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!
I'm linked up HERE:
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Thanks for stopping by!

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.”
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