Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review: Shelter Me by Juliette Fay


After the sudden death of her husband, Janie LaMarche is swamped by tides of grief and rage. Yet she's forced to confront the onward march of her life by an unlikely cast of interventionists: her two small children, her Ipecac-toting aunt, the "unflinchingly nice" parish priest, and the contractor hired by her husband to build her a porch, whose involvement in her family's life becomes more ingrained with every beam he installs. Shelter Me reminds us that the terrain of one's future is best navigated iwth the help of others - even the ones we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.
I was fortunate to get an ARC of this book from Harper Collins. I was very interested in this book because I think it hit at one of my biggest fears. As a mother and wife, I can't imagine losing my husband. Janie's emotions in the story were so raw and yet so believable. I felt her pain and have often shared the same thoughts when I dare to think about "What if?" The story deals with family relationships, friendships, motherhood, anger, grief, forgiveness, fear, and love. Really anyone could relate to some portion of this book.
I loved the way the author brought in the letter writing at the homeless shelter. "Beryl" one of the homeless says to Janie "A typed letter is so cold and impersonal. It can be sent to so many people at once! Only a handwritten letter can convey the sense that the writer is actually with you, saying the words to you alone. When you write a letter with your own hand, you give a tiny piece of yourself" This was a great reminder for me and after just reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and how that was also completely letters written back and forth, I am even more driven to write more to those I love.
I loved Janie's journal writings as they allowed the reader to see that real raw emotions Janie was having over the death of her husband and whatever else may be bothering her that day. I just think it made her more believable and identifiable. I liked that she too, made mistakes with her kids. No one is perfect and it's ok, if you feed Rice Krispies to your kids for supper once in a while!
There were so many other parts of the story that I reflected on, cried, and laughed about. Even though the book is over 400 pages, I quickly became wrapped up in the story and hated to put it down. I believe Ms. Fay has a winner of a novel and would gladly give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review & Coupon: RIDEMAKERZ

videoOur family was given the opportunity to try out RIDEMAKERZ which we were very excited about. We have 2 boys ages 8 and 7 and they were thrilled to check out these cars. Please watch the video to get an idea of what RIDEMAKERZ is all about. Their website is http://www.ridemakerz.com/. They also have several stores throughout the United States. Unfortunately there isn't one near us, but the website worked just as well. RIDEMAKERZ is the modern day version of model cars that go together quickly with no glue. The cars also include lights, sounds and radio remote-control and other add-ons if you choose. The cars can be assembled in minutes and taken apart and reconfigured. They are durable enough to play with and cool enough to collect.
RIDEMAKERZ was modeled after the Build-A-Bear stores with the owner collaborating to formulate the RIDEMAKERZ stores.
The boys had a blast picking out their very own cars. They are relatively inexpensive and can be made into a remote control car for an additional $25. We were able to purchase 2 cars for $72. You could do it for less or more depending on the options you choose.
Please check out the website www.ridemakerz.com and consider purchasing one of these cars for your son, nephew, grandson, or brother. For a limited time you can save $10 off a $30 purchase by entering the code 93474 at checkout. This offer will expire on January 4th, 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


It's January 1946 and London is emerging from the shadow of WWII. Author Juliet Ashton is having a terrible time finding inspiration for her next book when she gets a letter from Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a British Island that had been occupied by the Nazis. He found her address in an old Charles Lamb volume and thinks she might be able to help him learn more about the author. As Juliet and Dawsey exchange letters, she learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book cllub formed on the spur-of-the-moment, as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans. Captivated, Juliet sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her life forever.
First of all I have to thank book bloggers for talking about this book. I never would have picked up this book on its own. The title threw me off, but after hearing about it, I was intrigued. I am so grateful because I absolutely LOVED this book. The style was very different. No chapters, just letters or telegrams back and forth between the characters in the book. So, it made it a quick and easy read. You could read a few letters and come back later if you needed to. But that would have been difficult because the letters were so enjoyable. I wanted to keep reading.
As someone who did not like history in school at all...I have found in my adult like I am drawn to historical fiction. Stories that are often based on true historical events. I became very drawn to the characters and could actually picture each one in my mind. The author did a fabulous job of describing the characters as well as the locations in the story. I really felt like I was there.
I loved the style of writing in letter format. It made me miss the art of writing and receiving letters from family. I think my New Year's resolution will be to stay in contact with far away family by writing letters...not emails! The storyline flowed very well through the letters and even though obviously not every letter sent was printed in the book, I was still able to fill in the gaps of the storyline.
I laughed and cried throughout the book. After I finished it, I actually felt all warm and cozy inside and hated to have the story end. One part that stuck with me was in a letter from Amelia to Juliet talking about the war and death. Amelia's son had died in the war and people were telling her "life goes on" and she thought, of course it doesn't. It is death that goes on. Her son is dead now, he will be dead tomorrow and next year and forever. There's no end to that, but perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. I loved the truth in that. I used to work in Hospice and was always very careful about my choice of words when working with the family. I know how the wrong words can hurt a grieving person. I loved that Amelia had the strength to say what she was truly feeling!
So, I absolutely recommend this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Let me know if you have read it too!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Carols

Yesterday was our second After School Jams. As I said last week, we had 22 kids and I challenged the kids to each bring a friend. Well, this afternoon we had 28 total kids with 2 kids from last week not attending. So, we had 8 new kids. It was very exciting to see. One of our priorities of our After School Jams is to reinforce the Christmas Carols with the kids. When I grew up, we were singing Christmas carols in Sunday School, in regular school, jr choir, etc. Today, so many of the kids don't know the traditional Christmas Hymns like Joy to the World, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, etc. So, until our Christmas break, we are teaching the kids Christmas Carols each week. This got me thinking about my favorite Christmas Carols. I love Christmas and the hyms that come with it. I am always frustrated because it seems we never get to sing them very much in church because so many of them aren't to be sung until after the birth of Jesus. I wanted to share with you my favorite Christmas song. This version is sung by Josh Groban, one of my favorite performers. I hope you enjoy it and it reminds you of that one HOLY NIGHT!
I think it is time to get my Christmas CD's out of the storage box! How about you...What is your favorite Christmas song? Sing with your child.
video

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blessings and a Recipe

Yesterday was our 1st afterschool program at church that I talked and prayed about in a previous post. We knew for sure we would get 8-10 kids, we hoped for more, we planned for 25 and we had 22 kids in attendance! We were blessed by each one of them and excited to have kids from Kindergarten - 6th grade. Even those hard-to-please 6th graders had fun! It was also great to have 8 volunteers show up to help out. Everything went smoothly and you would have thought we had done this before! I had a lot of fun and know God was with all of us yesterday afternoon. I challenged each child to bring one friend next week and see if we can get 44 kids there! Now if that happens we may be pretty crowded in our little area, but wouldn't that be a great problem to have! I will keep you posted!

So, because I was going to be busy from 2:30-5:30 and my husband had a 6;30 meeting, I needed a supper that could be ready when we got home. So, I was searching through one of my favorite cook books, Fix It And Forget It when I found a recipe for Slow-Cooker Pizza. It was fabulous. All I had to do was add some garlic breadsticks to the oven when I got home and some salad and we had an awesome supper. I wanted to share the recipe with you because I know it is one that will be added to our menu. It is best if it is only in the crock-pot for 3 hours. So, if you work outside of the home it may be a better weekend option for you! But SO EASY and adaptable to your own personal likes and dislikes! Enjoy!









CROCK POT PIZZA

1 lb of ground beef or italian sausage
1 med. onion
1 green pepper
half a bag of rigatoni, cooked
7 oz jar of mushrooms
3 oz sliced pepperoni
2-15 oz cans of pizza sauce
10 oz mozzarella cheese
10 oz cheddar cheese
1. Brown ground beef and onions in sauce pan. Drain
2. Cook rigatoni
3. Layer half of each of the following in the order given into the crock pot:
ground beef/onion, green pepper, noodles, mishrooms, pepperoni, pizza sauce, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.
4. Cover and cook on low 3 hours.
Note: Keep rigatoni covered with suace so they don't become dry and crunchy.

My note: I used sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. You could certainly change the pepperoni for canadian bacon or ham, you could add olives, more onions, pineapple, etc. Make it your own with all your favorite toppings. The recipe only called for 1 can of pizza sauce, but I added 2 because it just wasn't enough to cover the pasta. I also used my 5 quart crockpot and everything fit perfectly. Let me know if you make it and how your family liked it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honor our Veterans!


I was proud to attend the Veteran's Day program at our school this morning. We have gone every year since the boys were in school since they sing at the program. It is always a moving experience for me. Sometimes it is the songs that are sung, the speech that is given or the sight of all the elementary children waving flags. This year it was when the band was playing each of the Armed Forces individual songs. As each one was played, the veterans in the audience were to stand during their branches song. During the Air Force song, I noticed an elderly gentleman standing proudly and singing along to his song. I looked over to my sister-in-law to make sure she saw it too, and then the tears welled up in my eyes. Many years later, he is still obviously proud of his service and I am grateful for his service as well.

My father is a veteran of the Korean War as a member of the Army. He never wants to talk about it much and that is ok with me. Our son had to write a letter to a veteran for a school assignment. So, he wrote a letter to Grandpa B thanking him for his service to our country and for being brave for fighting in the Korean War. My dad received the letter this weekend and on Sunday he proudly showed it to us... in a frame. He was very surprised to receive the letter and I know will he was glad to be honored in that way.

I remember as a "tween" I went with my parents to Colorado Springs to the Air Force Academy. My cousin, Jamie, was graduating from the Air Force and were invited to be his guests. That weekend is something I won't forget. The patriotism, the music, the formality of the event are still clear in my mind. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates all threw their caps and I even got one of the caps that day!

Who knows what the future holds for our children, but I know I appreciate the freedoms they have now and the freedoms our service men and women are fighting to keep. Who knows if any of the kids will be interested in the military, but if they are, I will be one proud military mom! God Bless America and God watch over our service men and women!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Go Vikes!


This weekend we surprised our boys with tickets to the Vikings vs Packers game. Now for some people this may not be a big deal, but it was for us. None of us have ever been to a NFL game. It was difficult for me to wrap my brain around spending $500 on something that lasts 3 hours, plus food, plus hotel, plus gas, etc. But, it was an experience that was worth every cent! The boys were so excited when we showed them the tickets. Their excitement was off the charts compared to the best Christmas present they could find under the tree. We had fun getting into our Vikings attire and arriving at the game early to take it all in. We even got to watch Chad Greenway warm up! The metrodome was packed solid with nearly 64,000 people. It was Armed Forces day and it was amazing when nearly 64,000 had a moment of silence to remember those lost in the wars. Who would have thought the dome could be that silent? The game was exciting all the way to the very end and luckily our team won! We had a great time, made some amazing memories, and had a experience that I know our boys will appreciate for a long time. Who knows, we may even try another game some day!

Friday, November 7, 2008

God is good!


A few weeks ago I agreed to be a part of a new program at our church. We are starting a weekly "After School Jams" program for kids in the community to come and hang out after school. We are having music, snacks and activities. Now in our small town (700) and our even smaller church membership, I was thinking this was a big undertaking. As we started to plan yesterday, I started to get a little stressed out and think, "What am I doing? I can't take on one more thing right now!" I started to think about all the kids that could potentially show up and how we would handle that. I questioned how we were going to fill the whole 1 1/2 hours and keep the kids interested, etc. etc. Doubt was filling my mind. Then, I decided I would just pray about it and "Let go, Let God". If this is what I am supposed to be doing, then God will be there to help us. One way we were talking about keeping the kids interested in music was incorporating musical instruments. But, we knew that would be costly and we currently have no budget. So, we put that in our hopefully in the future file. Then today I got a phone call from one of our church members who is helping to organize this new program. She said she has $200 to donate to our cause in memory of her father and wanted it to be used for instruments. Would you believe the instruments cost $197 and will be able to be here by Tuesday? Our program starts Wednesday. So, after meeting again today to plan, order the instruments, and mail out invites to 25 families, I am so excited for this new venture in my life and in our church's life. I pray that the kids in the community come and we can share how God can work in their life. God is so good! I will let you know how the first week goes!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lipstick Boost


Today I received a new lipstick. It was a color I had been interested in, but unwilling, until recently, to buy it for myself. But, I decided I deserved a new lipstick and it arrived today! I have a cold and am feeling a little crappy (for lack of a better word), but I opened up my new lipstick, tried it on, and "poof" I felt better. So, in case you need a little Lipstick boost...you can check out my new lipstick at www.marykay.com. I chose the color Berry Kiss. It isn't too dark and not to red. Just right for a little bit of color.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reading Traditions

Reading has been an important part of my life as long as I can remember. I remember my parents reading to me and then "pretending" to read the newspaper, magazine, or books in our home. As a child, since my sisters were 15 years older than me and out of the home by the time I was 4, so I was basically like an only child. I learned to read very early and have always loved it. Now that my father is retired and in his 70's he is a voracious reader. He reads more books than I can ever keep up with. I enjoy going to bookstores and finding the perfect book for his next read. Since I belong to a book club, I frequently share with him the books we have read. No one else in my family is in a book club, but I have numerous aunts and cousins who enjoy reading and we often share our great reads with eachother. My nephew, Eric, is also an avid reader and used to be a high school English teacher. So, we would often share our "good reads" with eachother. It has been great because my dad and I have found a new way to connect with eachother...through our love of reading! Now, as a mom, I want to be sure I carry on that tradition to my children. Our oldest was reading by the age of 4 and has always found reading enjoyable. Our middle child would prefer to be read to, but still enjoys reading. Our youngest is almost 4, but can already identify certain common words. I enjoy reading to them and am always eager to purchase new books for our library or to travel to the library for some new material. As we are coming up on the holiday season, I love to pull out our Christmas and Winter themed books that are only out during that time of year. It makes them more special since we can only see them once/year. The important thing is that we are a reading family. I want my kids to see that I enjoy reading and that it is important. That is one tradition I am not willing to break.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

5 Years Ago

Five years ago, on another Saturday morning, I was sitting at the table having breakfast, reading the paper while our 2 and 3 year olds were playing. My husband had left for his office to do some work. We had just had a fun night of trick-or-treating with my husband's family and found out that not just us, but his brother and his wife were pregnant and expecting at the same time! Both of us were elated and shocked since we had been pregnant together before! So I am sitting there and next thing I know I am on the floor and can not get up. I had to have my 3 year get the phone so I could call my husband and have him come home. I had no idea what was going on, but I instantly did NOT feel well. He came home and helped me to the couch where I proceeded to feel worse and painful. THANKFULLY, I had just found out I was pregnant, so I called my OB because I was worried about the baby. (If I hadn't know I was pregnant, I probably never would have called a dr and just thought I had the flu.) Since I wasn't bleeding, she thought I probably had the flu, but to keep her posted if I got worse. Well, I got much worse and eventually became unconscious. So, after an ambulance ride to the ER, emergency surgery, and a week in the hospital...I had an ectopic pregnancy that had burst. I am so grateful to the quick thinking of everyone involved who came together to save my life. I was bleeding to death inside and couldn't have lasted much longer. Dr Brown and Dr Wisnowski saved my life as well as a nurse who constantly rubbed my shoulder while I was having excruiciating pain (a trademark of burst ectopics). Also, during all this, our house was on the market and we were trying to purchase a home in a separate town.

So, basically, I am just saying that I am remembering this day, five years ago. I am remembering a day that I lost a baby who was loved, even if only for a few days, a life that was saved, and all the people involved to save me physically and emotionally. I am grateful for the second chance of life and for the second chance to have another baby. (Not always easy when you only have one fallopian tube left.) On January 11, 2005, we were blessed with a baby girl that I never thought I would have.

Life is short, and family is precious. Make sure you let all those special to you know how much they are loved and appreciated today. You just never know what is ahead of you and if my last day would have been 5 years ago, I know that I hadn't said all that needed to be said to those I loved.