Monday, September 30, 2013

You've Got Mail Monday

How does Monday keep creeping up on us? Last week was a busy week. Two soccer games (tied one and won one), two cheering events, violin, soccer, and cheerleading practice in there somewhere, and we canned our concord grape jelly. It came out great, but I would use a little less pectin if I did it again.

As for the mail, it wasn't a crazy week like the one before it, but some good stuff still came in. My tulip bulbs, cauliflower plants, and strawberry plant arrived from Burpee. I'm running out of good weather to plant them, so I better get a move on.

The new Gardner's Supply Company was dedicated to "Bring home the HARVEST." Potato and Onion baskets, herb drying racks, orchard racks, stacking crates and more filled its pages. I saw these neat five-blade scissors for cutting herbs that looks like they're worth trying out.

What I was most excited about, however, was this new cookbook I received through the Amazon VINE program. The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen is more than just a cookbook; it's a story of cooking and food. I've just begun going through it. The book designer did a fabulous job with it. The Steakhouse Deviled Eggs sound delicious. I found the author's recipe for French-Canadian Meat Pie rather interesting and a bit different from what I am used to. Being born to a family of French Canadians on both sides, meat pie was a staple around the holidays. I don't remember my mémé using only pork, though. The recipe my sister has calls for a blend of ground beef and pork. This cookbook covers a lot of ground and includes "200 Heartland Recipes."

I think that's it for this week. Hope you're having a good one.

CFBA: The Nurse's Secret Suitor by Cheryl Wyatt

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Nurse's Secret Suitor
Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
Cheryl Wyatt


Not even Cheryl Wyatt’s closest friends would dream that this sweet, shy intercessor plots mayhem during announcements at church. She is a Registered Nurse turned stay-at-home-mom, wife and writer who loves Jesus with all of her heart.

Joyful chaos rules her home, and she delights in the stealth moments God gives her to write. She stays active in her church and in her laundry room. She is convinced that having been born on a Naval base on Valentines Day destined her to write Inspirational Military Romance.

Cheryl loves to laugh and to make others laugh, so she often plans comedic moments for her defenseless characters in spite of their grumbling. She says it’s payback for when they refuse to obey the plots she’s set out before them.

Prior to publication, six of Cheryl’s manuscripts placed in ten RWA Contests. Two of Cheryl’s stories also placed First in ACFW’s Noble Theme Contest 2005 (Contemporary Romance Category), as well as ACFW‘s Genesis Contest 2006 (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Category).

She currently writes for Love Inspired. Her Wings of Refuge Series, about a team of USAF Pararescue Jumpers and the ladies who capture their hearts, can be purchased anywhere books are sold.


A Strong-Willed Heart

Trauma nurse Kate Dalton can handle any challenge—except love. The combat veteran dreams of settling down, but heartbreak is one risk she won't take. Then a chance encounter opens her heart to a masked stranger…who might not be a stranger after all! Caleb Landis, the army medic behind the disguise, has always admired Kate, even though she only saw him as her best friend's brother. What will it take for Kate to discard her fears and discover the man she's always hoped to unmask?

Eagle Point Emergency: Saving lives—and losing their hearts— in a small Illinois town

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Nurse's Secret Suitor, go HERE.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Giveaway Winners

Congratulations goes out to Susanne D. She won a copy of Two Are Better by Tim and Debbie Bishop. She is also the winner of our first book pack during the End of Summer Giveaway.

Thanks to all who entered. Look for more chances to win soon!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

CFBA: Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Made to Last
Bethany House Publishers (September 15, 2013)
Melissa Tagg


A Word From The Author:

I’m a former reporter turned author who loves all things funny and romancey. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to my nonprofit day job, I’m also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists.

It all started when my dad, at the ripe old age of sixteen, picked up my mom up for their first date. She was thirteen. Thirteen!* Dad drove a cherry red car up the lane to my grandparents big ol’ green house and honked his horn…whereupon Mom jumped out of the apple tree she’d been waiting in and off they went…fishing. True story. (I’d give more details, but I’m saving it for a novella I plan to entitle Two Leaves. Mom, I really hope you read this.)

Four years of college, a few trips abroad and a stint as a reporter later, that dream is soon to be a reality. My debut novel, a romantic comedy titled Made to Last, is now out from Bethany House. Book two, Here to Stay, comes out on May 1, 2014.

In between writing and staring out the window brainstorming, I also work as a grant-writer at one of Iowa’s largest private nonprofits and serve as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists founded by Susan May Warren.

And I love, love, love talking about finding our purpose and identity in Christ. (And well, okay, food, old movies, boots and scarves, my awesome nephew Ollie, and, fine, Tim Tebow, too.)


Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Made to Last, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Blogger: Quick and Healthy Snacks for Busy Families by Allison F.

When you are always on the go you may think you don’t have time to give your kids healthy snacks. However, that is not true. There are many healthy quick snacks that are easy to make and eat, even on the go. Here are some fun snack ideas for your children:

  1. Ants on a Log – This classic kid’s snack is one we all love. Parents love it because the peanut butter is a good source of protein and keeps toddlers full longer. Kids love the whimsical look and the great flavor combination. First wash and cut celery into finger sized pieces. Fill the hollow with peanut butter to make the log. Top with a few raisins for the ‘ants’. Pair with fun fruit shapes like a banana and kiwi palm tree or a toast and jelly ‘picnic blanket’. This is also great when made with almond or cashew butter.
  2. Apple Sandwiches – Why stick with boring old bread when you can make fruit sandwiches instead? This easy and fun sandwich idea gets your kids the fruit they need in a way they will love. Start out by coring an apple. Cut the apple into slices with the hollow core in the center. This will be your ‘bread’. Spread a thick layer of peanut butter on one slice of apple. Sprinkle with raisins or dried cranberries. Top with a second apple slice to finish up your sandwich.
  3. Goldfish® Crackers – These cheesy fish are a big hit with every toddler I know, but they can get a bit pricy. I have made my own before, and though it takes a bit of patience to cut all those tiny shapes, the crackers do taste tons better. All it takes is a cup of cheddar cheese, half a stick of butter, a cup of flour, two tablespoons of water, and three quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Stick everything in the food processor and pulse until combined. Then form into a ball, let it chill for half an hour, and roll out thin before cutting into shapes. Bake at 350 for fifteen minutes or until the crackers are crispy. Yum!
  4. Graham Crackers – Another kind of cracker that kids love is Graham crackers. Did you know they were originally created as a diet food? Of course the modern crackers have far more flavor and sugar than the original version, but many varieties are still high in fiber. My kids love these crackers plain with a glass of milk to dip them in. You can also get creative and make a sandwich out of them. Just spread a layer of peanut butter and add some banana slices to half a cracker. Top with the other half for a fun, sweet sandwich treat. Apple slices instead of banana work great too.
  5. Animal Crackers – These bland crackers are not my favorite. Personally, I can’t stand them. My kids, however, love them. I think it is more the fact that they can play with the fun shapes rather than the flavor. Regardless, the crackers are low in fat and make for a fun snack time. Pair with homemade banana pudding for a tasty dessert.
  6. Cracker SandwichesLunchables are something that my kids beg for. However I don’t like the price or the quality of the food they get. That is why we make our own Lunchables! Cracker sandwiches are very versatile and can be made to fit any kid’s tastes. When I was a kid I added spicy mustard to my sandwiches, but that is just me. My kids love to layer on slices of low fat cheddar cheese and turkey breast to their whole wheat crackers. The idea is to cut the cheese and meat into cracker sized shapes so that the kids can have fun making their own simple sandwich stacks. You can control how much they eat and the quality of the ingredients with no problem.
  7. Tiny Pizza – Taking another hint from the Lunchables my kids crave, I came up with a way to make tiny pizzas for snacks. I whip up a batch of pizza dough and separate it into smaller pizzas. After baking, I store the mini-pizza crusts in a gallon bag in the freezer. I make up little bags of pizza sauce and mixed low fat shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Then when my tots want a Lunchables pizza snack, I pull out one or two crusts and let them make up their own. They love the fact they can make their own pizza and I love it that I know what they are eating. My older kids beg for these in their lunch too!
  8. Baby Veggies – Getting kids to eat fresh vegetables is often a struggle, but I found that one way to encourage them to eat more is to buy the baby varieties. The tiny carrots and tomatoes and so on capture little kid’s imaginations and their taste buds. Often sweeter than their full grown counterparts, baby veggies are still packed full of nutrients. I like to serve only a small bit of low fat ranch dip alongside so the kids can enjoy the flavor of the veggies themselves. Another way to get kids to eat their veggies is to help them grow their own. When kids invest time in a garden or even in just a couple of plants in a pot they will be much more likely to eat whatever is produced. Tomatoes are a big hit for my kids, especially cherry tomatoes, as they can get a lot of produce from a small plant. Beans and peas work great, too, as do green peppers. See what you can grow in your area or start an indoor garden with your kids.
  9. Cheese and Fruit – The classic combination of cheese and fruit is classic for a reason. They taste great together! Get your child to eat more fresh fruit and healthy, low fat cheese by creating kabobs. Cut the cheese into fun shapes with a small cookie cutter and add on colorful fruit to entice your toddler into eating this healthy snack. Another way to get more calcium in their diet is cottage cheese. This milky cheese comes in great tasting low fat varieties. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper and pair with fresh or canned fruit for a tasty treat. My kids love it with mandarin oranges or fruit cocktail.
  10. Oatmeal Cookies – Last but not least is the cream of the crop. Oatmeal cookies look like dessert, but are actually a tasty and nutritious snack anytime. Make them even better for your kids by substituting apple sauce for some of the oil and use egg whites instead of whole eggs. You can also add in dried fruit, like raisins and cranberries, and even some finely chopped nuts for protein. Full of fiber and tasty too, these cookies will be a hit with your kids.
As you can see most of these snacks can be made in a few minutes or prepared ahead of time and eaten on the go. From creative sandwiches to fun and flavorful natural foods, your kids will love these quick healthy snacks.

Author Byline:

Blogging for was a natural progression for Allison once she graduated from college, as it allowed her to combine her two passions: writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with You can reach her through e-mail allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail.

Monday, September 23, 2013

You've Got Mail Monday

I'm thinking the mail carrier must have felt guilty about ignoring me the previous week, because he sure made up for it last week. Between the United States Postal Service, UPS and FedEx, I can't seem to find the floor of my office.

Catalogs and magazines arrived galore last week. Most of the catalogs made their way to the recycle bin. I try not to save them if I don't think I'll be ordering from them. It's not Christmas yet, so Land's End isn't on the agenda--even if they do send me multiple catalogs each month. Oriental Trading sent a catalog with Halloween costumes and other funny dress up accessories. I actually bought an angel costume from them one year for the Lil' Princess. I remember it because it was the year of the three horrible storms that left us without power for multiple days. Halloween 2011 was canceled by our town because we were still without power and many downed trees littered the sidewalks and roads. We ended up staying at my in-laws' house for a week, so we Trick-or-Treated there. Eventually, once everyone in town was back up and running again, we had our own Trick-or-Treat night.

Grandin Road® has some great Halloween and fall decorations. Too bad I'm broke right now.

In addition to those catalogs, my October 18, 2013 issue of All You magazine arrived. Love the cover on this one. I haven't had time to go through it yet, but hopefully I will by the end of the week. Traditional Home also arrived. I've been so busy I haven't even unwrapped it yet. That's definitely on my to-do list. I find so many great decorating ideas to show my future interior designer.

I have to admit to a bit of confusion about magazines lately. It seems I'm getting some I never signed up for. ESPN magazine started coming a few months ago. There is no way I would want that one. Then Shape magazine began arriving. I thought maybe my Heath magazine had simply changed its name, but I received a copy of each this month, so not sure what's going on.

As for books, I was pleasantly surprised to find a box of children's picture books from Clavis Publishing on my doorstep one day. I'll review those at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection. I had ordered a copy of The Crypto-Capers in The Peacock Diaries by Renee Hand, which also arrived. I've followed this series since the beginning and I can't wait to read this one. Finally, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge by Robert J. Elisberg showed up at the end of the week. I'll be reviewing that one at The Book Connection in October.

Planning for my upcoming virtual book tour for Little Shepherd, I ordered a few of my books so I can mail them to reviewers. Our UPS driver dropped those off. My new business cards also arrived from VistaPrint.

I think that's it. Like I said, it was a busy mail week. Hope you had a nice day today. Many blessings for the rest of the week.

CFBA: Raw Edge by Sandra D. Bricker

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raw Edge
Abingdon Press (September 17, 2013)
Sandra D. Bricker


For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie's spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"


Grayson McDonough has no use for teal ribbons, 5k runs, or ovarian cancer support groups now that his beautiful wife Jenna is gone. But their nine-year-old daughter Sadie seems to need the connection. When Annabelle Curtis, the beautiful cancer survivor organizing the memory quilt project for the Ovacome support group, begins to bring out the silly and fun side of his precious daughter again, Gray must set aside his own grief to support the healing of Sadie’s young heart. But is there hope for Gray’s heart too along the way?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Raw Edge, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cedar Cove on Hallmark Channel

Here's my latest television show obsession: Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove. Based upon New York Times bestselling author Macomber's novels, this show stars Andie MacDowell as Olivia Lockheart, a judge in the small town of Cedar Cove, Washington.

In the pilot movie, viewers find Judge Lockheart denying the divorce petition of Cecilia and Ian Randall because she believes they still truly love each other and have not tried hard enough to make the relationship work. Her decision catches the attention of Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), a newcomer to Cedar Cove and editor of the Cedar Cove Chronicle. A recovering alcoholic, Jack is immediately drawn to Olivia, and soon they begin navigating the dating waters carrying all kinds of baggage along--her divorce and the death of her son many years earlier and his divorce and estrangement for his grown son, Eric.

Like many shows featuring small towns, stories of other characters are woven into the weekly plots. Justine (Sarah Smyth), Olivia's daughter, is estranged from her father, who she feels abandoned her and her mother after the death of Justine's twin brother, Jordan. Currently in a relationship with Warren Saget (Brennan Elliot), when her good friend and former boyfriend, Seth Gunderson (Corey Sevier) returns to Cedar Cove, Justine isn't sure if she still cares for him; and her growing doubts about Warren feed the fire.

Peggy and Bob Beldon (Barbara Niven and Bruce Boxleitner) own the local bed and breakfast. A mysterious stranger arrives and causes some concerns for the Beldons. Moon (Timothy Webber) owns the local coffee shop, where Justine works. A '60s civil rights activist, Moon adds some comic relief, in addition to being a town icon.

Teryl Rothery, plays Olivia's best friend, Grace Sherman. Recently divorced, Grace feels like her life is falling apart, but soon finds herself being pursued by two men. Meanwhile, Olivia's mother, Charlotte Jeffers (Paula Shaw) cares for a John Doe at the hospital who has personal ties to Cedar Cove.

A press release from Hallmark defined Cedar Cove this way, "Romance, mystery, and lessons of the heart are the threads that weave this tight-knit community together." This definitely captures all that this show is about. It's the one show I've been willing to pay to watch on Amazon Instant Video. Our DVR has been on the fritz and either hasn't recorded the episodes or records about 45 minutes of them, leaving me with 15 minutes of unanswered questions. I also love this series so much that I've added all the books to my Wish List and plan to buy the first six for myself as a Christmas present.

Have you seen Cedar Cove? What do you think of it?

New from Whisky Creek Press: The Empty Chair by James Davis

The Empty Chair is a story of friendship shared by four men and their journey of faith. The death of his first girlfriend makes Jake angry toward God. His disbelief further wells in his heart with the merciless killings he has witnessed in several of his Marine missions. An incident in Nigeria changes his idea of God when a chaplain risks his own life to save him. Jake decides to pursue Chaplaincy in Wake Forest, NC thinking he has a debt to pay. His journey takes a twist when he finds himself in Pakistan after finding that his friend Cameron and his wife Lilly, who are on mission in India, are in danger; Jake does his best to save them, even if it means giving up his own life.

Their lives take some twists and turns and the relationships between the four are developed, including exciting and dramatic events that are based on true stories. Jake’s journey for redemption takes him on an emotional ride and leads him to love and hope that he never expected to find.

Genre: Mainstream
SubGenre: Inspirational
Book formats ISBN: 978-1-61160-640-9
Trade paperback ISBN:


Guest Blogger and Giveaway: Tim & Debbie Bishop, Authors of Two Are Better

From an engagement to a cross-country trip in just ten weeks? And with no experience in bicycle touring—or marriage? While Tim left behind a 26-year corporate career and familiar surroundings, Debbie was about to enter a “classroom” she hadn’t seen in her 24 years of teaching. Was it a grand getaway or a big mistake?

Shared Passions Enhance Marriage

By Debbie Bishop

Passion, the very word involves sharing. We don’t want to be passionate about cooking, and eat alone. We don’t want to be passionate about having a beautifully decorated house and garden if no one comes to visit. We don’t want to be passionate about a sport and go it alone all the time. The very nature of passion calls for it to be a shared and enjoyable endeavor.

Passion in marriage takes many forms. We are passionate about raising our children to be responsible and kind (along with well behaved). We are passionate about having a great marriage. We are passionate about our goals and dreams. And, of course, a husband and a wife share a passion for each other that includes intimacy and friendship. We get in trouble when our more intimate passions overflow the banks of our marriage and spill out beyond matrimonial boundaries. But when shared passion is planted in marriage, marital bliss blossoms.

Tim and I initially met because we shared a passion for bicycling. When we met for our first bike ride, neither of us thought that a passion for bicycling would lead to marriage…and it didn’t! God led us to marriage, and we get to enjoy bicycling together as a pleasurable perk along with some other shared passions.

So, how does bicycling enhance our marriage? Let me count the ways.

1. Bicycling has given us a road to travel on together. So many memories and pictures run through our mind from our bike trips. So many lessons learned on the road apply to our marriage on a daily basis. Those lessons help us navigate the rocky road when conflicts arise. When I look back to my past mistakes before marriage, I think of one lesson in particular that I learned on the road: I can’t ride my bike in reverse. I must always move forward. That lesson helps me keep the past in the past! On my bike helmet, I have a very small mirror that helps me see what is behind me, a mini-rearview mirror. This is for safety purposes only. I spend most of my bike riding time looking forward, seeing the beauty ahead and to the sides. That seems like a good way to live– looking onward, not backward.

2. Bicycling together keeps us connected. People think we are crazy when they learn we took off for a long-distance bike tour only two weeks after we were married for the first time at age 52. Recently, a radio interviewer could not believe that we spent so much time together with no other distractions or people in our immediate circle of influence. It was just the two of us, 24/7, for 63 straight days. That is a lot of together time even though we were newlyweds. We were introduced to “for better or worse” early in our marriage while on the road! But the lessons we learned are ones we ponder daily: simplify, live by faith, God gives good gifts, and two are better than one. Keeping those lessons in mind every day makes for a good and godly marriage.

3. Bicycling has worked us into great shape. I remember coming back from our first bike tour tanned and strong at 52 years old. My legs and the rest of me felt firm and sexy. Carrying a heavy load on the bicycle resulted in a lighter load on my frame upon returning home. It feels scrumptious when Tim wraps his arms around me. Feeling better about my body and the shape I am in enhances the passion I want to express with my husband. Physical strength helps women feel more confident about their bodies.

4. Bicycling teaches us the importance of balance in our lives. If we keep on pedaling, we are not going to fall off our bikes. That is an important lesson in marriage too. Two wheels and proper balance are necessary to ride a bike. Sometimes we need training wheels before we find our own balance. Asking for advice from friends, mentors, or counselors can help, but eventually it is up to the two of us to find the balance in our marriage—the balance between work and play, spending and saving, solitude and togetherness, harmony and conflict.

5. Bicycling allows us to express our uniqueness, yet do it together. Our riding styles are quite different. They reflect our personalities. I like to go fast and speed down hills at breakneck speed (I hardly ever replace my brake pads); Tim likes the slow and steady ride through wide open spaces and sparse traffic. I like to just go out and ride, and figure out my route as I go. Tim likes keeping track of routes, mileage, average speed, and heart rate. On our bike trip, thankfully, he was the navigator. And once in a while he agrees to take unexplored routes around our area (and he’s still there to help get us back home!). We both prefer riding together—in part because of what we each bring to the endeavor. We both add strength to our marriage by embracing and appreciating our different personalities. Two complementary halves come together to make a better whole.

Passion for bicycling has enhanced our marriage. Accepting how each of us expresses our passion is something we have learned in our short married life. We’ve learned to reel in unrealistic expectations because they can wreck havoc on our relationship, just as going for a bike ride with overinflated tires can lead to an untimely blowout! You’d rather have checked the gauge before you started.

Marriage is a journey. It’s been the best ride ever because I am riding with my passionate partner for a lifetime of love. If you’re married, I encourage you to identify the passions that you share with your spouse and ride them for all you can. If you can’t identify a common passion, find one. If you’re not yet married, but want to be, realize that finding a spouse with a strong common interest can springboard you into your ultimate bonding experience. It’s a facet of your relationship that will become a joint treasure and lead you to deeper destinations as you journey through life together.

Purchase from Amazon:

Purchase from Open Road Press:

About the authors:

Tim Bishop
Originally from Maine, Tim Bishop has over thirty years of experience in business, first as a CPA, then for many years in various roles in the corporate world. In addition to consulting for small businesses, Tim serves as a Hope Coach for TheHopeLine, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reach, rescue, and restore hurting teens and young adults.

Debbie Bishop
Debbie Bishop has taught for over twenty-five years, for the past ten years as a literacy specialist in Framingham, Massachusetts. She has a passion for reading and seeing that young people do it well. She also has high interest in recovery issues and encouraging others with her own triumphs over struggles earlier in her life. Debbie also serves as a Hope Coach for TheHopeLine.

Visit the authors online at

Enter for your chance to win a copy of Two Are Better. Good luck!

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30 Blogs with Ideas for a Candy Land Theme Birthday Party

Remember the board game, Candy Land? I do. We have at least two versions of it here in the bonus room. It is a great way to teach kids about colors and counting. What I didn't know is that some people use Candy Land as inspiration for their child's birthday party theme. I can't believe I never thought of that.

"30 Blogs with Creative Ideas for Throwing a Candy Land Themed Party" will bring you to an article with links to numerous blogs featuring invitation, decoration, menu, games, and party favor ideas to throw your own Candy Land themed birthday party. Some of these ideas are unbelievably creative. They make me wish the girls were little again, so I could try them out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

End of Summer Book Giveaway

The end of summer can be a sad time, but it doesn't have to be. Fall awaits us with harvest time and Thanksgiving. Around here it's apple picking time and I look forward to homemade applesauce and maybe some apple butter. The other day a friend discovered wild concord grapes growing on our property. I'm so excited. Now I just have to figure out how to harvest them, as the vines are wound around some of the taller trees.

Another reason to look forward to the end of summer is that I have a bunch of books to give away. I think it will be easier for me to give them away in groups. I have Christian fiction and nonfiction, children's books, mysteries, middle grade and young adult fiction, poetry, and other nonfiction. Some of these are ARCs; some I got through the Amazon VINE program; and others were duplicates of books we already had. Most of them have been read only once and a couple of them not at all.

Here's the first group:

  • Autographed copy of Gary's Gray World by Ryan J. Cunningham
  • The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster by David Conway
  • The Dancing Clock by Steve Metzger
  • ARC of Princess Morning Glory by Letitia Fairbanks
  • Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren by Barbara Park (never read)
  • Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park (never read)
  • Fancy Nancy: The Dazzling Book Report and Pajama Day by Jane O'Connor w/stickers (never read)
Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Good luck!

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Guest Blogger: Lloyd Johnson, Author of Living Stones

She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nearly killed in Seattle during a jihadist bombing, Ashley recognizes the synagogue bomber and is later stalked by a hired Muslim hit man in Israel. There she reacquaints with Najid, the Christian Palestinian scholar she had met at the University of Washington. She falls in love with him, putting her at odds with her Zionist pro-Israeli convictions.

On the run, Ashley sees the beautiful rock churches and shrines. But the living stones, the people of the Holy Land intrigue her. She meets Jews and Palestinians, Rabbis for and against Israeli settlement expansion. Gentle Palestinians like Najid’s family, and those in the West Bank suffering under military occupation. Both Muslims and Christians living peacefully together.

Najid and Ashley find the bomber in Seattle despite the FBI dragnet put out to arrest him.. Living Stones is the story of an American woman coming to terms with the truth of the Middle East, and the lies she had been fed. Will she survive the forces that threaten to tear her apart?


The Inspiration for Writing Living Stones by Lloyd Johnson

They asked us to tell their stories in America. Some of them heartbreaking. Because they knew we in the U.S. know little of daily life there. Christians included.

We lived with the “living stones,” experiencing the people of the Holy Land during the summer of 2012, in Bethlehem. Deprived of water, imprisoned behind a 40’ wall, homes demolished by bulldozers, evicted from their farms. These things happen every day in the West Bank. Residents turned back at checkpoints, are unable to travel into Jerusalem five miles away, or to the sea, thirty miles—except by “special permission” granted occasionally. Most have never seen the ocean.

Palestinians are excluded from green spaces for children to play by high walls and highways prohibited for their travel. They’re “needed” by over 500,000 immigrant settlers. Most males have been imprisoned during their lives for peaceful demonstrations against 46 years of military occupation. Many children are in jail now for throwing stones at a tank, or for nothing. Terrified by soldiers breaking in at night. Committed to non-violent resistance, we found our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as Muslims, a gentle and hospitable people.

Jesus spoke of loving our neighbor, as in the Good Samaritan story—even our enemies. “Welcoming the stranger” fills the Old Testament. Whatever one’s theology about the Holy Land and the future, Jesus does not advocate ethnic cleansing of those outside a particular tribe. His invitation to the kingdom in the “New Covenant” is inclusive, world-wide, no barriers of ethnicity or religion.

Many excellent books relate the “Nakba” (catastrophe) in the Holy Land beginning in 1948 with both killing and displacement of 750,000— to refugee camps. Many Jewish authors also document the cruel military occupation of the West Bank since 1967. Almost all these books are non-fiction, read only by those interested in the Middle East.

Fiction can appeal to a wide variety of people who love a good story. So I’ve tried to write one, with adventure, action and a bit of romance. An American graduate student’s life is turned upside down by a jihadist bombing and abduction in Jerusalem. But even more as she encounters the “living stones” in the Holy Land and falls in love with a Palestinian Christian.

With special interest in the current Middle East, retired surgeon Dr. Lloyd Johnson turned to fiction writing, putting out two books, with a sequel in the works. He is a member of Seattle writing group, and blogs regularly on Israel/Palestine subjects. Johnson is a Clinical Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington in the Department of Surgery. He is Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and past president of the Seattle Surgical Society. He authored 26 scientific articles in peer reviewed journals/texts. He has worked and traveled extensively overseas, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and served for six years as volunteer executive director and board member of a humanitarian NGO in Central Asia. The author lives in Edmonds, Washington.

Visit the author online at

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

CFBA: Fired Up by Mary Connealy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Fired Up
(Bethany House March 1,
Mary Connealy


Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.


Rollicking Wild West Adventure and Romance from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy.

Dare Riker is a doctor who saves lives, but someone seems determined to end his. It may have something to do with the traitors he dealt with during the Civil War, or it might be related to the recent incident with Flint Greer and the ranch. Whoever the culprit is, he or she seems really fired up, and Dare can't let his guard down for a moment, which is a challenge, since right now he's trying to win the heart of the recently widowed Glynna.

Glynna Greer came west as a mail-order bride and ended up in a bad situation. Now her husband, Flint, is dead, and she's determined to care for her son and daughter on her own. She wants to believe Dare Riker is as decent as he seems, but she's terrified to lock herself into another marriage. She plans to support her small family by opening a diner--never mind that cooking is not her greatest talent. The men in Broken Wheel, Texas, are so desperate for home cooking that they seem willing to overlook dried-out beef and blackened biscuits.

Glynna can't help but notice that danger follows Dare wherever he goes. There's the avalanche. And then the fire. But things really get out of hand when someone plunges a knife from Glynna's diner into Dare's back. Are Flint's cronies still plotting revenge? Is Glynna's son engaged in a misguided attempt to protect his mother? Is a shadowy outsider still enraged over past injustices? And can Dare survive long enough to convince Glynna to take another chance on love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fired Up, go HERE.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Downton Abbey Series 4 Premiers in the UK This Sunday!

I haven't spoke much lately about my deep love of Downton Abbey. This year's trailer is out, which indicates an amazing season of new faces, new trials, and changes for many characters. The series premiers in the UK this coming Sunday, but fans in the States must wait until January 5, 2014 before the series runs on PBS.

With the death of her beloved Matthew six months before, Lady Mary is in a time of transition; trying to find her way as a single mother and to keep Downton thriving for her son and heir, George. As you can tell from this trailer, the detached Mary we met in Season 1 has returned. At least we can blame a bit of that on the pain of her loss.

Lady Edith, however, is poised to take this ever-changing world by storm as she embraces her independence. What will happen between her and her very married editor, Gregson?

Lord Grantham, who right before Matthew's untimely death, embraced his and Tom's plans for the future of Downton may need to switch gears. And what role will Lady Mary play in the estate's management now that Matthew is gone? Is love in Tom's future?

Downstairs looks like it will be just as exciting if you can judge by the clips in that video trailer. Daisy's future was up in the air last season as Mr. Mason asked her to consider moving to the farm with the plan she will eventually inherit it. Will the softer side of Thomas be a permanent fixture around the house or is that a thing of the past? How about Jimmy, Alfred, and Ivy--the young servants at Downton--will they remain satisfied in service? What do Anna, Bates, Mrs.Hughes, Mrs. Patmore, and Mr. Carson have to look forward to or dread?

Downton Abbey Addicts shared this synopsis from the first episode:

Following Matthew’s untimely death, new mother Mary is struggling to come to terms with her loss. Robert and Violet disagree on how to bring her through it. Downstairs, hearts are set to be broken as Jimmy finally takes an interest in Ivy. Carson has an unwelcome reminder of his past while Mrs Hughes sees an opportunity to help grief stricken Isobel. Thomas is up to his old tricks and has the children’s Nanny in his sights.

Are you eagerly awaiting the start of Downton Abbey? I'm going to find it hard not to look for spoilers after it airs in the UK.

CFBA: Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Born of Persuasion
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 1, 2013)
Jessica Dotta


Born in the wrong century–except for the fact that she really likes epidurals and washing machines–Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.

She resides lives in the greater Nashville area—where she imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London. She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding school, and then she goes home to write and work on PR. Jessica has tried to cast her dachshund as their butler–but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to emulate.


The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Born of Persuasion, go HERE.

Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Nap

Far behind me are the days of struggling to get my toddlers down for their naps. I still remember, however, how aggravating it could be when they wouldn't go down when I wanted or needed them to. "7 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Take a Nap" offers several great ideas to help out. From crafting a nap time schedule to creating the right napping environment and more, these tips will make getting your toddler down at nap time a lot easier.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Planning for Busy Moms

I love cooking, but with the girls' schedules, it can be hard to fit in time to prepare a healthy meal. That's why menu planning has been something I've done since my girls first came on the scene. Menu planning isn't a new idea, but many busy moms have advice on how to go about it. In "25 Blogs with Menu Planning Tips for Busy Moms" you'll find tips for beginners, how to put your menus together, weekly menus, grocery shopping tips, and even online meal planning services.

Coming downstairs from my office and asking "What do you want for dinner?" is never appealing to me, especially because the answer is usually, "I don't know." By having a plan for each day of the week, I'm able to get in and out of the kitchen faster.

I hope you'll enjoy exploring these other blogs for tips.

You've Got Mail Monday

Though it wasn't a calm week around here, at least the mailbox wasn't overflowing. What did arrive, much to the Lil' Diva's delight, are the gifts she ordered from Claire's with a gift card from her birthday.

She ordered a Round Makeup Kit, a cosmetic bag, glittery eye liner, and an eyelash curler. She's been playing around trying to find a look she likes. She's not allowed to wear makeup to school, but if she's going to be home I let her experiment.

Our newest Tassimo shipment of coffee arrived this weekend. Dad isn't an adventurous coffee drinker--regular coffee and decaf are all that are usually here.

Now, I'm waiting for my shipment of fall bulbs and garlic to arrive. Hopefully that doesn't happen before I get the garden ready.

That's it for this week. Hope you have a great one.

Book Review: Who I Be by Annie Brown

Annie Brown's Who I Be is a call to action for us to live our lives knowing without a doubt that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Tackling issues such as low self-esteem, bullying, prejudice and more, Who I Be encourages readers to examine their lives to see if they are who God wants them to be or if they are simply allowing society to dictate how they are supposed to look, act, and think.

I was approached by the author's publicist to review this book. I readily accepted because it seemed not only in line with the lessons I had been teaching at Sunday school, but also because I have a child struggling with self-esteem issues. I didn't know if I could glean anything that would hit the mark with her, but I knew I wanted to try.

Who I Be ended up being different than I expected. After the Preface and Introduction, the first chapter shares the question every person needs to answer, "Who I Be?" The book then moves on to the physical, emotional, mental, social, and financial aspects of the question. These sections are where the author talks about body image and illnesses, emotional scars, mental illnesses, discrimination and racism, and money issues.

Overall, I liked what Brown had to say and believe others will find her words helpful. I would have preferred the author explain what she meant by each aspect in her own words instead of relying on citing Webster definitions. They felt a bit clunky in an otherwise conversational style. It's a short book, so it can be read in one sitting, and then reread to reinforce its concepts. It made me curious about another of Brown's books, Christians With Pervasive Issues. There's a bonus chapter that includes information from this book at the back of Who I Be.

Author website:



Annie Brown was born to the parents of Lonza and Daisy Duckett in Alexander City, Alabama. She was the third of four children. Annie is the proud parent of four adult children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. She is a licensed minister and attends Joyful Noise AOH Church of God in Sylacauga, Alabama where she serves as the church secretary.

Annie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Montevallo and a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Alabama. She currently works at Lakeside Hospice, Inc. in Pell City, Alabama as a hospice social worker. As a social worker, Annie works with the terminally ill, providing emotional support at the most critical time in an individual’s life.

Annie’s heart desire is that people will learn to love themselves. In order to love themselves a person cannot conform to society’s norms as to what is acceptable but rather believe what God’s Word says.

I received a paperback copy of this book through the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cover Reveal: Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost by Heide AW Kaminski, Pam Ryan, and Dorothy Thompson

Eccentric tobacco tycoon Rodger Hawthorne III can have anything his heart desires except his dead wife, Sarah. Feeling responsible for the car crash that killed her twenty years earlier, he offers one million dollars to anyone who can find her spirit and bring it to him within one week or the money is forfeited. Six spiritually-challenged—but highly intuitive—women find his ad over the Internet and accept his challenge only to embark on a journey they didn’t quite expect that covers astral traveling, past life regressions and spiritual encounters of the unworldly kind. While this book is lightly based on a true story of a real man who is offering one million dollars to anyone who can prove that spirits exist, this story is purely fictional. Or is it?

Coming October 2013!


HEIDE AW KAMINSKI is the mom of three very successful children and lives in southeast Michigan with her partner, her son and stepson. She teaches English in a high school for juvenile delinquent boys, as well as co-directs the Sunday school program for an Interfaith Center. She is also the editor-in-chief for the Interfaith Center’s monthly 16-page newsletter. She is currently the author of five books, ADHD and ME , Get Smart Through Art, The Ability Gang (a novel for upper elementary readers), Von Riesiggross bis Klitzeklein (a German children's book), and South of Eden (a not so serious novel about life in Heaven). She has also published stories in 15 anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul.

Kaminski was born and raised in Germany, and after spending a year as an exchange student in the USA, she ended up marrying an American and has been a permanent resident in the U.S. since 1984, as well as a citizen of the U.S. since 2007. After dedicating many years to being there for her children first, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English communications at the ripe age of 50 and her English teaching certificate two years later.


Pam Ryan is a writer and professional psychic from Northwestern Ohio. She is the mother of two and has been a widow for the last five years. Her writing career began back in high school where she wrote a column for the Sylvania Sentinel Newspaper in Sylvania, Ohio. Pam was also the first page editor of the high school newspaper as well as doing the public relations for the high school musicals. At the University of Toledo she helped to create the Public Relations Department for the Department of Theatre and Speech, worked as a reporter for the college paper, The Collegian, and was assistant to the Public Relation Director of a local Toledo, Ohio, theatre group, Lynro Productions. After college Pam went to work for the United States Government and part of her duties were to write and publish a newspaper for the Migrant Opportunity Program in Phoenix, Arizona. Back in Ohio she lent her talents to the local Muscular Dystrophy Association, Make A Wish of Northwestern Ohio, worked on newsletters for Grace Lutheran Church and Christ the King Church, both in Toledo, and did public relations for the Parent Organization of Lake Elementary School. Pamela Ryan, as she is known professionally, began her professional psychic career in 1990. She presently does private readings and parties, and is also available at Lite the Way, Lambertville, Michigan, and The Healing Oasis in Clay Center, Ohio. Pam has recently completed classes and become a Certified Hypnotherapist and has completed the Master’s level for hypnotherapists. Publication is tentatively set for 2013, for her book, “My Dearest Children,” channeled by Mary Magdalene, and is presently working on a biography of world renowned journalist, Ruth Montgomery and a series of books about a fictional psychic medium. The first one is called, "The Macrame Cross."


Dorothy Thompson is the owner/founder of Pump Up Your Book, an innovative public relations firm specializing in online book promotion and social media marketing for authors. Pump Up Your Book was voted #1 in the Preditor's and Editor's Readers Poll in 2012. She is also the co-author/compiler of Romancing the Soul, an anthology which proves soul mates exist and has appeared in USA Today, Chicago Times and other publications. Dorothy loves the paranormal and is spatial clairsentient. She lives on the beautiful island of Chincoteague, Virginia.

Together, they make the writing team for Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost. Visit the official book blog at or like them on Facebook at

Thursday, September 12, 2013

CFBA: Shades of Mercy by Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivendara

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shades of Mercy
River North; New Edition edition (September 1, 2013)
Anita Lustrea
Caryn Rivendara


Authentic. That’s the word heard over and over when women describe Anita Lustrea. She is a popular speaker at women’s conferences and retreats, and an amazing communicator as co-host of the award winning Midday Connection radio broadcast. Her deep desire is to communicate freedom to women and help them nurture and care for their soul.

Anita is the co-author of “Come to Our Table: A Midday Connection Cookbook” and “Daily Seeds from Women Who Walk in Faith”, a Devotional for women. Her first solo venture as an author releases in November, 2010, “What Women Tell Me: finding freedom from the secrets we keep.”

Anita and her husband, Mike Murphy, a pastor, along with her teenage son John live in the Chicago suburbs. When she’s not traveling or speaking, you can find her reading and drinking a venti hot tea at her local Starbucks.


Caryn is a sought-after writer and speaker. She’s the author of four books—Shades of Mercy: A Maine Chronicle (River North, September 2013), Known & Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms (Revell, April 2013), Grumble Hallelujah (Tyndale House, September 2011), and Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. (WaterBrook Press, March 2009)–and a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics as well as columnist for Re:Frame Media’s ThinkChristian blog. She has written dozens of magazine article. Her work has appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, Relevant, FamilyLife, and Engineering and Mining Journal (you read that right).

Caryn leads workshops and speaks at conferences and church groups across the country. She’s also a regular guest on Moody Radio’s Midday Connection with Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt and has been featured on such radio shows as The John and Kathy Show, Changing Worldviews/WOMANTalk with Sharon Hughes, I Thought She Said with Faith Daly, The Paul Edwards Program with Paul Edwards, and Talk from the Heart with Rich Buhler, among many others. Caryn also appeared on The Harvest Show.

Caryn earned a B.A. in English from Calvin College and attended the University of Chicago’s publishing program. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Rafael, her three kids, a rescued pit bull terrier, two hermit crabs, and several tank fulls of who-knows-what-kind-of fish. Caryn and her family are members of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Elmhurst, Illinois, where Caryn recently joined the worship staff.


It's 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine-is about to change. But that change can't happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar. Long tired of being the "son" her father never had, Mercy's ready for the world to embrace her as the young woman she is-as well as embrace the forbidden love she feels.

When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration. Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in love, in her father, and in God himself.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Shades of Mercy, go HERE.

Avoiding Bathtime Battles

Thankfully, for the most part, these days are behind me, but every once in a while the Lil'Princess and the Lil' Diva decide to try to whine out of taking a bath or shower. And I remember in the early days where fear reigned and they got tired much easier, getting the girls into the tub at night was no easy task.

"Ways to Avoid Bathtime Battles" provides tips on how you can make bathtime easier on everyone. I'm a big proponent of getting the temperature right and making bathtime more fun. One of the reasons we stopped putting both girls in the tub together was because the Lil' Princess likes her water much cooler than the Lil' Diva. Having colored roll-on bath soaps, bathtub paints, cups and toys around helped encourage the girls to jump on in.

Hope you find these tips helpful.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Easy Ways Busy Moms Like You Can Take Care of Yourself

Sometimes the hardest thing for busy moms like me to remember is that in order to take care of our families, we need to take care of ourselves, too. Proper diet, exercise, and stress management are keys to staying healthy.

"Easy Ways for Busy Moms to Take Care of Themselves" discusses ways you can help your child recognize Mom has needs too, offers stress management tips, and encourages moms to involve their children in activities they enjoy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

You've Got Mail Monday

Hard to believe another week has passed. It was a busy one. The girls had homework, cheer practice, soccer practice, soccer games, cheering at football games, and this season's first dance lesson. Not sure how much more we can pack in, but I know the Lil 'Princess is scheduled to start second year violin next Monday. The Lil' Diva seems to be taking it easy this fall, deciding to dedicate herself to getting good grades and hopefully making the honor roll.

The mail wasn't too bad this week. My latest issue of Shape magazine arrived. I'm guessing that this is the new name for Health magazine. I still haven't found time to read an issue, so I'm not sure. I only know I haven't subscribed for anything else.

The Lil' Diva made some online purchases with gift cards she received for her birthday. Some of them, like her Battleship DVD and her metal safe bank, have already arrived. She's waiting on a new phone and a new iPod case.

That's it for this week's edition of You've Got Mail Monday. Hope you have a great week.