Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Ah, where to begin?

As always, Jen Turano writes the most hilarious Christian fiction ever. Behind the Scenes is the first in a new series called Apart from the Crowd. You are going to want to start this series by reading At Your Request. It’s a novella to get you started with the characters you’ll be following in this series.

This particular book follows the story of Miss Permilia Griswold. She’s the author of a gossip column which and she’s also privy to the details of New York society. She stumbles upon quite the mystery involving Mr. Asher Rutherford. And like most of Turano’s male leads, Asher doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into.

Turano writes some of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in recent years. Her historic settings and the mix of propriety and sometimes hilarious improprieties make for laugh out loud stories. The only problem with her books is that once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop. The characters are always relatable. The historic settings are always educational. All together, you will enjoy whatever wild ride you’ve been lucky enough to start.

I always highly recommend anything by Jen Turano. Her heroines are always a charming surprise.

I got this book for free for this review. I get to read all sorts of awesome, free books because I blog for Bethany House. If you’d like to learn more about Bethany House reviews just click here. This book and lots of others are available to read for free with Kindle Unlimited. Get your free month now!

Book Review: Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

Long Time Gone picks up almost immediately where No Way Up left off. However, I had probably about a 6 month gap between reading these books. So it took me a minute to remember the first book. Once that was taken care of, it was off to the races.

This series is about 3 siblings (Chance, Justin, and Sadie) and the ranch they are trying desperately to hold on to. Their stories are all taking place in and around the ranch. This particular book focuses on Justin and his love interest Angie.

Justin’s the rancher. He’s your typical rough and tumble cowboy. And Angie is the assistant to the local doctor. You tell that there’s chemistry between the two but they both are in a tough situation and it’s not exactly a great time to be thinking of romance. Nevertheless, their story is moving.

It’s always interesting to me in western type novels, the roles that the women play. Western women have never come off as dainty. They work and play alongside the men. They are no less feminine than the dainty female leads in other stories but they have a beauty all their own. Mary Connealy writes wonderful love stories with believable characters. Her heroines are people with whom you can identify. The men are always interesting and leave you wanting to know more.

I can’t wait to read the 3rd book in this series! If you haven’t read any of this series, you’ll want to start with The Boden Birthright. It’s a novella but it’s a great backstory for the series.

As always, I highly recommend anything written by Mary Connealy! Since I found out about her a couple years ago, I’ve read everything. You can’t go wrong with cowboys.

I got this book for free for this review. I get to read all sorts of awesome, free books because I blog for Bethany House. If you’d like to learn more about Bethany House reviews just click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Meaning of a Refrigerator

About 6 months ago, my family moved from the house we’d been renting for 8 years to a new house. The new house is double the size of the old one and we were thrilled with the house. It’s an older house with quite a few quirks. One such quirk was an eyesore of a hot tub on the back patio. It was not only old but also the home to a dead animal of some sort. The landlord most decidedly wanted the hot tub gone and had every intention of removing it...eventually. After being in the home for about a month, we removed it ourselves. We don’t dally.

The house has been a wonderful place to gather friends. It’s a wonderful party house. We’ve been having so much fun in this new house. As you probably know the kitchen is the center of any home. It’s the gathering place and the place warmth in a home. So when we discovered after a couple of months that the refrigerator that was no doubt really expensive when purchased had multiple issues, it became an annoyance.

At first the fridge not only didn’t produce ice and water but it also leaked water from the bottom. We just unhooked the water supply and decided we’d deal. Next we discovered that the freezer didn’t actually freeze. Well, the top half didn’t anyways. We couldn’t even use ice trays in it because they wouldn’t freeze. The bottom half would sometimes freeze. Luckily, we have an upright freezer in the garage. So anyways, we got use to it. We used the garage freezer. We bought a container to put water in the fridge so that we could have cold drinking water. We used the top half of the freezer for bread and things that didn’t need to necessarily freeze. We learned to adjust our expectations of a fridge.

Until...the fridge stopped closing. And by stopped I mean the interior of the fridge was somehow freezing and forcing the shelves forward making it impossible to keep the door closed. How does one adjust to that? I didn’t have an extra garage fridge. Just this one that refused to stay closed. So I removed the offending shelf. We moved groceries around. Forcing them into every inch of space that was available without smashing anything. We took off the door and tried to remount it to see if we could somehow force it to stay closed. And that worked for a bit.

Then the veggie drawer was being pushed forward and it cause the door to open again.

I’m a really patient person. I mean really patient. But I will admit that I spent many moments mentally swearing at the fridge. I slammed the door. I yelled at it. I did everything possible. It was a point of stress in the center of my gathering place. My home was at least once per day the scene of an unhappy mom. We’d have people over and they had to slam the door after getting water. So stressful. An embarrassment.

It wasn’t just a fridge. It was a point of stress. It was attacking my home. My peace. My way of providing for my family was being attacked. We had literally done everything to appease the piece of junk. I’m editing here because the words that come to mind aren’t necessarily kind and generous words that one would expect from a lady.

My husband removed the veggie drawer. And then it stayed closed. But seriously though, what is the point of a refrigerator if not to contain your food that needs to stay fresh. Shouldn’t it be an obvious thing that you can see what food you have purchased and stored in there. Instead, to open the door and see all the food piled up in what can only be described as the leaning tower of produce, it’s obnoxious to say the least. I think that was the final straw.

Because on Saturday, we searched Craigslist. We weren’t going to put up with it any more. The amount of food that has gone bad since using this fridge could feed us for at least another week. After a couple of failed attempts, we decided to try the Salvation Army store. They were having a 50% off sale. We got a “new” fridge for $90! No bells and whistles. No ice maker. No water in the door. Just a regular old side by side refrigerator.

After much ado, it was installed into our kitchen. It works and the food is visible. The freezer freezes. The water container makes the water so cold that I have to mix it with tap water :) I have ice trays filled with ice right now. It does what a refrigerator is suppose to do.

I realized that a refrigerator isn’t just a refrigerator. I mean it is but in this case it was a point of stress. If it works it’s great. If it doesn’t, it’s just a thing that is needling at you.

It’s not always a refrigerator, though, you know?

Maybe in your life it’s something else. Maybe it’s a thing or maybe it’s a relationship. But until it’s dealt with it’s just a point of stress. I don’t know. I just feel this sense of calm now. And it’s not just the refrigerator. But it’s definitely a big part of it. When I walk into the kitchen now, the space is bigger. I don’t have to worry that the food is going to be spoiled. I can be assured that the door is closed. I don’t have to be concerned about providing food for my family because something isn’t working.

I feel like the fridge is a symbol of something at the center of my home. A part of the heart of my home. And now it’s a point of peace, instead of stress. It works like it’s suppose to. It’s doing what it is intended to do and I don’t have to think about it anymore. Isn’t that always the way of things? One thing is out of whack and it just messes with your peace. Don’t wait to deal with things. If there is something that’s a point of stress, stop working around it. Deal with it! It’s not always an easy thing to do but you’ll feel better when it’s dealt with.

So, anyways. That’s what’s been happening in our neck of the woods.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: From This Day Forward

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I picked out this book because of the cover.

It happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, in reviewing the book I realized that I had chosen a book that is 4th in a series...

Fortunately, it's really good. That said, I had a hard time jumping into the middle (toward the end?) of a series. Snelling is an excellent writer and has written lots of series and stand alone novels. I hadn't read anything by her before this book showed up on my stack. But I can't wait to dig in to the beginning of this series and her other books. 

Deborah, Toby and Anton are all really well developed and the setting is also really interesting. Matchmaking stories are always great! I highly recommend starting at the beginning of this series and once you get to book 4 I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did. 

I got this book in return for posting my review. If you'd like to get awesome books by amazing authors contact Bethany House. 

Book Review: Women in Science

Okay, so this one is a fun review. I mean they all are but this one had pictures :)

Women in Science is a wonderfully illustrated encyclopedia of 50 women you may not have heard of who made a huge difference in the world of science. It’s just so adorable!

My favorite is the page about Katherine Johnson. She’s one of the women portrayed in the new movie, Hidden Figures.

It’s a great book with lots of illustrated data graphics and so much information. I highly recommend this book as a reference for homeschooler and students of all sorts. It makes a great gift. I’m sure your science teacher would really love a copy!

It belongs on the shelf with other biography type books. And it’s just beautifully done!

I got the book in exchange for my review. If you'd like to get free books and read amazing authors join the fun at Blogging for Books. Click the button in the sidebar.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: Shaken by Tim Tebow

Most people have heard of Tim Tebow but not everyone has heard the whole story. I was really excited to get the opportunity to review his new book Shaken. Tim has always been an inspiration to me. He's in the middle of the public eye and he still stays steadfast. I'm not a big sports fan but he's always been a favorite.

Shaken is a book of great, encouraging stories. Tim starts with his own story and then follows a collection of stories from other Christians. These stories are about ordinary people who’ve been through tough times and have come out on the other side with a great deal of wisdom and advice about struggle.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “...identity comes not necessarily from who we are, but from whose we are.”

Over the past few years, I’ve had lots of times when I felt shaken. Our family has suffered several job losses, moves, losses of family members and broken bones. If you or someone you know has had similar struggles, I highly suggest this book. Also, makes a great gift for any sports fan. Tim speaks from his heart.

There is also a great Bible study that goes along with the book. You can find out more here or click the image below.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I'm never making a new year's resolution...

Well, it's a new year and you know that means New Year's resolutions. Well, I'm not making any. I'm not setting myself up for failure this year. And you shouldn't either. Every year people do this to themselves and I have done this before too. You write down a whole list of things you want to do and it's like some sort of shopping list for your fairy godmother. Like you'll just magically be able to keep up with all these things even though you've yet to try so far. 

According to a Nielsen survey, some of the most popular resolutions are: 
  1. Stay fit and healthy
  2. Lose weight
  3. Enjoy life to the fullest
  4. Spend less, save more
  5. Spend more time with family and friends
  6. Get organized
  7. Will not make any resolutions
  8. Learn something new/new hobby
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more
Those don't look that hard, right? But look closer. If someone came to you and said, I want to do *insert number of resolution* what would you tell them? Each of these resolutions represent a decision. So my thought is that instead of saying you want to do these things, do them! 

There is no perfect time to start, so start now. If you want to lose weight and/or stay fit and healthy start now. Make the decision to add something healthier to each meal. I was forced into a health support program which I hated, however, they did have a great suggestion. Add one fruit or vegetable to each meal. And it did help somewhat. So there. It's a more achievable goal. It's not this grand statement, it's an actual goal. 

Enjoying life to the fullest is just so vague. How about start a Gratitude Journal. Every day or so, write down something you are grateful for. You'll begin to see that if you stop to think about your life, you will appreciate what a full life you have. Or you may see that you really do need to branch out and try to live more. I know for me it's easy to forego those lunches or playdates to stay at home and just be in my comfort zone. Make the decision to leave the house some times. Volunteer at the library, senior center or a local Mops group. Call, yes I said call, someone and ask them how they are doing or buy them a cup of coffee/tea. A full life means interactions. 

Spend less, save more...I'm not gonna harp on coupons even though I love them! But I've found that if I have a plan of sorts of what we'll have for dinner for a week, things go smoother. I'm not purchasing pizzas just down the street or burgers either. And it's so much cheaper to eat at home. Just that one thing is huge! Plus, this feeds into the Spend time with Family and Friends because if you are eating at home, you'll be together. Decide to eat more meals at home or only go out 1 time per week. That's a goal. It's doable. If you happen to slip, oh well, it's better than you were doing before, right?

Getting organized is one that is frustrating because you think if you had all those awesome containers from the Container Store you'd be fine. But that is expensive and you are trying to save more, spend less. 😄 So start with one area. Start with one drawer. Clean off your desk. Clean out your mom van. Clear out the old unmentionables drawer. Just walk around your house with a notepad and take notes. Look at your clutter spots as though you were someone planning to purchase your house. It's a little eye-opening. There are lots of calendars with goals for each day. You may also want to try FlyLady. If you haven't heard of her, look her up. She's got lists of things to work on each day. You may find in your walk through the house that you just have too much stuff. It's really hard to organize clutter. My friend Katrina over at Katrina's World just posted a great entry about tidying up. 

Learning something new is easy! If you have internet, YouTube is the place to learn everything. My son has learned guitar by watching Aaron Tomberlin. My daughter has learned lots of amazing drawing skills by watching Mark Crilley. My oldest has learned game design basics and theory by watching HeartBeast. Game Theory and VSauce help with creative thinking, physics and game design. Cambria Joy is one of my daughters favorites for organizing and growing your relationship with God. Cute Girls Hairstyles is great for learning to braid and other hairstyles. My brother in law has learned basket-weaving. My sister in law has learned soap-making. My husbands nephew has learned blade-making, I've learned lots of crochet and crafts and paper-crafting. Want to learn to build Minecraft levels? Try Dragnoz, We have found awesome piano tutorials also. Here's one from Pride and Prejudice. If all else fails, search Pinterest

Travel more is easy. Just get in the car and go somewhere. It doesn't have to be Hawaii. It can just be the next big town. Go explore. Roadside America is a great resource for finding little quirky places nearby. Drive somewhere and enjoy the scenery. I think people think they have to plan a massive vacation but adventures don't have to be grandiose. Just make the decision to go somewhere. Instead of spending the weekend vegging, plan one weekend to find a new favorite place. Also, this can feed in to your learning something. Research places that are in your area of interest. If you want to learn to play bluegrass music on the mandolin, look for festivals, museums or other events where you can find people with the same interest. 

Reading More is sometimes hard for people. I've been doing the Goodreads challenge for years now. Lots of people try to read 100+ books in a year. I've learned to make easier goals for myself. I plan for 12 books every year. I usually read more like 40-50. But there's not that much pressure if I'm only trying to read 1 book per month. For you it might be 5 for the year, 1 for the year, etc. But it's just a decision to read something. And you don't have to read big books, read to your kids, read about something you want to learn. No pressure. Seriously, if you've gotten this far in my post you've already read a bunch.

So, in conclusion, don't make resolutions. Make decisions to do something. Don't wait until whenever. Start now. Yeah, it's already January 4th but hey, Trump's job doesn't even start until the 20th.  So no pressure. I can't wait to hear about what cool things you've done this year. If you'd like to share any stories, links to things you're learning, your Pinterest pins, etc. Just post a comment!

Happy New Year!
💗, Eliz