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Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Sacred Slow, by Alicia Britt Chole - A Book Review

Alicia Britt Chole, speaker, author and leadership mentor, recently wrote an excellent and inspiring book. It's called The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure From Fast Faith. The book is 52 Experiences in Unhurried Honesty with God. And it delivers.

This book draws the reader into a slower, more meditative experience with God. It's full of thoughtful readings, guided responses and inspiring passages that help the reader to slow down and focus on the love of God. The author seems to want to foster the intimacy one can have with the Creator by simply slowing down and breathing in the Holy Spirit.

With 52 simple passages, this book is easy to pick up and read anytime the need for an unhurried experience arises. In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to carve out time to be slow and intentional in our walk with God. Chole simplifies even this simple response - and bring the reader into a sacred spiritual respite. I recommend this book for hurried Christians looking for a break from the rush of life.

Brave Beauty, by Lynn Cowell - A Book Review

Mother of two and Christian speaker and author Lynn Cowell wrote an excellent book for girls. Brave Beauty is an inspiring and empowering book with 100 mini chapters. It's recommended for girls ages eight to twelve.

There are lots of questions in a young girl's heart. Some questions they'll be bold enough to ask - some not. Brave Beauty covers topics that girls may secretly want to ask, but don't. Family, self-worth, forgiveness, being left out, body changes - those are just some of the sensitive topics that Cowell has so bravely addressed in her book for young girls.

I have my daughter read a chapter regularly, during her independent reading times. She is nine and seems to enjoy reading the book and reflecting on the chapters afterward (through writing). I think Brave Beauty is a fantastic book for instilling positive attitudes and courage for girls. I recommend this book for young preteen girls. Five out of five stars!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Get Out of That Pit - a book review

Beth Moore just released a really good book called, Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance. And it is just perfect for those of us with a lot of baggage we like to tote around with us. Admittedly, this is the first Beth Moore book I've read. And now I can see why so many women name Moore as their favorite author. She's good. She writes in a conversational tone using life experiences relatable to most women. There's not a lot of pop-psychology and Christian-ease language in the book. It's not a typical self-help reader. Rather it's a book that makes you feel like you're sitting down to coffee with a trusted friend, sorting through some issues you've been struggling with. Really - it's that good. Get Out of That Pit is an easy to read book that gets you really thinking about how and why God's people sometimes stay in their own homemade pit of despair when they could be living the life God made them for. It digs pretty deep and helps the reader see a clear path to the better way of abundance and truly living well. I'd give it five out of five stars. I recommend it for women who are ready to get our of their pits.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Love Letters From God: Bible Stories for a Girls Heart - A book review.

We just love love love this book. I was impressed with the artwork and the quality of workmanship in the book. I also loved that I could write the child's name in the book to further personalize it.

The stories were written really well for young people. I enjoyed reading through them. I gave this book to a little girl turning 7. But I read some of the stories aloud to my daughter, who is 9 and son who is 7. They all really liked the stories and pictures.

And the love letters are SOOOO good. They will touch the hearts of little girls and make an impact for sure.

If you're looking for a book that your child will enjoy for years to come, try this one. It's really excellent. I would recommend this for girls of all ages.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hello Stars, By Alena Pitts & Wynter Pitts - A Book Review

Hello Stars is a really nice book for 8-12 year old. The focus of the story is a Christian girl aspiring to be an actress. The main character's name is Lena. Throughout the book, Lena learns how to balance stardom with real life, family and faith.

My 8 year old daughter has enjoyed reading the book. She found it engaging and entertaining. I'm sure most young girls can relate with wanting to be an actress.

I found it nice to know that this was a Christian book and that I didn't have to worry about the content being to "mature" for my daughter. On the contrary, the message of the book is inspiring and just right for most 8-12 year old girls.

I recommend the book.

Kids Visual Study Bible NIV - A Book Review

I love love love this Bible. It is great for kids (elementary age and up). But as an adult, I would use this too. It has really practical insights and illustrations in the page margins. The photos, drawings and maps really help tell the Biblical story and highlight the messages throughout.

In the beginning of each book, there is a listing of the author, why the book was written, what happens in the book, key people, where the events take place, and stories in the book. There are extra illustrations as well. In the book of Ruth, there is an excellent map of Elimelek and Naomi's jouney. Later in the book is a picture of people gleaning fields - or picking up leftovers after the workers were finished. There's an explanation about it too. In chapter 3 or Ruth, there's an illustration of the threshing floor and definitions. Toward the end, there's a graphic showing Ruth's family tree and the line of Christ.

For each of the other books in the Bible, there are similar illustrations. I am very pleased with this Bible and my kids are also enjoying the layout. There are over 700, full-color photos, maps and infographics throughout the Bible. These additions really bring the word to life for kids - and adults.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: A Spectacle of Glory, By Joni Eareckson Tada

What a fantastic devotional reader. I have been truly enjoying the short, daily readings in this small book.
Joni Eareckson Tada writes about the depths of the human soul in such a relatable and authentic manner. This book reminds me of the classic devotional, Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman, written in 1925. Both books offer a timeless message of hope, purity and devotion to God.
In addition, if you know someone struggling with a physical disability or chronic pain, this book would make an excellent gift. The author is actually is a quadriplegic who is intensely familiar with pain in life. Reading her writings motivates me to push through difficulties and take full advantage of what God has given me.
I've always enjoyed books by this author. So I was excited to read this one. And this daily reader didn't let me down. It's a perfect daily reading for a pause in our hectic days. I highly recommend this book for adults seeking a little more application to their daily Bible reading. Five stars!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Holy Bible for Girls - Journal Edition A book review

I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this Bible. I ordered it for my daughter for Christmas and I can't wait to give it to her. We got the teal blue version and the patterns on the hard cover are just lovely. The quality of the design is great.
It has an elastic band that acts as a bookmark. The space for journaling and drawing is really nice and will be perfect for the little girl who likes to write things down in her Bible or draw pictures in her devotional time.
This is a really nice bible for girls. I know my daughter will really like it. I would recommend it for ages 8 through 20. Honestly, I'm 39 and I would carry this Bible and use it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Product Review - Lalaloopsy Charms Seven Carat

This is such a cute doll! We got it in the mail for review and my daughter just lit up. She immediately began playing with it and it is now her favorite doll (among waaay too many).

The Charms Seven Carat doll is durable and so pretty. It has removable accessories (shoes, dress) and comes with a little butterfly pet. She's 13 inches tall and weighs over a pound.

The box says Charms Seven Carat likes to dress up and pretend to be a royal princess. What little girl doesn't relate with that?!

Retail price for Charms Seven Carat is $21.99. I would pay that much for a doll of such good quality. I would recommend this doll for girls up to age 8.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wisdom of the Sadhu - book review

So I really liked reading Wisdom of the Sadhu, Teachings of Sundar Singh. It's a collection of parables, stories and teachings from the sadhu, or holy man, Sundar Singh.
It's refreshing to pick up a spiritual book and read from a perspective of someone who likely lived in more of the lifestyle of Christ. Singh was a wander who kept few possessions and no home. The teachings in this book are so Christ inspired and so similar to the original teachings and parables of Christ.
Singh was stoned, more than once, for his belief in Christ and conversion (from Sikhism to Christianity). Sadly, he was ostracized further, by Christians when he began his formal Anglican education; Singh was radically following after Christ and many didn't understand him. He returned to the life of a wandering mystic, teaching a leading others in the ways of Christ.
Wisdom of the Sadhu is a really nice compilation of Singh's teachings and would be a nice daily reader, as it is written for contemplation. I found each segment, story, teaching or conversation to be incredibly thought provoking and laden with wisdom to chew on for days.
I recommend this book for anyone.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Healing Quilt - Book Review

The Healing Quilt
By Wanda Brunstetter

Excellent book.
It took me a while to decide to read this book. Nothing against the genre or the author - I just wasn't in the mood for a fluffy Amish feel good novel.
But I am so glad I read it. And this book is far from fluffy.
Brunstetter uses her knack for fiction writing to weave the lives of several characters together in 'The Healing Quilt.' Her writing is easy to read. And it's not fluffed up with a bunch of meaningless descriptive, flowery phrases that drag on and on. Rather, she sets the tone and gives enough details for the reader to really understand what's going on and jump right in to the action.
This is the first Wanda Brunstetter book I have read, but it won't be the last. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. I'm sure that I'll make time in my life to take in other Brunstetter books now that I know how good they are.
I did receive an ARC from the publisher. But the publisher wants my honest opinion and does not solicit 5 star reviews. I'm giving this book a five star rating because it is a truly exceptional book.

Friday, May 2, 2014

His Love is Amazing

Sometimes when I buy something for my kids - something special that I know they'll love, I can't wait to give it to them. And when I do, I love to see their little faces light up and it thrills me to watch them enjoy it.
I think that must be how God feels when He blesses His children with wonderful gifts. I can imagine that He just can't wait to bless us. And that His heart is warmed when He sees our faces as we receive it. And I'm sure it thrills our Heavenly Father when he watches us enjoy His gift.
Lately my family has been blessed by God in a plethora of ways.
First - He led us to list our house for sale - a home that we had bought in 2010 for pennies on the dollar. Then - within 3 days of listing it - we had two offers on the home. We accepted an offer that was $10K more than our asking price, walking away with enough profit to pay off all of our debt and invest in a business my husband had been wanting to start for years.
After that, we had less than 11 days to secure a home to rent. One by one, the rentals in our price range were rented before we could get our applications in. With six days left before we had to be out of our home - God led us to a Realtor who found us the perfect home to rent, at just the right price.
Then Adam began the process of starting his business and was blessed beyond measure when he prayed about making his first major business purchase and found just the right item priced lower than he'd ever imagined.
Then God made a way for him to find work in a neighboring city - when our own city didn't pan out as we thought it would.
Soon after he began working out of town, God gave us the foresight to begin looking for a home to rent in that town - as the commute was taking a toll on our family and our wallet. We found a wonderful little place to rent right near where Adam works and it also happens to be less than three miles from a beautiful beach.
Backyard of the new home!

Our current landlord required that we find a tenant to take over our lease in order to avoid huge fees for breaking our lease. So - once again - God led a couple to our house. We showed them the place at 9:30am this past Wednesday morning and by 11am they had met with our landlord and signed a one year lease of their own.
With things finalized, we'll be moving to that lovely little beach house in about a week. Amazingly, we are almost completely packed up and the entire process has seemed as smooth as butter.
I'm overwhelmed at what God has done for us in these last six months. Every time we've asked God for help in some area, He's come back with a blessing far greater than what we had in mind. It's been one blessing after another. One amazing gift after another and small ones in between. Not to mention the much appreciated help from family and friends.
I'm writing all of this down because I don't want to forget one detail - of how He plucked us out of the desert and placed us in a home that is ten times more amazing than we ever dreamed of.
His faithfulness and love have left me amazed and overjoyed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: Rich In Years

Johann Christoph Arnold wrote a really great book called Rich In Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life
I was really impressed with how Arnold wrote about a variety of subjects affecting older adults. He told stories, showed pictures and included beautiful quotes and scriptures throughout the book that really captured the essence of aging gracefully. 
Why can't the final years be the richest years of your life? The stories in this book help readers to enter into the 'Golden Years' with optimism and confidence. 
In a society that tends to devalue those who are older and/or infirm, Arnold gives hope and highlights the value of those who've lived through decades and seen so much.
If you pick up this book, you won't be quick to put it down. Each chapter is well written and easy to read. I found myself smiling as I read this book. 
We are all getting older. I recommend this book to anyone - especially those planning to live richly to the end. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sneaky Veggies - Awesome Chow Mein Recipe

I'm a mother of two small kids - so of course I'm looking for ways to sneak vegetables into tasty dishes. I came across a recipe for Chow Mein and decided it was a great way to sneak in several cups of vegetables. And my kids gobble it up every time I make it.
This dish literally takes about 20 minutes to make - and it's one of my favorite weeknight dinners.
You can add in just about any shredded fresh vegetable you have on hand also - zucchini, peppers and parsnips are all easy to add in if you like.

Here's what you'll need to make it:

1 lb. cooked whole wheat spaghetti noodles
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded mushrooms (optional)
1/2 bunch green onions sliced in long thin strips
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. oil
toasted nuts for garnish (optional)

First, heat 1 Tbsp. oil (I used grapeseed oil)  in a large pan or wok. Add in cabbage, carrots, mushrooms & green onions.

Cook veggies until they are a bit wilted - maybe 5 minutes. They should look like this. While they are cooking, mix the salt into the water and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, honey and ketchup. Set this aside as well.

Add in the cooked spaghetti noodles and the salted water. Combine and mix it together and cook for one or two minutes. Then add the soy sauce mixture and toss everything together. Continue cooking and tossing for 2-3 minutes until everything is combined and heated through. Top with toasted cashews or peanuts and serve.

You can use regular chow mein noodles in this dish if you like. I just chose the whole wheat spaghetti for nutritional value. It's also easier to find in any supermarket. Instead of salt & water, you could use chicken or vegetable stock in the recipe. And if you like a bit of heat, add some ground chili pepper to your sauce. You'll find there are lots of great things you can add to your sauce if you have them on hand and want to add flavor. Tonight I added chopped fresh ginger & garlic to the vegetables before cooking them down and put a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter in my sauce. SO good.

Trash Blocks

We don't do much television at our house - in fact, we don't have a television. But our kids like to watch little shows from time to time on the computer. Lately they have been enjoying episodes of Mr. Rogers that we watch from Amazon Prime.

Recently, we saw him teach a method for making large building blocks out of two milk cartons. I started saving milk cartons and other sturdy boxes to make my little ones a set of giant blocks as well.

 First, I opened up one of the milk cartons and removed the plastic pour spout. Then I gently squeezed the top of the other one so I could easily stuff it into the first. I pushed it all the way down and used packing tape to secure the edges.

 It made a pretty sturdy little block.
 I did the same sort of thing with a couple of cracker boxes. And lots and lots of other boxes.

 And now we have a nice set of large building blocks.
 I figure the kids can build with them - and also play "grocery store" with them if they want. Sure beats the $40 price tag on those cardboard brick sets that I've seen in stores.

Friday, February 28, 2014

DIY Cat Tree House

Here's a great way to make a cool scratching post/tree house/hangout spot for your cat without making your home look like you've become a cat lady.
Materials I used:

-old side table that was ready to be thrown out
-potted fake tree that had seen better days
-sisal rope
-drill and 1" drill bit
-piece of scrap wood
-hot glue gun

Here's how I did it:
I wanted to use only items I already had. So, I found an old side table that was stuck in the corner of an upstairs playroom. It wasn't being used much and was pretty ugly. Perfect.
I drilled two large holes in the top. The largest drill bit I had was 1" - and not big enough, so I ended up drilling several one inch holes right next to eachother to make two large flower shaped holes (see photo).
Then I stapled some burlap over the top of the table and cut slits where the holes were. You could also use a carpet scrap for this - but I only had burlap on hand, so that's what I used.

I poked the tree branches right through the burlap & table holes and straight down through the bottom wicker shelf of the table.
I added a little seat for my cat within the branches. This step isn't necessary - especially if your cat is a natural climber. It could also be done much differently than the way I did it. I used a scrap piece of wood - probably around 18" long and 8" wide. I notched the both sides to match the width of the inside of the two branches and wedged the wood between them. I used hot glue to secure the wood to the branches and it seems nice and sturdy.

I wrapped sisal rope around one of the bottom tree branches for scratching and the project was finished. It seriously took just a little over an hour - start to finish.

My cat absolutely loves it. When I showed it to her, she immediately started scratching on the burlap and then climbed up into the tree and started batting the branches. 
This was so much easier than I thought it would be and turned out so much better looking than I had expected.

As it sits in the corner - you can't really tell that it's a cat tree unless you know what you're looking for. It mostly just looks like part of the house decor. No cat ladies here!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

North of Hope - Book Review

Shannon Polson wrote an amazing account of her parents death, her own grieving and her wild adventure to the remote Alaskan arctic to reenact her parents last trip.
Polson's parents were killed by a grizzly bear as they rafted the Hulahula river and camped in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2005.
Polson, her brother and another traveler take on the journey to find healing and closure. Throughout the trip they encounter all sorts of feelings, adventures and trials. And Polson recounts memories of her father - both good and indifferent. She gives a very honest rendering of her greif and takes the reader on an exciting trip to the arctic.
I recommend this book. It's a very well done memoir of the author's dealing with loss.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Invisible, By Ginny Yttrup - book review

What an amazing book. Honestly - I didn't expect Invisible, by Ginny Yttrup, to have much of an effect on me. I knew the premise of the book and the main characters were three women - one overweight, one depressed, one anorexic. I thought it would be a nice, fiction book and that I would be able to learn about the struggles of other women when I read it. However - I really learned a lot about myself when I read it. I'm not anorexic, overweight or depressed, but I do really struggle with my body image in general. For the longest time, I've brushed it off and tried to focus on what's inside - I've tried to work on being a good person and not superficial - pretty much ignoring my outer self. But while reading this book, I realized that I was avoiding something important - the Image of God in which I was created. God sees me as beautiful - even though US Weekly would never classify my looks as anything but pathetic.

But Yttrup's book really gave me insight as to what God does see in me - and what I need to see in myself. I realized, in reading Invisible, that God truly made me in His image, which means He delights in me and loves and adores me - even the me that I've tried not to look at in the mirror.

I really appreciate the way Ytrupp wrote the book. Though it was fiction, it was also a therapeutic guide to healing and inner peace rather than just an entertaining story.

I look forward to reading more from Ginny Ytrupp. She's obviously a very gifted Christian author and teacher.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fierce Beauty - Book Review

Kim Meeder wrote an amazing book that really touched my heart. She wrote about the struggles we all face as we are bombarded with images of "beauty" all around us. Meeder encourages the reader to stand for what matters - and embrace the beauty within.
She shared vulnerable moments in her life - times of great loss and pain. She shared beautiful stories of young people finding wholeness in their lives. She challenged the reader to look within and make decisions as to who and what to strive for.
It was a great book - full of encouragement and truth.
I recommend it and give it five stars!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tree - With a Christmas Dove Tutorial

So as a family, we've never had a Christmas tree. Honesty, it always seemed like a hassle and an extra expense. I loved looking at other people's trees and my kids weren't old enough to care - so I didn't either.
But this year, I found myself wanting a tree of our own. However, without a tree budget, I didn't see a way we could afford it. But I reserved $20 and found a used, artificial tree on The seller gave me a deal on a 6 foot, fairly low quality, pre-lit tree. I was pleased as punch to get it too.
Anyway, once I got it set up - I realized it would need some ornaments.
I made popcorn garland by sewing hundreds of pieces of plain popped popcorn together - a rather tedious job that I won't soon sign up for again.
Then I found a tutorial online that gave instructions for making little doves out of pages from an old book. That seemed free enough for me.
The tutorial was great - but the birds required a bit more of a time investment than I had and some supplies I didn't want to buy. So I simplified the project and have included my instructions here.

First, I cut a basic bird profile shape out of card stock. I made it about 6 inches long, from beak to tail. I made a separate wing cut out - a teardrop shape. I then traced my bird & wing onto a stack of 3 book pages. (In the photo, there are two birds and two wings traced onto the stack of pages).

Next, I cut out the bird & wing shapes and laid the wing shapes onto the bird. I stapled all the pieces - except one of the wing shapes together. Then, I glued the remaining wing onto the others, to conceal the staple. 

Then I used a pencil and rolled the edges of the wing and tail around it - to make it look like ruffled feathers. I sewed a string into the top of the bird's body so I could hang it and glued a very small twig to the bottom of the bird that resembled bird feet.

Here's my finished tree. I added some construction paper flowers for a little pop of color. Check out this  tutorial from Under the Table and Dreaming. Her bird tutorial is very nice and is what inspired mine. If you decide to make a Christmas dove too, post a link or photos into my comments section. I'd really love to see what you made. :)  Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Little Monster Project

So this month, I have a slew of kids' birthdays to celebrate. Also, Christmas is coming up - and I loathe the idea of spending the money my husband works so hard for on worthless, plastic toys that my kids will adore for a day and a half - before they're added to an overflowing bin of forgotten toys.

I decided to try and make some little gifts for the kids having birthdays this month. So I googled some homemade toy ideas online. I found some great ideas - but none that really stood out. Then I came across a site selling little homemade monsters. They looked easy to make - so it inspired me to create a monster of my own to give this year.

This turned out to be one of the cutest and easiest homemade gifts I've ever made. Start to finish - my first one took about an hour. I hand sewed all of it. I used my machine for the bulk of the work on the second one and it took much less time.

Here's a little photo tutorial of how I did it - and instructions for making your own.

First - look around the house for fabric. Of course you can buy new, but that sorta defeats the purpose of frugal, homemade gifts...  I used a T-shirt I had bought for myself from a thrift store. It was a thick, good quality shirt that just never seemed to look right on me. I also found some left over fabric from some pillows I had made a couple years ago. Those, and some other fabric scraps I had were enough for the entire project.

1. Cut out a monster. I made mine slightly smaller than a standard bed pillow. I gave him very easy little arms, legs and ears - keeping in mind I wanted a project I could finish quickly.
Then I made his eyes, mouth and tooth out of one of my kids outgrown shirts and some other scraps. I sewed everything in place by hand.

2. Next, I traced the monster face onto the other piece of fabric I had and cut it out. The boy I was making the gift for is turning one, so I also cut out a circle and a #1 to sew to the back. For the number, I used another piece of my kids old shirt. Pretty simple.

3. Finally, I hand sewed the pieces together, inside out - and left a few inches open for stuffing. Turned that monster inside out and stuffed him - then stitched the opening together to finish.

They're great little gifts for babies and young children. I'll be making them all month for the rest of the kids' birthdays on my calendar. My own kids have also put in their monster requests for Christmas.

Here's a link to the lady who makes (much nicer) monsters for sale: 

Do you have any cool homemade gift ideas this year? Leave a comment and share some inspiration.

Merry Christmas!

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