Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From My Family to Yours

I'm not around this week and I hope that you have plenty of time to spend with your family and friends.  See you soon!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book: Stones for Bread

A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.

Liesl McNamara's life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.

But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits her recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour --- a single father with strange culinary habits --- seems determined to win Liesl's affection.

When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family's past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.


I have read all of Christa Parrish's books I believe.  They just kind of get under your skin.  Not romance and not fast paced, but a true story of a life lived in all it's adventure and angst.  This one about bread and a baker who's got flour running through her veins from her mother and grandmother.

The journey that Liesl takes to self discovery is told through the present interwoven with flashbacks to the past.  You learn her history as you see her working through it in real time in the story.  Sometimes this style of writing annoys me if it's not well done, but I'd say Parrish has mastered it in this book.

I want to try all the bread recipes interwoven too, but not everyone in my house could enjoy them and to be honest I'm not a baker.  But it makes me appreciate all the more what goes into making really good bread.  I felt like I was in the bakehouse with Liesl.

Highly recommended!


Purchase your own copy and read other's reviews.

Christa Parrish is the award-winning author of three novels, including the 2009 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year Watch Over Me. When she's not writing, she's a homeschool mother of three wonderful children. Married to author and pastor Chris Coppernoll, Christa serves with him as co-leader of their church's youth ministry as well as serving as a facilitator for a divorce recovery ministry. She is now also slightly obsessed with the art of baking bread.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: A Birthday Map

My penpal sent me this for my birthday last week...

I had a lot of fun putting it together (it's magnetic) on the back of my front door and was sad to say that it was a lot harder than I expected.  I know nothing about the shape or especially interior of Australia!

Friday, December 13, 2013

CSP: On Having a Sick Child

Joy passed out on Grandma on Thanksgiving Day
I've had some sick babies in my house since the Monday before Thanksgiving.

One night this week at 1am I was holding Hope, just waiting for her to puke again because I knew it was coming.  She was so limp in my arms and I felt awful knowing there was quite literally nothing else I could do to make her feel better.

Then I thought about all the mothers in other countries who had no one to turn to when their babies were sick, no money to afford a doctor, and maybe even lacking basic knowledge of what nutrition and hydration a sick child needed.

And my heart broke. 

I felt hopeless for them as I felt helpless to do anything for my own child.

Then I remembered that I can do something other than feel hopeless.  This is what Compassion's Child Survival Program is all about.  They provide help and support from the time a mother becomes pregnant until her child can be officially enrolled as a school age child for sponsorship.

Mothers get prenatal care and nutrition supplements before and after the baby is born.  A worker will visit her home and help her learn how to care for and teach her baby.  They provide her with job skills and a support network of other mothers.

This is what makes a difference in the lives of sick children around the world.  We can do something!

Will you join me this Christmas in giving with Compassion?

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Advent

Grandma and Grandpa brought a simple Advent calendar with them at Thanksgiving.  So nice they could open the first day together on Sunday!  It's also a bit of a countdown until we get to see them again!  Less than 2 weeks!

Here's praying that we are ALL healthy before we have to get on that airplane...

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Book: A Marriage in Middlebury

One decision changed both their lives . . . but will love win in the end? Charlotte Rose Hill enjoys a comfortable life serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky, devoted customers. The only thing lacking is someone to share it with. At eighteen she denied Sam Wilder's marriage proposal after his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. They both moved on . . . or so she thought. When Sam walks back into her life more than a decade later, Charlotte is surprised that her heart still quickens. But is it because of his presence? Or because of the presence of Sam's new fiancée? A second chance at love doesn't happen often, but their past may keep them apart. Is it too late for Sam and Charlotte?


This is the second novel I've read by Anita Higman and I think she likes stories with a twist from the past that comes to play in the present.  Her books are definitely a little more unique than your average romance novel, but at this point I think they are a bit too detailed for me.  Maybe it was just the mood I was in while reading this one, but it didn't hit me.


Purchase a copy or see what others have to say.

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She's been a Barnes and Noble "Author of the Month" for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Friday, December 06, 2013


Today I balanced the check book for the last two months.  And as I sat and looked at the finances I had cause to wonder.

How is it that on paper we look so poor by US standards, yet we truly have so much, especially compared to the rest of the world?

We don't make enough to get by month to month and yet my house is overflowing with stuff and we have so many friends and family, especially grandparents that love on the kids.

Some of the lack comes from choices we've made and some of it just is, but I don't regret any of it, especially when I see the bigger picture.  The picture of raising my children to love life and not stuff, of putting people first, even if it means that you don't get that next cool "toy" you wanted.  Of learning to see the world and not just what's right around you.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
                                                                            ~ Luke 6:20-21

I want to see the world through Kingdom eyes and hunger for the things that God hungers after.  And that's certainly not much that money can buy!

This is a post prompt from The Gypsy Mama. Join in? If you don't have a blog or don't want to write there I'd love to have you write with me, even in the comments!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Christmas Cards On The Mantel

“I'm participating in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Cardstore. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

My Christmas cards are sitting here staring at me, waiting for me to stuff, address, and stamp.  I'll get to it... hopefully soon!  I've got a to-do list for the next 2 weeks that's making me wince!

If you're like me and mailing out Christmas cards, while fun, sometimes feels like too big of a job, Cardstore.com may have the answer for you.  Pick your favorite design, add photos and personalized text, and Cardstore will do the rest!  Yes, addressing, stamping, and mailing too!

Which card will you pick to grace the #TopoftheMantel this year? http://po.st/PersonalizeYourCard

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: My Joy

Poor Hope is still sick so while she was taking a 4 hour nap Joy was the center of attention...

She was so excited to go "side" with brother, but didn't know what to do with the snow! I think she just enjoyed her freedom more than anything.

And then she found Nana and Papa's phone.  She would push a button and then put the phone up to her ear and quirk her head and say a few "sentences"... rinse and repeat.

Apparently I have a pre-teen on my hands already!  (excuse the hat hair!)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Book: Merry Humbug Christmas

A Merry Humbug Christmas features two holiday romance novellas from hilarious and heartwarming author Sandra D. Bricker. -- the perfect gift to yourself or someone else at this most wonderfully stressful time of year.

In "Once Upon a Jingle Bell," A Bah! Humbug cruise to the Mexican Riviera is Joss Snow’s answer to this year’s quest to avoid the holidays completely; at least until she’s rebooked on a different kind of cruise altogether. Candy canes, holly wreaths, reindeer and ornaments seem to be stalking her on the 12 Days of Christmas holiday cruise extravaganza. An escape back to land is her only goal . . . until she meets a kindred spirit in rugged Irishman Patrick Brenneman, and then the game is on! Avoid Christmas festivities at all costs... except maybe for that one stop under the mistletoe.

In "It Came Upon a Midnight Deer," Reese’s guilt over abandoning best friend Joss on their holiday tradition of avoiding all things Christmas is trumped by the joy of her recent engagement. Meeting Damian’s family for the first time on idyllic Sugarloaf Mountain is about as far from that Bah! Humbug cruise as she can get, and Reese can hardly wait to get there. But from the moment they hit that deer in the road just two miles from the cabin, everything seems to go wrong. There are no drummers drumming or pipers piping this particular year! And once she sets her future in-laws’ family cabin ablaze, she’s pretty sure there won’t be even ONE golden ring in her future.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Merry Humbug Christmas, go HERE.


I enjoy reading Sandra's novels because the heroines always have some quirky somethings happen to them.  You'd think things like this wouldn't happen in real life... but really it's all in the storytelling.  I didn't get my nickname of Chaos for nothing!  Telling the stories would sound pretty ridiculous to some people!

And I like that Joss doesn't really hate Christmas, she just has her reasons for wanting to avoid all the commercialism that it is.  I can relate to that sometimes!

Fun reading for your Christmas break!


For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The author says that it was her 8th novel that opened the door to finding her way as a writer. "I'm a Christian woman, first and foremost," she says. "So it was a bit of a dream-come-true when Summerside Press chose me as one of two authors to launch the Love Finds You line."

Sandie's real-life role as cancer survivor has parlayed into her steadfast commitment to raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. Spearheading a series of devotionals for Summerside Press (such as the popular His Grace is Sufficient...Decaf is Not), the author has stipulated that a portion of each contributor's proceeds will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with raising funds for my pet projects ... and still pursue my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"

And one of the author's pet projects is animal rescue, evidenced by the special bond she has created with one particular formerly-abandoned puppy -- a red-haired collie with "killer brown eyes and the heart of the class clown."

Sunday, December 01, 2013

20 and a Half Months

We have been the house of sick this month, and especially this past week.  No fun, no fun at all.  So, here is a very late update on the girls.

Trying to get these girls to sit, even for a second, for bunny pictures was next to impossible.  Here I gave them their hair brushes to try and distract them.  They are my little fashionistas, but it didn't work, they just threw them on the floor!

They really know when I'm trying to take pictures of them and just don't want to sit for me!  Hope would NOT sit up straight.  As soon as I sat her up and backed away she would slouch down on purpose!

I tried to get them to interact with the bunny... this was the result...

Joy grabs the bunny...

Hope steals the bunny and Joy yells about it...

Joy steals the bunny back (complete with smirk)...

Hope yells about it.

Then they came to some peace about it and looked at me for half a second...

This.  This is how they feel about me taking their photo!

A shot of the adorable ruffle skirts because they are almost too small already!

And yes, the biggest issue when I'm taking pictures is that the girls, especially Hope, want to "I see" the pictures, even if I haven't even taken one yet!

So I tried to contain them in their room... and Hope was showing off her monkey skills by climbing the end of the crib.

In the last 2 weeks they have started parroting back so much.  They don't say as much on their own, but are starting to name a few things without prompting.  It's very cute, but Brian asks me what I'm going to do when they start talking for real... I don't know!  They say things like apple, and Cory, and Noah - which are exceptionally cute!  They've learned a few more signs, especially "cracker", but the words to go with them too so I don't know that we'll need the signs too much longer.  They can make themselves known now!  When you ask them a question and their response is yes they say "ah shoe" which I think actually comes from Noah saying "sure" to things.  Hope started it and Joy has just recently picked it up.

Before "the sick" of this past week they weighed in around 27 pounds each and at Old Navy last week I measured them as just under 32 inches each.  Roundly in the 18-24 month clothing range there, which is really 18 months in most other brands.

The girls LOVE to get dressed (and undressed, and dressed again) and so I think we will have to find some dress-up clothes soon.  For now they mostly just take their clothes off, attempt to put them back on and when that fails, run around naked.  At least they keep their diapers on!  But when we are going out somewhere or if they want help they will back up to me and put their arms out backwards for me to put on their coats.  Super cute of course.

Miss "I know you're trying to take my picture" Hope

They're still kind of, what would I call it, finicky eaters?  They'll eat something one day and then throw it on the floor the next.  Although there are some things that always get eaten, beans being at the top of that list!  They will now ask for spoons and are starting to get pretty good with them.  Although halfway through the meal the food usually ends up dumped on the tray and the bowl on the floor.

Baths are still a favorite activity, but a close second is going to sit on the potty.  I bought a second one and we have had some success.  I'm not pushing it, but it's so nice to see a future without diapers in it!  Hope will often ask to go to the potty and then Joy will follow.  Whether or not either of them actually does anything is a different story!

They are very aware of what's going on around them.  When the trains go by and whistle they stop whatever they are doing and go "woo woo".  They wave to the cars that go by outside and say "hi" to all the people in the grocery store!

This is Hope's "I see?" look

They love the hair pretties hanging on the wall, but I can't get any of them to stay in longer than about 2 minutes.  I love these pictures though because I especially think Joy looks like me as a little girl in the above one.  Not sure what it is about having her hair up that does it!

They are busy busy girls and growing up so fast!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Watching Cartoons

We've done a lot of this this week with the sick in our house.  It's a nice spot for sitting though!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book: Aloha Rose

Aloha Rose

When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt—a red rose snowflake appliquéd on a white background—in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he’s come to regard as family. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold digger and blocks every move she makes toward her Hawaiian family. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family.


Well, the book description is pretty misleading here.  Laney knows who her birth family is and she's going to Hawaii to meet them for a few weeks.  Sparks fly between she and Kai, but Kai is hiding a dark past he can't seem to get over and keeps pushing her away.
Grandma Mily, the only real link to her mother, seems to be fading farther into Alzheimer's, but Laney's quilt is a comfort to her as it was started by her mother and grandmother before she was born.

At first I thought this was going to be a fairly typical light romance, but there are plenty of twists and turns in this story to keep your interest until you find the secrets at the end!


If you would like to read the first chapter of Aloha Rose, go HERE.

A word from the Lisa Carter:

I am a wife and mother. My husband and I have two daughters and make our home in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

I am a teacher. With a Master’s degree in history, I have taught at the university, high school and middle school levels. After years of church involvement as a soloist, choir member and worship leader, I also teach music.

I am a writer. Delighted by the rhythm and musicality of words, I have been writing since childhood. In 2001, I won the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) Story Writing Contest that re-ignited a lifelong love of writing.

I am on a journey of faith. My ultimate desire through my life and my writing is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, His redeeming love as seen in the life of Jesus Christ and to help others know for themselves this great, awesome God of all comfort and wisdom. He is enough for every need.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book: Dear Mr. Knightley

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others-namely her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story-by giving that story to a complete stranger.
Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.

Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most. But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself "Mr. Knightley") offers to put Sam through the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam's program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it's pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is --- once again --- made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.

Reay's debut novel follows one young woman's journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.


If you don't understand the reference in the title of this book, it may not be the one for you... however, if you are a fan of Jane Austin at all then you will probably enjoy it.
I wasn't sure how I was going to like the style at the beginning because it's written as a series of letters to Sam's anonymous benefactor, but it actually works really well with the story.

Sam gets one last chance to make something of herself, but she can't seem to find normal. Instead she resorts to hiding behind quotations from all her favorite literature characters. As she begins to find her way in the real world she realizes that by trying to protect herself from hurt she's only managed to become more alone. But coming out of that shell also means risking; hurt, rejection, and causing pain for others.  Perhaps she's more like her favorite heroine than she ever imagined.

One other thing, about a quarter of the way into the story I could feel a major plot twist coming. I ended up being right even though I managed to keep myself from peeking. In a way it was fun to be on the outside of the story and know what was coming. It's kind of like how you watch a movie and then there's a plot twist you never saw coming and then you can never watch the movie the same way again.


Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in "Focus on the Family" and the "Upper Room." Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. "Dear Mr. Knightley" is her first novel.

Enter Today | 11/14 - 12/3!
Dear Mr. Knightley Katherine Reay

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

An Apple from the Teacher

Last week on the same day as the Veteran's Day assembly there was an awards assembly at 8:30am.
And yes I actually made it there with the three little ones only a few minutes late!

Cory got An Apple from the Teacher for being a hard worker and always turning in his best work.  Also for getting better about getting started so he can finish his work on time!  The teacher loves his company, but not at recess when it's her break time!  My little social man!

He didn't know I was coming so it was fun when he finally realized I was there!  I'm surprised he didn't pick up on his sisters fussing in the stroller!

I'm very impressed with his teacher after having been in the classroom a couple of times.  She's a very good teacher and very kind with the students.  Cory always has nice things to say about her.  First grade has been good to us so far!

Friday, November 15, 2013


Last week at my oldest's school they had a special assembly for Veteran's Day.  They asked the kids to invite any veterans they knew and/or bring photos of veterans that were special to them.  Cory took photos of his Papa (my dad) and two of his great grandfathers.

I've thought more than once over the last few years about how blessed my children are to have such a strong heritage of people in their family tree.  Grandparents on both sides that are lovingly involved in their lives as well as praying for them.  More than a few great grandparents that cared for them and they were able to know at least for a few years.

I've thought about how much your family influences who you become much more than you may realize when you are young.  And how we can make choices that affect those around us as well as our children.  This is my family tree.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children's children... 
~Proverbs 13:22

This is a post prompt from The Gypsy Mama. Join in? If you don't have a blog or don't want to write there I'd love to have you write with me, even in the comments!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


The blog has been a little quiet this past week...  we all caught some creeping crud of a cold and apparently mine has turned into pneumonia.  Never had that before.
Makes me feel much worse for my oldest son that we let him go almost a month with the coughing this summer before taking him in to be diagnosed too.  I could only handle it for a week.
I even got an inhaler, never used one of those before either.  I'm feeling old.

I love this time of year too and I'm missing out.  The sunrise is actually late enough that I can enjoy it without being completely bleary-eyed!  This was taken 2 weeks ago, before the time change, just as Cory was going out to catch the bus.  I love living this far down in the valley where the hills don't block the sunrise and sunsets.  And that my house faces east/west so I get to see them frequently!

Today it was in the 50's and sunny, a beautiful day to play outside.  I'm thankful that Noah got to go play with his little friends Jasmine and Lily while their mom watched the girls so I could go to the doctor in peace.

Now, to being able to enjoy the fall a little more... and write about the girls who will be 20 months in 2 days!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book: Derailed

Forced to give up his hard-earned retirement, Harry Bentley goes back to work as a detective. Receiving a bizarre undercover assignment that sends him across the country by train. Things suddenly go awry when it appears one of his new neighbors may be part of a smuggling ring and suspicion rises about his own son’s involvement in a major drug cartel. The second in the Windy City Neighbors series, Derailed is a contemporary, and often humorous, tale in an urban setting, featuring ordinary people wrestling with the spiritual and practical issues of real life. Intersecting with Grounded (book one), the Jacksons employ their innovative storytelling technique of “parallel novels.” Though each book follows its own drama and story arc, the characters’ lives become intertwined and affect one another. Derailed transports you to Beecham Street—a typical, isolated American neighborhood . . . until hope moves in.


More than intersect, this book parallels Grounded and I wasn't prepared for that.  So, while I think it would stand alone fairly well, you know a lot of the story going in and the first have of the book is more like getting to know a new character in the neighborhood.  Not bad, just not what I expected.

Playing on the title of the book, Harry, feels like his life is headed in one direction when all these distractions and issues keep derailing him.  But for him it's really more about who has the control in his life, he or God, and what that looks like in reality.


If you would like to read the first chapter of Derailed, go HERE.

Meet Dave and Neta Jackson: As a husband/wife writing team, we are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together we are the authors or coauthors of over 120 books. (You can see our Publication Record by clicking HERE.) In addition to writing several books about Christian community, we have been privileged to coauthor numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

But over the years the we have especially enjoyed writing for children and young people! This includes our award-winning TRAILBLAZER series, historical fiction about great Christian heroes and heroines for young people ages 8-12, and the four-volume HERO TALES: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Great Christians, and the companion book, Heroes in Black History.

Somewhere along the way, our own children grew up! Son Julian is Director of Experience Design for the Alder Planetarium in Chicago where he “provides the experience of exploring space” for visitors. He has two sons, Liam Isaac and Elijah David. Daughter Rachel graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and after working in the field of rape-crisis prevention went on to earn a Masters Degree in counseling from the University of Illinois. She is now a counselor at “Uni High School” in Champaign, Illinois. She is the loving mother of Havah Noelle (our first grandchild!) and Noah Zion, our youngest grandchild. The Jackson family also includes a Cambodian foster daughter, Samen Sang, who has four children.

We live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years we were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. We are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.