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

Friday, May 31, 2013

"A Heartbeat Away" by S. Dionne Moore

When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Beth Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named Joe, it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.

Her mother's mysterious goodbye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt's message to its greatest test---but can betrayal be forgiven?

A Heartbeat Away is an intense look at the emotions of the Civil War from an angle rarely considered: those caught up in the blood of battle as civilians who want to help the wounded.  Never have I read a fictional account that dwelt on the hope that comes from the ashes of war like this one does.  The semi-graphic accounts will make your heart dip into your stomach just as your fingers grasp the straws of hope that Joe points out to Beth.

Beth learns amazing spiritual truths from her grandmother as she's faced with the carnage of war and witnesses violence all around her.  Several of these lessons cut deep and are readily applicable to us, too, as we live and learn to trust and forgive just as Beth does.

This book isn't going on my bookshelf of other historical fiction novels; instead, it's getting a special place among my Civil War books.  I really enjoyed this fresh perspective and the way that Moore makes this era not just about love or slavery or North-vs-South but about people ... people who are hurting and afraid, people who love, people with disabilities and families and have dreams for their futures.  When my children are old enough to study all of these aspects of this war, they'll read this book.

To read other reviews in this bloggy hop, click here.  If you'd rather dig into this book sooner rather than later, click here to purchase your own copy.

Dionne Moore is a historical romance author who resides in South Central PA with her family, surrounded by the beautiful Cumberland Valley and lots of fun, historically rich locations. She is a weekly contributor to "The Borrowed Book", a blog for book-lovers and "Cozy Mystery Magazine", for all things cozy mystery. 

Learn more about Dionne at

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Homemade Honey Strawberry Jelly

When I was a kid my mom made strawberry jelly every year.  It was the BEST!  I ate it for lunch in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day and never wanted anything else.

My Little Man is just like me.  He's happy eating that exact same sandwich with no plans to change in the foreseeable future.

I now make the jelly each spring, and I love doing it.  With some family health issues now having come to light, like diabetes and heart issues, I try to keep our sugar intake to a minimum.  Old-fashioned strawberry jelly just doesn't fall into that category.

For a few years now I've been playing with it, trying to find a recipe that has that yummy strawberry flavor and still tastes good.

I think I've found it.

I'll be honest, though - while my kids love this version, and I think it tastes good, the full-sugar one is still better.  It's sweeter and more decadent, and it would be my choice every time - if I wasn't worried about the sugar content.

The flavor of the honey shines through in this version, so be sure to use a mild, light honey.  We used clover honey in ours, and it gives this jelly a rich, summery flavor.  It's great on biscuits!

Here's how to make it:


  • 6 c. pureed strawberries
  • 1 1/2 clover honey
  • 1 T. butter
  • 3 T. Ball light-sugar pectin
To make your jelly:
  1. Pour the strawberries into a dutch oven.
  2. Over high heat, add the honey, butter, and pectin, stirring vigorously.
  3. Continue stirring slowly to prevent scorching.
  4. When mixture comes to a rolling boil, stop stirring.
  5. Allow to boil for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat immediately and pour into jars.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. Add lids.  Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or the in the freezer.
Do you make jelly?  What's your favorite kind??

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Inspired Wednesday: Art Class DVD Review & Giveaway

*This post contains affiliate links for See The Light, a Christian art education company.  Clicking on these links can help my family but in no way does this association affect the opinions that you will read below.  See the Light provided me with DVDs for reviewing purposes and is giving another set away to one of you.

My Big Helper has become very interested in art lately.  She draws even more than she writes, which is saying a lot!  She talks about drawing and painting and taking pictures of all kinds of things.

With all of this art taking over the house, I thought that perhaps she'd be interested in actual art lessons.  That's where See The Light  comes in.  

Pat Knepley, a master artist, teaches art lessons on DVDs.  The company founder, Pat Holt,  generously gave us two DVDs, of Art Class I and II, to learn from, to review, and to share with you.

My Big Helper was super excited about this and couldn't wait to get started.  She settled herself at the table early one afternoon and asked for her art lessons.  She did several all in one day.  This worked well with the very first lessons because they are very simple in format.

At first, I thought they were almost too simple.  I was starting to wonder about this when I stopped watching the lesson and looked over at My Big Helper - and she was enthralled!  She was totally engaged in the lesson and was keeping track of the items she needed to put into her 'artist's toolkit.'  I knew then that Pat knew exactly what she was doing.

As the lessons progressed, this became more and more evident.  Each lesson builds on the one before it, using real art vocabulary in a friendly, conversational tone.  Pat pairs these art words with simpler terms that the kids are more likely to know, making it easy to understand and learn these words.

The lessons are instructional in nature, but they are intended to be demonstrations for children, as well.  In order for My Big Helper to follow along and still be attentive to all of the information, I manned the remote for each lesson, stopping whenever she was supposed to draw.  This seemed to work out really well for us.

The videos on the first DVD mostly involve simple drawings with few details.  My Big Helper loved these.  The last lesson, however, is more detailed as it asks you to draw your own shoe.  She worked on this assignment long after the video ended.

These drawing lessons continue to get deeper and to build through the second DVD.  There are some new materials needed for the second DVD, but Pat lists the needed supplies at the beginning of each lesson, making it easy to know what you need.

At the end of each DVD there is a bonus lesson.  On the first DVD, this is a chalk pastel lesson with chalk artist Gloria Kohlman.  This lesson is vastly different from the other drawing lessons. It seemed to move much more quickly and assumed that you already had a working knowledge of pastels, where Pat's drawing lessons teach students as if they have never seen or done art before.

This made a big difference in the way that my Big Helper perceived this lesson.  She worried that her paper was the wrong size, and although I kept stopping the DVD for her, she seemed to feel rushed.  I think it will be good to go back and do this lesson again now that we know what to expect - and perhaps with bigger paper.

My favorite aspects of this art series is  Pat's calm and friendly attitude, as well her obvious art expertise.  Coming in hard behind those, though, is the devotionals that Pat includes in each lesson.  I love the way that Pat ties in faith and scripture to each art lesson.  My Big Helper was excited, about these, too.  Her face lit up at the thought that God is creative and cares about art.

So what's my final take?

  • Great conversational tone taken by Pat, the master artist
  • The lessons begin very simply and escalate in difficulty slowly.
  • The lessons require very simple, inexpensive materials.
  • The lessons themselves are short, giving you ample time to watch the lesson and then continue to work on your piece.
  • Most lessons assume no prior art experience.
  • Each DVD contains four lessons and one bonus lesson.
  • VERY high quality lessons for a great price!
  • The chalk artist in DVD 1 moves quickly.  Your remote might get a bit more of a workout during this lesson.  (The creative lettering lesson, the bonus lesson in DVD 2, is not like this.  It's very calm and slow-moving, giving you ample time to understand and do each step.)
How would you like to win your own Art Class DVDs?  Pat is generously giving away one copy of DVDs 1 & 2 to one lucky winner.  Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Do you 'do' art with your kids?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last week Nancy at There Is Grace shared a post about how to know when you're a mom.  Her list was both honest and funny!  To find out more, visit There Is Grace - and Nancy, please visit our Inspired Wednesday page and take the "I was featured on Washed Up Inspired Wednesdays' button back with you.  

A Nest in the Rocks

If you have a post about an encouraging activity, project, or trip that you've taken, please link up below and add a link back to this post.  Either way, please read on to find out more about a fun activity that we enjoy here in our nest, and be sure to hop over to Where He Leads, We Follow to check out Stephanie's  Inspiring Wednesday post, too. 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

GratiTuesday - A Glorious Day Outside

My family kept asking me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day.  After experiencing beautiful weather throughout the majority of our Pennsylvania trip, I just wanted to spend the day together and outside.

So we did.  After church, we headed to a fun mall with lots of restaurants, where we had lunch outside on a patio under a big umbrella.

We walked around the mall a bit, where my men goofed around near the fountains.

My husband needed new sunglasses, so we shopped for those.  The clowning around continued!

After that we headed to a nearby park and hiked on a new trail.  It traveled along the river for quite some time, which made the kids more than a little happy.  They made boats out of bark and leaves and had fun throwing rocks into the water.

We played in a few trees, too.

All in all, this was a very fun day.  Even more so in hindsight, since our bout with the chicken pox began that night and we've had to spend most of our time indoors ever since.

Everyone's finally on the mend and nearly ready to resume normal life, but in the meantime?  That was a really awesome day.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day Menu Plan ... kind of ..

Happy Memorial Day!  

I've been thinking about this menu plan for the past few days and have several meals roughed out.  I have chicken marinating in the freezer, all ready to go, as well as hamburgers, steak for stir frying, ham chopped for on pizzas and salads, and mounds of fruit to go under granola.

But ...

It's a glorious 77 degrees here today.  The sun is shining and there's no humidity.  FINALLY the kids are well enough to come outside and play in the shade, which means that I get to come outside, too, so ...

You'll have to read between the lines this week.  We'll eat our usual scrambled eggs and toast and peanut butter and jelly and salads and other than that?  

We'll be outside.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

“Undeniably Yours” by Becky Wade | Kindle Fire Giveaway and 5/29 Facebook Party!

Becky Wade is celebrating her latest swoon-worthy novel, Undeniably Yours (Bethany House), with a Kindle Fire giveaway and hosting an Author Chat party on Facebook {5/29}!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Undeniably Yours and My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 28th. Winner will be announced at the "Undeniably Yours" Facebook Author Chat Party on May 29th. Connect with Becky for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Becky will also share an exclusive look at her next book and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Undeniably Yours and join Becky on the evening of May 29th for a chance to connect 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 29th!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

@RachelHauck’s “Royal Wedding” Giveaway and Facebook Chat Party! {5/28}

Rachel Hauck is celebrating the release of Once Upon a Prince with a fun "Royal Wedding" Giveaway and connecting with readers at her May 28th Facebook Party.


One "royal" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 27th. Winner will be announced at the "Once Upon a Prince" Facebook Author Chat Party on May 28th. Connect with Rachel for an evening of book chat, wedding trivia, laughter, and more! Rachel will also be sharing a sneak peek at the next book in the series and giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Once Upon a Prince and join Rachel on the evening of May 28th for a chance to connect 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 28th!

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Sweet Sanctuary" by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Lydia Eldredge longs to provide sanctuary for her young son, Nicky. But a constant threat comes from Nicky's drug-addicted father, who wants the boy and seems willing to do whatever it takes to get him.
Dr. Micah Hatcher faithfully serves the immigrant population of Queens, New York. But under cover of darkness, he has a secret mission that challenges everything he thought he wanted out of life.
When Lydia and Micah's paths cross, they are suddenly wrapped up in each other's callings. Together, they seek a refuge of safety-for Nicky, for themselves, and for the needy people God puts into their lives. Amid turmoil and discord, can hope and love prevail?

Sawyer knows exactly how to reach out and grab you.  From the very first sentence she captures your attention and makes you fall in love with her characters. You want to find a pet for Nicky, a resolution for Lydia, and a home for Micah.  As each roadblock comes into sight, you only want to reach peace that much more.

Yet that's the point of the book:  that we don't choose our own endings because, as much as we'd like to think that we do, we aren't in control and we don't know best.  Sometimes we have to walk the hard road of trust in order to see the wonders that God has planned for us all along.  Micah has a way of sharing this resolutely but kindly just as Lydia becomes able to point out the glory in the plan afterwards, leaving you with an "Oh, yeah, now I get it," feeling.

Sawyer doesn't take the easy way out on this one, but she instead makes her characters walk a harder and harder path in every way - emotionally, romantically, parentally, and physically.  There are troubles with characters whom you know and love and those far away whom you've never met.  Sawyer has packed a powerful punch with this one - it's so tightly woven that her theme of trusting in God's providence is woven into every singe page.

I was surprised to read of Micah's connection to the Holocaust within these pages, especially since I've always considered Sawyer's books to be overwhelmingly sweet, but I love the way that she handles it:  with tact, grace, confidence, and kindness.  Micah's angle is also fresh and different.

Micah and Lydia are characters who will stand the test of time.  Because of their strength, determination, and timelessness of their problems, you'll forget that you're reading about a long-ago era because if feels as if you're reading about your neighbors - and you'll want to walk over and help them out.

Don't miss out on their story.

You can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here; or, click here to purchase your own copy now.

 Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of twenty-one novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and nine grandchildren.
Find out more about Kim at 

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

The First Pretzel Bakery in the New World

A few weeks ago we visited the town of Lititz with my grandmother and aunt to tour the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.  Touted as the first of its kind in America, this was a really neat tour.

We've made soft pretzels a few times at home, but the kids were excited to learn how it was different to make them 'for real.' They wanted to know how to make that special shape, too, since I can never quite get it and just end up making pretzel rods.  Somehow rods are not the same.

Our awesome tour guide seemed to know everything there was to know about making soft pretzels.  She told us all about Julius Sturgis, his family, and how they made pretzels.  She even gave everyone dough and let us all try our hands at it - though we could come nowhere close to the record numbers of pretzels-per-minute that the original shapers could.  It was special to learn right here on the original tables, however.

These pretzel ovens were set high in the walls and were heated with wood.  They got so hot that the rooms above the ovens neared 200 degrees some days!  Pretzels could dry out quickly there.  

In the ovens themselves salt was sprinkled so that the pretzels wouldn't stick.  When they wanted to clean out these ovens, it would take two days to cool down enough to be cleaned.  At that time one of Sturgis' fourteen children would be pushed inside the oven, where s/he would crawl around and scrub out the salt.  My Big Helper was fascinated at that idea, though she stated firmly that she didn't want to go in there.

This tour took about 30 minutes and was very reasonable in price.  We all received small bags of Sturgis pretzels and certificates of graduation upon completion, which thrilled the kids.  They couldn't wait to sample their pretzels.

I think I'll have some pretzel graduates help out the next time we make pretzels.

Have you ever made your own soft pretzels??

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homestyle Grilled Chicken Salad

It feels like forever since I've been able to share a recipe, so I'm especially happy to share this one. This simple salad reminds me of home - of the kinds of yummy salads you'll find in a Pennsylvania pub.

When I first started trying to eat healthier, I always looked at the salad menu cautiously.  There were lots of things listed that I didn't like, but how can you go wrong when your salad has French fries on top?  

This particular salad is one of my favorites.  With only a few ingredients, it's full of bold and simple flavors.  You won't leave the table hungry, but there's lots of nutrition hidden under those few fries.

Here's how to make it:

  • 1-2 heads of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 lb. of chicken tenders
  • your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 c. of shredded monterey jack cheese
  • a handful of carrots
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Oreida crispy French fries
  • honey mustard salad dressing
  • 1/2 c. prepared bacon crumbles (I bake bacon ahead, crumble it, and keep it in my freezer for these types of recipes.)
  • sliced onion (optional)
  1. Grill the chicken tenders.  Coat with your favorite barbecue sauce just before they're done.
  2. Bake French fries according to package directions.  Add crumbled bacon to the fries during the last 5 minutes of baking time.
  3. Arrange romaine lettuce on plates.
  4. Top with carrots and onions.
  5. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes after removing from heat.  Slice into strips.
  6. Arrange the chicken slices on top of the lettuce beds.  
  7. Top with fries, bacon, and tomatoes.
  8. Serve with honey mustard dressing and fresh fruit slices.
  9. Serves four.
What's your favorite kind of salad??

"Pastors' Wives" by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

What's it like when the man you married is already married to God? asks Pastors' Wives, an often surprising yet always emotionally true first novel set in a world most of us know only from the outside.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen's debut novel Pastors' Wives follows three women whose lives converge and intertwine at a Southern evangelical megachurch. Ruthie follows her Wall Street husband from New York to Magnolia, a fictional suburb of Atlanta, when he hears a calling to serve at a megachurch called Greenleaf. Reeling from the death of her mother, Ruthie suffers a crisis of faith---in God, in her marriage, and in herself. Candace is Greenleaf's "First Lady," a force of nature who'll stop at nothing to protect her church and her superstar husband. Ginger, married to Candace's son, struggles to play dutiful wife and mother while burying her calamitous past. All their roads collide in one chaotic event that exposes their true selves. Inspired by Cullen's reporting as a staff writer for Time magazine, Pastors' Wivesis a dramatic portrayal of the private lives of pastors' wives, caught between the demands of faith, marriage, duty, and love.

I've been thinking and thinking about how to describe this book.  Tossing words around in my mind for several weeks.  I'm still not sure how to do it.

Pastors' Wives is amazingly well written. It's a tightly-woven story of several families all connected to pastors and how they handle the pressures and stresses of always being the public specter, of how much of a leadership role they really play in their respective churches.  The details spring each character to life and the large cast of characters keep the story interesting.  The drama happening inside the church reads like a soap opera (as I imagine it often does in real life), and you won't be bored with this story.

Unlike many of today's popular novels, Cullen's writing sounds formal and a bit distant.  It took me a few chapters to switch gears mentally into this style of writing, but I appreciate the excellent quality of her work.  Nobody could claim that this is a watered-down piece of literature.

I appreciate how one of the biggest problems was resolved in the end, but the ending for another left me disappointed.  Not because it wasn't realistic, because it may be, but because I didn't feel as if it offered any encouragement or hope for readers.  Life is not perfect and we don't always get the happy ending that we want, but in this case, I felt as if the characters made a poor choice and that it was considered acceptable.  That attitude left a bad taste in my mouth where this book is concerned.

So with that said, I'm still not sure what to say about this book.  Because of the questionable ending, I won't be passing this book along to anyone who may be in a similar situation.  If you're strong in your faith journey, however, and you appreciate quality literature, you might really enjoy Pastors' Wives.

To read other reviews of this book, click here.  Go here to purchase your own copy.

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen was a longtime staff writer for TIME magazine. She now develops TV pilots for production companies and recently sold her first pilot for "The Ordained" to CBS. Born in Japan, Cullen lives in New Jersey with family.
Find out more about Lisa at 

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

"Ray of Light" by Shelley Shepard Gray

Bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray brings inspirational romance to life in this sweet tale of love in the Amish community, Ray of Light, the second installment of her Days of Redemption series.

Roman Keim just wants a break from the family drama at his snowy Ohio home when he heads to an Amish snowbird community in Florida. There he meets Amanda Yoder and her daughter Regina who soon are warming his heart. But will Roman return to Ohio or will he stay and help the young widow embrace a second chance at love?
The author of the series Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek, Shelley Shepard Gray delivers an honest, tender love story in Ray of Light, featuring the challenges of faith, family, and romance.

Shelley Shepard Gray has penned another winner. I love her books for the reality of the characters, and Ray of Light is no exception.  Most of the events of this book could happen to anyone; they are real, ordinary problems that any of us could have - except Gray's characters are Amish, adding another layer of interest to an already fascinating story.

When my truck-driving grandfather retired, he bought a van and set himself up as an Amish taxi driver.  He spent his days driving people around, from work to errands to home, and had loads of friends and stories to match.  He once drove some Amish to Florida to stay in an 'Amish resort' there, and I've been interested in the idea ever since.

That's how Gray opens this story - with Amish from the North on vacation in sunny Florida, and while no special resort is mentioned, the idea is intriguing.  The Keim family is from a much more progressive sect than the Amish I grew up near, but reading about work schedules and vacation dreams and love triangles reminds me that they are people just like us.  With foreign missionaries, multiple family weddings, cross-country vacations, rehab, and dark family secrets, they're certainly busier than my family!

Ray of Light is the second in this series, but while I haven't read it, it was not difficult to pick up on the characters or the past that was disclosed in the first book.  That doesn't stop me from wanting to read it, however; I think reading the books in the wrong order actually makes me want to read that first one even more, and the same is true for the third.  I can't wait to find out what happens to them!

I hope you can type like lightening, Mrs. Gray, because I can't wait to read the next installment of the Keim's lives.

You can see other reviews from this bloggy hop here, or click here to purchase your own copy now.

Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the "Sisters of the Heart", "Seasons of Sugarcreek", "Secrets of Crittenden County", and Families of Honor series. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

10 Ways to Make Your Sick Child More Comfortable

We've all been there.  Your child gets sick, and no matter how much you want to change that, you can't.  

We can make them more comfortable, at least.  Here are some of the things we're doing during our current bout of chicken pox to survive our week of quarantine in style

10.  Hold a pajamas day.  My kids cheered this morning when I announced that they could remain in their PJs all day.  We usually have somewhere to be at some point during the day, and so they have to get dressed.  Being in their PJs automatically makes them feel more relaxed.

9.  Take a bubble bath.  Your child's condition might mean a hot bath is best, or maybe a cool one could sooth a fever, but either way, being clean just makes everything better.  It never hurts to have some bubbles or some water playtime, either.

8.  Throw the family schedule out the window.  Your kids might be ready to eat or sleep at different times.  They might not be up for any schoolwork.  It's okay - it's not forever.

7.  Throw YOUR schedule out the window, too.  When my kids are sick, I always feel as if I must do double-time to take care of the sick person AND keep up with my usual chores, but in reality, the only really important thing is the person.  The dust or laundry can wait - chances are, it'll still be there when my child is well, but I only have this time to comfort them.

6.  Play a game.  Even though we spend most of our time at home, we don't get to play together as much as we'd like.  This is a great time to remedy that when the sick one is up for it!

5.  Make your own snow-cones.  Right now my kids have incredibly sore throats, and it's changing their appetites.  Since their tummies are steady, though, they can eat whatever they want.  This is a great time to crush some ice, add some juice, and let the cool juice sooth the pain.

4.  Break out that craft or project you've been putting off.  When My Big Helper got the flu a few months ago, the first thing that she wanted to do was a new mosaic project.    I wasn't sure she'd be able to handle being up yet, but she was determined to finish it.  When she played out, we'd set it aside and pick it up later.    You can do this same thing - if it's a big project that is wanted, try it out and set it aside as need be. 

3.  Go for some snuggle time.  One of my kids is a snuggler and the other isn't, but when they're sick, they both want to settle into my lap and stay there.  Set aside what you're doing and snuggle - it won't be long before they're back to normal, and they won't want any ,ore snuggle time.  Take advantage of it.

2.  Watch a special movie.  It might be an old favorite or one from the to-be-watched list, but spread out a blanket and grab the remote.  Movies, when chosen wisely, are great for escaping reality and making life feel fun.

1.  Read together.  Your kids might be able to read whatever they want, but they'll still appreciate snuggling close and listening to a favorite or new story.  

What would you add to this list??

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deeanne Gist’s “It Happened at the Fair” iPad Giveaway and Live Webcast Event {5/22}!

Deeanne Gist is celebrating the release of It Happened at the Fair with an iPad Mini Giveaway and a Live Author Chat Webcast event {5/22}!


  One "fair" winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A $25 iTunes gift card
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 21st. Winner will be announced at the "It Happened at the Fair" Live Webcast Event on May 22nd. Connect with Deeanne for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Deeanne will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of It Happened at the Fair and join Deeanne and friends on the evening of May 22nd for a chance to connect 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 22nd!

GratiTuesday - Chicken Pox Craziness

A few days after we returned from Pennsylvania, the kids began coughing in the middle of the night.  During the day, it didn't seem like a very big deal - it's just a cough, right?  But at one in the morning, when both kids were coughing and coughing, so very hard, I felt very helpless.

After hearing one wheeze, we dug out their inhalers, and they helped, but the coughing continued.  My Little Man, who usually sleeps so well and long, has been awake late at night and up impossibly early, so I was excited yesterday when he slept in.  Maybe he's finally getting better, I thought, and questioned my decision to take them to the doctor.  After all, it wouldn't be the first time that I got derided for what was deemed a 'silly' visit.

Then My Big Helper saw squirrels heading into her squirrel mansion, and she came running to get me.  As we sat on the couch together, watching a squirrel go in and out of his hole as if he were a kid caught in a revolving door, I noticed a few small spots on her cheek.  

It didn't take much further investigation to find that her top half was covered with these strange red spots.  Some raised, some not, some big, some small, they were everywhere - and I immediately called the doctor.

Surprisingly, we were able to get right in, and soon the doctor was walking through the door, asking what was wrong.  I felt silly saying that both kids had bad coughs, especially when they didn't really appear to be having any problems, but something just didn't feel right.

It wasn't.

Those strange spots are the final manifestation of atypical chicken pox - yes, the CHICKEN POX.  Who gets those anymore?  

The kids have been vaccinated, and the doctor assured me that we should be in for a mild case.  He explained that chicken pox is a respiratory virus, which explains the coughing - the kids have the blisters in their throats, which is making it harder to breathe.

Besides these very sore throats, they don't feel all that bad.  They spent the afternoon playing in the playroom, doing crafts, painting together, and making plans for a movie - which they ran out of time to watch.  They lost their spots, too - My Big Helper was spot-free by bedtime.

The spots have reappeared in new places this morning, and they're itchy, but judging from My Big Helper's current fascination with her squirrels and their house, I don't think it's bothering her too much. My Little Man woke up hours early coughing, but after a dose of medicine and some snuggle time, he's moved on to a stack of books.

As much as I hate to see the kids sick, and although I'm quite shocked at this diagnosis, I'm rather glad.  This means that their allergies are not worse as I feared.  This means that we have no new infections to further weaken their lungs.  This means that it will run its course without major issues.  This means that while life might be a bit hectic for the next few days, and while we might have to miss out on some playtime with friends while we're quarantined, we're still handling the current allergy issues well and will be able to be back outside soon.

Who knew the crazy old chicken pox could be such a good thing?

While I'm happy to have such a simple diagnosis, we do still have to stay inside for the next several days.  What do your kids like to do when they're sick?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Catch a Falling Star" by Beth K. Vogt

What does a girl do when life doesn't go according to her plan? 

At 36, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She's a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives-a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But the feeling of being "the kid never picked" looms large when romance continues to evade her and yet another one of her closest friends gets engaged. Are Kendall's dreams of having it all-a career, a husband, children-nothing more than childish wishing upon a star? Should she hold out for her elusive Plan A? Dust off Plan B? Or is it time to settle? God says he knows the plans he has for her-why can't Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?
Griffin Walker prefers flying solo-both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of "flying a desk" are complicated by his parents' death-making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can God get his life back on track ... or has there been a divine plan all along?

Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn't just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your "wish I may, wish I might" dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.

Catch A Falling Star is the very best kind of fairy tale - the kind that could be real.  When my daughter was born, I saw princess decor everywhere and decided I didn't want her to think that her dreams would all fall in her lap.  It rarely works that way.  Happily-ever-afters require compromise and hard work and understanding, but above all, they require knowing that it's not our own plans that matter most, but God's, and He has a happy ending for everyone who trusts Him with it.  That  is the very best feature of this book:  the coming to terms and reality of the happily-ever-after.  This is what I want to teach my daughter.

I enjoyed the intertwining of the characters' stories, as well.  From a teen, a divorced man, a single woman, and a mommy-wanna-be, the perspectives told were believable and varied.  The way that their plots intersected so that each character learned from another and was able to be helpful was well planned and added a great layer of depth.

Catch A Falling Star isn't a fluffy fairy tale but a real-life romance full of dreams and trust. It should definitely go on your summer reading list.

To read other reviews on this bloggy tour,click here.  You can purchase this book here.

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she'd never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four, though she said she'd never have kids. She's discovered that God's best often waits behind the doors marked "Never." Her contemporary romance novel, "Wish You Were Here", debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and "Catch a Falling Star" releases May 2013. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. 

Find out more about Beth K. at

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

Menu Plan Monday - May 20, 2103

What a crazy week it has been!  We're heading into the homestretch now, though - we have few things on our calendar for this week, except for the end of our school year.  We're planning to move slowly through this week and to enjoy lots of downtime.  You?

- scrambled eggs and cantaloupe

- fresh strawberries and yogurt with Cinnamon Almond Granola
- Applesauce muffins, fruit

Blueberry Biscuits, fruit


Cheesy Chicken Taquitos, salad
- meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad, applesauce
- tacos, Spanish rice, salad, fruit
- Barbecue chicken pizza, salad, strawberry shortcake
- grilled chicken salad, whole wheat bread, brownies

- breakfast for dinner
- leftovers

What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

“Pastors’ Wives” iPad Mini Giveaway and Facebook Party with @LisaCullen! {5/23}

Lisa Takeuchi Cullen is celebrating the release of her debut novel, Pastors' Wives, with an iPad Mini Giveaway and connecting with readers on Facebook on May 23rd!


One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A $25 iTunes gift card
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 22nd. Winner will be announced at the "Pastors' Wives" Author Chat Party on May 23rd. Connect with Lisa for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Lisa will also be giving away books and fun gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of Pastors' Wives and join Lisa on the evening of May 23rd for a chance to connect 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 23rd!