, apples, peanut butter ball
- dinner out for my husband's FORTIETH
- honey sauced chicken with rice and veggies
- Grab it and Growl

I've also been trying hard to eat lots more veggies than I did over Christmas, and that's going well.  I feel much better - though I do still crave something sweet from time to time.  If my man and I can find a bit of time, we'll try making Grandma's gingerbread (for his G unit) and some oatmeal cookies for us to share.

Oh, and for the birthday boy?  I'm still not 100% sure how we're going to celebrate, but the kids are very excited about cake and ice cream.  I think we'll try this one, and maybe, as I did once before for him, we can shape it like a giant golf ball.  That was in the pre-kid era, and I think they'll get a kick out of that.

What's going to be on your plate this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Sound of Red Returning" by Sue Duffy - Giveaway Below!

Liesl Bower had an idyllic childhood - that didn't last very long.  Soon family trauma took over, and after witnessing the murder of her Harvard music professor, she sought refuge in the familiar notes of the classical greats.  When she sees a face from her past in the audience during a concert for the President, her quiet existence is shattered.  Soon international spies hunt Leisl to find a piece of information mistakenly placed with her belongings.  Can Leisl find the missing information before heads of state are assassinated - and before Russian retaliation finds her? 

I LOVED this book!  

It's not easy to achieve the perfect balance of suspense and romance, of intrigue and honesty, of double agents and forgiveness, but that is exactly what Sue Duffy has done in The Sound of Red Returning.  Definitely not predictable, this suspenseful story will keep you on your toes as you try to determine exactly whom is spying for whom and just who has no hidden angles.  

Although beautiful and amazingly intelligent, Liesl does not have it all together and does not appear as a plastic character.  She grows and matures throughout the story, not only through her faith, but in her awareness of self and others.  She develops compassion for those around her, which was seemingly missing as she dealt with the treachery of her family and mentor.  Liesl's pain makes you want to cheer her on and her early selfishness induces frustration, but that only adds to her reality.  

While I am anything but political, I enjoyed the way that Duffy wove together the intrigue that sets the stage for this story.  Each scene, each memory becomes important as it pops back up later and adds fuel to the hotbed of activity as the CIA races to find the missing name before the Russians can claim it.  Duffy intertwines these memories together with Liesl's travels and musical experiences in such a way as to make the reader hop forwards and backwards in time as events become important. While this may sound confusing, Duffy does so seamlessly, keeping the pace of the action high and the reader guessing through each turning page.

The Sound of Red Returning is a new trilogy by Sue Duffy.  The next two cannot be released fast enough.

Read an excerpt here.


Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody Magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. She is the author of Mortal Wounds (Barbour, 2001) and Fatal Loyalty (Kregel, 2010). Sue has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children.

Find out more at

You can find purchasing information for this book here.

I am reviewing The Sound of Red Returning as part of a blog tour.  You can read other reviews of this book here.  I was provided a free copy of this book by Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.  As such, the opinions stated above are my own.

Win a Kindle Fire from @SueDuffy2 and @KregelBooks in the "Red Returning" Giveaway!

Sue Duffy and her publisher, Kregel Publications, are celebrating the release of The Sound of Red
Returning by giving away a Kindle Fire prize package worth over $200 to one lucky winner!!!! (1/23-2/11)

Enter the Sue Duffy’s Giveaway today and you could win:

* A brand new Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi

* The Sound of Red Returning (Book One in the Red Returning series) by Sue Duffy

To enter click one of the icons below. But, hurry! The giveway ends on 2/11. Sue will be announcing the winner of the “Red Returning” Giveaway on February 13th on the Litfuse website!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Friday, January 20, 2012

Next Week is SwagBucks Spirit Week!

"Get your pom-poms ready, folks, because starting on Monday Swagbucks is holding Spirit Week!  Every day next week they will be celebrating a different holiday.  Each day will be filled with fun, activities, and surprises.  They'll be announcing every holiday the evening before in our Swagbucks blog.  Make sure you keep track of each day's Swag Codes, as you will need them at the end of the week in order to earn a big, juicy reward. It's the most fun you can have getting your reward points for free stuff!"

If you're not familiar with SwagBucks, it's a search engine that allows you to earn points - or SwagBucks - for the searches that you would do anyway.  (There are lots of other ways to earn SwagBucks if you'd like to pick up the speed a little.) You can then trade in your SwagBucks for gift cards, certificates, posters, music, etc.  My favorite Swag is Amazon gift cards, because I can buy virtually anything with those.

New Comic Book Action in Novel Form by Jon S. Lewis

Colt McAlister, 16-year-old surfer dude extraordinaire, still can't believe that his parents are dead.  Murdered for exposing a biotechinical company's plans to take over Earth, Colt moved in with his grandfather in Arizona and made friends with the son of the most successful alien-fighting force on the planet.  He also reconnected with his lifelong friend Danielle, a computer genius, and together the trio has been tapped to attend the CHAOS military academy in the hopes of saving Earth from the alien forces struggling to take over.  A friendly CHAOS agent informs Colt of a plot against his life, however, and it appears that the good guys have initiated it.  With both the aliens and the humans gunning for Colt, who can he trust?  Can he stay alive long enough to save the planet?

Written in the same fast-paced style as Invasion, readers will be amazed at Colt's new revelations throughout Alienation. Beginning shortly after Invasion ended, Lewis gets new readers to the CHAOS series up to speed in the first chapter.  The readers are kept on their toes throughout this intergalatic thriller as Colt struggles to battle aliens and robots alike - while learning who his true friends are.

Colt McAlister makes a wonderful hero - he's honest, strong, and caring.  His moral code appears to be developing, however, and he's still learning where his faith and values lie.  For teens who are searching for more information about God or the Bible's take on alien life form, this book will not provide any information.  For a teen who is looking for a wild ride through a fantasy world, however, Alienation delivers.

Lewis is an expert fantasy craftsman, and his comic book history comes to the fore in the CHAOS novels.  By weaving together historical detail with technological advancements, Lewis makes even the shape-shifting Thule realistic.  Not since the world of Harry Potter have I read a fantasy book with such complete attention to detail.  I cannot wait to read the next installment in this series - but don't take my word for it.  Read other reviews here.

To download the first chapter of Alienation, visit the website.

You can buy this book today here.

Lewis, Jon S..jpg

Jon S. Lewis is the coauthor of the Grey Griffins trilogy (over 500,000 books in print) and the upcoming Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles. He also writes for the DC COMICS family of publishers. He resides with his family in Arizona. 

The invasion was only the beginning! Jon Lewis is celebrating the next adventure in his fast-paced C.H.A.O.S. series with an explosive giveaway!

One thrill-seeker will receive:
  • iPad2 with Wi-Fi
  • Copies of the C.H.A.O.S. novels, Invasion and Alienation
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 7th. Winner will be announced at the Alienation Facebook Party on 2/7. Jon will be hosting an Author Chat, giving away copies of the books and gift certificates to iTunes and! Don't miss a second of the intrigue!

Grab your copy of Alienation and join Jon on the evening of February 7th for an author chat, spy training (How much do you know about alien invaders?) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

I received a free copy of Alienation from the LitFuse Group in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Far Away

Sometimes it's hard to be far away from home.

Being away from family and friends isn't easy, but over time you develops a routine, a new way of doing things, and that becomes your new normal.  Life goes on even though some of those you love are far away, and you get used to it.

You would think that the big holidays would be the hardest.  The special celebrations, the birthday parties, all make you realize that there's someone missing whom you'd like to be present.

Those aren't the hardest to me, though.

As life changes, the everyday events are the ones that I hate to miss the most.

I want to be home to bake pumpkin bread for my grandmother.

I want to be home to wait with my family while my other grandmother undergoes medical tests.

And I want to be able to attend the viewings and funerals of those who have passed on.

Last weekend my middle school English teacher died, and while I can't say that she was a favorite or even that I liked her class all that much, attending her services is something I'd do if I could, if for no other reason than the respect of a good teacher.

She taught seventh- and eighth-grade grammar and Greek mythology in a most unusual way.  Each day began with sentences on the board that we had to diagram, and then that was usually followed by a pop quiz.  I'm not sure why anybody was surprised when it happened so often, but somehow we always were.  She demonstrated the 'wobblywalk' at the front of the glass when she was in a particularly good mood, and if you happened to say 'yeah,' within her hearing, you'd be writing 'yes' 2000 times - each.

Mrs. Haughout was positive that only classic literature would save our minds if we happened to become prisoners of war, and we were all required to commit to memory a classic poem.  (I spent quite a lot of time struggling over The Cremation of Sam McGhee.)

Of all of my teachers, even those from whom I still send and receive Christmas cards, Mrs. Haughout is the one who comes to mind the most often.  I cringe inside each time I start a sentence with a conjunction or end with a preposition, knowing she'd be throwing up her hands in frustration if she could see my work.

Yet no matter how much I remember or want to pay my respects, I couldn't be at the funeral home tonight.  It's still hard to be away from home sometimes, but for now, I'll remember Mrs. Haughout from my new home.

Maybe I can ship off some pumpkin bread, too.

Caramel Pumpkin Doughnut Hole (Muffins)

Do you ever just want to try something different?  

My Big Helper and I were in that kind of mood last week.  We saw these and thought they looked great - but we didn't have all of those ingredients, nor did we have a doughnut pan.  

So we decided to play, and this is what we came up with. These bake up like doughnut holes but in mini-muffin tins.  They're sweet and decadent, yet somehow not too bad for you (at least without the icing).  And although the kids and I were all about the gooey caramel icing on top of this little doughnut bite, my husband liked them just fine without it.  

These will definitely be made again here soon.

Needed ingredients:
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 - 1/2 c. milk
  • 3/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. white wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
Caramel Glaze ingredients:
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1-2 T. caramel sundae topping
  • 2 T. milk
Here's how to make your own gooey caramel pumpkin-y doughnut holes:
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.  Add the egg, pumpkin, milk, and sour cream until smooth.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones until just combined.
  4. Add chocolate chips if desired.
  5. Spray the bottoms of each mini muffin cup with non-stick spray.  Add a tablespoon-sized dollop of batter to each one.  Batter will be thick!  
  6. Bake for 9 - 15 minutes at 325 or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then loosen gently and pop out - I used a toothpick and a fork.
  8. When completely cool, ice with caramel glaze.
  9. To make the glaze, mix all ingredients together until smooth.
  10. ** Store carefully - doughnut holes can absorb glaze overnight.  That's if they last that long.  Ours barely made it until breakfast.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Deadly Disclosures" Review & Giveaway

Win the Complete Dinah Harris Trilogy Here!

Have you ever been contacted by an author directly?  I haven't been - until a few months ago when Australian author Julie Cave wrote to me about her new trilogy, a series of books featuring Dinah Harris, FBI detective.  She offered me a set of books to keep and one to giveaway in exchange for a review.

Now, realize that at this point I was nearly bouncing out of my chair with excitement over hearing from a real, live author. (Actually, I may have bounced around the living room a few times - let's be honest.)  I was worried about the subject, though - a mystery/suspense book sounded right right up my alley, but one about apologetics?  I didn't know much about that subject, and just how exciting could it be?  Since that's a topic that I've been wanting to learn more about, I decided to go for it - and I'm so glad I did.

Here's why:

Dinah Harris is a down-and-out FBI agent who's survived a family tragedy - barely.  Once a rising star in the Bureau, she now struggles to get through each workday until she can drown in her favorite wine.  When her former partner pushes buttons and removes her from her day-to-day teaching job and gets her reinstated to agent status, can she keep it together to find the missing Secretary of the Smithsonian?

I love real characters.  You know the kind I mean - the kind with the sort of flaws that we've struggled with personally, the kind that the guy down the street has or that we see in the carpool line at school.  Dinah Harris is such a character.

Following a huge personal tragedy, she falls into a deep depression and tries to numb the pain with alcohol - which only adds an alcoholic's problems to her original ones.  It doesn't help that she's been demoted to a teacher at the FBI academy and lost her dream position of star agent.

The story opens as her partner returns, having gotten permission for her to work the case of the missing Smithsonian secretary, and you can feel Dinah's pain as you read.  Knowing that she was once totally different than she is now, you can't help but cheer her on through this rare second chance.  As she makes mistake after mistake and you learn more of her story, you just want to hand her a box of tissues and give her a big hug.

If Deadly Disclosures were only the story of Dinah Harris solving a high-profile case, it would be a good one.  What makes it even better is the other side of it - the shady political deals happening behind the scenes.  While I'm about as political as a slug, I found this fascinating, mainly because I learned so much from this part of the story.

Thomas Whitfield, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, was a devout evolutionist - until the day he became a Christian.  With Whitfield interested in Creationism before he disappeared, Dinah finds herself in a no-holds-barred search for the truth - as bodies begin to appear and her own downward spiral continues.

I feared that a story where the author had a distinct desire to teach something would be preachy, but Deadly Disclosures is anything but.  With politicians and heads of organizations interviewed throughout the book, the information is shared at just the right pace for a newbie to understand, and, better yet, both sides of the issue are explained.

Cave uses natural dialogue and the twists and turns of the case to educate the reader about creationism.  It is clear that she stands on a distinct side of this issue, but scientific information is shared to support all premises.  Both sides of the issues are very well explained and inherent to the story, making it come across as a really well-researched suspense novel.

Now, with that technical stuff out of the way, this is a really awesome start to a great trilogy.  It's fast-paced, action-packed, and a dramatic mystery that makes you feel for the main character even as you try to solve the mystery before she does.  (I liked it so much that I read the whole series in two days.  I can't wait for Cave's next book!)

What could be better - except winning it for yourself?

Julie Cave is giving away a copy of the complete series to one reader!  Here's how to win:
  • Mandatory entry:  Leave a comment on this post describing your favorite type of character.
  • Bonus entry:  Leave Cave a comment on her blog and let her know that you're stopping by from A Nest in the Rocks.  Leave a comment below telling me you did so. 
  • Bonus entries:  Follow A Nest in the Rocks on GFC or 'like' us - you know where.  Leave a comment for each - each one is a separate entry.
This giveaway will end on February 8th at noon.  Entrants without leaving a valid email address will be disqualified.  The winner will have 24 hours to respond before a new winner will be chosen.

Reviews of the other two books in the series, The Shadowed Mind  and Pieces of Light will follow in the next two weeks.  Stop back for more chances to win with each review!

And if you can't wait that long, here's a great deal on the ebook version, happening now:
"Meet Dinah Harris, the sarcastic and brilliant heroine of the Dinah Harris mystery trilogy, for only .99 cents this month!  From January 15th - 31st, you can get your copy of Deadly Disclosures at a promotional rate of .99 cents! This includes digital copies available for the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. To get your copy at this special price visit any of these fine retailers:
Amazon (Kindle)
Answers in Genesis Bookstore (any of the above!)

Remember, this promotion will last January 15-31 only, so make sure to act fast!"

This post was shared at:

Menu Plan Monday - January 16, 2012

** Enter my latest giveaway HERE!

My Big Helper has two days off from school this week, so we're getting some crafty time in and finishing up her presents for Daddy.  She had a few ideas for things she wanted to make, so these are dedicated present days.  If we can, we'll fit in some special baking or cooking time, too.

The weather continues to bounce around here - in the 30s one day and then near 60 the next - so we're going to be eating lots of casseroles and soups and oven-style dishes this week.  When it's cold, I'm ready for hot comfort food - and when it's warm, I want no-fuss meals so we can play outside.  This week's menu will reflect that.

  • Sandwiches with the leftover roasted meat, sliced carrots, apples
  • Vegetable soup, homemade bread
  • Cajun Chicken Pasta 
  • Grab it and growl

Getting ready for the next Crazy Cooking Challenge, as well.  We might need to do lots of research for this one - no telling how many chocolate cakes we'll need to make before we find the right one!  If you have a chocolate cake recipe on your blog that you'd like to see featured here, leave a link in the comments.  I'd be happy to try it out!

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie!

GratiTuesday - The Benefits of New Technology

My husband and I agreed some time ago that we weren't going to be techno-crazy.  I'm usually more interested in computer stuff than he is, but as far as fancy phones and other gadgets go, we let it pass us by.  That even includes things like basic cable and video games.

But for Christmas he bought me a Nook.

Not just any Nook, but one of the fancy-pantsy online-almost-anywhere can-do-a-million-things for me kind.

At first I was a bit confused.  I mean, really, aren't these super expensive?  And aren't we trying to save money? And didn't we agree not to chase the gadgetry?

But before I could figure out how to express my missing excitement (because despite all that other stuff, there's just something about holding a book full of printed words in your hands, you know?) he started to explain.

  • He noticed me running back and forth from the computer in the living room to the kitchen to read recipes when I'm cooking, and he thought that this way I could just take the Nook to the kitchen and save the running around.  It would be simpler.
  • There are lots of educational apps available, and he thought that the kids could learn a lot from playing with them.
  • There's a Bible app, and he thought I would get a lot out of having the Bible digitally at my fingertips wherever I go - and that I'd like having devos show up on the Nook daily.
Since I do love technology and it was already in the house, we plugged it in and got it going.

I love all of those reasons.  They show how thoughtful my husband was being with this gift, and I love that.  That's the very best kind of gift - a really thoughtful one.

Except my husband didn't foresee the best thing about the Nook.

All of those apps?  Most of which are free?

They're FUN.

The kids now ask for special Nook time with us.  They know that their screen time limits include Nook time, but both have learned how to play checkers, and they'll race to get chores done after dinner so we can squeeze in a special game of checkers, just two of us.  

My Big Helper and I have had lots of fun playing Hangman (yes, I know it's grisly, and I realize we could play with paper just as well, but, oh, well, why not?) and she's gotten lots better just in this month of figuring out working with the letters.  She's learning the strategies.

But best of all, there's OREGON TRAIL!  You may not know that I'm a bit of a history nut, and when I was in elementary school we got to play this wonderful game that mimicked the travelers on the Oregon Trail.  Well, we found it - it's back! - now in HD and with all kinds of new activities for the homesteaders.  Hunting and shopping are still there, but now you can fish, pick berries, pan for gold, really float down rivers, trade with the Natives - it's great!  We all love it, and so if everybody can get ready in time, we all squeeze onto the couch for a few days' journey over the trail before devotions time begins.

The kids are at those strange ages where it's not easy to play games together, and since my husband is not a a fan of board games to start with, it's particularly difficult.  Yet we all seem to work well together to repair our wagon and beat off the buzzard that's trying to fly away with a digital kid and cheer on our wagonload together.  

I love the family time that the Nook has encouraged.

I love the thoughtful husband behind the Nook.

I love my family, squeezed tight together, laughing heartily, making memories.

For more GratiTuesdays, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Don't forget to check out my latest giveaway - and find out how to get an awesome Christian mystery/suspense novel at a great discount for your eReader!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are You a Daily Dealer?

There's a lot of those daily deal sites out there, and some of them I enjoy more than others.  I don't make use of them too often - we're far enough outside the big city to make some of the ones I'd really like not practical, like traveling weekly for dance lessons - but for the one-time-use events, they can be really great.

Shhh, don't tell, but I bought one of my husband's birthday presents this way.  I think he'll really like it - and I got a great deal!

I've had really good luck with Groupon.  I haven't used the Groupon Now site, but it seems to be very similar - just with a faster turnover time.

What do you think of these kinds of sites?  Have you used them?  Found any great deals?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taco Won-tons

My Big Helper and I decided to make our favorite dinner the other day:  a snack supper.  We often do this on Sunday nights.  We throw together simple things that we can serve on platters and put them where we can all reach them, and then we watch a movie, play a game, or do some other family type activity.  Usually it's pretty basic - chicken, sliced apples, cheese wedges, crackers, carrots, something like that.

But not this week.

I saw on Pinterest where someone used won-ton wrappers to make little cupcake-like appetizers, and while there weren't specific directions given for what to put inside them, we got busy.

The whole family liked these, and while they were cute and fun to eat, they were also filling and fairly healthy.  Even My Little Man, who didn't want to try them, finally did and yelled, "I like these guys!"

  • First, we browned 1/2 lb. of ground beef with 1/2 of an onion and 1/2 of a green pepper.
  • After draining it, we added 1 c. of black beans, 1 c. of frozen corn, and 1 t. of mesquite seasoning.
  • Toss that around in a hot skillet just a bit, then add 1/2 c. salsa and 3 oz. of cream cheese.  
  • Stir over low heat until the cream cheese is melted and incorporated well. (I did these first few steps in advance, partly because of our schedule that day, and partly so that the filling would be cold when My Big Helper helped me put these together.  You wouldn't need to do this in advance - this pulls together very quickly.)
  • Place your won-ton wrappers in mini muffin cups and fill with the above seasoning.  Top with a pinch of shredded cheddar.  
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 4-6 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.
  • Top with diced tomato, fresh cilantro, a mini-dollop of sour cream, or your favorite salsa.  Yum!

This was our first won-ton adventure.  They're quite fun to work with.  I wonder what else we could put inside.  Any ideas??

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Princess Stories" by Carolyn Larsen

Every little girl wants to be a princess, and this book operates under the theory that each one is - a daughter of the King Himself.  A devotional book in story format, author Carolyn Larsen tells the stories of nearly 30 women from the Bible.  She begins each story with an original Mirror, mirror poem and then tells that person's basic story, written from a first person perspective.  Each chapter is two to three pages in length (in large typeface) and is followed by a Bible verse, a prayer, and three discussion questions, one of which focuses on the verse specifically. The best part is that each 'princess' is chosen for a different character trait, so that throughout the course of the book nearly 30 traits are explained, including those of wisdom, peacefulness, faithfulness, and bravery, just to name a few.

The last chapter of the book focuses on on Psalm 139 and the uniqueness with which God has created each one of us.  Larsen explains how God has created each little girl to be special and how they, too, can be God's princesses!

This book is pink and purple and a little girl's dream!  The artwork is colorful and glittery and though animated in many places, it draws in the viewer with the attractive and colorful pictures.  There are also drawings that are meant to be of the Bible characters and the readers, as well, and the readers are depicted as little girls of many different nationalities.

I LOVE this book!  It is difficult to find devotional books which interest both of my children - a girl and a boy - and incorporate Bible stories, scripture, and questions at a level which will excite them and challenge them, but this book does it all!

My children are eager to read their 'princess story' each evening and want to answer the questions.  They are excited to learn about each princess and anxious to relate the stories to their own lives.  Even my son, who is rather princess-phobic, is excited to participate.

The stories are written in language that my first-grader, though a super reader, is able to read on her own, and she is happy to do so.

What more could a mommy want than to find her children huddled together around a Bible book, so ready for Bible time that they'll begin on their own?

If you have young children, this is a book you'll definitely want to add to your library.

I received a free copy of Princess Stories:  Real Bible Stories of God's Princesses from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

Author, dramatist, and actress Carolyn Larsen has more than 30 books in print, including the popular The Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers and Daughters.  She is the founder of the performing group Flashpoints, a group of five women who use drama and creative movement to inspire.  Married to her husband for nearly 28 years, they have three grown children and live in Illinois.

A Kitchen Helper

When I was a little girl, my kitchen time was limited.  My mom wasn't allowed in the kitchen with her mom, and so she didn't let me, at least on a regular basis.  Oh, we made Christmas cookies together, and I remember standing on a chair to 'stir' scrambled eggs, but cooking wasn't a regular activity for me, at least when I was little.  

Cooking is really educational, though, and I think it's fun, so I've always tried to set up special 'projects' for the kids and I to do together.  They help me often, but there have been few dishes where I felt that I could really turn it over to them.

A few days ago, however, my Big Helper and I were cooking together when I realized that I had been reading the recipe and telling her what to do - when she's a really great reader.  I realized that it's time for her to read the directions for herself and to start to learn those cooking terms.  

Maybe it's time for us to start being a cooking team instead of just having a parent-kid project time.   

A few days ago we made taco wontons together, and she did a great job.  It was loads of fun seeing her put her own spin on things!

So tonight we embarked on this new endeavor.  Starting small, you understand, as she's never cracked an egg or read a recipe on her own.  

She made her own Jiffy cornbread muffins.  Read the recipe, measured the ingredients, cracked her own egg - even turned on the oven.  (I did put stuff in and out of the oven - she IS only six.)

She did a great job, and we had the chance to talk about fractions and how to crack an egg.  She was SO proud of herself!

I'm definitely going to ask her to cook with me more often, and I'm happy that she's so excited to do it.  Being able to cook - even basic things - is a skill that she'll need someday. 

I'm happy to be able to teach her and to see her grow along the way.  

Watching her dress-up to cook makes me laugh, too.  This is going to be fun!

Do you allow your kids in the kitchen?  What sort of things do they make?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday - January 9, 2012

So this week we're entering our new winter routine.  My husband will begin coming home from work late once each week, so I need at least one meal which will keep well.

Lunches will be our usual assortment of leftovers and sandwiches with cheese or yogurt and sliced fruits or veggies.

The kids have requested waffles for breakfast, so I'll make a big batch of them to eat this week.  I might make a big batch of these brownies, too - they're pretty yummy!

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie!

Multitudes on Monday - January 9, 2012

Does it ever seem like there's a whole week of only happy in your house?  I keep looking for it - waiting for it - wanting it; but it always seems as if something crazy happens.  This week, the washing machine flooded again, causing lots of extra cleaning, which was rather depressing, but then again ...

  • With so much 'flood' experience, it was cleaned up faster than ever.
  • My laundry room has been returned to a pristine condition - with much less clutter.
We also ...

- had lots of fun with 'T is for Truck' week.

- found several new recipes that even the pickiest eater in the household liked ....

- and one that quickly became my new favorite.

- A free family hot chocolate night at McDonald's turned into a smoothie night when their hot chocolate machines broke.  Not sure how that happens, exactly, but since I like smoothies much better, it all worked out for me.

- My Little Man has really loved the new family Nook.  We found a free Smithsonian app that allows us to watch short videos about sharks and dinosaurs. I love watching how fast he picks up the new technology!

We've also:
  • enjoyed our first-ever family Oregon Trail.  
  • my husband spent a fun day with the kids away from the house while I put away the Christmas decorations.
  • my husband and our Big Helper did the dishes for me on Friday night.  Yay!
  • my family delivered a healthy lunch to me mid-tree removal yesterday.  So yummy.
  • I've eaten less sugar over the past few days.  Definitely a must.

So despite the usual craziness, there have been lots of good things this week.  What blessings have you received this week?

For more Multitudes on Monday, visit A Holy Experience!