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November 15, 2014

The Christmas Cat - Blog Book Tour


20665226After years abroad, Garrison Brown returns home to Vancouver to build a new life. When his beloved grandmother passes away a few weeks before Christmas, Garrison goes to her house to sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. 

While Garrison hopes to dispense with the task quickly, his grandmother's instructions don't allow for speed. She has left Garrison with some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends--plus a sizeable monetary gift for the new owners. Garrison's job is to match the cats with the right owners without disclosing the surprise gift. Along the way, he may just meet someone who can make him stay. 

Humorous and heartwarming, this latest Christmas story from bestselling author Melody Carlson is the perfect gift for pet lovers and anyone in whose heart Christmas holds a special place.

Review: This cover had me wanting to read it immediately, as I'm a big cat fan. I've read other books by Melody Carlson, and they are all easy enjoyable reads, this book included. I knew where the book was headed from the beginning, but sometimes that's exactly the type of book I'm in the mood for. It was a light read that I finished in less than a day. There wasn't too much depth to any of the characters, but they were all lovely. 

I loved how every cat had their unique personality, just like people have their unique personalities. I especially loved Harry. The sociably friendly maine coon. I have one cat that is very similar to that, and one that is closer to spooky who hides from strangers but loves his owners. 

If you want a book that makes you think or one you get really invested in, this is not the book, but if you want a nice, quick holiday read, this is it! 

October 29, 2014

Book Suggestion - One Plus One by Jojo Moyes


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Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

Review: Jojo has done it again. She made me laugh, cry and stay up way too late to finish this fantastic novel. Her daughter was smart but unfashionable and her son was gothic but sweet. Always being judged and mocked. Never finding the place they belong. Having tried sports yearbook cheerleading band and more without finding "my tribe" I could relate. Jess tried so hard to be both parents for her children and to make everything work, but sometimes in life, you just need to admit you need help.  In this case, help came from a total stranger who just happened to be going through a crisis of his own. I love stories where you root for the underdogs. If you like touching stories where families have to pull together in times of crisis you MUST read this book!!!!


Add this to your holiday wish list!!!!!

Picture Maker Collage Pro - A Review

Picture Maker Collage Pro sounded like a great program for making beautiful collages of our family, or funny moments with my son. It's available for PC/Mac and ios. Oftentime I just post photos by themselves, but I've seen how much fancier and more professional photos look when presented in a well done collage, so I was hopeful. Collages are great ways to spice up reviews or blog posts in general.

However when I went to make a collage I got this lovely layout, and when I hit save, I assumed it would save my collage. However when I went to find it, it only saved my individual images in a collage folder, but not the final product. So after some playing around I learned you have to save it as a .pwp file to save the finished product. As long as you do that, you'll be fine.

Being a former art major I love color, and design, and bringing it all together to make a masterpiece.

This collage was full of Fall photos we took at a local park. We wanted to try out my son's cat in the hat halloween costume too. We all had a good time, and I'm thankful I had the Picture Maker Pro to capture it in this collage.

October 23, 2014

At A Glance Calendars

So our family gets very excited about deliveries, especially our black lab. She goes crazy when a man or woman in uniform drops off a package. Can the dog-owning readers relate? :). Now our 2 year old son joins in the excitement, shouting "truck truck truck" and "beep beep." It's quite an event in our house, and quite a treat.

We recently got a delivery of Office Supplies including a Monthly Planner & a Wall Calendar. I've always been the type to keep lists and a planner with me at all times. I get quite a sense of accomplishment from crossing things off my list or reviewing my schedule for the upcoming weeks/months. I feel more organized and calm. But don't get me wrong, this sense of organization does NOT translate into a love of house cleaning. I am lacking that gene :-P.

Before I join the world of smart phones I had a planner in my purse, but now I try to keep my schedule on my phone but I still miss writing down my events and being able to see the entire month at a a glance, which is why I like using physical calendars and planners. It's also hard for the entire family to know whats going on, so we typically update the family calendar on the fridge, but now we have a wall calendar we plan to post on the wall in the kitchen. You can see the photo of our previous calendar, so we're looking forward to using the wall calendar with larger boxes for each day, thus making it easier to read and update.

I just wish the calendar started sooner than January 2015. For now we'll continue with our fridge calendar, but looking forward to January!!!

Many thanks to Shoplet & At-A-Glance for this review opportunity. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers - Book Review


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To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she's paid to finally feel like she's somebody.


To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua--Abra's closest friend--watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. 

Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what's expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

In this riveting and highly anticipated tale of temptation, grace, and unconditional love, "New York Times" best-selling author Francine Rivers delivers big-canvas storytelling at its very best.
Review: Francine Rivers did it again. This was an emotionally gripping novel about a prodigal. I couldn't put it down. You wanted to tell Abra she was making a mistake knowing she wouldn't listen. They never see what's right in front of them until it's too late. We all have that person in our life who we wish would listen to our advice, still knowing they won't. The people in her life knew it too and just kept praying. For me, this book represented all the foster children coming in and out of homes like ours who just want to belong somewhere.  An amazing book!!!

***Holiday Gift Guide Suggestion for the book lover in your life***

October 16, 2014

When Night Comes - A Book Review

Jack Turner comes back to Culpepper to give a series of lectures for his old history professor. Within days, he starts having bizarre experiences at night. Like he's traveling back in time, experiencing the epic events in his lectures firsthand. He has no control over these experiences and can't make them stop.

Joe Boyd thought he'd left big city crime back in Pittsburgh when he took a detective job in Culpepper, Georgia, a sleepy southern college town. His peaceful life ends when two students turn up dead in two weeks. The coroner is saying natural causes, but something doesn't add up.

Rachel Cook, a teaching assistant at Culpepper, can't believe Jack is back in her life again. She's had a crush on him since she was fourteen, but Jack never knew. He instantly seems attracted to her, but she can tell...something is deeply troubling him.

Watching all this from a distance is Nigel Avery. He's certain this experiment's about to unravel. It'll be his job to tie up all the loose ends when it does.


My Thoughts:
While this book does deviate from Dan Walsh's "typical" style, it's still an amazing read. When I first started reading the book and got to the first "flash back" I thought I was reading a time travel book and found myself thinking, I'm not sure I'm going to like this book, but I was quickly proven wrong. Without sharing any spoilers  I was very happy with the mystery novel this turned out to be. This novel reminded me of the medical mystery book series by Richard Mabry but without all the medical jargon. I also appreciated that this novel was without the mushy gushy predictable romance which I find way too often in "Christian fiction" novels. It had a little romance, but it never made me think, oh gag! It was a page turner and I could have easily finished it in a day if I didn't have other things to tend to like....kids :-P. I'm still a huge fan of Dan Walsh's novels.

Look for this book to come out November 1st 2014, or pre-order the Kindle version HERE!

Many thanks to Dan Walsh for an early copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed here are 100% my own!

October 13, 2014

Raging Heat by Richard Castle - A Book Review

In New York Times Bestselling author Richard Castle's newest novel, an illegal immigrant falls from the sky and NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat's investigation into his death quickly captures the imagination of her boyfriend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jameson Rook. When he decides to work the case with Heat as his next big story, Nikki is at first happy to have him ride-along. Yes, she must endure Rook's usual wild conspiracy speculations and adolescent wisecracks, but after reuniting following his recent assignment abroad, she's glad for the entertainment, the chance to bounce ideas, and just to be close to him again and feel the old spark rekindle. But when Rook's inquiry concludes that Detective Heat has arrested the wrong man for the murder, everything changes.

Balancing her high stakes job with a complicated romance has been a challenge ever since Nikki fell for the famous reporter. Now, her relationship lurches from mere complexity into sharp conflict over the most high-risk case of her career. Set against the raging force of Hurricane Sandy as it pounds New York, Heat battles an ambitious power broker, fights a platoon of urban mercenaries, and clashes with the man she loves. Detective Heat knows her job is to solve murders. She just worrie sthat solving this one will be the death of her relationship.


My thoughts:
While I really enjoyed this novel, I found at least a few typos and errors which was frustrating to read, however it wasn't enough to keep me from staying up late several nights to see what happened next. I love Castle's fast pace, page turning writing style infused with humor and romance. It is very similar to the TV show in how the characters are portrayed. While the names aren't the same, you can still picture Rook and Heat as Castle and Beckett. Another enjoyable novel, and looking forward to the next!

Many thanks to Disney Publishing for the review copy, but all opinions expressed at 100% my own.

October 12, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is back with the next book in The Restoration Chronicles series, Keepers of the Covenant. Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

Lynn is celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and a live author chat webcast on October 21st.
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One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 21st. Winner will be announced at the Keepers of the Covenant LIVE webcast event on October 21st. Connect with Lynn for a fascinating evening centered around God's unwavering love for His people. She'll be hosting a Biblical fiction book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in The Restoration Chronicles, and much more!

So grab your copy of Keepers of the Covenant and join Lynn and friends on the evening of October 21st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

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Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!


My Thoughts: I have yet to read a Lynn Austin novel I haven't loved. When people ask me who my favorite authors are, she is on that list. A friend told me about her books over 10 years ago, and I'm still loving them! Lynn has a way of making Bible characters come to life, and that's amazing for someone like me who struggles with truely enjoying my time reading the Bible. If you are looking for a good series to dive into, try this one!

Many thanks for a chance to review this novel, but all opinions expressed here are 100% my own!

Amazon Prime Instant Video: Creative Galaxy

I was recently asked to try out a new series produced by Amazon Prime Instant video called Creative Galaxy. I currently nanny for a 4 yr old boy, 2 yr old boy, and at home we have an almost 2 year old and a 4 month old, so plenty of eyes to try this out on :)


I really like how their central theme is finding the fun and beauty in everything. In one episode Arty doesn't want to stop playing with his cars to eat, so they decide to make eating time fun. They turn the dinner table into a city with streats and stoplights, roads and rivers, using mostly recycled items. Milk cartons are skyscrapers, paper towel rolls become traffic lights etc. It gives the kids something fun to look at while they eat their meal. Another time Arty didn't want to take a bath, he wanted to color, so they made soap crayons so he could draw during bathtime. 


There are so many ways to make seemingly "boring" events fun for kids, and I've really enjoyed watching these shows with the kids.

Creative Galaxy, is now available for exclusive unlimited streaming on Prime Instant Video at no additional cost to Prime members. A make-along, create-along art adventure series for children ages three to five, Creative Galaxy comes from Angela Santomero (Super Why!,  Daniel Tigers Neighborhood),  the creator of the hit show Blue’s Clues. The series features “Arty,” an adorable alien artist, and “Epiphany,” his inspirational side-kick, on their adventures through the Creative Galaxy solving problems through art, music and dance. To give kids and parents the real-life tools they need to recreate Arty’s experience, a live-action piece at the end of each animated episode takes families through the craft project Arty showcased in the galaxy. This series is designed to support a child’s natural inclination to use their imaginations, make and create. Art make life joyful. Everywhere one goes art is evident. 

And the skills utilized and learned through making art are vast and useful. In every episode, our characters will use "fix it with art" to model the pervasiveness and importance of art as a resource for life for our home viewers.The series helps kids at home feel as if they are making art along with Arty, through its interactive story format. As "helper artists", the kids at home will “create” alongside Arty, empowering them as “makers” in a media format. Parks use sculptures to add interest and to inform people; posters on walls give information and motivation; the clothes we wear are designed; music plays on the radio to keep your energy levels up; dance has meaning and tells stories. Whether we think of our world as art or not – it is!


To help reinforce what my son is learning from this show, seeing beauty everywhere and using art to make things fun, we decided to make artwork of our own using recycled products.



We decided to turn his high chair tray into a town. We used a plain sheet of printer paper for the bottom, toilet paper roll for the stop light, baby formula can lid for the lake, and old tea box flipped inside out for the house. My son had the truck already in his toybox. It was so much fun to make, and didn't cost us a penny! See what kinds of art and masterpieces you can come up with using what you already have lying around your house.



I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

October 08, 2014

Jan Karon's NEW Mitford Book Reviewed

After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors.


While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion.
           
His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.

All this as Wanda’s Feel Good CafĂ© opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?

My Thoughts:
I have loved all of the Mitford books and this was no exception. Every character feels like family. I've been rooting for Dooley since the day he became part of this series, and I was so happy to read he's doing well and making plans for a future with Lace. And I felt for Sammy who felt like he didn't deserve love and had a hard time trusting people who were nice to him. Being a foster parent, I could relate somewhat. While we've been fortunate to have foster kids who want a family, I'm sure we'll run into our "sammy's" in time. This book also made me want to live in a small close knit town like Mitford. Maybe some day :)

This series would make a GREAT gift for any book lovers in your life who enjoy Christian fiction, that isn't preachy, or family fiction that just draws you in with its lovable characters!!!

Rodelle Baking Supplies

About Rodelle: Responsibly sourced from premier growing regions, Rodelle has been delivering the finest in baking essentials for 75 years. Its pure vanilla, superior extracts and remarkable spice blends have been unrivaled in flavor and quality since 1936. Rodelle’s exclusive collection takes culinary adventure from good to grand. The company believes that choosing premier ingredients is the way for avid chefs to make a difference in their recipes year round.

Rodelle is currently running a great contest, where you could win a year's supply of Rodelle products and/or a KitchenAid Mixer (which I deperately need considering how much baking I do!).


I LOVE to bake, so I was really excited to try some new extracts - vanilla and lemon. The rodelle extracts have a very strong flavor, which I like. I haven't tried the lemon yet, but I've used the vanilla beans, and the vanilla extract!

Here are some images of cakes I've made with the vanilla extract:


Strawberry shortcake


Birthday Cake


Scrabble Birthday Cake

For more information on Rodelle products visit http://www.rodellekitchen.com/

Disclaimer: this post is an entry into this contest!

October 06, 2014

Essie Fall Colors - LOVE!

Essie recently introduced their Fall 2014 colors: live dangerously. dress flawlessly. inspired by espionage and the thrill of the chase, the fall 2014 palette delivers shades so chic it’s almost criminal. If they were going with bold and almost criminal they hit the nail on the head with their red (dressed to kilt) and blue (style cartel). The blue is a bit bold for me, so I won't wear it often, but perfect for holidays like Fourth of July! The red is gorgeous if you want your nails to stand out. Perfect Winter color, but I especially adore the muted earth tones such as "take it outside," "the perfect cover up" & "fall in line." For days that I don't have my wardrobe planned out, these subtle colors are safe bets and will match almost anything.

I have tried MANY brands of nail polish over the years, and sadly, many don't hold up to the test of time. By day 2 or 3 my nails are chipping or peeling, but essie withstood the test of time. I applied 2 coats without any topcoat and the color looked perfect for 4-5 days and only started showing the smallest signs of wear and tear at day 6 or 7. That is impressive for polish without a top coat. I am very happy with this brand and its many products!













Question: With over 300 essie shades to pick from, how do you pick just one?

 Answer: You Don't!!!

If you are already starting your holiday shopping, why not pick up a few bottles of essie polish to give to some beauty minded women or girls in your life??? It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer ;-).

Paperback Swap!!! (get rid of old books and get new ones)

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

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