Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's Review Time - Submerged by Dani Pettrey

I've been waiting for today all month! And I'm so excited to talk about this book...

Author of Submerged and Shattered, Dani Pettrey
Submerged by DaniPettrey is one of those books that you never want to put down--and if you ask my family, they'll tell you that I didn't, for the entire day! Each of the characters comes to life in your mind, moving the suspense forward until you can’t help but wonder what will happen next.

Pettrey’s debut novel centers around a young woman named Bailey, who grew up in a small coastal town in Alaska. Bailey had a troubled youth and searched for love in all the wrong places. Her choices hurt people she loved, but ultimately hurt herself the most as the idea of her unworthiness weighed her down and kept her from any sort of happiness or attachment.

Enter handsome and studly diver extraordinaire who's connected to Bailey and her past, and refuses to let go. (Swoon!) Sprinkle in a plethora of nosey sisters, curious townsfolk, a few dead bodies, some Russian history, and voila! You have the perfect recipe for a romantic suspense a la Pettrey!

It only took me two days to read this book, and here’s why: I immediately loved her characters. All of them…and there were many. Pettrey is a pro at characterization and when working with an abundant cast of characters, she excelled at giving them each their own story, playing time in the pages, and made them real—full of quirks, and personalities. Equally as important as her skill with characters, the author had a new mystery that just had to be discovered on the next page...every page! A definite page-turner!

Submerged is an exciting tale of romance, adventure, forgiveness, and reliance on God’s gracious gift of redemption. I’m eagerly looking forward to Dani’s next novel, Shattered, which if I'm not mistaken is available now! Yippie!   

Share with me: Have you read Submerged? What did you think? What was your favorite part? Tell me, tell me! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Money Talk and A Recipe

I recently read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It was such a great book! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in their personal finances.

One of the things that occurred to me as I was filling out a few spreadsheets (provided in the book) is that we (my family) spend a lot of money on food, both groceries and eating out! What a waste!

So I set out to do better...starting with a pretty severe cut to my food allowance. Because why go small when you can make a big difference, fast! :)

I allocated myself $200 for groceries for the entire month of January! And a big, fat nada for eating out! Painful! Especially when I'm used to spending five times that amount, and when restaurants appear to be one of my love languages.

I'm so excited though, because God has blessed my extremism and our efforts and made our budget stretch beyond what I was hoping for. On top of that, miracle of all miracles, we haven't eaten out once this month, and I don't feel like bashing my head against a wall.

So today, I thought it'd be fun to share one of my super-cheap-and-easy-to-make-as-well-as-being-kid-friendly dinners. I made this last night and it was a huge hit. Everyone loved it! (Except my three year old, but she doesn't count cause I can't get that child to eat anything other than Gogurt!)

Cheeseburger Macaroni

1  pound ground beef
1  chopped onion (although I only used half and it was plenty)
2  8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
8 ounces of macaroni noodles
1  4 ounce can of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown the meat. Drain fat. Add onion and cook over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes or until your meat is cooked through and onions are tender. Stir in tomato sauce, 1 and 1/4 cups water, and the noodles. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 8 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. Stir in mushrooms and cheese. Serve immediately.

I paired this yummy dish with steamed veggies and thought the whole thing was filling and easy. Bonus: everyone asked me to make it again! (With a skeleton-sized grocery budget, you can bet that I will!)

Share with me: How much attention do you pay to your "food spending" each month? Is it even on your radar? Do you have any tricks for keeping the bill down? And for fun, what is your favorite restaurant?? :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lessons From a Book

This is no secret...I love books! I especially love the evidence they leave behind that they once existed in our world, even if just for a moment.

Like many of you, I have bookcases in my little nook of our home, and it’s crammed full of books on—I’d bet—every topic under the sun. The other day I was sitting at my desk, daydreaming. Actually, I was probably stalling…when my gaze wandered around the room and landed on a title that made me smile.

And that gave me an idea. Brace yourselves. :)

Here are five highly valuable life lessons I learned through the years from random books on my shelves.

Lesson 1: 
Look before you leap. 
Book: Small-Scale Livestock Farming. 
I don’t believe I ever read this book from cover to cover, but I sure do remember the summer I was determined to convince my husband that selling our home and buying some acreage so I could play farm girl was the way to go. I was going to need the perfect Green Gables farm house, of course…I operate much of the time on impulse and very little follow through. Thankfully, my husband is the exact opposite and keeps me quite grounded.

Lesson 2: 
Nobody’s perfect. 
Book: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. 
I vividly remember asking my sister to get me this book for Christmas after I got married in 2004. She obliged and I happily opened the crisp pages of Ms. Martha’s 10 pound tome. Oddly, as I look at it now, those pages are just as crisp almost 10 years later. Hmm. I’m pretty sure it’s okay if you stack your woodpile in a manner not recommended by Ms. Martha.

Lesson 3: 
Fight it out, but stick together. 
Book: FamilyLife, Weekend to Remember Guide. 
Marriage stinks sometimes. (I've said this many times before.) It’s a fact of life. In an effort to invest in our relationship a few years ago, Chris and I went to one of these Weekends-to-Remember. And boy do I remember it! We fought the entire weekend...instead of learning, growing and building with one another. But as my homework guide stares at me all these years later, it also reminds me that we laughed our heads off on the drive home from that conference. Not that it wasn't a helpful or well-planned event, but the cheese-factor was through the roof. And if I’m honest, Chris and I just don’t respond well to homework involving love poems. We're just not classy like that. 

Lesson 4: 
This too shall pass. 
Book: My high school “Adventure Bible”. 
I can’t really put my finger on whether or not I liked high school. It was fine I guess. I learned stuff. I met some people. But really I was just counting down the days for it to be over so I could find Prince Charming and have lots of babies. (Before you think I’m crazy, read this post.) Needless to say, my Bible offered a safe place and Truth like no other book can.

Lesson 5: 
God has plans for me, and they may differ from my own. 
Book: Field Guide for North American Birds.
Okay, don’t laugh. I really do own this book and not because I’m a bird lover by any means. Way back when my eldest child was in utero, I had big homeschooling dreams. Contrary to my ever social husband. But I was convinced that God gave me my mom-passion for a reason and it must be to have my kids around constantly. So I slowly began to accumulate schooling items and books. We have more puzzles of African countries then I know what to do with. Almost eight years and three kids in school later, I’m still not homeschooling, and while that feels at times disappointing to my mom-heart, I know He has something else out there for me.

Share with me: What random books do you have on your shelves? And what life lessons have those books or those phases of your life taught you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Tuesday Shout-Out

Friends make the world go round, don't they?

And I'm blessed with some great ones! Both in my daily life and online!

This is my 2013 "Relationship" photo inspiration. Jenny and Jaime, I'll meet you here! :)
Today I want to give a huge THANKS and a tight squeeze to Jaime Sundsmo and Jenny Hale for reminding me that writing doesn't always have to be a solitary endeavor, and for making my week! You two rock!

I'm going to bed tonight (well, when you read this it'll be last night) with a smile in my heart thanks to your kindness and awesomeness and spontaneity! :)

Thanks for being YOU!

Share with me: how has a friend made your day recently? How can you return the favor?

***By the way, keep an eye on these two gals. Great writers, both!!!***

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Would You Survive?

Take today's post for what it is: a bit of hypothetical silliness! :)

I find the below photo very interesting. (I have no idea if it's accurate. Guess I could have looked it up, but...) 

Photo found on the Homesteading/Survivalism Facebook page
I'm always so curious about farming and what it would have been like living without modern conveniences. Which is probably why I love to write stories set in a time period other than my own. The research is fascinating! 

I don't know...what do you think? Could you have survived if you had to wander out to your field to scrounge up every meal? It's funny to think about, but come along for a moment. If supermarkets suddenly disappeared, would you be able to survive? What would you miss most about your local grocery store? And what, do you suppose, would you enjoy most about living off the land?

Happy almost Friday! :) 

**I devoured Submerged, loved it! And can't wait to share my thoughts! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mom Thoughts

I'm going to be an Aunt! Again! One of my sisters is expecting her first baby. A precious little girl whose gender was revealed to us on Christmas day with a large box of pink balloons. It was so fun to wonder and guess, and revel in the excitement of new life all over again.

It makes me all misty eyed, because...

...I was born to be a mom! No other career choice held any sort of weight or passion. In fact, I knew at a very young age that motherhood was something that God specially crafted into my being.

Kindergarten, 1986 - Proof of my desire...and bad handwriting.
As a child, my mom kept a "School Years" book for each of our yearly accolades, grades, photos, etc. But the thing I remember the most about filling out the pages each year with my mom was the question at the very end that said, "when I grow up I want to be..."

Without fail, from kindergarten through 8th grade (which is when that particular question ended) I would check the box marked Mother. And then I'd have to sign my name declaring that I had chosen that path.

It was fun! But it was also a sign of things to come. Because even as I grew, motherhood never drifted far from my mind. Even in high school and my young adult years, I would long for the day when the joy of being a mommy would be mine.

I was beyond eager!

So I love that my sister is experiencing all this mommy stuff for the first time. It's the best kind of adrenaline rush of emotions.

The other day I told my sister to go and complete her baby registry. "Have fun", I texted her and my brother-in-law as they drove to Babies R Us. Because who doesn't like shooting that little registry gun at all the adorable baby stuff? I know I had a blast...a five hour blast if I remember correctly, but I'm a shopper by nature. ;)

So I was surprised when I spoke with her later. Her response was that the experience was "overwhelming". It didn't quite compute for me. Although part of that problem was probably going with her hubby. (Guys just don't get that kind of thing.) She should have taken me!

All this mom and baby talk has me wondering what kind of motherhood experience you had.

So please share with me: Are you a mom? When did becoming a mother hit your radar? And were you overly eager like I was, from a very young age, or were you overwhelmed? Somewhere in between? What adjective would you put on your past (or future) mommy experience?

Friday, January 4, 2013

January's Book Club Pick and Winners!!!!!

I feel refreshed! Maybe its the new calendar year. Maybe its cause I slept great last night...

Actually, I think its because I have a spark of an idea about what I want to do with this blog! For crying out took me long enough! LOL Anyway, I'm really excited and hope to have some fun reveals coming up!


Author, Dani Pettrey
It didn't take me longer than a millisecond to come up with January's title. I've been hearing great buzz, I was intrigued by the backcover copy, I downloaded a sample onto my Kindle...and didn't breathe for the entire first two chapters. I was on the edge of my seat. So I'm excited (and already convinced I'll love this book) to announce that my book club pick for January is:

Read along with me...pretty please! It's a good one. I can already tell! We'll share our thoughts at the end of the month. 


And now, I think I get to reveal some winners!!! I love this part! ;) The winners of my mystery prizes are....(in my best Oprah voice)

If you commented on yesterday's post (at the time of this writing), then I have you down to receive a super, top-secret box from me!! :) 


Ladies, send me an email with your mailing address, and a box will arrive on your doorstep! (standard shipping times apply...I couldn't resist...I had to say that! LOL) 

HAPPY FRIDAY! And get reading! :) :) 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review Day - A Bride Sews With Love by Erica Vetsch

The lovely, Erica Vetsch
I’m excited to finally be posting my review of A Bride Sews With Love in Needles,California by Erica Vetsch. I owe her no shortage of apologies for taking so long in completing this task. I assure you, the delay has nothing to do with the delightful story that Erica penned, rather the fault is my own, paired with the busyness of my December.

A Bride Sews With Love is the story of Meghan and Caleb during WWI. Meghan is a young, impetuous, and devastatingly loyal patriot that’s newly hired on as a Harvey Girl in the desert town of Needles, CA. Caleb is a withdrawn and dashing rouge that trains horses for the military, with plenty of secrets in his past.

Right from the start an antagonist, in the form of Meghan’s boss, makes her appearance, and succeeds in moving the story along at a brisk pace. I found myself waiting for the moment of revenge or pay-back for the filthy bitterness she spewed wherever she went. Surly a pie in the face could have been worked in there somewhere, no? But Vetsch instead teaches us some grace, forgiveness, and compassion through this character.

Apart from the sweet storyline itself, I was amazed by how aptly the author wove in details of the time period, the Harvey company, and facts about WWI. It was an enjoyable read that never once felt like a history book. And yet I feel as though I learned quite a bit.

Another thing that pleasantly surprised me were the twists and surprises. Every now and then a romance novel can feel a tad repetitive compared to other titles. I’m happy to say that A Bride Sews With Love is truly unique. There were at least three twists (yes, I counted) that came out of left field for me. A sure sign of a talented and capable writer! 

The love is sweet, the fights are fraught with tension, sympathy runs rampant and the kisses…well, those don’t disappoint either!

If historicals are your thing, you must read A Bride SewsWith Love!

I have a fun, (BIG) surprise giveaway for one lucky commenter today. Simply answer this question in the comments to be entered: If you lived during WWI, would you rather have been a nurse in a military hospital or a Harvey Girl stationed somewhere in the states? And why? 

Share with me: Have you read this book? What did you think of that mean ole Mrs. Gregory? :) If you haven't read Erica's book yet, might I suggest you add it to your to-be-read pile?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

January 1st! Wow! I can't believe it's here!

I love the newness of the beginning of a new year! It's always so full of possibilities and dreams--a fresh start.

As my lovely Anne-girl said in Anne of Green Gables, "...tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it..." I draw on that sentiment a lot. :)

Last week I was happily driving along, singing loudly to K-Love as I ran errand after errand, when my mind wandered to my goals for 2013. Did I want to make a resolution...again? Did I want to declare a theme for the year? I wasn't sure how I wanted to participate.

Then my heart whispered..."relationships". And I had a head-nodding moment, because that's truly what I want. More than time for my many (some off-the-wall) hobbies, more than time to write, more than fitness goals, or big, fluffy dreams, I want to deepen my relationships--with God, with my family, with my friends!

So, if I know you in any facet of my life...whether that's my day-to-day life, through the internet...if you're my closest friend or a distant acquaintance...look out! (Fair warning!) I'm coming for YOU and I'm a hugger! :)

2013 will be all about RELATIONSHIPS for me!!! 


Back to regularly scheduled programming...

Thursday the 3rd, I'll be posting my very tardy review of Erica Vetsch's novel, along with a big surprise for one commenter! (Think "leftover goodies" from my Blog Bash!) Stay tuned.

Then on Friday the 4th, I'll announce my January Book Club title. I've heard good things...Yay!

Tell me: Are you ready for life to resume its normalcy, or do you prefer the rush, rush of the holidays? What is your word/phrase/goal for 2013?