Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Reads This Year

I really wanted to do more reading this year and I was able to reach my reading goal of 40 books and beyond.  This year I read 48 books and am almost done with 2 others!  That figures up to four books/month!  I think that is pretty good for me!  The books I read were a mixture of review books, book club books and books for my own enjoyment.  I need to do better about reading books for me though.  I have so many books on my shelf and in my Kindle that I want to read, but those seem to come last in my list.   So this year, I want to do better about reading books I want to read.  I know there will also be many more books that will come out in 2013 to add to my ever growing list.  The ones I am most excited about are Jodi Picoult's STORYTELLER and Kristin Hannah's FLY AWAY.  Those will definitely be on my list this year.

Rather than tell you about my top 10, or my favorite 5 star books from this year, I am going to tell you my favorites in the following categories:  FAVORITE REVIEWED BOOK, FAVORITE BOOK CLUB BOOK, FAVORITE BOOK FROM MY SHELF.  As always, you can see all my reviewed books by clicking on the Book Review tab at the top of my blog.  Stay tuned for several reviews coming up this month and throughout the year!  By clicking on the book titles below, you will be taken to my reviews for each of them.

FAVORITE REVIEWED BOOK OF 2012


I really loved this book about a bridal shop in Michigan and the family that has owned it for decades.  I have read several of Zaslow's books and was deeply saddened when he died in February.  He and his writing will be missed.

FAVORITE BOOK CLUB READ



This was my first time reading Heather Gudenkauf and I chose this as my favorite book club read because I totally devoured it.  I read it quite quickly and was wrapped up in the emotion of the characters in the story.  Since Gudenkauf is from Iowa and this book was set in a small Iowa town, it made the story even more intriguing.  This story also created a great discussion with the other moms.  

Our book club also had three other books this year that I rated at Five Stars.....THE YELLOW HOUSE by Patricia Falvey, OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout, and CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin

FAVORITE BOOK I READ FROM MY SHELF

Well, I couldn't narrow it down to just one.  I really tried, but I have narrowed it down to two fiction and one   non-fiction book.  So, in no particular order, my favorites books that I read for my own enjoyment this year were....................



I could not put this book down.  It was such a emotionally driven novel.  Nothing I have ever read has affected me like this book.  HOME FRONT comes out in paperback in January and is also being made into a movie.  If you haven't read it yet, now is the time!




This was a free Kindle book that I had found and ended up being absolutely loving it.  Many have compared it to THE HELP, but I thought it was so much better.  Even though it is no longer a free Kindle read, it is only $3.99 and is worth every cent!





This sat on my shelf for a long time before I finally decided it was time to read it.  I just wish I had read it sooner.  I never thought of myself as "unhappy", but this book showed me ways to find happiness in the little things and to get rid of those things that I wasn't even realizing were making me "unhappy".  Rubin's newest book HAPPIER AT HOME is out now and is on my "to-read" list for this year.


I love to read.  Through book clubs and reviewing books, I have been exposed to books and authors that I never would have considered.  Even though I don't love every book I read, I do usually learn something from each one.  It is easy to get into a rut of reading the same author or same type of books, and I can truthfully say, my reading has been varied over the last several years.  Sure, I will always go back to my favorites every time a new book comes out, but I can honestly say, I have read something from every category at some time in my life.  So, this year, I am going to keep reading books for publishers, for my book club, and for myself.  I am going to read paperback, hard cover and ebooks.  I am going to read fiction and non-fiction.  I am going to cry, laugh, think, pray, and reflect.  And, if a book just isn't for me, I am going to close it and move on.  There are so many others to give my time to.  This year, my goal is to read 50 books.  Not much more than I did this year, but still manageable for me and my other life commitments.  I am not going to accept reviews for books that don't appeal to me.  I am not going keep reading a book that is not resonating with me.  I am going to keep a book in front of me so even if I just have a few minutes, I will choose reading over mindless TV or Internet.  That is how I am going to read 50 books in 12 months...who knows, maybe I will even read more!

I hope you will join me in my reading adventures and as always, feel free to offer up your favorites!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Prayer


A Christmas Prayer

Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share 
in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds 
and the wisdom of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children,
and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven for Jesus' sake.
Amen.

Robert Louis Stevenson


In the quiet of a Christmas night 
so many years ago came a miracle....
A Savior, Our Hope and Promise.

May your hearts be filled with the peace, promise and love that Christmas brings.  
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review: The Shortest Way Home By Juliette Fay

THE SHORTEST WAY HOME
A NOVEL

By: Juliette Fay

Published: October 30, 2012

***

A NOVEL FULL OF HUMOR AND HOPE FOR FINDING YOURSELF WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECTED

Sean has spent twenty years in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s much-loved Shelter Me. There, he discovers that his steely aunt, overly dramatic sister, and quirky nephew are having a little natural disaster of their own. When he reconnects with a woman from his past, Sean has to wonder if the bonds of love and loyalty might just rewrite his destiny. Completely relatable, The Shortest Way Home is another perfect serving of a slice of life from the irresistible Fay.

Winner of the Library Journal Award for Best Women's Fiction

One of the very first books I reviewed was SHELTER ME by Juliette Fay.  You can see my  5 star review from 2008 HERE.  This book takes us back to Belham, but focuses on different characters.  The characters, Janie and Tug from SHELTER ME are related to one of the side characters and are mentioned a few times in the book.  Instead, this book focuses on a completely different family and set of circumstances.

At first I became really interested in this story and the characters.  The personalities and quirks of the characters were well thought out and described so well I could picture them.  But, after awhile, the story seemed to drag for me.  I was frustrated that it was taking so long for main character, Sean, to see what he needed to do.  I guess I had a hard time accepting the fact that he was THAT far removed from his family that he couldn't see how truly desperately they needed him.  

There were some twists and surprises throughout the book that held my interest.  Not to say I wasn't interested in the story, but I just kind of felt like it dragged on for far too long.  It sadly became more of a chore to read it even though I really wanted to know how it was all going to turn out.  

This book also tackles the health issue of Huntington's Disease and it's devastating effects on a family.  I know little about this disease, but certainly have a new appreciation for those who have been affected by it.

My favorite character in the book was Sean's high school friend, Cormac, who now owns a bakery.  One of my favorite lines from page 54 when Cormac was relating to his pies, "Fruit, sugar, and a nice flaky crust. Makes the world a sweeter place, my friend." Yes, pie makes everything better, I think!

This story focuses a lot on the "What-Ifs" in life.  We all have them and can spend our life questioning or 
just make the decision to move forward and stop looking back.  This book tended to remind me of accepting where you are at in life and that even if it wasn't where you want to be, it was ok.  

I was grateful for the way the book ended and even though not everything was resolved, I do feel the author's choices for Sean and his future were the right ones to make.   So many times I wanted to scream at Sean and say, How can you not see what is going on here?  I think Kevin said it best on Page 324 where Sean and Kevin were talking about things that didn't make sense.  Kevin tells Sean what doesn't make sense to him about Sean, "You go away to help people you don't even know."  Yes! Kevin, way to call it as you saw it!  I think there were a lot of messed up decisions in this book and but that is what this story was about:  people's decisions and those that were affected by them.   So, thankfully this story ended with Sean making the right decision.  If he hadn't, I may have thrown the book against the wall.


photo courtesy of juliettefay.com
For more on Juliette Fay and her other novels, please visit http://juliettefay.com/.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beach Ornament

Every year I give the kids an ornament that is related to something special about the year.  Like maybe a football player for the year they started playing football, or their favorite character from that year.  This year I was having a hard time finding ornaments that were meaningful for each of them until I saw these clear ornaments at Michaels.  These are a bit bigger than the regular round, clear ones.  They are also more flat with a wider opening.  Once I saw these I knew I had found my idea.

When we traveled to Pensacola Beach in March, we brought back sand and sea shells.  I haven't come up with uses for all of it, so I still had plenty left.  I poured sand into each ornament and then found shells that would fit into the opening of the ornament.  Then I just wrote at the bottom Pensacola Beach 2012.  The kids got their ornaments this morning as part of their Advent Calendar and just loved them.  They are a bit heavy, so you need to have them on a strong branch.  I think they turned out great!  What a perfect way to always remember a highlight from 2012!







Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day




The snow has arrived.  My summer oasis is now covered in snow.  The wind is howling outside and this morning we were without power for 4 1/2 hours.  Since then it has only flickered a few times.  I hoping the power stays on.  I have several friends in communities near us that have been without power all day.  I'm very thankful I have been able to bake and be warm.  

The kids are home from school and have been getting along fairly well.  I have supper in the crock pot and have been baking....finally.  Oreo Balls, Toffee Bark, and Sugar Cookies are mostly done.  Still want to make my mom's Spritz cookies and my Peanut Butter Star cookies, but I don't think I will be going anywhere tomorrow, so will have lots of time then.

I think everyone needs a snow day once in a while!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Little Monday Inspiration


Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one think of changing himself.
Leo Tolstoy

If we could all just be a little kinder, a little more giving, share what we have, and be thankful.....wouldn't the world be a better place?  Change starts with me....and you.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Christmas....Be Yourself


I don't know about you, but when I entertain, this is NOT how my table looks.  I don't have this kind of talent and doubt I ever will.  As I was thinking about Mary and Martha (see previous post), I ran across this quote, which reminded me...to just be myself. 

When you are entertaining, try not to feel that something unusual is expected of you as a host.  It isn't.  Just be yourself.
Marion Rombauer Becker
Marion was the daughter of Irma Rombauer, who published THE JOY OF COOKING.  


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are You Like Martha or Mary?

Mary, Martha and Jesus

Everyone is busy.  Everyone seems to be in a hurry.  Christmas seems to be one of the busiest times for people, yet it is also the time when we want to slow down and cherish the moments that happen and build memories to last a lifetime.  It is a time that we create traditions and celebrate with family.

In the Book of Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus tells of his visit with sisters, Martha and Mary.  In this story we learn how Martha was busy cooking, cleaning and preparing for Jesus' visit.  She wanted everything to be perfect for Him.  Martha became frustrated because Mary just sat and listened to what Jesus had to say while Martha was running around.

I am such a Martha.  Whenever we have company coming, I am a crazy person running around picking up the house, making food, trying to make sure everything is just right for our guests.  By the time they arrive, I am exhausted and often times focused on the timing of food, etc.

Christmas is also like this as well.  We rush from store to store to find the best deal, to get the next gift, to get all the groceries, etc.  We burn the candle at both ends getting our house decorated just right, wrapping the presents, and baking all the goodies.  By the time Christmas rolls around, you just want it all to be over.

Jesus wants us to live in the moment, like Mary did.  Stop and enjoy it.  Make hot chocolate. Drive to see all the beautiful Christmas lights. Make a gingerbread house.  Bake cookies. Read books. Watch your favorite Christmas movies together.  It is ok to be a Martha, as long as you are still enjoying the moment like Mary did.

Is there something you can cut out this year?  Rather than making 7 different varieties of cookies, you make multiples of your two favorites.  The process will go much quicker that way.  Maybe you do most or all of your shopping online so you aren't fighting the crowds and standing in line.

This year, I decided to cut back on my decorating.  I have four, yes four, large tubs of Christmas decorations.  Some are heirlooms or special things that I want to hold on to forever and others were gifts or things I bought for our family.  But, I just decided I didn't want all the time and effort of putting it out and then in a month, putting it all away.  So, I got out the minimum.  I just put out some of our favorite things, and placed them around the house, so we have a hint of Christmas in each area.  It is enough for us and was one way I felt I could cut back this year.

Not just at Christmas, but anytime that life is hectic.....don't miss out on life just because you are trying to make it all perfect.  Take the opportunity to enjoy the moments and the people without worry.  Clear your mind and be present with the people you are with.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lessons from Luke



This month I was in charge of the lesson for our church circle.  In preparing, I was looking up verses from Luke that are important to me.  Of course, the Book of Luke is full of verses related to Jesus' birth.  But there is so much more to Luke....

In Chapter 12 Jesus warns us about worrying:

Luke 12:22-23, 25 NIV
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food and the body more than clothes...Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Luke 12:34 NIV
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 10:27 NIV
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

This verse from Luke 10:27 went right along with the lesson I was planning to give.  My lesson was on being good neighbors...not just during the Christmas season, but all the time.

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus became human and moved into our earthly neighborhood.

John 1:14 The Message
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.  

Jesus was not always welcomed into our neighborhood and still today has been met with ridicule, hatred, and closed doors.  Jesus chose to leave his life with God and lived the life of a human.  He was a loving neighbor.  He was caring and forgiving.  Sadly, many have neglected, ignored, avoided and refused Him.

How are you treating your neighbors?  I'm not talking about the family next door to you, but our neighbors in our school, in our community, in our state, in our nation, and in our world.  Each one of us are neighbors to each other.  If we choose to ignore those neighbors who need us, we are also choosing to ignore Jesus as our neighbor.

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is "Joy to the World".  Isaac Watts wrote this as a song of rejoicing, taking it from Psalm 98.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.
Let earth receive his King.
Let every heart, prepare Him room.

Let      every      heart,      prepare      Him      room.

Every one of us needs to open our hearts to those in need this season. So many men, women, and children are suffering.  Don't close your door, your eyes, and your heart to those who need you to welcome them into your neighborhood.  Share a smile, be loving, be forgiving, share what you have, pray, and be a witness to others.

Matthew 25:40 NIV
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.


Monday, December 3, 2012

A Little Monday Inspiration

You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction.  
George Lorimer
Lorimer was a journalist and editor of The Saturday Evening Post and died in 1937 from throat cancer.



If you are like me, you have a To-Do list a mile long.  You might have shopping to do, groceries to get, decorations to get out, presents to wrap, meals to make, and kids to run around to practices.  Sometimes, it just seems like there aren't enough hours in the day and you are frustrated when not enough things get crossed off your list.

Today, make your list and set a goal to knock off 1, 2 or 5 items.  Make it realistic so when you finally crawl into bed, you can feel like you accomplished something.  Be determined.  I may not get everything done on my list, but I can look at it and see something crossed off.

If you need help getting things done and staying on top of your To-Do list.  I highly recommend THE CONFIDENT MOM'S HOUSEHOLD PLANNER.  This planner will get your household and your life in order and will give you that satisfaction of crossing things off your list!

May your Monday and your week be full of determination and success!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach

BESIDE TWO RIVERS
Daughters of the Potomac #2

By:  Rita Gerlach

Published:  October 2012

***

A tale of love won and love lost, and the faith to find it again. From the banks of the Potomac to the misty moors of England, Darcy follows a path where the secrets of the past slowly rise to the surface in this dramatic saga that began in Before the Scarlet Dawn. She meets Ethan Brennan, an aspiring English horse breeder, who embraces her independent spirit and marvels at the simplicity of her faith. Ethan and Darcy fall in love, but are kept apart by a promise to another and a sworn oath to a dying woman whose long-hidden secret threatens Darcy 's and Ethan 's lives.




I have received and read this book as part of the Virtual Blog Tour with www.PumpUpYourBook.com.  If you remember, I reviewed Book One in this series titled, BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN just a few weeks ago.  Check out my review, HERE.  Also, as a side note, BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN was free yesterday for the Kindle.  You never know how long that promotion will last.  Click HERE to check it out. As with any book in a series, you appreciate the characters and their stories more if you have read the books together rather than as a stand alone.  This book will also be much more enjoyable if you know the history from Book One first.  I am certainly glad I read BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN, but this book would still be enjoyable without reading it.  

In BESIDE TWO RIVERS, the story begins with Darcy, the daughter of the main characters from BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN.  Darcy is now a grown woman and is struggling with her ties to her Aunt and Uncle who raised her in America and her familial ties to England.  It does take a bit of time to get into this story, but at about the half-way point, the story-line becomes intense which made for a faster read all the way to the end.  After many obstacles, you are anxious to see how Darcy perseveres.  

This second book in the series had a little less historical information in this book due to the Revolutionary War being over, but much more descriptive characterization of both the people and the places in the story.  The author certainly knows how to paint a picture with her words.  Her use of the language and protocol/manners from the time period were also well done. I for one am thankful to have lived in this century.  I'm not sure I could have bit my tongue as often as Darcy did! 

I adored Darcy and was pleased with the woman she had grown up to be.  She was much like her mother, even though she was away from her for most of her growing up years.  I loved her spunk and was inspired with how she handled her fears and problems.  Again, Gerlach weaves faith in God throughout the story without it being over-bearing and preachy.  It is just the right touch to remind the readers of where we need to turn in our trials as well as our triumphs.

Even though not everything is tied up with a pretty bow in this story, I still appreciate the way it ended and leads me to be anxious for the third book in the series that will focus on Sarah, a character from BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN.  This third book, BEYOND THE VALLEY, is planned to debut in February 2013.  Watch for my review then!

 photo courtesy of www.pumpupyourbook.com

Rita Gerlach lives with her husband and two sons in a historical town nestled along the Catoctin Mountains, amid Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War outposts in central Maryland. In many of her stories, she writes about the struggles endured by early colonists, with both American and English settings.  For more on Rita Gerlach, visit her blog at http://ritagerlach.blogspot.com/ .  Connect with Rita Gerlach on Facebook, HERE.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Winter Front Porch Decor


Rather than putting my flower pots away for the winter, I decided to use them.  
I added some greenery (from IKEA) and some scented pine cones (from Michaels) and red and gold berries (from Michaels) and gathered them all up in the pot.  
I set two of them by our front door and guests can smell the cinnamon scented pine cones upon arrival.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

THE RENT COLLECTOR

By: Cameron Wright

Published:  August 27, 2012

****

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money--a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman's journey to save her son and another woman's chance at redemption.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book.  I figured it would be depressing and I couldn't imagine how a story of people living in the dump was going to be much of a story to tell.  Well, I was completely wrong.  The story is told from Sang Ly's perspective and she is quite the storyteller.  She is quite witty and had me laughing in the first chapter.  She is thoughtful, intelligent, and has a will to improve her life.  

Sang Ly is a wife, but most importantly a mother.  She thinks and feels like any mother in the world, with her focus on her son being healthy.  Isn't that what every mother in the world wants?  No matter whether you live in a dump in Cambodia or a mansion in California, all a mother wants is for her child to be happy and healthy.  For Sang Ly, it was her sole purpose.  Sang Ly devises a plan for a better life and that dream involves her asking for help from someone she least expects to ask for help. 

The way of life for the people living at the dump and the descriptions of their homes and belongings were shocking to me.  The little things that were appreciated, their meager food portions, the constant struggle to survive were heartbreaking....and even more so knowing this truly is happening every day in Cambodia and other places around the world.  This story will remind you that possessions are just things and what truly matters in life is happiness, love, family, friends and your health.  Sang Ly and her husband Ki remind us that we make our own happiness, not by the things we have, but by spending time with those we love. 

This story is based on truth and is told about real people.  By going to www.TheRentCollectorBook.com you will learn even more about the story of those who live at the dump.  I found the photos on the website and at the back of the book, fascinating and wonder how the people in the story are doing now.

This story is eye-opening, intellectual, heartbreaking, and inspirational.  It makes for an excellent book club discussion and questions are available on the book website.  


photo courtesy of www.therentcollector.com
Camron Wright is an author I will be watching for in the future.  Camron Wright was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a master’s degree in Writing and Public Relations from Westminster College.
He has owned several successful retail stores, in addition to working with his wife in the fashion industry, designing for the McCall Pattern Company in New York. He currently works in public relations, marketing and design. Camron began writing to get out of attending MBA School at the time and it proved the better decision. While reading this book, I realized I had one of his books on my to-read shelf, LETTERS FOR EMILY.  I look forward to reading this book as well.  


To purchase a copy of THE RENT COLLECTOR, click the photo below:




I read this book for my own enjoyment. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchases this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: The Christmas Star by Ace Collins

THE CHRISTMAS STAR

By: Ace Collins

Published:  October 1, 2012

****


Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.
Yet a letter delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery posed in that letter put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known.

If you are looking for a book to get you into the Christmas spirit, this is the book for you.  THE CHRISTMAS STAR has all the qualities for a great Christmas read.  It reads rather quickly, the story is centered around the Christmas holiday, and is an excellent reminder of what Christmas is really about.  


I read THE CHRISTMAS STAR as part of the Pump Up Your Book book tour.  I decided it was the perfect book to read while traveling to St. Louis over Thanksgiving and I was right.  As I mentioned, it was a quick read and was a delightful story to get me into the spirit of celebrating Thanksgiving and soon, Christmas.  I truly enjoy historical fiction and with this book set in the early 1940's, it was right up my alley. The story begins with Jimmy, a teenager who is grappling with the fact that his father died protecting our country and is frankly, not in the Christmas spirit like the rest of his small town in Arkansas.  His mom is struggling to make ends-meat like most of his neighbors after the depression and he is down-right angry at the world.  Certain people come into Jimmy's life, both good and bad, and he has a decision to make about which direction he wants to go.  

I have to admit, when I started reading the book, I was pretty sure I knew how it would all play out.  But, Ace Collins kept the surprises coming and left me satisfied and teary at the end.  I appreciated the Christian piece to this story as Jesus truly is the reason for the season.  The Biblical piece wasn't overbearing, but was just part of the conversation, which made it feel real.  In fact, I thought the whole story was very believable and could have easily happened in any small-town in America.  

Collins has a great way of describing his settings and characters that you can picture them as you are reading.   My favorite characters were Calvin and Audrey, and their effect on Jimmy was certainly a highlight of the story.

I also appreciated how much this story reminded me to listen to that inner voice.  Jimmy was frequently struggling with decisions along the way and at times ignored that voice urging him to make the right decision.  So often, we ignore that voice as well.  Jimmy had given up hope for ever being able to enjoy Christmas or his life, ever again.  This story showed how important it is to continue to have hope and to never give up.  

I had a couple quotes from the book that really spoke to me:

Anger is a wound that only makes things worse. Page 23

That's the nature of busy people in a busy world.  They are so busy seeing what is in front of them they fail to see what is around them. Page 50

I truly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a Christmas story that will get you into the spirit of giving of yourself, loving others, and having hope.  


Bestselling author Ace Collins has written more than fifty books including novels Farraday RoadSwope’s Ridge and Words of the Father, as well as the nonfiction Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of ChristmasgrAttitudes, and Lassie A Dog’s Life. His books have become movies and network television specials. He has appeared on Good Morning America, the NBC Nightly News and The Today Show and has been featured in the Distinguished Lecture Series at the National Archives in Washington D.C. Ace Collins has sold more than 1.5 million books during his career.

His latest book is the Christian holiday fiction, THE CHRISTMAS STAR.

You can visit Ace on the web at www.acecollins.com.

Friday, November 23, 2012

So Thankful - Day 22 - Thanksgiving

November 22

Spending the day with family, remembering all our blessings, being thankful for the food before us and grateful for not having to cook or clean up after it has made this a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for the many employees of Cracker Barrel who work very hard on Thanksgiving to provide such wonderful service and delicious food to those of us that choose to eat there. In the past four years of eating our Thanksgiving meal there, we have never once been disappointed. Plus, you get the added benefit of shopping in their store while you wait!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So Thankful - Days 19, 20, and 21

November 19
Today while out running errands I came across two new candies....m&m white chocolate peppermint and Dove Promises peppermint bark. Um..yeah. I haven't tried them yet, but I am pretty sure I'm going to love them. So, today I am thankful for candy/sweets. Sometimes they are just the thing you need to cheer you up.

November 20
Today I am thankful for my parents. They have been married 56 years and have been there for me through EVERYTHING! Now they are here for our kids as well. Tonight they drove nearly 2 hours each way, with the ride home through terrible fog, to watch our son perform at his middle school band and vocal concert. They will come back next week to watch our other son in his Christmas program. They have sat through countless ball games and programs for me and their numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren over the years.  They share unconditional love with many, many people and I am proud to be their daughter.

November 21
Today I am thankful for traditions. Four years ago we began a new Thanksgiving tradition of going away with my husband's sister and her family. We have traveled somewhere in the Midwest with the only condition being that there is a Cracker Barrel since they are open on Thanksgiving day and serve a superb meal. So today we left for this year's destination...St. Louis and I know the weekend will be filled with great food, laughter, shopping, and lots of memories.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Get Your 2013 Household Planner and Resolve to Get Your Life in Order


Susan Heid is back with her Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner for 2013 and it is better than ever with her new Supplement Kit.  You can get your planner TODAY for $9 or $14 with the Supplement Kit.  You can even get the rest of 2012 included free, so you can start NOW. Just note that with your purchase. 


What can the Weekly Household Planner do to help you?????

  • If you are looking for organization in your life, this planner is for you. 
  • If you are looking for ways to plan out your days better, this planner is for you.  
  • If you are looking for ways to fit in more "me time", this planner is for you.  
  • If you are looking for a way to better manage your home and keep it ready for those "drop in visits", this planner is for you.  



This Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner covers everything you need to do in a day/week/month.  It is split up into manageable tasks for each day...many you can even assign your children.  There is plenty of space to add in your own reminders and tasks.  Each week has a list of tasks you do everyday like making beds, sorting mail,and taking your vitamins.  Then each day has a lists of tasks such as cleaning out your purse, cleaning your microwave, water plants, and restock toilet paper.  Then there are tasks for the week, fitting them in whenever it works for you, like paying bills, ironing, and planning for the next month's birthdays.  If you choose the Daily Scripture package, each day has Scripture readings for your quiet time.  At the bottom of each sheet is a quote to inspire you.  I haven't seen such a complete and thorough calendar ever before.  Susan has thought of everything.  When I step away from the calendar, I notice how much my life goes off track.  This calendar will keep you focused, on track, and help you get done what you need to get done, with time for yourself! 



This year, you have the opportunity to also purchase a supplemental pack in addition to your calendar.  The Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner and Supplemental Pack includes a master family planner, special occasion/gift planner, holiday planner, menu planner/grocery list, and babysitter information sheet...plus many more. 


Many women, even some of my closest friends, have raved about The Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner.  For only $9 or $14 with the Supplement package, you can have your life back on track and your house in order.  You can print out each week at a time or print the whole package and put it in a binder.  I also know of women who take theirs to Staples to have it bound into a book.  The key is to have it out and available for your daily use.  Click HERE to get yours and start putting your days back in order!


Thanks to The Confident Mom for sending a calendar and supplemental pack for review.  This review is my honest opinion.  I only review items that will benefit myself or my family.  I am a Confident Mom affiliate and receive a small payment for purchases through my link. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giveaway Winner: yurbuds earphones for women

True Random Number Generator  20Powered by RANDOM.ORG

The winner of the yurbuds earphones is............
Laura Lane.
Please check your email Laura and respond within 48 hours and I will ship these right out to you.
Thanks to everyone for entering!

A Little Monday Inspiration


Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down.  

Taken from a New Balance advertisement

If you are like me, sometimes I like to take the easy way out...with housework, cooking, parenting, and exercising.  But, when I do really push myself to accomplish the task in front of me....step outside of my box....really work my butt off....I am always, always, always much better off.  So, here's to pushing myself to the limit today.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

So Thankful - Days 17 and 18

November 17

This morning as I leave my house early to watch our daughter play basketball and my husband leaves to coach our son's basketball team, I was reminded of something I saw on Wednesday afternoon.  As Bennett and I were shopping at Dick's Sporting Goods on Wednesday, a father and his 3 children were shopping there as well.  What stood out to me was that one of his children was obviously very sick.  I'm not talking about the cold/sniffle kind of sickness, I'm talking about cancer.  It was obvious this child had suffered much in his short years of life.  His hair was thinning and he had bruises and was very pale.  He tired very quickly and was frequently sitting on benches throughout the store as the rest of his family shopped.  I would guess this child was around 10 and as they left the store, he was completely exhausted and his dad, picked him up and carried him out to their car.  My eyes misted up as I watched this take place as I have no idea what it is like to have a sick child.  When our kids have the flu or bronchitis or pneumonia, my heart aches for them and I want to take their pain away.  I don't know how I would get through one of them being really sick...for a long time.  On Wednesday, I wanted to take that child's pain away.  As I was checking out, right after the family had left, the cashier asked if I wanted to donate to the child's cancer fund....of course I do.  So, today, as I watched our daughter play basketball, as I watch our children play outside with their friends, I am thankful for our family's health.




November 18

Today I am thankful for surprises.  My niece, Jena was on her way home for Thanksgiving Break.  Since she lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, I don't get to see her very often.  Even though, as she called, our family was getting ready to go to church, we stopped and changed our plans.  Those 3 hours with her were worth a change in our plans for the morning.  I am so proud of her and all she has accomplished.  She is in school to be a Physician's Assistant and will be living with us this next summer during her internship.  I have loved watching her grow up and any time I can spend with her is a treat.  Thanks Jena for surprising us with your visit today!


Friday, November 16, 2012

So Thankful - Days 14, 15, and 16

Spending my week working has really gotten me behind at home and my blogging has had to take a back seat.  So, here I am, playing catchup again.

November 14

Today I am thankful for one on one time with Bennett.  We finally found time to have our date for his birthday.  Even if it was 4 months late.  Bennett had been wanting to go shoe shopping at Dick's Sporting Goods for awhile so we went and spent time there....a lot of time.  Bennett is very particular and decisive with his shopping.  But, he finally found a pair of tennis shoes and a shirt that he wanted and purchased them with his own money.  After a few more errands, we had dinner at HuHot, a mongolian grill restaurant.  It was his first time eating there and we both enjoyed it.  Having that one on one time with your child is very special and I am glad we make that a priority in our family....even if it is 4 months after their birthday!

November 15

Today I am thankful for extra cuddle time.  Reagan wasn't feeling well at school today so we decided to skip both her dance class and her basketball practice in the evening and just rest.  We snuggled in together on the couch while I held a warm cloth over her painful ear.  Unfortunately, our busy schedules make snuggle time a rare occurrence these days, so today, I am grateful that we could take the evening at a slower pace.

November 16

Today I am thankful for coffee.  Spending my days subbing this week has been a little tough on my schedule.  I am not used to going off to work every morning like most people.  I honestly don't know how parents work all day and run their kids around at night.  When do you get anything done?????  Anyway, my coffee has been my buddy this week and has gotten me through my early mornings.  I love all the different flavored creamers out right now...pumpkin spice, white chocolate raspberry, egg nog, and peppermint mocha to name a few.  It makes my morning coffee even more enjoyable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

So Thankful - Days 10 -13

I've been out of town and have had a busy schedule, so today I am playing catch-up.

Nov. 10
Today I am thankful for my extended family. My mom and her sisters still gather for a Christmas celebration every year. The 5 sisters, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all come together to celebrate. It is one of my favorite weekends of the year and today our Jones Family Christmas was held. Such a wonderful time with family!

Nov. 11
Today I am thankful for the thousands of Veterans who have fought for our freedoms that we so easily assume will always be there. I'm especially grateful for my dad who served in the Korean War. Even though it may be considered the "Forgotten War" I know he hasn't forgotten his time there. He saw things no one should have to see and did things he never thought he would do and some, including myself, will never understand their courage. But, I am thankful to be an American and I appreciate their sacrifices as well as those of their families.

Nov 12
Today I am thankful for the technology of cell phones. My cell phone quit working properly and you suddenly realize how dependent you are on them. Thankfully, I was able to get a new phone and am "connected" again.

Nov 13
Today I am thankful for my employment. I am a part-time substitute teacher at the middle school/high school.  I work when it works for me and when I do work, the days are usually quite fun. No two days are the same that is for sure. The extra money is nice (especially to help pay for trips and new cell phones) and I get to get out and use my brain once in awhile!


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Little Monday Inspiration

I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far. I AM A RUNNER because I say I am.  And no one can tell me I'm not.

John Bingham

photo courtesy of bellinrun.com
John Bingham is an author and runner.  He writes a column for Runner's World magazine and believes the goal of running should be to finish and have fun.  Thank you John!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: Mr. Breeze By Morrie Richfield







MR. BREEZE

By: Morrie Richfield

Published: May 25, 2011

***

What if we found out that everything we have ever thought about God and religion was wrong. The history of mankind we have come to accept as fact is also wrong. We are all about to find out the truth about ourselves, our religions, and our god.


Honestly, when I finished this book, I just sat there for a bit....thinking....gathering my thoughts.  I went back to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages again.  This book is really nothing like anything I have ever read.  The only book that is even remotely close to resembling it would be THE SHACK, but that is a stretch.  I had to remind myself that this book is fiction.  But, could it be true????

This book could definitely be controversial to those who have very strict beliefs about God and religion.  But, it will certainly give you something to think about once you have finished it. Without giving too much of the story away, there is a man, named Mr. Breeze, who travels to hospitals, accident sites, and other locations to protect people from danger and to cure people.  He cures people of major diseases and injuries beyond comprehension.  Michael, a reporter, after being frustrated with all the negativity in the news decides to try and find good news in the numerous stories out there.  He then begins seeing a pattern of happy news events that have the same theme and same man named Mr. Breeze, who helped them.  Michael sets out to find out who this Mr. Breeze really is.  This is their story.  It is told without a single chapter which took some getting used to, but still the story moved quite quickly.  After the first miracle, you are eager to get to the bottom of this story.

What I have been left with after reading this book....

  • We all need to find the good in life and in people
  • We need to share that good news with others
  • Hate can ruin all the good in the world
  • Each one of us can change, take a step in the right direction, and live in peace and harmony with each other
MR BREEZE is part of a book tour with www.pumpupyourbooks.com.  By clicking HERE or on my sidebar, you can register to win a Kindle Fire HD as a part of this book tour.



Morrie Richfield lives in Pennsylvania with his two sons, his dogs and his cat.  He is working on his next novel, and he still dreams that someday the world will be a better place for all of us to live.  For more on his inspirational novel, MR BREEZE, visit his website at www.mrbreezethenovel.com.


So Thankful - Day 9


Read the best books first, otherwise you'll find you do not have time.
- Henry David Thoreau

I love books.  I love to read.  I take a book or my Kindle with me everywhere I go in case I have an opportunity to read for even just a few minutes.  I am thankful for all the talented authors that write these books to help me learn, to give me an escape, to make me laugh, and to make me cry.  Books make me happy!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

So Thankful - Day 8

Today I am thankful for naps.  While I was out running errands today I started not feeling well.  So, I decided I better head home.  I got home and went right to bed.  After a nice nap, I was feeling good enough to get up and play taxi mom.  Hopefully the bug that was messing with my stomach left me while I was sleeping.  This mom has no time for the flu!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Thankful - Day 7


My favorite apple is the Honeycrisp apple.  
Did you know it was created in Minnesota's Agricultural Experimental Station?  
They are really only available during the fall around here which makes me sad, but also appreciate them even more.  When I do see them, I snag up a bunch.  If you haven't tried a Honeycrisp apple, they are the perfect combination of everything you want in an apple...crisp, sweet and tart.  
I also love the color of the skin, red with shades of yellow. 
 You may still be able to find Honeycrisp apples in your store, and if you see them, try them out.  
You won't be disappointed.  
Thanks to the horticulturalists who created the Honeycrisp apple!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book Review: Before the Scarlet Dawn By Rita Gerlach

BEFORE THE SCARLET DAWN

Daughters of the Potomac #1

By: Rita Gerlach

Published: February 1, 2012

****

In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father's estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar's daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life. 

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward's path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.


I purchased this on my Kindle because I have a review coming up for the second in this series and the Type "A" in me felt I needed to read the first book in the series to be able to give it an adequate review.  I am now anxious to read the next one in the series.

I think my favorite genre is historical fiction, but this time period (Revolutionary War) is not one I read often.  After traveling to Philadelphia and seeing Independence Hall you would think I would have been more interested in this time-period, but usually WWI and WWII eras seem to get my attention.  Even though this book didn't go into a lot of detail about the war, there was still a lot of attention given to the setting, the way people related to each other and their fears during this time in our history.  I found the different social classes and their expectations very interesting.  I was also drawn to the servants in the story and how even though they were considered like family, there was a definite difference in their societal level.  

The beginning of this story involved Eliza and her attraction to Hayward.  Hayward and Eliza get married and flee England to move to a home along the Potomac.  Then the story focuses on Eliza.  Hayward goes off to war....for 6 years....with no communication back to his wife....AT ALL!  I had a really hard time grasping this concept.  She was to wait for him and attend to his home, expecting his to return at any moment....for 6 years.  I can tell you, I am not sure I would have survived during this time period or put up with that from my husband.  The author painted a very clear picture of the struggles Eliza went through, both physically and mentally.  I felt her pain, anguish, and frustration throughout the story.  Even though Eliza made some choices that changed her life forever, I'm sure I would have done the same thing in her situation.  

Hayward returns home from war a different man, as many soldiers do.  But, in this story the unthinkable happens and because of the time period and how women were treated, he was able to get away with it.  The shock of his actions and the pain Eliza suffered are what is drawing me to the next in the series, BESIDE TWO RIVERS.  I must know what happens next.

This book is classified as Inspirational Historical Fiction.  In the story, Eliza's father was a vicar (priest) and so her faith is very evident throughout the story.  Scriptures are often referenced and Eliza must rely on her faith in God to get through her struggles.  I saw it as a natural part of the story and not overpowering in any way.  I appreciated that Eliza turned to prayer and Scripture when in doubt of her path in life.

If you are looking to start a new series, I recommend you read this one.  Watch for my review of BESIDE TWO RIVERS, published in September 2012, to be posted by the end of the month.  You won't have to wait long for the third in the series to come out, as BEYOND THE VALLEY will arrive in February 2013.  


photo courtesy of goodreads.com
Rita Gerlach lives with her husband and two sons in a historical town nestled along the Catoctin Mountains, amid Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War outposts in central Maryland. Check out her blog at http://ritagerlach.blogspot.com/.