Monday, June 16, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton - a book review

This book has it all!  It has romance, adventure, intrigue, suspense, and mystery.  As the title states, Tamsen Littlejohn is being pursued.  As you read the story your first thought might be that she is being pursued by a scourned suitor.  As you read the story you realize that she is also being pursued by a man who loves her and by God.  Jesse offers her protection and through his strong faith in God, he shows her how her faith can be strengthened.
This is one book that I had trouble putting down.  I couldn’t wait until I could pick it up again to read. 

This is from the publisher’s  website:

“In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.

Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?”

The story takes place in the late 1700’s, a time of political upheaval and uncertainty and conflict among Indian tribes.  The characters are very believable and the author does a great job of keeping them interesting.  She also does a wonderful job of describing the landscape and surroundings.  You really feel that you are standing right there watching it all unfold.

If I have one criticism  it would be the choice of the heroine’s name.  Maybe it’s just me but I would frequently confuse it with ‘Tasmen’ . It is a very unusual name.

If you like historical Christian romances, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Shining Light by Judith Miller - a book review


I had never heard of this particular group of people before, so reading about the Amana community was very interesting. You can tell the author did alot of research. 

It is written in the first person narrative, which for me, was a little hard to follow at first. Once I got used to it, it made the story much more interesting. 

 There are many twists and turns in the plot and sometimes I wondered how much more this little family could take.  God provides for them in ways they would never have expected.  This is definately a faith based novel but not at all preachy. 
The characters are very engaging and ‘real’.  Throughout the story of this family’s journey there a many characters that at times can be hard to keep track of.

Overall, I liked this book. I can’t say it is one of my favorites but it is well written and interesting. 

Here is a synopsis from the publisher’s website:
 The kind people of Amana have been her guiding light, but her greatest trial is yet to come...
 West Amana, Iowa, 1890
After Andrea Wilson receives the devastating news that her husband has been lost at sea, she returns home to Iowa with her young son, Lukas. But what she finds there causes more heartache: The family farm has burned and her father has died, leaving Andrea with nothing.
Andrea must rely on the kindness of the people from the nearby Amana village who invite her to stay with them for a time. She discovers much generosity and contentment among the Amanans--especially from the tinsmith, Dirk Knefler, who takes her son under his wing. But is the simple, cloistered life in Amana what Andrea wants for Lukas's future? Is she willing to give up the comforts and freedom of the outside world? And when yet another round of shocking news comes her way, will Andrea ever be able to find the serenity and hope that have eluded her for so long?”


I encourage you to read this book and learn about a very interesting group of people.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, April 25, 2014

For Every Season by Cindy Woodsmall - a book review

For Every Season  by Cindy Woodsmall


I have to preface this book review by saying that Cindy Woodsmall is one of my favorite authors.  I love that she writes about what she personally know about the Amish people.  I love the historical background she includes in her books and how she explains their doctrinal and cultural beliefs in a fictional setting.


However, I had a really hard time getting into this book.  There is a section in the front called ”the story so far”  that gives a brief synopsis of the plot line.  Even with that, I didn’t feel it gave the reader enough background to pick the story up at the start of this book.  I actually read the previous one and I still had trouble following it.  Of course, all of this is my personal opinion and is likely based on my short attention span.  I like a book to grab me right away.


This is from the publisher’s website:

“Working hard to develop a new Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is fully committed to rehabilitating an orchard with business partner Samuel King. But an impulsive decision has created an unexpected strain in her relationship with her beau, Samuel’s brother, Jacob, threatening plans for the orchard. Amidst mounting tension in matters of the heart and business, Rhoda finds that this fledging settlement feels like the home she has always longed for, and she begins to embrace the God-given, heightened intuition that has always felt like a burden to her. She longs for Jacob to fully be free of his past, so they can work towards the future together.

But as Rhoda uses her gift to unpack an old secret with her Englisch neighbors, it is not her beau but an unlikely ally that cheers her on. With the orchard on shaky ground and Jacob’s plans in question, Rhoda is determined to see things through to harvest. But can she trust her insight to direct her path in matters of the heart?”

There are some really yummy sounding recipes at the end of the book and a glossary of Amish terms which is very helpful.  There is also a list of characters which I found essential in trying to keep everyone straight.

Like I said, this is only my opinion based on my likes. You may find you really like this book.  I hope you give it a try and form your own opinion.  Go HERE to read an excerpt.

You can use the Amazon search box on the right side of this page to order it and when you do you help me out a little. 


I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wonderful, worthwhile inconveniences

This week while my daughter was visiting me for the evening, she found something on the internet that made her chuckle.  As she was reading me excerpts of what she found, I was taken back to when my 5 children were babies.  What she was reading was a list of things that mothers of babies and toddlers have to look forward to when their children are a little older. I am finding, to a certain extent, they apply to me once again.  I thought as she was reading them, I can add to that list, both from memory AND from my current circumstances.  I have the wonderful pleasure of babysitting for my 2 year old and 2 month old grandbabies....and I love it!  But it has reminded me of those long ago days...all those wonderful, worthwhile inconveniences  So, here's the list I came up with. 

Things a new mother (or babysitting gramma) have to look forward to:

  1. Sleeping all night (OK, my grandchildren go home at night so this doesn't really apply to me)
  2. Taking a shower when you need want to instead of when you can fit it in.
  3. Using the bathroom in private.....with the door closed.
  4. Drinking a full cup of coffee-----hot!
  5. Eating your dinner off your own plate instead of finishing what your child doesn't finish off theirs
  6. Watching something on TV other than Veggie Tales (I have to say though, my husband and I get a kick out of them)
  7. Speaking in full sentences
  8. Wearing a hairstyle that doesn't involve a headband or 'messy bun" (Goes along with #2)
  9. When your wardrobe consists fo something other than t-shirts and yoga pants.
  10. Completing a telephone call
  11. Smelling like eau de perfume instead of eau de spit-up
  12. Standing in the grocery line without swaying, rocking or bouncing
  13. Not having to hurdle child gates
  14. Doing things with both the same time
  15. Having copies of home decorating magazines on your coffee table instead of Winnie the Pooh
  16. Having a song stuck in your head other than "Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere...."
  17. Walking out to your car like a human being instead of a pack mule (Diaper bag, purse, car seat, baby,etc)
  18. When the attributes of the contents of a diaper are not the major topic of conversation
  19. When grocery shopping becomes a chore once again instead of 'mommy's day out'
  20. When you can once again use your snow shovel for the white stuff instead of shoveling toys.

Does any of this sound familiar to you new moms (or 'old' grand-moms) ?
Of course you also have lots of hugs and kisses and "I love you's" to look forward to.  Believe me....those will make up for all the little inconveniences !

I'll risk repeating myself and say how much I LOVE being able to spend time with my grandchildren....ALL of them.  What a blessing it is to get to watch them learn and grow.  One thing that struck me as I was writing this, was how fortunate we are to have modern technology, so we can email, instant message, skype, etc.  It is so much easier to keep in touch with them even though they aren't close by.
I'd love to hear what things you come up with to add to the list.
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher - a book review

What a surprise!  Imagine yourself at your engagement party and who should walk in but your husband you thought was dead!  That’s what happened to our heroine, Diana. 

This novel follows Diana, her not-so-dead husband, Tyson and their loved ones on their journey toward forgiveness, honor and love.

It has its share of emotion, suspense and mystery, but I pretty much had it figured out by the middle of the book.

 I haven’t read any of Hatcher’s other books but I enjoyed this one. The only thing I found confusing was her use of flashbacks.  Fortunately, every flashback is preceded by a date so you know when it happens, and they do prove to be useful in understanding what the characters are feeling and why they behave and react as they do.  I also liked how the spiritual development of the characters is portrayed. 

This is from the publisher’s website:

“Best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher returns to the adventurous American West in the final book of her Where the Heart Lives series. This story is filled with Robin’s trademark heartwarming and emotionally charged message of faith, courage, and love.
When Diana Brennan’s husband returns eight years after abandoning her, can she find it in her heart to forgive him?
Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for eight years, Diana’s infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.
But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition––she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.”
Go to the author's website to read a sample chapter.

You can also follow the link on the right side of this page tp purchase a copy from Amazon.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook and Thomas Nelson through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thrifty Thursday - NOT about coupons !

I'll start this post by saying this is NOT about coupons, sales sites or home gardening.  There are plenty of blogs out there in blogger-land about those things. Check out the links on the right side, toward the bottom of this page for some good ones. I'm TERRIBLE about coupons.  If I do happen to remember to look for them, and then manage to print them, I either leave them at home (along with my fabric grocery bags ), or forget to use them at checkout.  I know, I'm afraid there's no hope for me and couponing.

As the economy continues to effect our houshold budgets, I thought I might share some of the 'tricks; I used years ago when our budget was very challenged, and is headed that way again.  I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that you try any of this. I just thought it would be fun to let you know what I did when financial times were tough.  If you're a cook or chef, you'll probably want to turn your eyes away because some of the things I did will make you cringe.  We've all heard the stories of how our parents or grandparents made the ketchup stretch by adding water to the half empty bottle, right?  Guilty!  I still do it! Here are a few other tricks I used.
  • Cook your pasta a couple of minutes longer than you normally would. It puffs it up (and yes, it is a little softer but my family never noticed) and stretches farther. Al dente wasn't a phrase I even knew about back then.
  • We ate alot of 'mixed-up' dishes.  A favorite was what we called 'goulash'.  It probably is not what a chef would call it, but it's what we did.  It consisted of elbow macaroni, browned ground beef, the cheapest jar/can of speghetti sauce you can find, a little sugar to tame down the acidity, some 'shakey' cheese (parmesean for those of you without kids) if you can afford it.  This was and still is one of my family's favorites.  You could substitute ground turkey or gound venison instead of ground beef.
  • Another favorite was 'Cheesy Beef Casserole'.  We actually had this for dinner one night at a friend's home and really loved it.  Again, it starts with cooked elbow mac, and browned ground beef.  Instead of speghetti sauce, it uses a can of cheddar cheese soup.  Added to that is a can of drained whole kernal corn. After all that is mixed up and dumped in a casserole dish, you make a top crust of pop-open biscuits.  You can always make your own biscuits or change it up with crumbled saltines.  This one was saved for special occasions because of the cost of a can of cheddar cheese soup, but it can be stretched by adding a little milk and extra corn.
  • Probably you all know about how to stretch your ground meat by making meat loaf and the added fillers.  My usual go-to filler is a bunch of crushed up saltines.  I just add a few extra.  You can also add torn up peices of bread, stale bread works best and is a great way to use up what might otherwise be thrown out.  I've also used oatmeal. 
  • Baking soda is not just for baking!  I always bought the cheapest laundry detergent the store had.  In those days, they had 'no-name' products.  A shake or two of baking soda in the wash helps the detergent work better and always, always, always do a full load.  It's also great scouring product and if you have sensitive surfaces where you can't use a sctubber, it works great.  It's also a good, although not very tastey, toothpaste substitute.  Have you got little ones that sometimes have an (opps) accident while they're sleeping?  Come on!! If you're got or had kids, that happened.  Don't even try to tell me it didn't!  A dusting of baking soda left for a few hours then vacuumed up helps freshen that up.
  • Speaking of vacuum cleaners....years ago, my mother gifted me with her old vacuum.  It was one of the first vacuums made with  the power, brush roller.  I used that vacuum for almost 20 years.  It was also before the invention of the bagless cleaner.  Since those bags were somewhat expensive, and there were times I either couldn't afford them or forgot to buy them, I had to get creative.  Here's what I did.  I carefully opened up the bottom of the bag and emptied it into the trash. Carefully!  It did make a bit of dust but that was easily cleaned up.Then I grabbed my stapler and stapled it shut, finished with alot of tape to make sure it was sealed, and voila !  pracitcally a new bag!  I actually still have that cleaner, it has been replaced by a newer version of the same maker, but it is still working!  I replaced it mainly because the hose needed to be replaced and because it was so old and the bags were getting hard to find (the store clerk told me he had worked for 13 years and has never had anyone request those bags), we decided to relegate it to the 'upstairs' cleaner.  I had promised myself that when the entire hose was covered with tape, I would get a new one.
See the tape?  My motto is fix it and make do.
There was ALOT of making do in those days.
  • I used to use old T shirts to patch up our 'everyday' underwear.  Yep, we had sets for good and everyday.  The ones no one but us would ever see.  TMI???  Sorry.
  • We also had play clothes, school clothes and church clothes.  As the school clothes got 'too worn'  for school anymore, they got relegated to play clothes.  I also made most of my kids clothes often from discount fabric or thrift store clothes refashioned.  Hand-me-downs were the norm, at least  until our son came along.  He has 4 older sisters, and objected to wearing their dresses.  Just kidding! He ended up with more new clothes than his sister's had unless we received some from friends with older boys.  I still have painting and outside messy clothes, inside cleaning and everyday clothes, shopping and errand clothes, suitable for church clothes and three or four dressey dressey outfits (mainly worn at my children's weddings.
  • I used powdered milk in recipes that called for milk and sometimes mixed it with whole milk to make it go farther.  My kids never knew that until a few years ago.
  • I also used to wash aluminum foil and reuse it. I will admit, I still do sometimes, especially if it's the heavy duty kind.  Zip lock bags got rinsed and reused.  I would be careful using them for food again, but they work great for other things that need to be bagged. It goes without saying that anything that touched raw meat went right in the trash - never reuse that!
  • I used the cheapest muffin mixes in the store and just replaced some of the liquid with applesauce.  It makes them moist and added fruit, and back in the day when I packed lunches for my kids, they most always had one in their lunch box.
  • My kids shoes always got handed down.  I know!  Podiatrists look away!
  • My children will tell you that I have trouble throwing things away. It never fails that when I get rid of something, I end up thinking later that it would have been good to have it.  Our garage is full of, "I might need it someday" stuff. All that baby furniture and toys I held on to? One word---grandchildren!  Of course, I could always sell some stuff and make some extra money, but, at the risk of repeating myself,  I know I'd "end up thinking later that it would have been good to have it."
  • I used old socks, old towels, old t-shirts, etc as cleaning cloths.  I will admit to having in my cleaning supplies, some of the disposable cleaning wipes.  I especially like the disinfectant ones. But for real scouring power, you still can't beat good old cleanser powder and an old cloth.  When it comes time for washing my throw rugs I just toss the cloths in with them. I will also admit to owning a disposable mopper.  It's not my favorite and I don't think it will ever do as good a job as a bucket of hot soapy water and good sponge mop. When I use it, I use washable pads that I crochet from cotton yarn. I sell the pattern and the pads on my Etsy site.
  • Crumpled newpaper and a white vinegar and water mixture makes a good substitute for window cleaner.
I'm sure there were other things I did 'back then' to stretch our dollars but that's all that comes to mind right now.  As I said before, my purpose for this post is not to suggest that you try any of these shortcuts, but maybe after reading this you can come up with ways to stretch your own dollars.  I'd LOVE to hear about them. There are so many current ways beyond couponing and home gardening. One of the ways that I currently employ is writing book reviews.  I get to pick interesting books to read and I get them for FREE, all for writing my honest opinion of them.  This saves me tons of money at the bookstore!
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears - a book review

I liked the concept of this book.  Two emotionally scarred people coming together and trying to make a life with each other.  We get little dribs and drabs of information throughout the book intended to give us insight into their characters.  I think it would have been more effective to reveal their back stories earlier on.  As it was, I found myself getting very frustrated with trying to guess why they had such trouble committing themselves.  It took practically the whole book before we finally understand Julia’s position.  I found myself wanting to yell at her, “Just get over it and give the guy a chance!”   All that being said, I liked the faith aspect of the story and how the author shows us how Julia learns to be a rancher’s wife, all of which is foreign to her.  I think the author does a good job of showing us how Everett’s feelings develop and how he struggles to respect Julia’s ‘wife in name only’ declaration.
This is what the publisher says about it:

Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He's already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn't in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn't given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.
 Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she'll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she's experienced there.
Although Everett doesn't see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she's more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?”
I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so wordy and if it hadn’t taken so long to get to know the characters. That being said, I didn’t find reading this a laborious task.  There are some books that I have to force myself to finish but this wasn’t one of them.  I look forward to reading more from this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BethanyHouse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson - a book review

This book was a first in a few areas for me.  It was the first book by Tracie Peterson that I’ve read and the first one I’ve read that revolves around Italian immigrants in the mining industry.  I never thought much about Italians in the historical west, but this book opened my eyes about their role in western history and their customs. 


It is a Romeo and Juliet type story.  There are two feuding families with some of the younger family members falling in love and the resistance they encounter.  Throw in mining accidents, murder and corruption, and you’ve got an exciting story, sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.


This is the blurb from the publisher’s website:

When Chantel Panetta's younger sister claims to be in love with Orlando Calarco, Chantel knows there is no hope. The Panettas and Calarcos have been sworn enemies for decades, and young love cannot heal the deep wounds between the two iron-mining families. Yet, unable to resist Isabella's pleas, Chantel agrees to help her sister spend time with Orlando...only to have a run-in with Dante, Orlando's brother.
Chantel can't deny the attraction that flares when she's with Dante. But when a tragedy occurs at the mine, is there any hope that the hatred that has simmered between these two families might be resolved? Or will Chantel and Isabella's hope for love be buried amidst decades of misunderstanding?”


This is categorized as a historical Christian romance but you won’t find it preachy.  Any talk of faith is presented in the context of historical heritage.
The publisher's have provided an excerpt on their website HERE.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from BethanyHouse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Christmas 2013

We have a tradition of leaving our Christmas decorations up until after our son's birthday. This year, they are staying up a bit longer - we're having a bitter cold snap and I am NOT going out to the garage to get all the tubs and boxes.  My outside decorations are always the last to come down, so they're still up also, and yes, the lights are still on too! My husband loves them and would like to leave them up all winter. I'm not going outside to take pictures of the outside decorations but to be honest, they don't change much year to year. Here is what they've looked like in years past....

So, since I have to look at them for a while longer, I thought I'd share them with you.  I haven't set up my village the last couple of years but I've included a few pictures anyway.  Enjoy!!

As promised, the packed away, but not forgotten Christmas village of Blakefield.....

I hope your Christmas was filled with the joy of Jesus !

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