Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WSJ Wednesdays



WSJ Wednesdays is back for another look at an interesting article from my favorite paper. I appreciate technology, but I don't love it. I have to admit, however, the pictures with this article caught my eye.

In the Wednesday, January 11, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal, journalist Heidi Mitchell discussed how advances in technology mean those who want to keep up with the Joneses are renovating more frequently. Now, I'm also not too concerned with keeping up with anyone, but even a technology dummy such as myself can appreciate the items featured in her article titled, "Cutting Edge Today, Passe Tomorrow."

How about a swimming pool whose temperature and fountain is controlled by a touchpad inside the house? Better yet, doesn't a tasting room with automated temperature and humidity controls to store your wine collection sound nice? Maybe you can hide your recessed TV with folding panels. How about a room that has a wall filled with various size TVs?

I thought my husband was crazy when he had a new thermostat put in that allows us to control the temperature in our home over the Internet. He was quick to point out that while we are vacationing in North Carolina, he could start the air conditioning in our Massachusetts home with a few clicks. This nifty gadget would  also allow us to keep the heat from kicking on when we're not home if we forget to the adjust it before we leave.

One of the things I wish we had installed when we built the house is radiant floor heating. Walking across those tiles first thing is the morning is a icy cold wake up call.

Have you installed any home technology gadgets? What is one home technology product you wish you owned?

America by Michael Paul Scally


A friend of my emailed me about this new album titled, America, by Michael Paul Scally. The artist "writes about national and international events as seen through the eyes of a Christian songwriter." I'm not familiar with his work, but there is a video for his song, "America's in Trouble," on Youtube.

The CD is available for purchase or download at Salvation Rock Music Company. You can find their website at www.salvationrock.com/ . It is also available at Amazon.

Tunes Tuesday



It's another Tunes Tuesday. Cue the cheerleaders!

Okay, I'm feeling a bit silly. I just got word from my publisher that the cover art for my next book, A Christmas Kindness, is in progress and an editor has been assigned to the project. I'm excited.

It's been a few years since I've attended a Gaithers concert, but it's always a good time. God has blessed them with such energy. I don't think I could keep up a tour schedule like they do. One of my favorite artists from the group is David Phelps. That man has the most beautiful voice. A couple of years ago, my husband bought his One Wintry Night CD. I keep it in  my car around Christmastime, so I can listen to it often.

My favorite David Phelps song is "End of the Beginning," which is included on his album David Phelps. I can't imagine anyone hearing this song and not being moved by it.

This video looks like it's one of the tours with the Gaithers. I think that's Bill Gaither changing seats in the background when David begins to sing.


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Walk in Heaven by Marie Higgins Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog


Blog: Linda Weaver Clarke's A Family Friendly Blog


Title of book: A Walk in Heaven (e-book)

Author of book: Marie Higgins

Genre: Sweet Romance

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: Jan 30 to Feb 6, 2012

Giveaway Link: http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com/2012/01/interview-with-sweet-romance-author.html

Little Shepherd Giveaway Winners!



Congratulations go out to Melissa C. and Jilma M. They each won a printed copy of my book, Little Shepherd. I've emailed the winners. They have 72 hours to respond.

Thanks to all who participated. Don't forget we have a giveaway running for a Bath and Body Works set--lotion and body spray. You can find our current giveaways on our giveaways page. In addition, we'll be participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop in February.

Guest Blogging at The Steady Hand Blog


April from The Steady Hand was kind enough to ask me to be a guest blogger this month. You can find my article titled, "Quick and Easy Recipes for Busy Moms" at http://thesteadyhandblog.com/guest-post-quick-easy-recipes-for-busy-moms/

You've Got Mail Mondays!


The postman was rather generous last week. I wanted to return his generosity by mailing out some letters, but someone took all the stamps and didn't tell me. I guess he'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

In the way of books I received two that are for virtual book tours:

Best Seller  by Timothy B. Sagges

Little Did I Know by Mitchell Maxwell

I also received Breath(e) by Ruth Madison, which is a book I won from the great giveaways April is running over at Cafe of Dreams. She has a new giveaway five days a week, so be sure to stop by and see her.

Pre-gardening season is upon us. In addition to the emails I receive--in hopes I'll one day become a master gardener--catalogs come my way. Last week brought the Kelly Nurseries Spring 2012 catalog. They run great sales, so I've bought plants from them in the past. My hostas are beautiful. This year, I'm leaning toward planting blackberry bushes. My husband loves them, and we had a ton that grew wild, but with the little ones, I removed many of the thorny bushes. I want to replace them with thornless varieties. I would also like to try my hand at strawberries and blueberries, but I don't think I'm up to grapes yet, which is what the Lil Diva (10) would like me to plant. I haven't had rhubarb in a while, but I grew up with it. My sisters and I would rip off a stalk and eat it where we stood. Maybe I'll plant some.

I received an offer for the NEW Mantis® Deluxe Tiller/Cultivator. I had written away for information on a Mantis tiller years ago, but I'm not convinced it can handle the rocky soil here. The industrial tiller I rented when we put in our vegetable garden seemed to have a tough time getting through it. The following year we put a shed down in the area where I had created the garden and I haven't had one since. I'm hoping this is the year that changes, as we work toward being more self-sufficient. I'm hoping to put in raised beds, but the berry bushes would go in a different area, so I still need to till land.

Has anyone tried a Mantis tiller? What did you think?

The last item of mention is the 1 oz tube of Nia24™ Gentle Cleansing Cream I received from LovelySkin.com.  Since I've gone off my regular skin care regime, I haven't found the right product for me. My skin is sensitive, so I can't use everything. I also developed eczema during my pregnancy with the Lil Princess (8), so some products irritate that situation. You'll see a review of this once I have a chance to try it for a week or so.

That's it for this issue of You've Got Mail Mondays. Hope you enjoyed it. Did your mail carrier bring you anything interesting?

A to Z Challenge Coming in April!


Last year, thanks to Stephen Tremp, we learned of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Taking place during the month of April, you blog through the alphabet daily, with Sundays off for good behavior. I had a ton of fun in 2011, so I signed up for this year's today at http://www.breakthroughblogs.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Hope you'll join us.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Romance Month Starts February 1st!



Make sure you check in with us in February to help celebrate the month of love. All month long we'll be featuring romance novels for your reading pleasure. Visit our Upcoming Events page for a complete list of authors we'll be featuring in February.

While you're here, please consider becoming a follower of Books, Products and More! Once we reach 500 followers a list of great prizes will be raffled off.

Thanks for your support.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Free for All Friday-Bath and Body Works Giveaway!


Time for another Free for All Friday! I visited the mall recently and picked up a couple of products from Bath and Body Works for today's giveaway.

One lucky winner in the United States will take home Bath & Body Works® Signature Collection CLASSICS body lotion in the Brown Sugar & Fig scent, and a matching body splash. Total retail value of this prize is $20.


You can fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Good luck!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

VeggieTales: Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men Coming to DVD

Our family is a huge fan of VeggieTales®. I also use these DVDs to supplement our Sunday school program. Our students, ranging in age from 4 to 12, love them!

Just in time for Easter, comes a new DVD for your family to enjoy. In, Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men, Robin Good has a mission - fundraising from the rich and giving to the poor! But when greedy Prince starts stealing the townspeople's hams, donations are down and Robin's band of friends desert him to give robbing a try. Can Robin overcome his hurt, show his friends what's right and restore the townspeople's hope?

This DVD offers several bonus features, including: "Fun"-Raising with Larry, the Singalong Song, "Things Will Get Better", and Robin Good's Guide to Handling Hurt Discussion Guide. It also has a brand new Silly Song. Run time is approximately 50 minutes.

You can pre-order the DVD from the VeggieTales website.
Does your family watch VeggieTales? Do you have a favorite Silly Song?  I think mine is a toss up between "His Cheeseburger" and "Oh Santa!"

Young Adult Giveaway Hop at Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways



BLOG TITLE: Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways

GIVEAWAY ITEM: The two latest young adult ebook releases from Tribute Books: Until Next Time by Amy Lignor and The Priest and The Peaches by Larry Peterson.

GIVEAWAY RESTRICTIONS: None

GIVEAWAY DATES: January 27 - 31, 2012

GIVEAWAY LINK: http://tributebooksreviews.blogspot.com/2012/01/young-adult-giveaway-hop.html

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Saving Time in the Kitchen

As I mentioned earlier today, I love cooking and baking. I should have gone to culinary school. I think I would enjoy catering; though I sometimes wonder if you get sick of food after a while.

Over the years I've found ways to help me save time in the kitchen. Here are some things that work for me:

Gather all your ingredients and supplies first

By the time I am ready to make a dish, I have everything right at my fingertips. Whether it's a batch of cookies or stir-fried chicken, I take out all my ingredients, utensils, pans, and bowls first. If a dish requires vegetables like onions or garlic, I slice and dice first, so once it's time to cook I simply toss in what I need to add to the pan.

Put things back right away 

In my mind there is nothing worse than waiting until you're done cooking to put everything away. Put things away after you use them. While your dish is simmering on the stove, put away the ingredients you don't need anymore. When I make stir-fried chicken, I put vegetable oil in the pan, and add onions, celery and ginger. I put the used cutting board that held the vegetables into the sink right away, then the oil and ginger go back into the pantry. I continue this as I add the rest of the ingredients to the pan, so that by the time I'm done, the counter top is almost empty.

Clean up while things are cooking

One thing I despise is coming back into the kitchen after a good meal to a pile of dirty dishes. Just like I put the ingredients back right away, I try to wash the dishes dirtied during food preparation while I cook. The cutting board and knife from the vegetables I used in the stir-fry can be washed while waiting for the chicken to cook all the way through. The small bowl I use to mix the cornstarch and soy sauce can be washed while I am waiting for the rice to finish cooking. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is so much nicer to enter the kitchen to a handful of plates to wash than have an entire sink full of dishes to clean after eating.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Feel free to share some ways in which you save time in the kitchen.

Taking Time for Mom Thursdays


We're back for another Taking Time for Mom Thursday. I just put the finishing touches on a guest post for The Steady Hand Blog that will appear tomorrow. I'm one of those moms who enjoys her time in the kitchen and I love trying new recipes. My mother-in-law is kind enough to share her Greek recipes, but like me, she seasons to taste, so when asked for one of her recipes it usually looks like "a dash of this, a sprinkle of that."

Cooking and baking for your family can be relaxing if you enjoy it. Even if you don't like spending time in the kitchen, when you have a new recipe to try it at least makes cooking fun. Here is my mother-in-law's recipe for pork chops. If you try it, I would love to hear what you think.

Ingredients

4 - 6 bone-in pork chops
Olive oil
Butter
Salt
Pepper
Oregano
1 Clove of garlic, minced
Lemon juice

Step 1: Saute chops in large pan on the stove in olive oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic while browning.

Step 2: Sprinkle with lemon juice and cover tightly. Allow to cook on low until done. See recommended temperatures from the USDA here.

Like I said, "a dash of this, a sprinkle of that." When I make this, I use 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to saute the chops. I use very little salt because pork is salty anyway. I probably add a 1/2 teaspoon of oregano. I am liberal with the lemon juice and my husband usually adds more once they are cooked because much of it burns off. It's important to keep the chops covered tightly so they retain moisture.

I serve this with rice and green beans. I make rice at the beginning of the week in  my steamer and then just reheat what I need during the week. I use the microwave to steam the green beans, then add a touch of butter and salt.

Why I Love Ordering from Land's End

I just had the best shopping experience and I have to tell you about it. One of the last things I did yesterday was place an order at Land's End. Last year had I had bought my girls snow bibs from Land's End hoping I would get a couple of years out of them. Well, the Lil Diva has grown so much since the summer that when she put on her snow bib this past weekend she looked like a stuffed sausage. There's no way she was going to make it through the winter in them.



So, last night I broke down and picked up a new one. As you can see from the picture above, the seat is double layered--so are the knees. They are now on sale for $39.99 (regularly $69.50). I'm hoping by buying a size 14 I might be able to sneak two years out of these. Fingers crossed.


I also ended up buying a pair of Women's Snow Trekker Shoes in True Navy. I used to be the lady with a ton of shoes, but since I stopped working outside the house, I don't feel the need to have a plethora of shoes lining the closet floor. The last pair of shoe boots I bought are probably over a decade old, so I didn't feel bad about replacing them. I would never pay full price for new ones because I'm too thrifty and I don't spend money on myself very often. These were on sale for $28.99 (regularly $59.50). I think I'm going to love them.

But my sale purchases weren't why I was so thrilled with my order from Land's End. In today's email, I received a free shipping offer from them, which also included a free upgrade to 2-day shipping for only $5. I had paid $10.95 for shipping last night, so I figured I would contact them to see if I could take advantage of this special offer. Two things that impressed me when I chatted online with their customer service representative: 1) they had already shipped my purchase so they couldn't upgrade to 2-day shipping, and 2) they credited my account for the full cost of shipping, saving me almost $11.

Some companies might try to haggle with you over the shipping, but I'm glad they did the right thing. I couldn't believe my order was already shipped. I also think it's great that you can chat online with them or video chat with them instead of having to place a phone call. Every company should make this available on their website.


Land's End does not have prior knowledge of this post. I received no monetary compensation to share my experience.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Purity's Big Payoff / Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off Edited by Donna Lee Schillinger



If you have a teen or know a single person who is working to stay pure until marriage as God intended, a great gift would be Purity's Big Payoff / Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off edited by Donna Lee Schillinger.

This two-sided book is filled with inspiring stories. One side holds stories from people who experienced the benefits of saving themselves for marriage, and the other has ones from people who learned the hard way that premarital sex takes away a precious God-given gift you can't fully recapture.

What I loved about this book is how real the stories are. Those who spoke of saving their gift for their spouse didn't always find it easy. They set boundaries and they pushed them. While some people didn't even kiss until their wedding day, others got very close to giving it all up for a night or a few nights of passion. On the reverse side, the reader gets to hear first hand of how damaging promiscuity can be to your body and soul. These weren't easy stories to read. Some of them were frightening: multiple abortions, multiple marriages, molestation that led to deceit in future relationships, etc.

Schillinger opens Purity's Big Payoff by talking about sexuality on network TV. I was right there with her. I'm afraid to turn on the TV in front of my kids some days. It's also prevelant in music, where every popular song seems to be about hooking up, sex, and being sexy.

On the flip side, in Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off the editor gives a great history lesson on how society viewed premarital sex over the years. It's like the pendulum has come full swing, and just like it was thousands of years ago, premartial sex is common today.

I think every church should have a copy of this book to share with its youth. Learning to respect and appreciate our God-given gift can make a difference in the lives of these young people. Purity's Big Payoff / Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off can be the start of meaningful discussions for parents too.



Title:  Purity's Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off
Editor: Donna Lee Schillinger
Publisher: The Quilldriver (May 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0979163927
ISBN-13: 978-0979163920
SRP: $14.99

I received a free copy of this book from the editor in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

WSJ Wednesdays - Second Edition




In this second edition of WSJ Wednesday, I read an article that concerns America's workforce. Found on the front page of the Marketplace section and continued on page B6, "Your Résumé vs. Oblivion," by Lauren Weber discusses companies using software to sift through job applications.

Applicant tracking systems seem to be norm these days. According to the article, Ed Struzik, an International Business Machines Corp. expert on the systems, says it would be hard to find a Fortune 500 not using one. Knowing that an application is being scanned for "keywords, former employers, years of experience and schools attended," and ranking qualifications solely upon that information, means a potential applicant might not even get a call for a job she could be qualified for if she doesn't craft her résumé in a way that has knowledge of how these tracking systems work. The article also mentions other flaws of these systems, though it also mentions they are not wiping out human screeners entirely, only narrowing a field that is flooded with people eager for work in a weak market.

I have two books here that I plan to review hopefully next month at The Book ConnectionUnbeatable Résumés by Tony Beshara and Cracking the New Job Market by R. William Holland. Scanning the table of contents on each, Beshara's book contains information on these tracking systems and keywords, and Holland's book mentions keywords. Now that I am looking for a job outside my home, I better brush up on how to attract a potential employer in this technology driven market.

How do you feel about the use of applicant tracking systems? How long has it been since you crafted a résumé? Are you afraid your qualifications could be overlooked if you submit an online résumé without knowing how these tracking systems work?

WSJ Wednesdays


I am going to have two editions of this feature this week. I saw two items of particular interest in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, but they are on such different topics I can't blend them into one post, and I feel both of them are worth talking about.

In the header of the Marketplace section, a small photo of celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart was posted, along with the headline, "Macy's Takes Martha to Court." The story appears on page B3. The article by Chad Bray and Dana Mattioli stated that Macy's Inc. sued Martha Stewart's Living Omnimedia Inc. "to block a new licensing agreement with rival J.C. Penney Co." In short, Macy's has carried a line of Martha Stewart's home and kitchen products since 2007 and recently renewed its contract for another five years. Macy's believes the agreement between J. C. Penney Co and Martha Stewart Living (MSL) breaches the contract they signed with MSL because the right to sell these products exclusively was clearly outlined.

As I read the article, it reminded me of the recent backlash Paula Deen has endured since her diabetes announcement. According to this Fox News article, her publicist of six years quit over the celebrity chef's plans to promote the drug Victoza. Deen has been criticized for keeping her condition secret for the past three years while dishing up foods filled with sugar and fat.

These situations definitely give the average person reason to pause. If MSL gave exclusive rights to Macy's to sell their products, why did they work out an agreement with their rival? Why did Deen keep her condition secret from the people who have made her a household name? It's easy to say it was mere greed. I don't know that it's that simple. Since in the WSJ article, J.C. Penny Co. president, Lisa Gersh, states their line would be "completely different" from what Macy's carries, was there an intentional decision to breach the contract? Did people who watched Paula Deen and who made her recipes not realize the foods laden with fat and sugar were unhealthy? Why is a celebrity's medical history anyone else's business but her own? That she is now using her condition to promote a product she helps to manage it, and will be making changes to her show because of it, only means that viewers can stop watching if they don't like it. But they were free to do that all along.

What do you think about these recent discoveries? Do they change your buying habits? Will you be turning off the TV when Martha Stewart or Paula Deen comes on? I think it will be interesting to see how both of these situations turn out.

Product Review: Always Regular Ultra Thin Pads With Flexi-Wings and Always Flexi-Style™ Thin Pantiliners


This review reminds me to never totally discount a product. When Procter and Gamble first released the Always brand of sanitary products, I tried them because of the "wings" that secured them to your underwear. Not being much of a tampon person, I was sick and tired of pads that bunched up or moved.

I didn't care for Always back then. Even though they had this Dri-weave™ liner and were thin, I constantly felt like I was wearing a wet diaper. I switched back to my regular brand, and eventually, most brands came out with their own version of "wings" that made pads more secure. I haven't been thrilled for years, however, with the product I've been using. So, when I found a free sample of Always, I signed up for it.

Always Regular Ultra Thin Pads With Flexi-Wings and Always Flexi-Style™ Thin Pantiliners are now my pads choice. I have never felt more comfortable or dry wearing a pad or pantiliner than I did while wearing these. I received a sample package that included a Regular Ultra Thin Pad and three Flexi-Style™ Thin Pantiliners. Both are very thin and absorbent, and I almost forgot I was wearing them.

What I was excited to see at the grocery store was a package of Always Slender Ultra Thin Pads With Flexi-Wings. I ended up buying these because I'm petite and I figured they would be an even better fit than regular size pads. I'll review these once I've had a chance to use them.

I requested a free sample of this product. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart Giveaway at BookSpark



BLOG TITLE:  BookSpark

GIVEAWAY ITEM: E-copy of Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart

GIVEAWAY RESTRICTIONS: None

GIVEAWAY DATES: January 24 - 30, 2012

GIVEAWAY LINK: http://book-spark.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-spotlight-nancy-stewart.html

Monday, January 23, 2012

Do You Have a Reluctant Recycler?


One of the obstacles to becoming more self-sufficient is the reluctant recycler living here. I won't say who it is, but it's tough to lead by example when not everyone is on board. I'm not the recycling police. I don't hit family members with a baton when they toss a cat food can lid in the trash, but I've made it simple to recycle in this house. Our recycle bins are right outside the garage door, and even if you don't want to travel that far, I have one spot in the kitchen for people to stack up paper/cardboard and another place for cans/bottles/plastic, etc.

Every week when I empty the trash cans, there's a certain someone who has tossed all types of junk mail and catalogs into the can instead of throwing them in the bin or stacking them in the kitchen. So, I spend time digging through the trash and putting things where they belong. On the up side, it's got me to thinking about unnecessary packing materials on products and that has influenced me to change some of my shopping habits.

How do you handle a reluctant recycler? Can you give me any tips that might work here?

Tunes Tuesdays


I realized as I was wandering through my mind for someone to feature this week, I miss the music of Robert Palmer. In a career spanning 25 years, he had an eclectic style. Even though I had hear some of his earlier hits--Every Kinda People, Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)--it wasn't until the mid- to late 80's I was really into him. Actually, I had a crush on him. What can I say, I was a teenager.

I liked the music of the group Power Station, where he teamed up with Andy and John Taylor of Duran Duran. Hits like Some Like It Hot and Get It On (Bang a Gong) definitely got you up and dancing. But I liked Palmer best when he was singing solo. Addicted to Love and Simply Irresistible are songs I still enjoy.

Compared to today's music and videos, Palmer's songs are tame. You can view the video for Simply Irresistible at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrGw_cOgwa8 One thing I noticed about him back then when I was watching him on MTV, and now, is how he's dressed. How many musicians wear a suit and tie these days? I think even Huey Lewis and the News gave that up. Oh my, I'm seriously dating myself.

What's your favorite Robert Palmer song?

Summer Entertaining Will Be Here Before You Know It

I've been considering what furniture to purchase for our deck this year. We have a patio table and six chairs, but what I would really like is something sturdy that doesn't take up a lot of room, we can add for company. Our house tends to be the one the kids hang out at. I cook on the grill most nights during the summer, and when the in-laws and my son and his wife come over, I can't fit everyone at our current table. The problem is I don't have a lot of room. Our deck is 14' x 20' with atrium doors on either side. Smack dab in the middle of the doors is where the house juts out 2 1/2 feet for our living room gas fireplace. I don't want to block access to the doors, so it requires creative furniture arranging.



In addition to being a discount pool supply retailer, PoolGear Plus® carries a wonderful selection of outdoor furniture. I found this Patio Bar Set, including a rectangular table (74" long X 24" wide X 36" high) and 4 barstools that are 26" high. Durable and lightweight, the pieces snap together for easy assembly. I like that it's maintenance free--no cushions to tuck away or wash. It also looks like it will stand up to the wear and tear from the girls and their friends. Some of the little ones are only five years old, so I'm glad the table is too high.

The tabletop comes in Gray, Redwood, Taupe, and Portobello to match any decor. With the cedar stain on our deck, I think I'll go for Taupe or Gray to contrast against the darker stain. It would also match well with the cushions from our patio table.

Will you be updating any patio furniture this year? Do you enjoy outdoor entertaining during the summer?


This post is sponsored by PoolGear Plus, the fastest-growing catalog and internet company in the U.S.

You've Got Mail Mondays


I was a popular girl with the postman this week. He stuffed my mailbox full of great things, and when it wouldn't all fit he left it on my front porch.

In the world of books, I received:

Jekyll Says...Good Deeds Cats Do, That You Should Too! by D.C. Blackbird. It's rhyming book that encourages good habits and behavior. This is a book for a February VBT. I enjoyed reading it.

Surprisingly, I also received a copy of Girl Meets Boy: Because There are Two Sides to Every Story edited by Kelly Milner Halls. I am participating in this tour for Chronicle Books. I wasn't scheduled to review it, so I'll offer it as a giveaway.

Mr. Postman was also kind enough to deliver a Highlights HIDDEN PICTURES PLAYGROUND® book order form. These are new for 2012 and include their most popular feature. According to the website, there are 4 books, which you can buy as a set. The offer I received, allowed me to preview the first book risk free, and then accept new books as they are sent.

The girls were thrilled to see the new Justice catalog arrive. The Lil Diva and Lil Princess love their clothes. There's definitely some cute stuff in this one. I liked this floral crochet tiered bandeau top they featured on the back cover. Thankfully they included two 40% off gift cards in the catalog. I can't afford to clothe two girls on what they regularly charge.

The new Seventh Avenue® catalog arrived. I've never bought anything from them, but they have some beautiful items for your home. Have any of you used them in the past? What was your experience like?

The Men's Land's End catalog made it here on Saturday. I'm willing to spend more on clothes for my hubby and me since we don't change sizes all that often. I bargain shop with them as much as I can. I've found winter hats for the girls for as little as $3.

I haven't received one of these in a while, but Saturday also brought along a Laura David Consumer Research Center survey. I'll probably fill it out. Who wouldn't want a chance to win $10,000.

Anything exciting in your mailbox this week?

Amazon $10 Gift Card Giveaway at The Book Connection



BLOG TITLE:  The Book Connection

GIVEAWAY ITEM:  $10 Amazon Gift Card

GIVEAWAY RESTRICTIONS: None

GIVEAWAY DATES: January 23 - 31, 2012

GIVEAWAY LINK: http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/2012/01/amazon-10-gift-card-giveaway.html 

Bumpy Landings by Don Carey Giveaway at Linda Weaver Clarke's Blog


Blog Title: Linda Weaver Clarke's A Family Friendly Blog


Title of book: Bumpy Landings

Author of book: Don Carey

Genre: Sweet Romance

Open to: International

Giveaway Dates: January 23 - 30, 2012

Giveaway Link: http://lindaweaverclarke.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Bonanza Giveaway Coming in February!


Thanks to The Jolly Blogger, I learned about the Book Bonanza Giveaway 2012 being run by Hobbies on a Budget. Books, Products and More! signed up to participate. This giveaway runs from February 1st - 29th. There will be prizes for U.S. residents and worldwide prizes too!

You can find all the details--and a sign up form if you're interested in offering a prize--by visiting http://hobbiesonabudget.com/2012/01/04/book-bonanza-giveaway-2011/ Even if you don't sign up, I hope you'll spread the word.

Good luck to all who enter.

Book Review: The InnKeeper by John Piper


Preacher and poet John Piper has created a touching story that connects Christ's birth and Resurrection in a new and meaningful way. Two weeks before His Crucifixion, Jesus visits the innkeeper who provided room for Mary and Joseph on the night of His birth. He learns of the life this man, Jacob, has lived since that miraculous night.

The Innkeeper nearly brought me to tears as I read it. What a moving story of God's grace and love. The artwork provided by internationally recognized artist, Glenn Harrington, is stunning. He captures the world in which Jesus and Jacob live, and draws the reader in through his inspired illustrations.

This is a beautiful book for any Christian home. A perfect gift or a wonderful book to display in a special area of your home, no one who reads it will be left untouched.


Title: The Innkeeper
Author:  John Piper
Publisher: Crossway Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1433530252
ISBN-13: 978-1433530258
SRP:  $19.99 (Hardcover)

I received a free copy of this book through Amazon's Vine Program in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stepping Toward Self-Sufficiency

Some days, I'm fed up. I look at my grocery bill and think--there must be a better way. For years now, I've wanted to put in a vegetable garden and grow fruit trees to make our family less dependent upon others. One day, I picked up green beans from the store and they looked unnaturally green. Not only that, I've gotten spoiled with fresh eggs and honey from our pastor's farm. The turkey he sold us for Thanksgiving was 27 pounds!

While, I doubt I'll ever be raising chickens and turkeys like our pastor does, I want 2012 to be the year our family begins stepping toward self-sufficiency. Not only will it be good for us, it will be good for our environment too.

I hope those of you who have already been where I am are willing to share some advice. Where did you start? What project did you tackle first? Are there products to help us move toward going green and being more self-sufficient that won't cost an arm and a leg? I'll be writing up occasional posts to track our progress.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Little Shepherd Giveaway at Books, Products and More!


I'm running a giveaway over at Books, Products and More! for three printed copies of my book, Little Shepherd. You can find the details at http://booktoursandmore.blogspot.com/2012/01/free-for-all-fridays-little-shepherd.html

Looking for Sponsors for Spring Cleaning Month in April


Books, Products and More! is looking for sponsors for Spring Cleaning Month in April. Every year we spend a few weeks in April cleaning up, sprucing up, organizing, and getting the house ready for the warmer weather.

This year, we're hoping to test drive some of the eco-friendly products available and find new storage solutions for the house.

Our stats as of 1/21/2011:


6,400 page views per month

Facebook Friends: 600

Twitter followers: 1091

LinkedIn: 471 Connections

We have seen a steady increase in our traffic and subscribers since the beginning of the year. I am a seasoned reviewer with over four years experience. Please contact me at ccmal(at)charter(dot)net if you would like us to review your product.

Thank you for your consideration.

Looking for Sponsors for Movie Review Month in March


Books, Products and More! is looking for sponsors for Movie Review Month, which is coming this March. We would like to review your family friendly movie during an entire month dedicated to films. We are eager to review these specific genres, but will consider all requests:

  • Christian films and documentaries
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Adventure
  • Historical films and documentaries

Our stats as of 1/21/2011:
6,400 page views per month

Facebook Friends: 600

Twitter followers: 1091

LinkedIn: 471 Connection
 
We have seen a steady increase in our traffic and subscribers since the beginning of the year. I am a seasoned reviewer with over four years experience. Please contact me at ccmal(at)charter(dot)net if you would like us to review your product.


Thank you for your consideration.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free for All Fridays- Little Shepherd Giveaway!


It's time for Free for All Friday! Hold your applause, just throw money. Only kidding.

I know it's not the right time of year for this, but I figure any season is a great time to win something. Today I am giving away 3 paperback copies of my children's picture book, Little Shepherd, to 3 of our lucky followers.



Obed is in the hills outside Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. Can he trust the miracle of Christmas to keep his flock safe while he visits the newborn King?

Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Good luck!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

We Joined TopMommyBlogs.org


Please give me a boost!

Yes, I know I'm short, but I'm not asking for a hand to reach something in one of my upper cabinets. I've recently joined BlogNation, which is a blog directory. In entering blog giveaways at a variety of places, I kept seeing, give me a boost as one of the entry options. I decided to investigate.

I haven't worked my way around everything yet, and I'm not so sure I like the fact that it appears you can't search for the blog you want, but it's a smart move on their part to make you look through the blogs that are in a certain category. I signed up through BlogNation to be part of the TopMommyBlog.org Directory. I've listed this blog under the Product Reviews category and Books, Products and More! is currently on Page 15.

If you have the time, please go to the site and give us a boost. All you have to do is find our blog (which you can easily get to via the link above) and hit the (BN Boost) button. It should increase by one when you do it. The more boosts, the higher up in the category the blog is ranked. You don't have to join the site to participate. There's also a link to TopMommyBlogs.org in our sidebar.

I know several of the bloggers in this directory, so I boost them too. I'm not competitive when it comes to blogging. I think blogs are an excellent way to help consumers find out about products they might like and they allow them win prizes. I'm hoping to run more giveaways here in 2012. There will be two coming up in February.

Thanks for your support.

EDITED POST:  Finally found a direct link to my blog. You can find it at http://www.topmommyblogs.org/blog/19060/books-products-and-more (It's rough being a technology dummy in a technology filled world.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We're on the Fence!


I added Books, Products and More! to Picket Fence Blogs. I hope you'll vote for us by clicking on the button in our sidebar.

Thanks for your support! 

Taking Time for Mom Thursdays


My how time flies when you're a busy mom. This post would have been up earlier, but I had to take the truck to the mechanic for some regular maintenance today, clean house, and do laundry. Yawn.

I was wondering what are some of things you do to relax. One of the things I used to do a lot of is cross-stitch or needlework on plastic canvas. I had forgotten how much I used to craft until I saw Ellen's post about Embroider Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom.

My mémère, or mémé as we usually called her, first introduced me to printed cross-stitch when I was around ten or eleven. I still have the tin container she gave me to carry my wooden hoop, needle and floss (I'll dig it out of my craft closet one day soon and take a picture of it so you can see it). I worked on printed cross-stitch kits for years before I felt comfortable switching to counted cross-stitch. With counted cross-stitch, you have no pattern, just a blank piece of Aida cloth. You fold the cloth to find the middle and begin stitching from the middle out to the edges.

While I was a single parent, I often had to rely on homemade gifts for family and friends. Counted cross-stitch certainly came in handy back then.  I subscribed to magazines so I could find new patterns. The Lil Diva was just a toddler and the Lil Princess still crawling around when I stopped cross-stitching. Blogging, writing and reviewing books have taken its place. I miss it. I'm hoping once the girls are teenagers and I have a bit more time to myself I'll be able to pick it up again. We'll see.

Do you like to craft? What is your area of interest? Do you give handmade gifts for special occasions? How many--if any--unfinished gifts do you have in your craft closet? I have to admit to at least two.

Book Spotlight: Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer


Sadie Wagner has always been devoted to her family. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas. Goldtree also offers the opportunity to use her God-given singing talent--though the promised opera house is far different from what she imagined. With her family needing every cent she can provide, Sadie will do anything to keep her job.

Thad McKane comes to Goldtree at the request of the town council. The town has been plagued by bootlegging operations, and Thad believes he can find the culprit. After he earns enough money doing sheriff work, he wants to use it to pay for his training to become a minister.Thad is immediately attracted to the beautiful singer who performs in Asa Baxter's unusual opera house, but when he hears her practicing bawdy tunes, he begins to wonder if she's far less innocent than she seems. And when Sadie appears to be part of the very crimes he's come to investigate, is there any hope the love blossoming between them will survive?

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 352
Vendor: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 0764207865
ISBN-13: 9780764207860
Also available in a Kindle edition.

COMING FEBRUARY 1ST!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Table Tennis Anyone?

Table tennis has always been one of my favorite games. When my husband and I were dating, we would play for hours in his parents’ basement.

Ever since we’ve moved into our home, I’ve said we needed to buy a table tennis table for the bonus room above our garage. I want to share my love of the game with our children. Now that the girls are a bit older (10 and 8) they have the ability to play, so it seems the time is right to move ahead with our purchase.

I like this 9’ Bounce-Back Table Tennis Table from PoolGear Plus®. This regulation-sized table tennis table features a 15mm thick MDF wood playing surface coated on all sides with PVC laminate, 1.25" powder-coated steel tube legs, and a clamp-down net with metal net posts. The 2” durable wheels feature safety-locks, so you don’t have to worry about the table moving during play or rolling over anyone’s toes. This table tennis table comes with corner pads that protect it from damage. In addition to playing singles or doubles, you can fold it up into the playback position to practice by yourself. You don't even need to remove the net when you practice.



What I like best about this table is that it folds for easy storage and has plastic casters to make moving it easy. That means I can tuck it into the alcove so I don’t need to worry about it taking up space when it’s not in use.

The 9’ Bounce-Back Table Tennis Table includes two table tennis paddles and two ping pong balls in a handy storage bag that hooks onto the table so you can play any time the mood strikes you.

Some assembly is required and this product comes with a 90-day limited warranty.

Table tennis anyone?


This post is sponsored by PoolGear Plus, the fastest-growing catalog and internet company in the U.S.

Product Review: Dove Go Fresh™ Rebalance Body Mist


I'm not much into body sprays. The scents are usually overpowering and and I don't care for the cold, wet spray first thing after stepping out of a hot shower. Dove go fresh™ Rebalance Body Mist is different. You don't get that harsh blast of cold spray. Instead, you get a fine mist with a refreshing plum and sakura blossom scent that keeps you smelling fresh. Dove go fresh Rebalance Body Mist has a hint of Dove moisturizer. I wonder if that is what makes it different. It felt smooth when I rubbed my wrists together; though I don't think you necessarily do that with a body mist.

Dove go fresh Rebalance Body Mist is part of Dove's go fresh Rebalance line of products, which also includes a deodorant and a body wash. I haven't tried either of these, but I'm eager to after using the body mist. The scent really lasts, and it's light enough that I can wear it every day. This product would be great after your morning shower or tucked into a gym bag to make you feeling refreshed.


I received a free sample of this product through the mail from Walmart. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

Tips to Get Organized and Write More


It’s a new year, and like many writers you may have set goals for yourself. Maybe you’re planning to finish the novel you’ve been working on for the past three years. You might have committed to sending out two queries a week. Or perhaps you’ve decided to enter your first writing contest.

But how can you accomplish any goal if your work area is as disheveled as Dorothy’s house after the tornado in The Wizard of Oz?

My workspace used to be the catchall for unopened mail, kid’s toys, and reference books. If company stopped by, I would hide my pile of junk in a pullout drawer which should have held my keyboard. After months of scrambling around in chaos, I decided if I wanted to be a serious writer I had to get organized. Here are a few tips to help you clear away the clutter, get organized, and have more productive days of writing.

Uncovering Your Desk

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost an important piece of paper on my desk and wasted valuable time looking for it in a pile of research, unanswered mail, and letters. I had enough surface area on my writing desk if I cleared away all the unnecessary clutter, so I looked for ways to clean off my desk.

I bought a filing cabinet and set up a filing system with research and current projects in the top drawer, and things I use less often in the bottom drawer. Anything I didn’t need on a regular basis was put in a cardboard box and stacked in the basement.

In her book The Home Office Solution author Alice Bredin suggests making a reading file which contains articles from magazines, newspapers, and trade journals you’ve been meaning to read. She says, “When you receive new material, quickly skim the table of contents and tear out or clip any articles that seem interesting or pertinent.” The articles are organized in such a way that you will be able to take them with you and actually read them, instead of leaving them piled up on your desk.

Another good way to keep your desk free of clutter is to make sure every piece of paper has a home. Invest in a set of letter-sized stacking trays. How you use them is up to you, but I have them marked in a way I’ve found makes it easy for me to accomplish my writing goals.

The top tray holds any query letters that need to be mailed. I always review letters in the morning when my mind is fresh, put everything in an envelope, seal it and put it in a pile of outgoing mail that I keep in a bin on my filing cabinet. The next tray holds all my research for projects I’m working on, and the last tray is for what needs to be filed.

Remember that drawer in my desk that I used to conceal my junk pile when company stopped by; well, scattered within that drawer were pens, pencils, stamps, post-it notes, and every other office supply I could use. I purchased a set of bookends with small drawers on eBay for under $10. Most of my office supplies fit there, and my reference books are now neatly placed behind my laptop on my desk. The few remaining office supplies are stashed in an old kitchen utensil tray inside the desk drawer.

Once your desk is clean, what else can you do to get organized and write more?

Creating To-do Lists

It’s ironic I am imparting advice when I have spent most of my adult life avoiding them. Lists keep you on track and provide a sense of accomplishment when you cross an item off your list. Compile a single list of unfinished tasks. Whether you create a paper to-do list or an electronic one, take time at the end of each day to review your list, cross off the tasks you’ve completed, and prioritize it for the following day so you can focus your work.

Your desk is clean, you’ve created a to-do list, but how do you keep track of the comings and goings of all those queries and follow up letters?

Tracking Submissions

When I first sent out submissions, I had this ludicrous idea I could remember the important details of each submission in my head. Well that idea lasted about three weeks before I figured I had to find some way to track the queries I sent out to which editors.

“A record of submissions can be something as simple as a notebook whose sheets you have divided into columns,” says author Mary Rosenblum, who is also the Web Editor for Long Ridge Writers Group. Keep this notebook handy so that you can jot down the details of every submission before you mail it out.

Once you’ve uncovered your desk, created a to-do list, and found the best way for you to track your submissions, it’s important for you stay organized. Open and respond to your mail immediately. Take a day every two weeks and put away the paperwork in your filing tray. Maintain your to-do list and use it to focus your work on a daily basis. Know what queries you have out there and who you need to follow up with.

Getting organized will help you be a more productive writer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Spotlight: From Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough


If he had only answered that last phone call from the World Trade Center . . .

Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who'd been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy's school, both are stunned and wary.

Finally their common-and painful-memories turn suspicion into friendship, then romance. But hard questions linger: Can they truly move beyond their past harsh judgments and harsh words? Will their past finally bring them closer or-as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws near-drive them farther apart?

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 336
Vendor: Abingdon Press
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 142670769X
ISBN-13: 9781426707698

PURCHASE AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.

WSJ Wednesdays


There was an excellent article in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal concerning getting a second opinion. Found on the first page of the Personal Journal section, journalist Laura Landro's article, "What if the Doctor Is Wrong?" provides readers with an unbiased look into how certain conditions can be misdiagnosed, along with real-life examples.

While the first disease that comes to mind might be cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, certain forms of dementia, and coronary artery disease can also be misdiagnosed.

You can read the entire article here.

I've honestly never had reason to second guess my doctor, but considering my family history of cancer, I know I'll do whatever it takes to make sure I get the right treatment if it becomes necessary. Have you ever sought a second opinion on a medical issue? Was the second diagnosis different from the original one? What did you end up doing?