Monday, January 30, 2012

Married Mom, Solo Parent by Carla Anne Corey

Not every woman goes into marriage expecting to raise their children on their own, even though they are married. This is what Carla Anne Corey means by the term married mom, solo parent. While some women go into marriage, knowing that their husband’s job will take them away from the home more than just a 9-5 job would. Some men’s jobs keep them on the road much of the time, others are in the military and are going for long deployments. Regardless of how they got to the point of being a married mom, solo parent, these women are so now. It is a role that is much different than being a married mom with both parents actively involved, and a single parent. Solo parents don’t fit in the same molds as other married couples or single parents. They face unique challenges and many churches don’t know how to help solo parents like they do single or married parents. This book covers the area of emotions, discipline, community, chores, and more.
I chose this book not because I’m married and a solo parent. In fact, the opposite is true. I am single and have no kids. However, i am a marriage counselor with Prepare-Enrich and I want to have an understanding of the married mom, solo parent and a resource to help them. But at the same time, this book challenged me in ways I didn’t expect it to. This book challenged me to look at how I was raised and how I want to raise my own children someday. It challenged me to put together a list of my own commitments, some of which I can start working on developing now.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer of Promise by Amanda Cabot

Westward Winds, Book 1
Abigail Harding knows something is wrong when she reads her sisters letters to her. So she travels from her home in Vermont to spend a few weeks with her sister at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Her sister Charlotte is married to an officer stationed at the fort. Abigail believes Wyoming to be a boring place, but all of that changes when her stagecoach is attacked near the Fort. As Abigail learns of her sister’s life and life at the fort, she finds herself drawn to the land and its people. Will she find all that she is looking for or will she go back to Vermont longing for her old life?
Amanda Cabot has weaved a great story about life in the west. Set not as a part of life on the Oregon Trail, Summer of Promise tells of life at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, which while it was a major stop on the Oregon Trail, was also a quiet fort without any wars and few conflicts in its last decade of existence in the 1880’s. “Instead it was a place where officers lived in relative luxury, where their wives held teas and balls, and where the parade ground boasted gaslights and birdbaths” (Letter to the Reader, 406).
I must say that I greatly enjoyed reading this book, but I am sad that the next book doesn’t come out until spring 2013. I don’t think I can wait that long to find out what happens next! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars! You will see this book again at the end of the year on my list of top reads for 2012!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis

Let me start out by saying I love all things C.S. Lewis. I had great hopes for this book, but I could not get myself to read more than part one. While it was interesting, it just didn’t keep me going. I know there are some great reviews of this book, and if I persevered, I might come to the same conclusion, but right now, I just can’t get through it. So needless to say, this book will go on my shelf with my collection of books about and by C.S. Lewis and I will pick it up at a later date and try to read it all the way through.
Sadly I only give this book 3 stars.
I received this book from Book Sneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) for the purpose of this review.

Projet 5:Getting Your Kitchen to Work for You

Today’s topic is favorite kitchen appliances and how they help to get dinner on the table.

Mom’s answer: 1. The microwave for cooking frozen veggies or making a white sauce while other stuff is on the stove.
  1. Wit-Whip for making no lump gravy.
  2. Food processor to speed up prepping food. It’s also great for mixing cookie dough, too.
Me: My favorite kitchen appliance is the mini food processor. Since I cook food to take to work, the mini food processor is perfect for me for making sauces, or chopping up onions and peppers, etc.
What’s your favorite kitchen gadget?
My review of The “What’s For Dinner?” Solution
 This is one of the best books I have read that helps women turn what can become a daily nightmare into an easier decision. “After putting [Lipp’s] 21-day plan into action, women will save time--with bulk shopping and cooking, save money--no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place, save their sanity--forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner.” This is a straight forward and encouraging book to help women conquer that sometimes dreaded task of planning dinners. It is a comprehensive book giving tips and recipes that are so good. I look forward to trying quite a few recipes in the coming days.
I received this book free from the author for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Project 4: Family Favorites

Here are three recent favorites.
Beef Taco Skillet (recipe from Campbell’s Soup)
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 Servings (about 1 cup each)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup (Regular or Health Request)
  • 1/2 cup Pace Picante Sauce (salsa)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 flour tortillas (6-inch), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  1. Cook the beef in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until well browned, stirring often to separate meat. Pour off any fat.
  2. Stir the soup, picante sauce, water and tortillas in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir the beef mixture. Top with the cheese.
Recipe Tips:
  1. Flavor variation: for Creamy Mexican Fiesta Skillet, stir in 1/2 cup sour cream with the soup.
  2. Flavor variation: for Ranchero-Style Skillet, use corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas and shredded Mexican cheese blend instead of Cheddar.
  3. Serving suggestion: Serve with a mixed green salad with Italian salad dressing and corn on the cob. For dessert serve a store-bought flan.
(From my friend Holly)
This is by far my newest, most favorite meal!!! It is soooooooo good!! This is great for busy nights (like when Paul has to be at Youth by 6:30p) because it’s really quick. As promised, Katie, here is the recipe! Enjoy!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
1 lb Rigatoni Pasta (or any pasta really)
1 lb Kielbasa Sausage, halved and sliced
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 c. chicken broth
5 oz fresh spinach (I use much more since it reduces so much)
4 tbsp Parmesan Cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, coat large skillet w/ nonstick cooking spray. Add sausage; cook until brown, stirring regularly, about 7 minutes or so.
  3. Add oil and garlic (take a big sniff, it smells delicious!) and cook about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in broth, then add spinach
  5. Cover and cook 2-3 more minutes, until spinach is wilted.
  6. Stir to combine, add parmesan cheese and toss mixture into pasta.
NOTE: For a soupier dish, reserve about 1/2 c. of the pasta water and stir into the sausage mixture.
Hawaiian BBQ Chicken
4-6 Boneless Chicken Breasts (mine were still frozen!)
1/2 Bottle Barbecue Sauce (I like trying different kinds of BBQ sauce
1 20 oz. can Pineapple Chunks, drained
Spray the inside of your crock pot with cooking spray for an easy cleanup!  Place frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot and cover with sauce.  Empty can of drained pineapple chunks on top.  Cook on High for 2-3 hours or Low for 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken with two forks while still in the crock pot so the chicken will be well coated with sauce.  Serve over rice.
Why we like them...
The taco skillet is simple to make but still tastes great! And it’s easier to make and serve than making tacos.
The Spinach dish, we mix it up! We change the meat and the pasta to whatever we are in the mood for or have in the house, and use a full bag of spinach.
The Hawaiian BBQ is so yummy! You can leave it whole or break it up and serve it with pasta, rice, or on rolls.

Project 3: Kitchen Tips

Sorry, I forgot to post this when I got home last night. Day 4 will come when I get off work tonight.

What are your favorite kitchen organizing tips?
Mom: First, having all the plastic wrap/foil and various sized bags (Snack, sandwich, Quart or Gallon) on shelves on the inside of the pantry door. Secondly, having a drawer for all baking utensils and a jar of utensils by the stove. Everything is right where you need it. Thirdly, putting baking soda and salt in screw top containers (old Equal containers). This makes it easier to measure out the baking soda and the salt, and it makes sure it doesn’t get spilled. Finally, I enjoyed the "Magic List" on page 27-28, we have one too but sometimes I forgets to transfer it to the shopping list.
Charity: When I lived on my own, I had a list of what meals I could make posted on the fridge. I would buy the ingredients for 3-4 meals and make one, eat it for lunch and dinner until it was gone, and then make the next meal a few days later. (Or make two meals at a time, and then have a little variety.) This wasn’t ideal but it worked out since I was working full time and taking a full load of classes. I just cooked twice a week and had meals to take to work or to the office when I was studying.
Secondly, I had everything out in the open. I didn’t have a pantry in my apartment, so I had a little bookcase and a little three drawer unit that served as my pantry. If I can’t see it, I forget about it. So I made sure everything was visible, or my meals were written down so I knew what I had.  Since I was living on my own, and without internet, I would save recipes to my computer when i had access to internet, and then print them out when going to the store.
In the future, I want to have a nice baker’s rack where I have my cookbooks on the top, and my appliances on the bottom for easy access when not in use.
A friend of mine, had organized her spices in two plastic trays. One has all the baking spices, and the other had all the cooking spices. The only thing I would add to that, is to write the name of the spice on the top of it, so if you pull the whole tray down, you don’t have to look through each one to find the right spice (especially if they all have the same color top).
What are your favorite Kitchen organizing tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The "What's For Dinner?" Solution by Kathi Lapp, Day 2

Project 2: LOOP Meal (Left Overs On Purpose)
In our house, Sunday is leftovers night. Mom will make extra on one or two meals and we can pick from those leftovers for Sunday night, so mom doesn’t have to cook, and we can eat quickly after getting home from church in the evening. Dinner can be ready in 5-10 minutes after walking in the door from church in the evening.
Also, Mom will sometimes cook a large roast in the crock pot, or cook up a big turkey or ham and we can use that for one meal the day it is cooked, and then use it to make several other meals before it goes bad. For instance, when mom cooks a big ham, we might have ham and mashed potatoes for dinner than night, then have a ham and pineapple pizza a few nights later. If she cooks a big turkey, we will have turkey and stuffing the first night, then turkey stuffing casserole or Turkey ala king on later nights.
Here are some of Kathi Lapp’s favorite ways to use Left Overs On Purpose for chicken.
What are some of your favorite ways to use leftovers? Do you tend to make extra food one night and eat that a second night? Do you make extra meat one night and use half for that meal, and half to make a completely new meal? Or do you hate leftovers all together?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The "What's For Dinner?" Solution by Kathi Lapp

Welcome! I am doing a 5-day challenge for the book The “What’s For Dinner?” Solution by Kathi Lipp
Each of the 5 days, there is a different topic that I will blog about. I’d love as much interaction as possible during these five days!
Day 1: Share Your Menu
Day 2: LOOP Meal (Left Overs On Purpose)
Day 3: Kitchen Tips
Day 4: Family Favorites
Day 5: Getting Your Kitchen To Work For You
Because I live at home with my parents, these posts will include a guest, my mom! I will include her thoughts on these topics as well as my own.
So here is Project 1: Share Your Menu
Some weeks, mom and I will have a menu set out for each day and I can tell you what we are going to eat on Wed and what we will eat on Saturday. But that is rare! In general, mom and I will make a menu of 5-6 dinners, and then each day we will decide what we will have for dinner that night. Some nights we have time to make a nice meal, other nights we need a quick and easy meal. Mom goes grocery shopping each Monday if possible. Before she went this morning, we talked about the menu. She had looked through the freezer to see what meat we had to use, and wrote that down. Then we figured what side and what vegetable to go with it. Then there were some pantry basics and personal items that needed to go on the list. Mom had also looked through the coupons from the paper the other day and knew what she wanted to use from those. So we had the grocery list.
So here’s our menu for the week:
Manicotti with hamburg and corn
Stuffed crust pepperoni pizza
Spanish Rice with kielbasa
Chicken and stuffing
Fish and chips (oven roasted potatoes)
Sunday: Leftovers
What is your menu for this week? How do you figure out what you menu will be? Do you go by what your family’s schedule is? Do you use coupons? 
Curious what Kathi has planned for this week? Check out here menu here.

Mornings With Jesus

And the winner is....Tess!! Congrats Tess! I will get you book out in the mail this week!
As for my promised review (though a friend told me I should have done this with the book giveaway, that wouldn’t have allowed me to do the giveaway when I did), here you go. Mornings with Jesus 2012 is a 366 day devotional based on the life, character and teachings of Jesus. This is a great devotional. I loved the different authors. I only knew of two of the authors, and enjoyed their writing, but the rest of the authors are just as great. They are all personable and let you, the reader, see into their lives as they share their thoughts and personal stories that relate to the different aspects of Jesus’ character and teaching. Even though we are almost a full month into 2012, this is still a great devotional to pick up and use!

I received this book (and the second copy for the giveaway) from Litfuse for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where Wildflowers Bloom

Where Wildflowers Bloom
By Ann Shorey
Sisters at Heart, Book 1
The only family Faith Lindberg has left is her grandfather. Both her grandmother and mother died years earlier and her father and brother were killed in the Civil War. She not only helps at the family store, Lindberg’s Mercantile Store, which was started by her grandfather, now Faith is now running the store. She dreams of selling the store and moving out west to Oregon to get away from all the memories this town holds. But a few things keep her in town. First, her grandfather refuses to sell the store. Secondly, Royal Baxter, the man Faith wanted to marry before the war, has returned to town. Will she fall in love with him again, or will there be another man that captures Faith’s heart?
I greatly enjoyed reading this book. The characters were all unique and interesting and their struggles were real. I felt like I could have traveled down to visit this small town and meet these characters. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I received this book free from Revell for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Devotional Giveaway!

A Jane Austen Devotional/A Charles Dickens Devotional
Devotional Classics Series
Thomas Nelson publishers
Here are the rules.
  1. To enter the giveaway, you must answer the question below and leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.
  2. A second entry will automatically be given to anyone entering who is following my blog.
  3. The giveaway is only open to those in the USA.
  4. This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, January 29, 2012. The winner will be announced when I post my review of the books the following day, Monday, January 30th.

These devotionals offer the words and wisdom of two great authors along with the timeless truths of Scripture. Both devotionals offer short excerpts from the classic works of the author and along with a devotional thought and Scripture.
Giveaway Question:
What is your favorite Jane Austen or Charles Dickens quote? (Remember to include which book it came from).

Love Blooms In Winter by Lori Copeland

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

  • Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to 
Karri | Marketing Assistant |Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.


This new romance from bestselling author Lori Copeland portrays God’s miraculous provision when none seems possible. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more adventure than Tom Curtis is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter with God in charge.

 1892—Mae Wilkey’s sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can’t recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.

 Tom can’t remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he’s a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things.

Product Details:

    • List Price: $13.99
    • Paperback: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0736930191
    • ISBN-13: 978-0736930192


Dwadlo, North Dakota, 1892

  The winter of ’92 is gonna go down as one of the worst Dwadlo’s ever seen,” Hal Murphy grumbled as he dumped the sack of flour he got for his wife on the store counter. “Mark my words.” He turned toward Mae Wilkey, the petite postmistress, who was stuffing mail in wooden slots.

  “Spring can’t come soon enough for me.” She stepped back, straightening the row of letters and flyers. She didn’t have to record Hal’s prediction; it was the same every year. “I’d rather plant flowers than shovel snow any day of the week.”

  “Yes, ma’am.” Hal nodded to the store owner, Dale Smith, who stood five foot seven inches with a rounded belly and salt-and-pepper hair swept to a wide front bang. “Add a couple of those dill pickles, will you?” Hal watched as Dale went over to the barrel and fished around inside, coming up with two fat pickles.

  “That’ll fix me up.” Hal turned his attention back to the mail cage, his eyes fixed on the lovely sight. “Can’t understand why you’re still single, Mae. You’re as pretty as a raindrop on a lily pad.” He sniffed the air. “And you smell as good.”

  Smiling, Mae moved from the letter boxes to the cash box. Icy weather may have delayed the train this morning, but she still had to count money and record the day’s inventory. “Now, Hal, you know I’d marry you in a wink if you weren’t already taken.” Hal and Clara had been married forty-two years, but Mae’s usual comeback never failed to put a sparkle in the farmer’s eye. Truth be, she put a smile on every man’s face, but she wasn’t often aware of the flattering looks she received. Her heart belonged to Jake Mallory, Dwadlo’s up-and-coming attorney.

  Hal nodded. “I know. All the good ones are taken, aren’t they?”

  She nodded. “Every single one. Especially in Dwadlo.”

  The little prairie town was formed when the Chicago & North Western Railroad came through five years ago. Where abundant grass, wild flowers, and waterfalls had once flourished, hundreds of miles of steel rail crisscrossed the land, making way for big, black steam engines that hauled folks and supplies. Before the railroad came through, only three homesteads had dotted the rugged Dakota Territory: Mae’s family’s, Hal and Clara’s, and Pauline Wilson’s.

  But in ’87 life changed, and formerly platted sites became bustling towns. Pine Grove and Branch Springs followed, and Dwadlo suddenly thrived with immigrants, opportunists, and adventure-seeking folks staking claims out West. A new world opened when the Dakota Boom started.

  Hal’s gaze focused on Mae’s left hand. “Jake still hasn’t popped the question?”

  Mae sighed. Hal was a pleasant sort, but she really wished the townspeople would occupy their thoughts with something other than her and Jake’s pending engagement. True, they had been courting for six years and Jake still hadn’t proposed, but she was confident he would. He’d said so, and he was a man of his word—though every holiday, when a ring would have been an appropriate gift, that special token of his intentions failed to materialize. Mae had more lockets than any one woman could wear, but Jake apparently thought that she could always use another one. What she could really use was his hand in marriage. The bloom was swiftly fading from her youth, and it would be nice if her younger brother, Jeremy, had a man’s presence in his life.

  “Be patient, Hal. He’s busy trying to establish a business.”

  “Good lands. How long does it take a man to open a law office?”

  “Apparently six years and counting.” She didn’t like the uncertainty but she understood it, even if the town’s population didn’t. She had a good life, what with work, church, and the occasional social. Jake accompanied her to all public events, came over two or three times a week, and never failed to extend a hand when she needed something. It was almost as though they were already married.

  “The man’s a fool,” Hal declared. “He’d better slap a ring on that finger before someone else comes along and does it for him.”

  “Not likely in Dwadlo,” Mae mused. The town itself was made up of less than a hundred residents, but other folks lived in the surrounding areas and did their banking and shopping here. Main Street consisted of the General Store, Smith’s Grain and Feed, the livery, the mortuary, the town hall and jail (which was almost always empty), Doc Swede’s office, Rosie’s CafĂ©, and an empty building that had once housed the saloon. Mae hadn’t spotted a sign on any business yet advertising “Husbands,” but she was certain her patience would eventually win out.

  With a final smile Hal moved off to pay for his goods. Mae hummed a little as she put the money box in the safe. Looking out the window, she noticed a stiff November wind snapping the red canvas awning that sheltered the store’s porch. Across the square, a large gazebo absorbed the battering wind. The usually active gathering place was now empty under a gray sky. On summer nights music played, and the smell of popcorn and roasted peanuts filled the air. Today the structure looked as though it were bracing for another winter storm. Sighing, Mae realized she already longed for green grass, blooming flowers, and warm breezes.

  After Hal left Mae finished up the last of the chores and then reached for her warm wool cape. She usually enjoyed the short walk home from work, but today she was tired—and her feet hurt because of the new boots she’d purchased from the Montgomery Ward catalog. On the page they had looked comfortable with their high tops and polished leather, but on her feet they felt like a vise.

  Slipping the cape’s hood over her hair, she said goodbye to Dale and then paused when her hand touched the doorknob. “Oh, dear. I really do need to check on Pauline again.”

  “How’s she doing?” The store owner paused and leaned on his broom. “I noticed she hasn’t been in church recently.”

  Dale always reminded Mae of an owl perching on a tree limb, his big, dark blue eyes swiveling here and there. He might not talk a body’s leg off, but he kept up on town issues. She admired the quiet little man for what he did for the community and respected the way he preached to the congregation on Sundays.

  How was Pauline doing? Mae worried the question over in her mind. Pauline lived alone, and she shouldn’t. The elderly woman was Mae’s neighbor, and she checked on her daily, but Pauline was steadily losing ground.

  “She’s getting more and more fragile, I’m afraid. Dale, have you ever heard Pauline speak of kin?”

  The small man didn’t take even a moment to ponder the question. “Never heard her mention a single word about family of any kind.”

  “Hmm…me neither. But surely she must have some.” Someone who should be here, in Dwadlo, looking after the frail soul. Mae didn’t resent the extra work, but the post office and her brother kept her busy, and she really didn’t have the right to make important decisions regarding the elderly woman’s rapidly failing health.

  Striding back to the bread rack, she picked up a fresh loaf. Dale had private rooms at the back of the store where he made his home, and he was often up before dawn baking bread, pies, and cakes for the community. Most folks in town baked their own goods, but there were a few, widowers and such, who depended on Dale’s culinary skills. By this hour of the day the goods were usually gone, but a few remained. Placing a cherry pie in her basket as well, she called, “Add these things to my account, please, Dale. And pray for Pauline too.”

  Nodding, he continued sweeping, methodically running the stiff broomcorn bristles across the warped wood floor.

  The numbing wind hit Mae full force when she stepped off the porch. Her hood flew off her head and an icy gust of air snatched away her breath. Putting down her basket, she retied the hood before setting off for the brief walk home. Dwadlo was laid out in a rather strange pattern, a point everyone agreed on. Businesses and homes were built close together, partly as shelter from the howling prairie winds and partly because there wasn’t much forethought given to town planning. Residents’ homes sat not a hundred feet from the store. The whole community encompassed less than five acres.

  Halfway to her house, snowflakes began swirling in the air. Huddling deeper into her wrap, Mae concentrated on the path as the flakes grew bigger.

  She quickly covered the short distance to Pauline’s. The dwelling was little more than a front room, tiny kitchen, and bedroom, but she was a small woman. Pauline pinned her yellow-white hair in a tight knot at the base of her skull, and she didn’t have a tooth in her head. She chewed snuff, which she freely admitted was an awful habit, but Mae had never heard her speak of giving it up.

  Her faded blue eyes were as round as buttons, and no matter what kind of day she was having, it was always a new one to her, filled with wonders. Her mind wasn’t what it used to be. She had good and bad days, but mostly days when her moods changed as swift as summer lightning. She could be talking about tomatoes in the garden patch when suddenly she would be discussing how to spin wool.

  Mae noted a soft wisp of smoke curling up from the chimney and smiled. Pauline had remembered to feed the fire this afternoon, so this was a good day.

  Unlatching the gate, she followed the path to the front porch. In summertime the white railings hung heavy with red roses, and the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. This afternoon the wind howled across the barren flower beds Pauline carefully nurtured during warmer weather. Often she planted okra where petunias should be, but she enjoyed puttering in the soil and the earth loved her. She brought fresh tomatoes, corn, and beans to the store during spring and summer, and pumpkins and squash lined the railings in the fall.

  In earlier days Pauline’s quilts were known throughout the area. She and her quilting group had made quite a name for themselves when Dwadlo first became a town. Four women excelled in the craft. One had lived in Pine Grove, and two others came from as far away as Branch Springs once a month to break bread together and stitch quilts. But one by one the women had died off, leaving Pauline to sew alone in her narrowing world.

  Stomping her boots on the porch, Mae said under her breath, “I don’t mind winter, Lord, but could we perhaps have a little less of it?” The only answer was the wind whipping her garments. Tapping lightly on the door, she called, “Pauline?”

  Mae stepped back and waited to hear the shuffle of feet. Pauline used to answer the door in less than twenty seconds. It took longer now. Mae made a fist with her gloved hand and banged a little harder. The wind howled around the cottage eaves. She closed her eyes and prayed that Jeremy had remembered to stack sufficient firewood beside the kitchen door. The boy was generally responsible, and she thanked God every day that she had him to lean on. He had been injured by forceps during birth, which left him with special needs. He was a very happy fourteen-year-old with the reasoning power of a child of nine.

  A full minute passed. Mae frowned and tried the doorknob. Pauline couldn’t hear herself yell in a churn, but she might also be asleep. The door opened easily, and Mae peeked inside the small living quarters. She saw that a fire burned low in the woodstove, and Pauline’s rocking chair sat empty.

  Stepping inside, she closed the door and called again. “Pauline? It’s Mae!”

  The ticking of the mantle clock was the only sound that met her ears.

  “Pauline?” She lowered her hood and walked through the living room. She paused in the kitchen doorway.

  “Oh, Pauline!”

Here is my review:
Love Blooms In Winter
by Lori Copeland
The Dakota Diaries
Set in North Dakota in 1892, Mae Wilkey has been keeping an eye on her elderly neighbor, Pauline, who seems to have no family. But when Mae searches through Pauline’s desk, she finds a name and address of a man in Chicago, Tom Curtis. She writes Tom two letters begging him to come and care for his relative if indeed Pauline is related to him. Tom believes all his relatives have passed on, but comes out of curiosity as his family was not close and he might have a relative he didn’t know about. When he arrives in North Dakota, he expects just a simple meeting and then to leave, but he finds himself on a new adventure, dealing with an accident, a runaway train, and a town full of interesting people.
I thought this was going to be a good book just by looking at it, and I wasn’t disappointed. The story line was fun and interesting and the characters were are unique. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden

In the small town of Colden, Massachusetts, most of the neighbors know what is going on with each other. So when Michael Dobrescu comes to America from Romania and moves into the home of Professor Sawyer and his daughter, Libby, while they are away on vacation, the townspeople know something is up! Then when he claims to be the rightful owner of the house, the townspeople alienate him and his family. He cannot buy food in town, his children can’t go into town without getting into fights with the other children. But Libby sees the injustice and has to step in and help, even though there is a lawsuit between her family and the Dobrescu’s.
When I requested Camden’s first book, The Lady of Bolton Hill, she offered to put me on the list to review her second book, The Rose of Winslow Street, even saying that the second book was better. Well, I read the first book in about a day and absolutely LOVED it. I didn’t think the second book could be better, but as much as I loved Camden’s first book, her second book was off the charts AMAZING. I will rate this book in my top five favorites of all time, and even dare to put it in first place of that list! I can’t stop raving about this book and I can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Camden has up her sleeve for her next book. It’s going to be awesome!
I received this book free from the author herself for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Giveaway! Mornings With Jesus 2012

One Year Ago...
One year ago today I posted my first review. Since then I have posted over 100 reviews. So in celebration, I am doing my first giveaway. I’ll do several this week, so keep checking back.
Here are the rules.
  1. To enter the giveaway, you must answer the question below and leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.
  2. A second entry will automatically be given to anyone entering who is following my blog.
  3. The giveaway is only open to those in the USA.
  4. This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, January 22, 2012. The winner will be announced when I post my review of the book the following day, Monday, January 23rd.

Experience a closer relationship with your Savior in the pages of Mornings with Jesus 2012. Each page of this all-new devotional begins with a Scripture quote, followed by an uplifting devotion that demonstrates how Jesus’ life and teachings apply today. With humor, humility and grace, the seven writers share insights and reflections that you can relate to. You’ll also find “faith steps” that you can practice throughout your day, to help you carry the words of Jesus with you and make them real in your life.
When you read Jesus’ words and think about His lessons and miracles, you’ll feel your relationship to your Savior grown richer and deeper. You’ll find more strength, courage, joy and peace to meet the challenges of each day.” (Guideposts webpage)
Authored by: Judy Baer, Gwen Ford Faulkenberry, Tricia Goyer, Sharon Hinck, Keri Wyatt Kent, Erin Keeley Marshall, Camy Tang
Is there an account or miracle that Jesus did that really makes you think? Share about it.

Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space by Kathryn Bechen

Do you wish your home was organized? Do you wish you had a bigger space to work with, but your stuck with a small space? Or are you downsizing and trying to figure out how to make this new space work for you? Small Space Organizing is about giving you creative options and ideas to make your space work. Bechen has lived in 13 small spaces over the last 30 years and has worked as an office organizer. So her advice and ideas comes out her many years of experience. The book works through a house room by room helping you to maximize your living space. To do this, Bechen wants you to consider the function of the room and how you want it to feel, and then make a plan to accomplish that. Then it is time to declutter the room with everything that doesn’t need to be there before making it the space you want.
Bechen’s book had a lot of great ideas for every room in the house. It is a great book for a loft or basement apartment, a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment or condo, or even a small house. We pack our homes with so much stuff that we forget what we really have. Then when we run out of room, we rent storage space somewhere else just to keep storing things. But we don’t take the time to declutter things and find new solutions to help us organize our things. This book was very helpful and gave me some new ideas. It will be a resource I’ll look to as I move and set up my own place. At the end of each chapter, Bechen gives a list of resources that she talked about in the chapter along with their websites. I do wish, however, that there were pictures of some of the ideas that she shared.
I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.
I received this book from Revell for the purpose of this review.

Author of 
Small Space Organizing:  A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space

Q:  Do you consider small space living a "quality of life" choice and if so, why?
A:  Indeed, I do.  Whatever housing lifestyle choice you make for your family I think is okay, but I think that you should make sure you're consciously choosing, and not just going with a McMansion in the 'burbs or an acreage in the country with a big house because you feel outside pressure from anyone else to do so.  I believe housing size is a lifestyle choice too in that housing size and the number of possessions in it take up time in your life, and time IS your life, so you want to be sure you're spending your time in a way that feels right for you because you can never get time back! If living in a large home with a large yard full of flowers makes you happy because you like having big family and friend gatherings there, and you are comfortable with all the time, maintenance, and expense that all involves,  then I think a larger home is right for you.  If, like me and my husband, you would rather live in a (high-quality) small space that does not require hours of cleaning and large outlays of money for home maintenance, lawn care, and furnishings, plus gives you more time to spend doing enjoyable things together, having small dinners with a few friends, and traveling, then I think small space living is for you.  And always, no matter what the size of your home space, personalize the furnishings and decor to your taste so it feels beautiful to you.   That doesn't mean you have to spend tons of money; it means choosing furnishings and accessories within your budget that you feel are attractive.
Q:  What does "rightsized" living mean?
A:   I think "rightsized" is a relative term, personalized to you and your family.   A home that seems small to one family might seem big to another.  A home that seems small to you at one phase of your life might seem large at another time in your life.  When I personally think of small space living, I think of about 400-1200 SF, but some people might think my 1200 SF apartment is big.  I've heard people say they're downsizing to a "small 2700 SF house."  To me, 2700 SF is big!    Again, I'd like to inspire people to make very conscious choices as to the size of home space they live in, so they're happy, because I believe when you're happy at home, it radiates out in a positive way to others in the world.  Kind of like when you find the perfect jeans that fit just right!   And likewise, I'll be bold enough to declare here that when your home space doesn't feel appropriate and supportive to you, you sadly radiate that crankiness out into the world too!  
Q:  What's the first step to downsizing?
A:  Buy a 3 inch three-ring notebook and clear sheet protectors and a pencil case that you can put on the binder rings so you can take notes, keep biz cards  etc. in the sheet protector, and put pens and your keys in the pencil case. Begin by walking through every room in your home and list out every large item and furnishing that you want to donate or sell so you will be able to see what you're going to have to move.  Do this with any outside storage sheds and the garage as well.  Don't forget the attic or other out-of-the-way spaces.    It's not carved in stone; you may have to walk through your home numerous times, and you may have to negotiate the items with your mate and family as well.
Q:  Can someone really be happy, and stay organized, living in just one room?
A:  Absolutely!  Some people actually prefer it, especially if they live in a studio apartment in someplace like New York City where the excitement and culture of the city is their "backyard," or in San Diego, where parks and beaches are the same.  In one room, everything has to have its place, and I believe every home should have only the things in it that really bring you joy, but when living in one room, that's even more important.  Make your home beautiful to you, even if it's one small room!
Q:  What's your best tip for creating a foyer if you don't have a "real" foyer?
A: If you enter right into your living room, create a "foyer" near the front door using an attractive small bedroom nightstand.   Hang a mirror over it, and place a basket under the legs of the nightstand.  Put your keys in the nightstand, put your shoes in the basket, and check your "do" every day in the mirror before you leave the house.
Q:  What are your two best small space organizing tips?
A:  1. Keep your gadgets and appliances simple by buying only what you'll truly use. 
2.  Use all-white dishes and clear glassware to cut down on how many dish sets you buy.  If a dish breaks, you can easily find a new similar white piece and not have to get a whole new set.
Q:  How in the world can you create a "spa-like" experience in a teeny-tiny bathroom, especially if the kids' rubber duckies have taken up residence?
A:  In a small home, especially if there is only one bathroom, the bathroom should ideally be totally free of clutter and toys.  You can achieve that by giving each family member a plastic basket or tote to hold their toiletries and toys.  Instead of being stored in the bathroom, each family member keeps their basket in their bedroom and carries it to and from the bathroom.  They also keep their own towel and washcloth in their bedroom--hang it on a hook in the closet.  Many of us used this M.O. in college.    Assign time slots for each family member to bathe for 30=45 minutes daily each so there is no squabbling about sis taking too long in the bathroom.  Set a timer if need be.  Make it a family rule that each member will respect others' time in the bathroom and not interrupt so each family member feels they can have their private bathroom "spa time."  And last but not least, each family member cleans up after themselves immediately after their bathroom time so it's clean for the next person.  No whiskers in the sink and no pantyhose dripping on the bathroom rod!
Q:  What's your best tip if a couple has to share a small home office?
A: (Laughs.)  Pray!  Seriously, unless you work on projects together often and need to collaborate, each person should have their own side, corner, or at least a desk that's uniquely theirs, and the other person should not invade their turf without permission.  Do your best to keep order on both sides; don't let it get totally out of control with clutter as that's disrespectful to your mate if you are sharing a space.  That being said, Nancy Neatfreak is going to have to lighten up a bit if she's married to Max Messy.  My husband and I share a home office, and he has one side of the room and I have the other.  I systematically put everything away at the end of the day, and he's a little bit looser with his paperwork, but not a messy.  He uses a big black chair and office armoire that closes up so I can't see his paperwork, and I have an Old World feminine style desk that I love, and a pretty slipcovered chair.  Put your personal decorative stamp on your side of the room, and don't worry about your styles matching. When people walk into our home office they laugh and immediately comment on whose side is whose because it's very obvious!
Q:  What's your best organizing tip for kids sharing a bedroom?
A:  Just like a home office shared by mates, kids should each have their own side that's personalized to them.  Or at least their own bed if using bunk beds, for instance.  I think each child should have their own desk for school studies as well, and their own dresser and side of the closet. 
Q:  How is it possible to create an organized "library" in a small home?
A:  Buy tall white bookshelves and line your longest living room wall as a focal point.  Arrange the books on the shelf in an artful way, mixing in collected knickknacks for an interesting look.  Or, today your e-reader, in lieu of bookshelves, can be your library in a small space if you don't want to dust bookshelves.  Also, if you have a dining nook, you can put floor to ceiling bookcases to create a charming little library.
Q:  In your book you talk about the binder notebook method.  What is that exactly?
A:  It's the three-ring binder notebook I mentioned in the downsizing question above.  It helps you have a portable place to jot down your thoughts, plus store biz cards and fliers from housing developments you're touring etc.
Q:  What free download do you have today for our readers/listeners so they can get started right away in organizing their small space home? 
A:  Go to and sign up to get the free article I wrote, Small Space Savvy in a Big Stuff World.  There's also another free home organizing and decorating article there as a bonus.  
Bio for Author Kathryn Bechen
Kathryn Bechen is an award-winning professional writer whose articles have appeared in popular national and regional magazines and newspapers. She specializes in lifestyle feature articles and has also published several organizing and decorating e-books. The lifestyle companies she founded, Organized with Ease and Kathryn Bechen Designs, have served clients worldwide. Kathryn has organized and decorated 13 personal small space residences together with her husband Steve, and they currently live in their favorite small space ever: a 1,200-square-foot high-rise apartment in beautiful San Diego, California. She blogs about timely lifestyle topics at