Monday, April 30, 2012

Gardening and more

Life has been very hectic this past couple of weeks.  To give you an insight, my twins graduate in 2 weeks and I haven't made / bought / or mailed the invitations for the ceremony and reception. 

Now, onto some garden pics!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first strawberry of the season.  It tasted as beautiful as it looks!

Doesn't this remind you of The Grinch and lil' Cindy Lou Who... from Whoville...

The radished have been producing.  I am very thankful that they all didn't become ready to harvest at once... I'm the only one who eats them!

The beets are starting to poke through.  I'm wondering if they are developed under the ground... hmmmm.

The bell peppers are looking iffy.  We have had a few more temperature swings and I'm not sure if they are going to make it.  I am truly over this bipolar weather.

The squash plants are doing well;  they must be liking their new pots!

My husband received this beautiful Bromeliad for his birthday.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
Happy Gardening!

This post may be linked to Tuesday Garden Party and Bloomin' Tuesday.


Leaving Lancaster... a book review

Leaving Lancaster

ISBN-13: 9780781405089
Publisher: David C. Cook

Publisher's Description

Can a splintered Amish family reconcile?
More than anything else, thirty-something Holly Fisher longs for family. Growing up in Seattle without a dad or grandparents, she wonders what it would be like to have a heritage, a place of belonging. Holly is furious when her mother, Esther, reveals a long-kept secret: Holly’s grandmother and uncles are still alive and begging Esther to return. And Holly is shocked when she learns that the family she’s never known lives on a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, farm—as part of an Amish community her mother once abandoned.
Guilt-ridden Esther, terrified to see her mother and siblings, begs Holly to accompany her on a visit to Esther’s mother before she dies. But can their journey to a conflicting world heal their emotional wounds and finally bring them home?
Set in the heart of contemporary Lancaster County, Leaving Lancaster explores the power of forgiveness, family reconciliation, and love where least expected.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
I enjoy the Amish fiction genre; the simple lifestyle and importance of family keep me coming back for more. 

In Leaving Lancaster, the main character, Esther left her Amish roots with  her intended and didn't return until a letter from her mom begs her to return.  Now, over 30 years later, Esther then tells her daughter that she has extended family in Pennsylvania - something she has desired since her childhood.  At this point in the book, neither character seems to act their age.  Both are presented with behaviors similar to teenagers bickering.  Also, throughout the novel, I had to reread sections to make sure I knew who was talking or was part of the action.

I enjoyed the book's storyline as the returning prodigal daughter returns and is accepting into the family / community.  But the writing style and under-developed characters won't have me going back for more.  Leaving Lancaster does not have a neat and tidy ending, so I feel there will be at least one more book with these same characters.

I received a complimentary ebook from David C. Cook Publishing and NetGalley for my honest review.


Discounted gas...

I just love me some savings.... especially on gas!  One of our local grocery stores, Bi-Lo, has a fuelperks program.  The more you spend at their store, the more you save at the pump.  Outside of weekly fuelperks deals, Bi-Lo gives you $0.05 for every $50 you spend.  Then you have 3 months to use them.

Check out my Exxon gas receipt from today...

How cool is this.... saving $32.29 on my purchase!

I believe Winn-Dixie has a similar program.  Check it out!  You could be saving, too!



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two Crosses... a book review


ISBN-13: 9780781405003
Publisher: Cook, David C.
Publication date: 6/1/2012 (reprint)
Historical Christian Fiction

Book Description:

The glimmering Huguenot cross she innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows.
When Gabriella Madison arrives in France in 1961 to continue her university studies, she doesn’t anticipate being drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. The further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged.
The people who surround her bring a whirlwind of transforming forces—a wise nun involved in the smuggling, a little girl carrying secret information, and a man with unknown loyalties who captures her heart. When she discovers a long hidden secret from her past, it all leads to questions about trust, faith in action, and the power of forgiveness to move beyond the pain of the past. (Barnes & Noble)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

As a fan of Elizabeth Musser's novels, I knew Two Crosses would not disappoint me!  Her writing style and knowledge of French history makes this a wonderful read.  Due to my lack of knowledge about the Algerian War, I had trouble understanding the underlying plot.  I needed to reread a few sections to make sure I was understanding it correctly. (This was not a bad thing... I researched and learned more about this time period in world history!)

With that said, I was pulled into the storyline and found myself cheering on the main characters.  Gabriella reminded my to continue to rely of God and follow Him even when I don't understand why things are happening.  Elizabeth Musser does a wonderful job at weaving in the gospel and the plan of salvation into the story.  This is what true Christian fiction will do... show God's plan of salvation to unbelievers and remind believers that it isn't what we do that brings us to Him.

Two Crosses is the first of three books in the Secrets of the Cross Trilogy.  I look forward to reading Two Testaments (6/1/12) and Two Destinies (8/24/12).

ISBN-13: 9780781404990
Available June 1, 2012


ISBN-13: 9780781405010
Available August 24, 2012

I received a complimentary eBook from David Cook Publishing and NetGalley for my honest review.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lazy Beef Lasagna


We love lasagna any time of year. 
With this recipe, you can enjoy an easier and tasty version without all the work!


1 1/2 lbs ground beef, lean
1 TBS garlic, minced
1 jar or 26 oz. prepared pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 pkg refrigerated or frozen cheese ravioli
1 cup Italian cheese blend, shredded
salt and pepper to taste


1)  Heat oven to 400 F. 

2)  Brown ground beef with garlic in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until beef in no longer pink.  Pour off fat drippings. 

3)  Stir in sauce and 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil.  Cook and stir 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. 

4)  Layer ravioli, beef mixture and cheese, 1/2 at a time, in 13 x 9 baking dish. 

5)  Bake, covered, in 400 F oven 15 minutes (20 minutes if frozen).  Uncover.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and pasta is tender.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Makes 6-8 servings. 

* Note:  I double this recipe for our family of 5 (ages 16+) and bake it in a lasagna dish.  I mix the ravioli and most of the cheese with the meat mixture; then pour it into the lasagna pan to bake.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, I top it with the leftover cheese. For a spicier palate, substitute hot Italian sausage for half of the ground beef.

Cook's Family Recipes.  Chef Ellen

This recipe may be linked to these wonderful blogs!



Giveaway reminders... 2 books!

Not This Time, Crossroads Crisis Center Series #3   -     
        By: Vicki Hinze


Giveaways end

April 30, 2012

11:59 PM

Come on by and throw your name in the hat

at the Not This Time Giveaway post and at

the Need You Now Giveaway post.

{Do Not Leave Comment on This Post!}



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fearless... an introduction

Fearless by Eric BlehmWhen Navy SEAL Adam Brown woke up on March 17, 2010, he didn’t know he would die that night in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan—but he was ready.

In a letter to his children, not meant to be seen unless the worst happened, he wrote, “I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this earth, because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me.”

Fearless is the story of Adam Brown, a man of extremes, whose courage and determination was fueled by faith, family, and the love of a woman. It’s about a man who waged a war against his own worst impulses and persevered to reach the top tier of the US military. Always the first to volunteer for the most dangerous assignments, Adam’s final act of bravery led to the ultimate sacrifice.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1!

I can't wait to read this book.  I would love  my sons to read about a strong Christian living his faith in the real world.

For more information on the book go to:



tandem... a book review


ISBN: 978-0-307-45717-2
WaterBrook Press
Fiction / Suspense
by Tracey Bateman
October 2010

As obsession and loss become dark partners, how far must the people of Abbey Hills go to survive?

Six months ago, brutal murders shook the small Ozark town—murders that stopped after a house fire reportedly claimed the killer’s life. Lauryn McBride's family auction house has taken responsibility for the estate sale of one of the victims—the enigmatic Markus Chisom. Submerging herself in Chisom’s beautiful but strange world, Lauryn welcomes the reprieve from watching Alzheimer’s steal her father from her, piece by piece. She soon realizes that centuries-old secrets tie Abbey Hills to the Chisom estate and a mysterious evil will do anything to make sure those secrets stay hidden. Even the man who grew up loving her may not be able to protect Lauryn from the danger.

When Amede Dastillon receives an unexpected package from Abbey Hills, she hopes it might be the key in tracking down her beloved sister, long estranged from her family. Visiting Abbey Hills seems the logical next step in her search, but Amede is unusually affected by the town, and when mutilated carcasses begin turning up again in the small community, the local law enforcement isn’t sure if they are confronting a familiar evil or a new terror.

Two women brought together by questions that seem to have no answers. Can they overcome the loss and darkness threatening to devour them—or will their own demons condemn them to an emotional wasteland?  ~  Publisher's Description
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Mystery...  a good who-dun-it book

Suspense...  good -vs- evil

Christian.... no

I enjoy a good mystery novel and have no problem with the vampire genre.  What I do have a problem with is a vampire novel which states it is a Christian book.  A few references to Christianity in the book - "the marriage of voodoo and Catholicism, the fine line between good and evil" (p. 110), and "She'd never feared God.  She knew about God and sin and believed deeply in angels and demons.  But the idea that she should bow to anyone felt wrong.  Why shouldn't she be as she was inclined to be?" (p. 227) does not make it Christian.  These two quotes are vampires speaking / thinking.  One of Tracey Bateman's characters Billy is a Christian missionary and pastor.  Yet, he doesn't play a large role in the book to make a huge difference.  The last chapter of the book includes a weak explanation of the gospel, but it isn't clear or strong enough to guide a seeker to Christ.

Now, with that said, I enjoyed the book.  Tracey's writing left me trying to figure out who were the perverbial good guys and bad guys.  As I read the book, I didn't always know who was talking or being talked about.  She would jump between characters and/or time which wasn't always easy to figure out.  Numerous times I needed to reread a section to make sure I knew what was going on.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Click HERE to read the first 2 chapters!

The author, Tracey Bateman, has been featured in Christianity Today.  To read her write-up, scroll down to "Leading to Dark Places."

The paperback is currently on sale at Christian Book for $2.99!



Monday, April 16, 2012

Late Spring Garden 2012

I don't know about your weather, but here near Chattanooga has been crazy!  From temperatures mimicking early summer (in March, mid-to upper 80s) to lows near freezing, my beginning gardening skills have definitely been tested.  Due to the crazy weather, I lost all my lettuce and beets.  That was not a happy day.

Since we were having so many days of warm weather, I went ahead and planted bell peppers (4 green, 2 yellow, and 2 red).  Within two weeks, we were posting lows in the low 30's.  Can you tell I'm a bit over this!  Anyway, thanks to tarps and bricks, the pepper plants and squash plants have survived.

Take a peek at how things are a'growin'!

Bell Pepper Plants

Radishes... just about to harvest!

My squash plants have been promoted from tires to real-live planters!

Yellow crookneck squash

Spaghetti Squash

Zucchini Squash
(2 of 4)

My back porch garden is doing well.  I have enjoyed watching the strawberry plants produce.  Did you know that each strawberry grows from the center of the flower?  Really cool!

The parsley, basil and oregano are doing well, too!

Miscellaneous flower pics...

Upcoming plans:

harvesting radishes
planting 6 tomato plants and 2 jalapeno plants
making a vine teepee and planting the green beans

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Happy Gardening!

This post may be linked to Tuesday Garden Party and Bloomin' Tuesday.



Eyes of Justice book giveaway winner is....


# 4    Jessica



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Need You Now... a book review AND Giveaway


Available in print: April 10, 2012
 ISBN: 978-1-59554-887-0
Published by Thomas Nelson

Need You Now is Beth Wiseman's first contemporary Christian novel.  If you have enjoyed her Amish genre novels, then you will definitely enjoy this!

"When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas.

Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.

Married life hasn't always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried them through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises.

While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of Darlene's students starts paying more attention to her than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time.

If Darlene ever needed God . . . it's now.

Experience a family's triumphant defeat over lies, betrayal, and loss
while still clinging to the One who matters most."  

-  Thomas Nelson Publisher

Beth Wiseman's groundbreaking contemporary novel not only delves into the complexities of marriage and family, but also our need to seek God's will in all we do.  After moving the family into Darlene's late grandmother's home, the family slowly adjusts to small town life - or so they believe.

Need You Now opens the door to numerous issues which are plaguing our society.  Beth gives us a peek into the world of cutting as a way to cope with stress.  It is so skillfully written into the story that you find yourself praying for the character.  As the concern for their daughter rises, Darlene and Brad find themselves drifting apart from each other... but for different reasons.  Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from a single dad, while Brad lies to her by omission.

I had a difficult time putting this book down to go and do my chores.  (Who needs a clean house, anyway?!?)  Beth has given the characters depth to where you feel as though they are your friends.  I love it when a book draws me in.  But as the saying goes, "All good things come to an end."  So there lies the problem.  Need You Now made me smile and cry as the Hendersons walked through this time in their lives. 

Pull up a chair and read this great novel that will stay with you long after you finish the last page!

I received a complimentary copy of Need You Now from Thomas Nelson / Handlebar Marketing and their BookSneeze program for this review.

Now, on to the GIVEAWAY!

To enter this drawing, follow me on GFC and/or Twitter
and leave a comment below; be sure to add a contact email address!

The giveaway will end on 11:59 PM on April 30, 2012.

I will use to choose a winner on May 1, 2012.

Good luck and happy reading!

(US residents only)


Book Giveaway Reminder...


Giveaway ends

April 15, 2012

11:59 PM

Come on by and throw your name in the hat
at the Eyes of Justice Giveaway post!

{Do Not Leave Comment on This Post!}



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mastering Grammar... homeschool and beyond

Grammar.  This simple, single word can strike fear in the best of us.  Why?  Because there are so many rules that we know, yet many others in which we are unsure of.  Simply put, we rely on our memories of what sounds correct versus what is correct. 

Writing is a major part of our lives including writing letters to friends, emails to co-workers, school projects including essays and research papers, and work-related resumes and grant proposals - and blogging.  As a blogger, I want my readers to know what I am saying, not just 'think' they understood it correctly.

In our home school, I stress proper grammar and writing skills.  I use a wonderful writing curriculum which walks the student through the writing process, but it doesn't teach or re-teach all the grammar rules necessary to catch all the errors.  My daughter has taken to grammar like a duck to water which is great.  She is always catching my incorrect usage of 'fewer' and 'less.'

So, how can I know that my writing is grammatically correct?  How can my students check their own work and learn from their mistakes?  By using Grammarly - a terrific grammar checker !

What is Grammarly?

It is a comprehensive online grammar program that checks your grammar plus a whole lot more!

First, copy and paste your writing into the editor. Identify the type of work: business, academic, technical, creative, or casual.  Press “Start Review,” then wait for the review process to finish.  Simple enough!

When it has completed the review, you will receive a report highlighting not only grammar mistakes, but also word choice problems, spelling, possible plagiarism and citations, and more!  The best part of the report is that it shows WHY it is incorrect so the writer can learn from it.  How great is that!

Now, with this great tool, my students and I have no excuse for poor grammar skills in our writing.

I pasted this blog post into grammar checker and here is my simplified report.  Can you find my errors?:

Grammarly found 11 critical writing issues and generated 14 vocabulary enhancement suggestions for your text.
3 Spelling problems
1 incorrect use of adjective or adverb
2 Punctuation within a sentence
1 Closing punctuation
4 Vocabulary uses

The report stated that this writing was adequate, but could benefit from revision and gave me a score of 70 of 100.  I guess I have more to learn!

Click on over to Grammarly and see how they can improve your writing, too!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Not This Time... a book review AND Giveaway

Not This Time, Crossroads Crisis Center Series #3   -     
        By: Vicki Hinze

Multnomah Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 978160142071
Series: Crossroads Crisis Center

Book Description:

Sara and Beth have built a multi-million dollar business together, but their once solid friendship is now strained.  Beth is leery of Sara's husband, and when he is kidnapped, authorities consider Beth their prime suspect.

Then their small town of Seagrove Village is rocked by an act of terrorism, and Beth doesn't know who to trust.  Someone she knows is linked to the attack, but who?  Is there a connection to Crossroads Crisis Center?  In the midst of the confusion and fear, Beth finds herself attracted to a man from her past.  She knows she shouldn't fall in love with him, but she can't resist or even explain their bond.  As her world unravels around her, she wonders, is it possible to be beyond redemption?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This is the first book I have read written by Vicki Hinze.  Her writing is detailed and well-researched.  The action begins right in the first chapter and the suspense continually builds upon each new twist and turn in the plot.  This book not only gives a fictional view of terrorism, but also the lengths at which people go to protect those they love.  Each character is well-developed and the reader is drawn into their personal struggles and achievements.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1!

It did take me a few chapters to be drawn into the storyline and characters.  I believe this is due to NOT reading the first two books in the series.  I don't believe it took away from the story; I just needed a little bit longer to understand who the main characters were and  how they related to each other.  Not This Time is the third novel in the Crossroads Crisis Center series.

more information about Crossroads Crisis Center Series, Vols. 1 & 2

I received a complimentary copy of Not This Time from Waterbrook Multnomah and their Blogging for Books program for this review.

Now, on to the GIVEAWAY!

To enter this drawing to win this great read,

follow me on GFC and/or Twitter and leave a comment below.

The giveaway will end on 11:59 PM on April 30, 2012.

I will use to choose a winner on May 1, 2012.

Good luck and happy reading!

(US Residents only)



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy Week Hiatus

Today is Palm Sunday.  The time when Christians worldwide celebrate Jesus' triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.  It is also the start of Holy Week.  A time of reflection on what Jesus' death and resurrection means to me, personally.

I will not be blogging during this week as I will be spending more time in the Word and prayer and with my terrific family.  Holy Week includes numerous times to gather as one people in Christ to remember His sacrifice for us all: Maundy Thursday, our family will be celebrating the Last Supper with others from our church followed by a Good Friday service at noon. 

Next Sunday is Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) and is a time of joyous celebration!


During this week, I pray that  you will slow down and reflect on all of God's blessings and grace in your life.

Next week, I look forward to hearing how God is working in your life!



Illusion Giveaway winner is....


#1  Creations by Cindy

Congratulations and happy reading!


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