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!