Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Book Room: Christmas Edition 2012, Part 1

Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do--in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they've drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn't likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home--and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?

With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.


Additional notes: This book is technically part of the Lancaster County Secrets series. You can read my review of the first book in this series here, my review of the second book here and my review of the third book here.

My thoughts: Jaime, as a character, is supremely annoying, but this book had a great heart to it and a great lesson. I love Christmas Amish books because I feel like they, more than any other book, cut right to the reason of the season.

Eight-year-old Lucy Turnbull knew better than to wish for a pony that Christmas in 1937. Her mother had assured her in no uncertain terms that asking for a pony was the same as asking for the moon. Besides, the only extra mouths they needed at their boarding house were the paying kind. But when an interesting pair of strangers comes to town, Lucy starts to believe her Christmas wishes might just come true after all. The queen of the Christmas novel, Melody Carlson pens another magical tale of expectation and excitement as one little girl dreams big and the impossible becomes possible.

My thoughts: This story was such fun to read. It's quick and easy. I love that it's set in 1937 - a wonderful period of time for a Christmas story. Lucy is a doll, and while one should never judge a book by its cover, this book's cover is just divine.

All Margaret Campbell wants for Christmas is a safe journey home. When her plans for a festive holiday with her family in Stirling crumble beneath the weight of her brother’s bitterness, the young schoolteacher wants nothing more than to return to the students she loves and the town house she calls home.

Then an unexpected detour places her in the path of Gordon Shaw, a handsome newspaperman from Glasgow, who struggles under a burden of remorse and shame.

When the secret of their shared history is revealed, will it leave them tangled in a knot of regret? Or might their past hold the threads that will bind their future together?

As warm as a woolen scarf on a cold winter’s eve, A Wreath of Snow is a tender story of love and forgiveness, wrapped in a celebration of all things Scottish, all things Victorian, and, especially, all things Christmas.


My thoughts: This book was predictable, but a really great story. Romance, adventure, mystery - all set during the Christmas season of course! What more can I ask for?

Experience the magic and wonder of the holiday season with this collection of four irresistible stories, headlined by #1 "New York Times"-bestselling author Fern Michaels. Includes tales by Cathy Lamb, Mary Carter, and Terri Dulong.

Additional notes: The story by Terri Dulong is considered book 2.5 of her Cedar Key series. You can read my review of the first book in this series here. As of this writing, I have read the second book but not yet posted my review.

My thoughts: First, I did not like this book. Second, there was way too much romance. Third, the best story in the book, by far, was Terri's. I may be biased since that's why I picked up this book in the first place, but oh well. I would definitely skip this one, unless you're reading the Cedar Key series, then I would read Terri's story and skip all others.

While visiting the Holy Land, Amanda answers the prayers of a stranger . . . and begins an amazing Christmas journey.

Amanda Vance is ambivalent about her husband’s idea for a big family holiday up north. Last year she planned a special Christmas in their own home, carefully preparing a nursery and the keepsake ornaments for their newborn. Now that room stands as empty as her heart.

Then a neighbor’s mishap turns into a last-minute chance for Amanda to take a much-needed vacation to tour the Holy Land.

An extraordinary turn of events allows Amanda to help answer a young mother’s plea for healing. Then, filled with a sense of awe, Amanda visits the place of Jesus’ birth. There she discovers anew the miracle of the Christ child—God incarnate as a tiny, vulnerable baby.

Her return to Florida marks a momentous shift in her soul and in her marriage as she begins to realize that her journey didn’t end in the Holy Land. And that God doesn’t just answer prayers of strangers . . . but also those of her own heart.


My thoughts: I thought I wouldn't like this book. I picked it up, thinking it would be one of those books where I read ten pages and toss it aside {really, I toss it back into the library bag to go back to the library, but same thing!}. But I really fell for this book. I fell for the story, the characters, the love, the anguish, the journey. A great read.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Birthday Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Jess recently had a birthday and said that she would like some carrot cake cupcakes. Always willing to please, I found a recipe online here.


Ingredients for cupcakes
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups grated raw carrots
  • 4 eggs
Ingredients for frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 lb. butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
Directions for cupcakes
  • Mix together all the dry ingredients.
  • Add the vegetable oil and carrots.
    • This will make it very thick, but this is ok as the eggs will even it out.
  • Mix in one egg at a time, beating well after adding each.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Distribute the batter into 24 lined cupcake tins; they will be filled about 3/4 full.
  • Bake for 14 or 15 minutes until the tops spring back when you touch them.
  • Let cool, removing from the cupcake tins once they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.
 Directions for frosting
  • Set out the cream cheese and butter when you start making the recipe; this way they will be plenty softened when you get around to making the frosting.
  • Beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla.
  • Add the powdered sugar and beat until fully mixed.
  • Spread over the cooled cupcakes.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Notes
  • This will make 24 cupcakes. Halving the recipe will be difficult, as there is a 1/3 cup of oil which would be very hard to halve.
  • I took half of them to work with me and my coworkers really liked them.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Saturday, November 24, 2012

This Book Room

While Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Here Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Time for fun comes when the jolly tin peddler visits, or best of all, when the fair comes to town.

This is Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved story of how her husband Almanzo grew up as a farmer boy far from the little house where Laura lived.


Additional notes: This is the third book in the Little House on the Prairie series, according to goodreads.com. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here. There are nine books in this series and all have been released.

My thoughts: It took me awhile to get into this book, but I have to say this book and the ideas presented completely resonate with me. I love how Almanzo's father rationalizes things for his children to understand. I try to live my life as simply as possible to take a bit of the "old days" with me in the here and now, but I would have loved to have lived during this time period.

Since the Bradley method was first introduced in 1970, a growing number of expectant parents have opted for natural childbirth, knowing that it's safer than medicated or surgical delivery. But where can parents-to-be go for information on how to have a successful Bradley birth? This book provides all the answers, offering sound advice on how to prepare physically for labor and what to expect during each of its stages.

My thoughts: Despite the near-pornographic pictures, this book is amazing. Jason and I both learned so much from reading this book. If you're looking to give birth naturally and want to feel empowered, this book is definitely for you. But don't say I didn't warn you about the pictures!

Justin Bieber has come a long way from being your average schoolkid, busking on the streets of the small town of Stratford, Ontario, Canada. And he wouldn't be where he is today without his legion of loyal Beliebers who have been with him every step of the way on this incredible journey. Now Justin wants to give something back to you, his very special fan: a VIP backstage peek at life behind the scenes, in his incredible new book.

Starting from the first night of his debut world tour, Justin invites you to follow him on his rollercoaster ride to superstardom--as he visits the far corners of the globe, makes his very own movie, records his new album, wins numerous awards, and pens a bestselling book, to name just some of his amazing accomplishments over the past few years.
My thoughts: Let me just first start by saying I'm a Belieber and I don't care who knows it. Ha! I actually am not a crazed fan, but there is something about a young person having a dream and working to make it come true that really resonates with me. It's encouraging and uplifting. If you have a JB fan in your life, this book is clean, easy to read and full of photos.

Garfield, the furry desperado, is at large again in this most-wanted new collection of comics. Whether he’s getting in a pickle or a jam, when it comes to trouble, the fat cat is always a glutton for punishment!

Additional notes: This is the latest release of the Garfield comic strips. You can search "Garfield" on this blog to see reviews of all the other Garfield books.

My thoughts: I can't help it - I'm crazy for Garfield! If you like comics, you will definitely enjoy reading Garfield books. Jason and I literally laugh out loud when we read these books.

Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations, ever since Great-Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks as if they're about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank—and that would be a disaster, not only for the family but for the town of Icicle Falls, Washington. Can Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, come up with a way to save it?After Samantha does some brainstorming with her mother and sisters, inspiration strikes. They'll have a chocolate festival! Time's running out, but the Sterling women are determined and the town's behind them, so everything's bound to go smoothly….

Or not. Events seem to be conspiring against Samantha, and her mother's attempts to help aren't helping. To make matters worse, the fate of her company is in the hands of her archenemy, Blake Preston, the bank manager with the football-hero good looks. It's enough to drive her to chocolate. But Blake's also enough to convince her that (believe it or not) there's something even better than chocolate.


Additional notes: This is the first book in the Life in Icicle Falls series. A second book with a Christmas theme, Merry Ex-Mas, has already been released.

My thoughts: This book had romance, suspense and small-town charm: what's not to love? I'm a huge fan of this author. She writes such lovable characters and stories. I can't wait to read Merry Ex-Mas!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Crafty Christmas: Felt Cross Bookmark (or any design you desire)

Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 4 weeks away!

I'm notorious for not ever having a proper bookmark and for being so craft illiterate, the ones I make look horrendous. You would think this would deter me in my quest for handcrafted bookmarks, but it just spurs me on even more.

You can buy all kinds of bookmarks at brick-and-mortar stores - plastic, metal, paper - and the options grow exponentially when you search online. I found these bookmarks on Pinterest and immediately thought, Oh, I can make those myself! Here's where you all respond with a snicker.

Laughter aside, my bookmarks actually came out pretty well, considering I designed and crafted them myself, despite my crafticappedness.


Here's what you need to make any felt bookmark:
  • Felt
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen
  • Thread
Directions for making this cross bookmark:
  1. Draw a cross template.
  2. Pin the cross template to a bit of felt. I chose white for the cross for both bookmarks.
  3. Cut out the cross.
  4. Fold a bit of red felt in half, then cut out one half of a heart (when you fold the felt in half and just cut out one side, you're really making one whole heart).
  5. Pin the cut-out cross to one piece of felt. You can choose whatever color of felt you desire; I chose purple for my bookmark and black for Jason's.
  6. Stitch the cross onto the piece of felt. You can use any stitch you desire.
  7. Pin the cut-out heart to the cross and felt; stitch heart onto the felt.
  8. Depending on how well you stitch and how pretty the backside looks, you could opt to be finished here. For the second bookmark I made, which was the black one for Jason, I did a surprisingly good job, and a back was not needed to cover my oopsies.
  9. If you opted not to be completed with Step 8, cut out a second piece of felt to stitch to the piece of felt with the heart and cross. This is what I did with the purple bookmark.
The designs you can make are endless - using dark blue felt, you could stitch on a bit of small yellow stars. Using yellow felt, you could stitch on a red and orange sun. You could stitch the letter of the gift recipient's name onto a piece of felt.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Festive Fruit Punch

This recipe was so fantastically delicious that we made it twice in two days (it didn't hurt that the ingredients come in quantities that make it easy to make it twice). It's great with a couple of ice cubes when you are just sitting and relaxing at the end of the day. We were inspired to come up with this recipe after reading and trying many fruit punches over the years.


Ingredients
  • 3 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 lemon juice
  • 4 cups ginger ale (if you happen to only have it by the liter, 1 liter is just as good)
Directions
  • This is really hard so make sure that you have your thinker turned on for this. Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, November 19, 2012

Homemade: Glass Cleaner


The solution I'm sharing today is the second glass cleaner solution I have tried. I wasn't so much a fan of the first, but this one is drastically different, easier and better. If you prefer store bought products, and I understand there are some who do, I highly, highly recommend Perfect Glass cleaner. That is far and away the best store bought glass cleaner I have ever used. You can buy a large refill bottle for about $7 and change, and it lasted our household for a year and a half.

But since we prefer to make our own, I came up with this solution that worked for us. Here's what you need to make glass cleaner:
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Rubbing alcohol
Mix equal parts of all three ingredients into a spray bottle. This solution works best with newspaper or a microfiber cloth as opposed to paper towels. Jason and I both recommend microfiber as you can wash the cloth and use it again and again. If you don't yet have a set of microfiber cloths, we cannot recommend purchasing a set enough. The cloths will save you money. This is the set we purchased about two years ago and we love these cloths.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This Book Room: Lovelier than Daylight

When her nieces and nephews fall victim to their alcoholic father's mistakes, Susanna Hanby vows to rescue them.

In 1875, Susanna Hanby travels to her sister's Ohio farm-but no one is there. Her sister's alcoholic husband claims that she has run off and dumped their six children at the county orphanage, and he doesn't care. Desperate to keep the family together, Susanna seeks help from her uncle Will in Westerville.

Johann Giere is heir to a thriving German-American brewery in Columbus. When he helps a saloon owner take beer to Westerville, Johann expects a fight between the new saloon and the driest town in America. He doesn't expect to meet Susanna, a pretty temperance crusader who wins his sympathy. The small town erupts in gunpowder and fire, but Johann vows to help Susanna rescue her nieces and nephews. Susanna grows to admire him even as she detests his business. He finds her lovelier with every passing day, until they both face an impossible choice between passion and principle.


Additional notes: This is the third and final book in the Saddler's Legacy series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here.

My thoughts: Rosslyn is a seriously gifted author. This story was thought-provoking, interesting and educational... not to mention just plain entertaining! As one who abstains from alcohol (aside from communion), I could absolutely relate to Susanna. As the story unfolds, however, I love how Rosslyn brings the other side to light and shows that love is what is most important, not judgements.

The characters are delightful, and while it's not necessary to read the other books in this series (truly, each book can be read alone), it's fun to hear what Will and his family are up to now. This family has traveled quite the journey through Rosslyn's stories. They've dealt with a myriad of social issues and laws. They've dealt with people who desired to be their enemy, and they've surrendered to their Lord, time and time again. This series, and its characters, is truly encouraging and inspiring.

Thanks to booksneeze.com for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Apple Cider Tea

This beverage is amazingly simple and quick to make for a warm drink that is exactly what is needed on these cold nights. Jess was inspired to make this recipe after reading several apple cider tea recipes.


Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 apple cinnamon tea bag
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
Directions
  • Heat the water in a small pan on the stove until boiling.
  • Turn the heat off, but do not remove the pan from the burner.
  • Add the tea bag and cover.
  • Wait for 5 minutes and then discard the tea bag.
  • Mix in the apple cider and serve warm.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crafty Christmas: Tree Light Ornaments

Christmas Countdown: Christmas is 6 weeks away!

In case you haven't yet noticed, one of my favorite gifts to give is anything involving felt and anything Christmas-y {particularly anything that can hang on a Christmas tree!}. Put the two together, and I'm in craftiness heaven.

These ornaments are super cute and mostly easy, though they do take time:


Here's what you need to make this project:
  • Felt scraps in desired colors {I chose yellow, purple, orange, blue and red}
  • Felt scrap in green {or you could do the top part of the bulb in another color}
  • Ribbon in desired color
  • Threads to match each ornament
  • Needle
  • Templates
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Fiberfill
Felt is extremely economical. The cost for this project is minimal if you have to buy all the materials. I would guess that you would spend about $15 out of pocket and you would have enough materials to make at least eight sets of five ornaments. That works out to about $2 per gift.

Here's how to make this project:
  1. Draw a template for the bulb part of the ornament. Mine was about one inch wide at the biggest part and about two inches long, from top to bottom.
  2. Draw a template for the green top of the ornament. Use the bulb template to decide the dimensions for this template. You want the green bit to completely cover the color bit from side to side.
  3. Pin the bulb template to your first color choice and cut out all the bulb pieces you will need. And here's a handy tip for you: don't cut 16 separate pieces of orange if you're making eight sets. Instead, fold over the felt so you can cut a pair at the same time.
  4. Repeat the bulb template process until you have all the pieces you need of each color.
  5. Pin the green top template to green felt {or another color if you chose a different color for the top piece}. Cut out all the green pieces you need. Folding over the felt to cut a pair at one time was not easy for me, so I just cut out all the green pieces individually.
  6. Store all the pieces together in a container so you don't lose them.
  7. Thread your needle with the color of the first bulbs you're going to sew. Pin the two pieces of felt together for the bulb and start sewing. You can use any stitch you'd like.
  8. After you've sewn it all except for an opening, stuff the bulb with fiberfill. You may need a blunt object in which to thoroughly and completely stuff the bulb. I prefer using a knitting needle for this.
  9. Sew the opening closed; set the bulb aside.
  10. Repeat this process with all of the bulbs.
  11. This is where it got a bit tricky for me, and my lovely husband, Jason, who has a ton of sewing experience stepped in and really helped me. I'm not very good at sewing things together, unless there are pins holding the two pieces together. The green tops are small, and a pin was not working to hold them together. I would suggest trying a pin first to see if you can get it to work. If not, no worries. My husband is available.
  12. Just kidding. He's really not! Haha. Okay, so if the pin idea doesn't work out, no worries. You can do a variety of things to get this part done. I personally suggest sewing each one on the bulb bit, just at the the bottom, sewing the ribbon directly on the bulb, then sewing all the pieces together, like shown in the picture. You can see the stitches that are going across, in the middle, at the top. This makes the top extremely secure, which is never a bad thing. But play around with this if pins aren't working for you to find the most comfortable way to do this.
  13. Repeat sewing on the green bits and ribbon for all of the bulbs.
This is more of a time-consuming project, but honestly, I had so much fun making these. The time was beyond worth it. I made a few sets and of course, I made one for our tree.

Happy crafting!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Book Room: Firstborn series

We first heard of the Baxter family in the Redemption series. Author Karen Kingsbury penned a second series that features the Baxter family and others called the Firstborn series. My thoughts on this whole series is that while I enjoyed the series overall, at times, it was a little long-winded and drawn out. By far, the last book in the series was the best. If you read the Redemption series and enjoyed reading about the Baxter family, which I did, this series will be worth your time. Here's a summary on all the books:

As Dayne Matthews returns to Hollywood after his shocking discovery in Karen's best-selling novel "Reunion, " he faces the dangerous world of fame and paparazzi. Meanwhile, Katy Hart receives the offer of a lifetime--starring opposite Dayne in a Hollywood film. Dayne and Katy's choices will change their hearts and lives forever.

A-list Hollywood actor Dayne Matthews wrestles with the shocking information he learned about his past in Karen's best-selling novel "Reunion." Now Dayne must come to terms with the reality of his situation and find both forgiveness and family along the way.

John Baxter hires a private investigator to fulfill his wife's dying wish--that they find their firstborn son and make him part of the Baxter family. Meanwhile, top Hollywood actor Dayne Matthews undergoes a personal search for truth despite great loss, and Christian Kids Theater director Katy Hart makes a decision that could take her from the simple life she has grown to love.

In the wake of finding his firstborn son, John Baxter looks for a way to tell his other children the truth about a secret he's kept from them all their lives. At the same time, a sensational Hollywood trial brings Dayne Matthews and Katy Hart together again, this time in a very public way. Just when love might have the chance to win, doubts and presumed scandals place them farther apart than ever. In the midst of this crisis, the truth is clear for all of them--never in their lives has family been more important.

Katy Hart is thrilled about her future with Hollywood's Dayne Matthews. But as she plans a wedding and looks for a house on the shores of Lake Monroe, she receives tragic news. Now she and the members of the Baxter family must travel to Los Angeles and sort through their options. While paparazzi open fire on the Baxter family, Luke Baxter must wrestle with feelings that have troubled him for nearly a year. Ultimately, the Baxter family must pull together one last time in an act of service and love to help Katy and Dayne find what they've always been looking for--a chance at forever.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Beauty Fix: my favorite scents!

I am one of those gals who always has too many bottles of perfume. Since I've realized just how many bottles I have, when I really, really like a perfume, I buy the absolute smallest bottle. Fall and winter are, in my humble opinion, the best times to wear fragrance. Spring and summer are laden with bugs, sweat, pools - I'd rather be fragrance free then.

But fall and winter are truly the times to embrace wearing a lovely scent, even if it's just your own! Here are my favorite scents and why I think you'll love them, too:

Nina by Nina Ricci is one of the most unique scents I've ever experienced. This perfume first caught my nose years and years ago from a magazine sample. I saved it and literally smelled it every day until I made it Sephora when I promptly purchased the largest bottle. When I want to feel decadent, I use this perfume. I hooked my mother on this one as well and she regularly uses up her entire bottle and promptly replaces it. The scent is so unique - I honestly can't even describe it. How horrible is that?! It is described on retail websites as being a fresh, fruity, floral fragrance. That's quite a mouthful. I think retailers aren't sure how to describe it either!

Every year, we make it a point to go somewhere and relax for at least two days as an official vacation. And by every year, I mean, every year since we were married. On our honeymoon, which was our first official vacation, we popped into a little store on Mackinaw Island and I fell in love with this next fragrance:


Lollia Relax is such a wonderful fragrance. It truly is relaxing. I love this scent on days where I'm wearing cozy sweaters, planning a romantic night with my husband or just snuggling up in bed with my kitten and watching a movie. It makes me feel cozy and warm. Lollia's website describes this scent as: A rich exotic blend of Lavender, Bee Blossom Honey with White Orchids and warm, woody undertones of Indian Amber delicately completed with a touch of Tahitian Vanilla. Does that not sound just delicious? I could almost eat it. But I won't. This fragrance is perfect for any adult. It's a bit too sophisticated for girls, but for any woman would love this.

On our second official vacation, we traveled to the Petoskey area. I could not love this area more. We actually also went there on our third vacation as well but I refrained from buying any perfume. That took serious willpower! While on our second vacation, we traveled a bit to this wonderful orchard called Friske's. The food there is phenomenal, there are wonderful outdoor activities and there are great little shops inside. That's where I found this scent:

Love + Toast's sugar grapefruit perfume is fun and flirty. It has notes of pink grapefruit, orange citrus, warm musk and lily. I use this currently as my everyday go-to perfume. It's perfect for everyday wear, and while Lollia's Relax is perfect for women, this fragrance would be well suited for younger girls. Anyone could wear this, but for younger girls, I think this perfume is perfect. It's not sexy, but it smells good and it's fun.

I would love to hear what fragrances or scents you adore and why! Share with me in the comments below or on our blog's Facebook page which can be found here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Beef Cubes Stroganoff

There isn't much to say about this recipe. It's good, quick, and easy. Give it a try today.


Ingredients
Directions
  • Mix first three ingredients in a 4 quart crock pot.
  • Cook for 8 hours on low.
  • Stir in sour cream.
  • Serve over cooked noodles.
Notes
  • Next time we make it, we are going to add 1 lb of chopped mushrooms.
  • You can also serve the stroganoff over mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, or cooked rice.
  • This recipe was originally printed in the Fix It and Forget It Christmas cookbook.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, November 5, 2012

State of Our House Address: October in review

Our lives became crazy busy, at least to us, in October, but I'm happy to report that our lives are starting to feel very second nature to us, even though we've added a lot of extra things!

At the company Jason works for, his boss didn't have any work for him in October and likely not for quite some time. We were both happy and sad about this, since Jason loves to work but he also loves time to complete projects around the house. He sewed and cooked a lot in October, and I'm looking forward, and he is too, to being able to do this for quite awhile! He stayed busy doing all of that and working at the library. He also joined the worship team at our church and now sings all over the house all day. He has a nice voice, so I didn't mind this too much!

We both volunteered for our church's fall fun fest after I spent a week at home in bed, extremely sick. I was sad that my planned vacation turned into a "I can't get out of the bed" week but it was a blessing to be sick and not have to worry about work. The church fall fun fest was fun, but it was very cold outside!

We started taking Financial Peace University classes and Bradley classes. FPU classes are typically given in a church and were created by Dave Ramsey. We're taking them at a local Catholic church, and so far, it's been encouraging. We're getting to know our group more and have high hopes for the rest of the class.

Our Bradley classes, far and away, are well worth the money and time. We are so, so glad we're taking these classes and highly recommend them to any parents who are looking to deliver naturally. We've already learned so much!

I didn't get any sewing done in October, but I'm hoping to finish off a lot of Monster (aka baby growing in my belly) projects in November. I can't believe it's almost time to cook a turkey, trim the tree and start wrapping presents! The year really has flown by. Speaking of Monster and the year flying by, we had an ultrasound done in October, and Monster is quite active! I can't feel him/her, but s/he likes to flip around in there. That was fun to watch. We're not finding out Monster's gender (if we were going to, we would've at that ultrasound), but we can't wait to meet him/her. It's crazy to think I'm more than halfway there!

In October, we celebrated a couple of milestones besides being halfway to meeting Monster: our two-year wedding anniversary, our nine-year dating/married anniversary and my birthday! It was a fun-filled month. We're both looking forward to November and December and taking in the joys of the holy season.

We pray your November is full of good health, joy and love!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This Book Room: A Merry Little Christmas

Fall in love with this cozy story about two people from different worlds.
Franny Martin is an Oklahoma farm girl who's preparing to spend the holidays alone...again. Then Charlie Landau shows up one day, all wealth and polish, and offers to buy Franny's farm. Franny has no money to speak of, but she is clever and spirited, and she's more than happy to sell the farm and move to the city.

As Sinatra croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon her charming farm, Franny teaches Charlie the curious and sometimes comical ways of country life. In the process, they unearth some discoveries of the heart-that sometimes love comes when you're least ready for it. Will the holidays bring their most impossible dreams within reach?
 
My thoughts: Anita's voice as an author is truly unique. This struck me the most while I was reading this book. I love that the story is set in the 1960s - this book reminds me of a vintage story one would find in a little bookstore in a small town.
 
This story had more facets than I originally thought - it's not just about romance, but about the social issues of this time period as well. That was an unexpected and lovely surprise. It was fun to read about Franny's and Charlie's adventures on the farm, too. I imagine if I could live many lives, I would spend one of them on a farm. I don't think I'm spending this life on a farm, though, so those bits of the story were fun to read.
 
If you're an old soul at heart, you will enjoy this story immensely. It's a fun, quick read that will put you in a vintage, Christmas-y spirit.
 
You can read other reviews for this book here. You can buy a copy of the book here.
 
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saving the Moola: October in review

We kind of had a picture in our minds of how October would go, in terms of our lives and finances, and both ended up totally different than we imagined!

Jason's market research job didn't have any work for him in October {and likely won't for quite some time}, so we were/are both very grateful he works for our local library. Our savings plan didn't change at all, so that was incredibly reassuring!

This pregnancy has thrown me and Jason for a loop often, though. We are so blessed to be given this gift from God, and we remind ourselves of that daily. It is very difficult for me to pile up money in our savings account when I actively feel the weight of my last student loan. I know we need the money in our savings account for cloth diapers, our expenses while I am off work, our medical bill for when we give birth, etc., but it's very tempting to give that money to my last student loan. I haven't and I won't, but it's just annoying. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm on God's timing and His ways, and He has never failed me {and never would even if I think He is. It just takes me a longer time to see the big picture sometimes!}.

The other loop this pregnancy keeps throwing me is how we spend our money. In the first trimester, there was a lot of spending. I wasn't eating much, but when I ate, you better believe we didn't have wanted in the house. So Jason would lovingly go to the store, and half the time when he got home, I wanted something else instead. Let's just say we're all grateful those days are behind us.

But I became very, very ill in October so we spent money on a thermometer {which is a good purchase, we really should've had a thermometer}, and when I was hungry, which wasn't often, I wanted horrible food {that again wasn't in the house}. We spent a little bit of money that we hadn't wanted to, but between some unexpected checks and some paychecks that were a little higher than expected, we still managed to save what we had planned. That's great, and I hope November is full of good health!

In October, we shared that it's really everyday decisions that can make or break your budget. In this post, I shared how we managed to lower our rent bill, which includes water, by $7. In fact, we received our rent bill a few days ago, and it was the lowest rent bill we've ever had! We shaved another $3 off our water - score!

In the post, I discussed how we're also cutting back on our energy in an effort to lower our energy bill. I just received our latest energy bill also a few days ago and it was more than $100 lower than the previous month's. We used 4.5 times less energy than the previous month! We are so proud of ourselves and so happy to give Consumers Energy the money we owe them this month. Check out the post to read about what we are doing to decrease our energy bill. What your energy bill is up to you and I promise you can change it!

As fun as October was, Jason and I are looking forward to November and putting up our tree, finishing crafting Christmas presents, and of course, socking away all the money we possibly can. We wish all of you good health!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Book Room: Christmas in Apple Ridge

Experience the holidays with the Plain folk of Apple Ridge, Pennsylvania, in these touching novellas centered around love, romance, heartache, and restoration from best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall.

The Sound of Sleigh Bells
Beth Hertzler is unable to let go of a past tragedy, but when she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds. Determined that her niece meet the gifted artist, her aunt tracks him down, but it’s not that simple – will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love?

The Christmas Singing
Mattie thought her childhood sweetheart adored her until he abruptly ended their engagement on Christmas Eve. Brokenhearted, Mattie moves away and pursues her longtime dream of becoming a cake decorator, and even finds a new beau. But when Mattie is forced to return home three years later, will learning the truth behind Gideon’s rejection restore her Christmas joy – or open the door to even deeper heartbreak?

The Dawn of Christmas
Sadie enjoys her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it’s time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan—but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?


My thoughts: This book was disappointing but had good stories. I thought it would be more about Christmas, and it definitely was not. Each story ended at Christmas, but there was no description of Christmas festivities really. I thought more of that would be included, so I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would.

That being said, if you enjoy Amish fiction, the characters in the stories are fun and quirky. I particularly enjoyed the Dawn of Christmas. Sadie and Levi's journey was funny to read, and while all of the stories are predictable, they're nice in that way. I enjoyed that the characters from the first story were in the second and third stories and the characters from the second story were also in the third story.

Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.