Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Time Has Come...

I remember all too clearly March 2013 when my precious Bug was born. I remember thinking, "My God, if I can just cuddle her forever and ever, my life would be perfect."

Real life isn't just snuggles, though. We have been incredibly blessed to find ourselves in the exact situation (short of being gifted with $50 million) we have desired during our years of raising up children: I work full-time and Jason stays home with Bug (and soon, the new baby, too!).

We're so happy to be in this situation, but as all you parents well know, there's never enough hours. I come home, we eat dinner, we play, then it's bath time, followed by snuggle time and a little movie time, then it's "getting out the last of our wiggles" time, then bedtime. That's it.

In my spare time, I have so many hobbies and interests to pursue. There's always a good book to read, there's always something that needs planned or done for mama group at church, there's always a chore to complete so our home is a peaceful place to live, there's always a new recipe to try, there's always something to research (how many teeth should Bug have by now? is she sleeping enough? which foods are best for brain development at age 2?).

And by spare time, I really mean the rare occasion I find myself pooping alone. That's really when I get my best stuff done. I'm laughing, but I'm honestly serious.

This blog was never meant to be #1 in our lives, and honestly? It never has been. We've never struggled with keeping our priorities straight: God, our family, work, then play. But in that "play" time, we've put the blog before other things. We've crafted less, played games less, read less. Instead of spending a leisurely evening reading, we've spent an evening writing blog posts. And it's time that changed.

Over the past 3 years, Jason and I (and now Bug) have loved sharing our lives with you. This blog and its accompanying Facebook page have provided many hours of entertainment, comraderie and community. You, readers, have stretched us to think further outside the box than we ever imagined. You have cheered us on in tough times and rooted for us in great times. You have changed our lives forever.

Back in March 2013, I was already thinking ahead. I knew the end would come soon. I had imagined the end would be December 2013. But then I found myself without a job and with a lot of time I could devote to our blog. But then, life changed again. Not only did I find myself with a job, I also found myself with child!

We have prayerfully considered when would the best time to end this blog, if ever, and my friends, that time has come, but I don't know that it's really the end. Does anything really ever end? This blog will remain in existence, so any recipes you have loved, any crafts you want to make, they will all be here, waiting for you.

We will keep our Facebook page up and active - it is one of Jason's favorite things, although admittedly, he often has little time to chat with you all there. It is a goal of his to be active more there now that he will be freed from writing posts here!

I don't know if we'll ever come back to this space to share again, but I imagine one day, we will share again. We have so loved having you all in our lives and sharing with us. We pray the coming days, months and years are good to you and yours. You will always be on our hearts, in our minds and part of our prayers. Love and hugs to you all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Crafty Christmas: Hot Cocoa in a Jar

Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 3 days away!


I found this idea in 2013 and instantly fell in love. 1 - I had all the ingredients in my house, so I could whip it up right then and there. 2 - I love this idea as part of a family gift. Kids, in particular, would enjoy this idea. May I also suggest you add homemade marshmallows and/or chocolate covered spoons to the gift? 3 - Dudes are so difficult to find good quality homemade gifts for. But I don't know any dude who doesn't like food.

Here's what you need to make this hot cocoa gift in a jar:
  • 2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 cup Hershey's cocoa
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
  • Dash of salt
Here's how to make a hot cocoa gift in a jar:
  1. Mix all items together in a bowl with a whisk.
  2. Scoop the mixture into Mason jars.
That's it! How simple is that? I was able to fill 5 half-pint Mason jars with one batch. While this isn't a free gift, it did cost nothing out of pocket to me at the time I made it since I did have all the ingredients in stock. Even if you have to buy some items for this, it is very low cost! One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is make up care packages for my family and friends. I will be including this in care packages from now on!

Happy crafting!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

This Book Room: 2014 Christmas edition, part 2

You can read part 1 of my Christmas book review posts for 2014 here.

When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Wiseman

Katherine Zook and her four children are facing their first Christmas without a loved one, and the future seems dim. But when a mysterious "Englisch" man begins to show up in the most unlikely of places, Katherine can't help but be suspicious . . . and a bit curious.

Her Christmas Pen Pal by Ruth Reid

When Joy Stolzfus's boyfriend tells her he wants to court other women, she's shocked. She pours her heart out in a letter, but it mistakenly reaches Noah Esh. The two begin writing letters back and forth, but a misunderstanding threatens to topple the relationship they re building.

A Gift for Anne Marie by Kathleen Fuller

Anne Marie Smucker's life is pretty perfect. Until she discovers her widowed mother is getting married and they're all moving. On top of that, Anne Marie's relationship with her friend Nathaniel has changed, and she's more confused than ever about her feelings for him.

The Christmas Aprons by Tricia Goyer

Esther Glick bakes a Christmas pie for a fundraiser, and she soon finds herself sitting across from bachelor Ammon Schwartz. Esther receives many orders for pies, but when she breaks her wrist, she discovers what community and love are all about.


My thoughts: I love these Amish novella collections! Not only do I get the chance to enjoy authors I already know I love (like Beth Wiseman), but I often discover new authors I hadn't read before (like Ruth Reid). The authors tend to change for the collections, though Beth is usually always included. If you like Amish fiction, you'll definitely want to read this book during the Christmas season.

Alexis Fletcher hasn't had a merry Christmas in five years-not since her mother passed away. Every December she remembers the joy her mother brought to everyone during the holiday season and feels the pain of her absence, even more so now that she and her sister are barely speaking. More than anything, Alexis wishes her family could be whole again. However, with her wedding fast approaching, Alexis might just be ready to make some holiday memories with a new family of her own. Alexis's fiancé, Chase Dupont, is everything she ever dreamed of. He's kind, handsome, fully supportive of Alexis's career, and the CEO of a large company. But outside forces threaten to derail this happy couple from ever reaching the altar. As tensions rise, a dramatic event causes Alexis to question everything. Will fate give her what she needs to finally embrace the season that has brought her so much pain? Will Alexis get her wish for a happy holiday? Or will her Christmas prayer go unanswered?
My thoughts: It's hard to say how much I liked this book. The plot and characters thoroughly entertained me and the book was a quick read. I certainly wanted to find out what happened with the story, but this book did not necessarily put me in the Christmas spirit. I did not find the characters very relatable. If you're looking for a Christmas book, I would skip this one. If you're looking for an entertaining piece of fiction, this is right up your alley.

After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children--especially with the holiday season approaching. But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their "True Friends." As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family. This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart, a beautiful reminder of the miracles of Christmas and the gift of family during the holiday season.  

My thoughts: This book definitely tugged at my heartstrings. I can't imagine my life without Jason in it, and this is even more true now that we have children together. My Bug absolutely adores her papa, and the idea of her in this world without him just... it's heartbreaking. The author's writing style is a bit stilted and cold, but I did enjoy reading the story. Overall, I would recommend reading this book.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Our $92 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

We shopped at two stores this week: Target and Walmart. I had some Cartwheel coupons for a couple of items that are only available at Target in my area. We shopped at Walmart for the majority of our supplies, though.

This is what we bought from Target:


Honestly, kids don't need kid-specific snacks, but I have found that what works best for us to have pre-packaged snacks on hand for Bug for days when our sanity has left us, when we're not going to be home for long stretches of time and when convenience is just better in the moment. We also have found that what works best for us is to buy only organic snacks for her. Obviously, you should do what works best for your family, and that may mean buying non-organic snacks, making your own snacks or a whole other option I haven't mentioned here. We spent $18 at Target.

Here's what we bought from Walmart:


The food items we bought included:
  • 5 lbs. ground beef
  • 4 pouches of food for Bug
  • Bananas
  • Gallon of organic milk
  • Frozen tater tots
  • Lettuce
  • Corn tortillas
  • 2 lbs. butter
The non-food items we bought included:
  • Baby bubble bath
  • Dish soap
  • Printer ink
  • Garbage bags
  • Straws
  • Lightbulbs
We spent $74 at Walmart, which brought our total grocery expenditure to $92 - not bad for buying so much general merchandise!

And even though we bought very little food this week, we have a great menu planned:

Creamy veggie soup
Chicken tortilla soup with salad
Tater tot casserole
Homemade chicken nuggets, roasted squash, baked potatoes
Mum's chili with bread
Shepherd's pie
Dinner out

Our menu is pretty simple and many ingredients are those we already have in the pantry so we were able to buy the general merchandise items we needed while staying within our grocery budget.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

This Book Room

Through The Family of Jesus, listeners will develop an emotional connection to the family members of Jesus, learning about their lives and falling in love with Scripture along the way. Bible studies and devotionals abound, and in churches everywhere people gather to seek a deeper understanding of God’s word and its application to their lives. But too often these studies engage only the analytic approach to Bible learning.

In The Family of Jesus, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Karen Kingsbury will make you laugh, cry, and ultimately care more deeply about the Bible by helping you grasp the truths in Scripture not just with your mind, but with your heart. The characters in these short stories were among those closest to Jesus—Mary, Joseph, Jesus’ brother James, John the Baptist, Zechariah, and Elizabeth. Each has a compelling tale to tell. Kingsbury intersperses fictional, emotionally gripping details anchored in Scripture with historical and theological insights and questions that will guide soul-searching and reflection.

The Family of Jesus not only provides a deeper understanding of the relatives of our Savior, but also helps listeners acquire tools that will draw them closer to Christ, to the Scriptures, and to each other.


Additional notes: This book is part of a new series called Heart of the Story: Life-Changing Bible Study. There will be additional books released as part of this series, each exploring a different facet of Jesus' life and the people in it.

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I did not do a lot with the Bible study at the back and feel this would be much more useful in a small group setting rather than just a person going through the study, but I would highly recommend this book to anyone. I love any resource that breaks the Bible down for me in a way that I can easily grasp the concept, then I can go back to my Bible, read the actual words and gain new understanding. I am very excited about the other books that will be coming out in this series!

In this delightful and very personal book, the four oldest Duggar girls share their hearts and their core beliefs, explaining that it's all about relationships!

Relationship with self: The girls share their own personal journeys to self-acceptance and navigating the difficult stage of adolescence.

Relationship with parents: You'll find revelations about how Jim Bob and Michelle keep the lines of communication open with their children.

Relationships with siblings: Here, you'll get a peek into the Buddy system, how the siblings handle conflict, and how the loss of little Jubilee (their sister) affected their relationships with each other.

Relationships with friends: You'll find principles on how the Duggar kids deal with peer pressure and how they interact with friends outside their family.

Relationships with boys: You'll learn the Duggar view of dating and courtship, and these four sisters will address the often-asked question of when one of them will get married.

Relationship with God: And woven throughout the book, the girls talk about their most important relationship of all their relationship with God and their own personal faith and beliefs.

This candid look into what Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger believe and why they believe it will give you practical insights into your own life and will inspire you to evaluate principles that will work for you.


My thoughts: While this book was aimed more toward younger ladies, I felt I learned a ton from this book on how to communicate with my daughter as she grows. Jason and I do plan to pursue courtship for our kids instead of allowing them to date in the way people date now. This book was very useful in breaking down courtship as the Duggar family does it. No matter what anyone says about this family, first and foremost, they love God and seek to honor Him, and that's a family I want to learn more about.

For two years, Allan and Michele have been trying to have a baby. The emotional ride has been taking a toll on their hearts--and their relationship. Michele is obsessed with researching fertility treatments while Allan seems content to spend his time--and their money--on supporting displaced children in Africa. Something's got to give. But they both hope it's not their marriage.

Still, God has a plan for Allan and Michele that they could never have imagined. And all it takes to set it in motion is a change of heart . . .


Additional notes: This is the third book in the Restoration series. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here. This is the latest book in the series.

My thoughts: To be perfectly honest, I despise the cover. It makes the book seem so trivial and girly, and it's not really like that. This entire series is built around showing an honest look at relationships and the way they, and the people in them, evolve. While I wasn't a fan of Michele as a character (far too whiny for my taste), I appreciate the author's style and message.

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined
husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most?

Additional notes: This is the seventh and latest book in the Shopaholic series. It is revealed at the end of the book that more books for this series will be released. You can read my review of the sixth book here.

My thoughts: You know, I thought the cover was a bit odd and not in keeping with the other covers for this series. And I have to tell you: I was completely right. While I adore this series as a whole and will continue to read these books because Becky is hilarious, I'm so disappointed. The author has definitely changed the face of this series. This book was more of a mystery-type book, and the ending was just horrendous. If you have loved this series thus far, you'll want to read the book, but my goodness, I am not a fan of this book.

Hilary Westfield is a pirate. In fact, she’s the Terror of the Southlands! She’s daring, brave, fearless, and . . . in a rut. Maybe she hasn’t found any treasure lately. And maybe she isn’t fighting off as many scallywags as she’d like. But does that mean she and her loyal crew (including a magical gargoyle) deserve to be kicked out of the ranks of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates?

There is only one thing to do—find a daring mission worthy of her fearless reputation. With the help of first mate Charlie, finishing-school friend Claire, and the self-proclaimed intrepid gargoyle, Hilary sets sail on a swashbuckling expedition that may or may not involve a kidnapped Enchantress, bumbling inspectors, a mysterious group called the Mutineers, and—the most terrifying thing of all—a High Society ball.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. You can read my review of the first book here.

My thoughts: It is honestly shocking to me that not everyone reads this series. First of all, the book features silly pirates. Second, the main character in this pirate book is a girl who is a pirate. I love that more than I can ever say. Third, there is no sort of love story for the girl pirate (at least in this one or the first one and I highly doubt for the third one). While I enjoyed the first book more, I still love this series and think everyone should read it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Saving the Moola: November in review

We saved a ton of money this month, but we also spent a ton of money this month.

Once the new baby arrives, we plan to move Bug to a convertible car seat. To do that, we needed a convertible car seat. Since the summer, I have been looking at car seats online. I finally decided on one from amazon.com. It was $160 normally, and I added it to a wish list so I could monitor its price. The weekend before Thanksgiving, the price dropped that weekend only to $116.99. I purchased it then and saved us quite a bit!

We had been looking at getting Veggie Tales' All the Shows Volume 1 for a family Christmas present this year. This volume is normally $49.99, so it was definitely a pricey gift, but one we would use again and again and all enjoy together. The week before Thanksgiving, the entire Veggie Tales website (minus a few select items) went on sale 40% off and free shipping. I was still committed to getting just the one volume, but that was one of the select items not on sale. So for $41.99, I purchased Volumes 1 and 2 together. I paid less for both than I would've for one!

Bug loves eating at the table with us in her booster seat!
Also on our list for Bug was a booster seat for the dining room table. I wanted one that not only just strapped her into the seat but also one that strapped onto the seat. These kinds of seats can be kind of pricey. When I shared some of the things we were looking for on my personal Facebook page, a friend quickly offered up her son's booster seat for us to have... for free! I'm so thankful for generous friends, and Bug loves being in her new seat. We took her high chair to my parents' house so she has something she can use there, and we'll get a space-saver high chair that can convert to a booster seat once the new baby is ready for that.

It's a really long story (and complicated), but I found myself in need of more/extra maternity clothes. Thankfully, Motherhood Maternity online was running a special buy two, get one free on all their pieces, plus free shipping. I bought a pair of jeans, a nightgown/robe set and a hoodie. Their items are pricey, but I saved a bunch of money by shopping at the right time.

Jason didn't tutor at all this month, but he picked up several mystery shopping assignments. We all enjoyed the free food, and all the money he earns is going toward a Boba carrier for the new baby.

Bug had several play dates this month; we went to two different friends' houses and they all served us dinner. We had a friend and her son over this month, and they brought things to cook us dinner! We're very blessed and so thankful for good people in our lives!


Jason and I have been so prudent to complete Bing and Swagbucks activities each day. We spend very little time on this, but the time we do spend is quite enjoyable. I don't know why we like it so much, but we do. We also run Perk on our iPod (which is technically broken but can be used for running Perk and things like that). With money we earned, we bought 100 breast milk storage bags, three bottles for the new baby, the newest Pentatonix Christmas CD and a tube of Burt's Bees diaper cream (the best diaper cream we've used!). Our cost out of pocket was $0. I will also tell you we have a *ton* of items that will be arriving in our December order. We've really been working these programs and are so happy with all the items we've been able to get! It makes a huge difference in our budget.


We're not huge day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers, but we did take advantage of a sale going on at Babies R Us. Diapers and wipes were on sale for $10 a box. We bought the maximum allowed limit for each item.

I also make a point of shopping at CVS during the week of Thanksgiving. We've spent $13 out of pocket so far and got 2 candy bars, a box of cereal, 2 bottles of laundry detergent, 9 rolls of paper towel, a travel package of wipes, toothpaste, Combos, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, canned green peas, and a bottle of VitaminWater. So far, that works out to just 65 cents per item, which is a great deal on all of those items.

I cut Jason's hair, and he gave me a pedicure (minus polish). We made lots of turkey stock from our Thanksgiving turkey. I've been really prudent to use our cloth TP as much as possible, to the point that I really think I will need to make more. Now that Bug is using a napkin at dinner, I can see I will also need to make more cloth napkins in the future. I made a bunch when she was born in anticipation of this, but now with another little on the way, I'll need to make about 8 more.

Monday, December 1, 2014

State of Our House Address: November in review


November was so relaxing and fantastic. I kind of want to re-live it!

Early in November, a friend and her son came to play. Bug loves play dates! Later in the month, we went to their house to play.


A friend watched Bug for us so we could have a date night. We had a blast picking out her stocking stuffers and having dinner together. Bug had a great time playing with our friend and her children.

We decorated our home for Christmas, and Bug did a great job helping! She caught on very quickly to hanging ornaments on the tree. Earlier in the season, I made a Christmas activity for her and just put it up in November. It's super easy to make and gives Bug the chance to decorate her own tree over and over and over again.


Bug has an appetite like no other and will eat everything in sight. Since we let her run around all day, she needs to eat often so she can keep her energy up! She's so cute when she eats so most of our pictures are of her eating :)


We live in Michigan, and it snows a lot here. I love winter, but Bug is still warming up to the idea. We got a few inches a week or so before Thanksgiving. Jason took her out, but she sat down in the snow and refused to move. We have some work to do there! It didn't really snow again, but I'm sure it will in December.


We usually stay home for Thanksgiving because it's a nice day to relax and play together. We cooked a pretty simple feast, and it took hardly any effort! Later in the day, we surprised my parents with a visit. I didn't want to tell anyone we might come because it was literally a "let's see how we feel and how Bug is" kind of thing. It was nice to visit. After Thanksgiving, we spent most of the weekend at home, baking, cooking and eating. Yum!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our $81 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

We only shopped at Walmart this week, and I was honestly surprised at how little we spent for how much we bought!


Here's what we purchased:
  • 5 lbs. Russet potatoes
  • Organic eggs
  • Garlic bread
  • 2 green peppers
  • Sour cream
  • Gallon of organic milk
  • Bananas
  • 2 packages of mushrooms
  • Cream cheese
  • Carrots
  • 2 lbs. of butter (check your local Walmart - I got 2 lbs. for $5!)
  • Ground cumin
  • 2 bags of tortilla chips
  • Fritos
  • Clementines
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Wheat Thin crackers
  • 2 cans of chili
  • Powdered sugar
  • Rotini noodles
  • Butternut squash
  • Package of chicken breasts
  • Package of beef
Not only was I buying groceries for ourselves for the week, but I also bought groceries to make a casserole and a dessert for a family, groceries to make 4 dozen cookies for a cookie exchange, and groceries for my mama group meeting (the cream cheese, chili and chips are just for this purpose).

Here's what is on our menu for this week:

Dinner out (one of Jason's mystery shopping assignments, so dinner is free!)
Mama group night (I'll be eating at mama group and Jason and Bug will eat something from the pantry, like mac and cheese or noodles with red sauce)
Veggie beef stroganoff
Homemade chicken nuggets, baked potatoes and roasted butternut squash
Hot dogs, French fries and canned corn
Creamy veggie soup and bread
Penne and garlic bread

Monday, November 24, 2014

This Book Room: 2014 Christmas edition, part 1

After 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.

My thoughts: This was a fun and quick read, which is just in line with what I've come to expect from Melody Carlson. The story was unique and silly. If you love animals and Christmas, this book is definitely for you.

In the small town of Grandon, five very different people discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Jennifer and Ryan are both single parents, struggling with their own losses and heartache as they attempt to move forward in the present while still holding onto the memories, joy, and heartache of the past. Sixteen-year-old Kaylee is faced with a life-changing situation that has affected her whole family. Stephen and Lily are happily married and ready to start a family. All of them are facing their own struggles, and all are finding their way through the dark. When they are brought together for a rather unconventional church Nativity, they will learn that with strength, courage, and love, there is always hope. The New York Times bestselling author of the beloved The Christmas Hope series returns with this new heartwarming, inspirational story about the power of love and faith to reveal the possibilities that lay right in front of you.  

My thoughts: Oddly, I wasn't a huge fan of this book, even though I'm a huge fan of this author and her other Christmas books. The characters in the book just didn't tug at my heartstrings enough, I guess, and the story was not that fascinating. I was honestly disappointed. If you love this author, though, you'll probably want to give this book a go.

In Sandra Dallas' novel A Quilt for Christmas, it is 1864 and Eliza Spooner's husband Will has joined the Kansas volunteers to fight the Confederates, leaving her with their two children and in charge of their home and land.  Eliza is confident that he will return home, and she helps pass the months making a special quilt to keep Will warm during his winter in the army.  When the unthinkable happens, she takes in a woman and child who have been left alone and made vulnerable by the war, and she finds solace and camaraderie amongst the women of her quilting group.  And when she is asked to help hide an escaped slave, she must decide for herself what is right, and who can she can count on to help her.

My thoughts: Sandra Dallas is always hit or miss for me. I've enjoyed several books of hers I've read to the finish, while I've picked up other books by her and have not made it past page 20. This book was positively glorious. I consider this a must-read this holiday season.

Twenty-year-old Ruth Stutzman is a wonderful caregiver . . . but she has no experience with children.
Laid off because of budget cuts from her job at a retirement home, she's relieved to find work—even if it means temporarily watching widower Martin Rhodes's brood of six!

Martin has been doing his best since his wife's passing, but he and the children need help. Their house, once full of laughter and light, has been darkened by sadness. Soon after Ruth arrives, the children are drawn to her warmth and gentleness, and so is Martin, even though he feels it's wrong. But the harder he tries to ignore her, the deeper he begins to care for this attractive young woman who has brought joy back into his children's lives . . . and his own.

Each passing day brings the Rhodes closer to Ruth . . . and closer to Christmas, when she will have to say goodbye. Ruth cannot deny the bond she feels with the children—and with Martin. When her old job becomes available again, Ruth finds herself torn: How can she stay with the Rhodes? And yet how can she go?

Additional notes: This is the fourth book in the Days of Redemption series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here and the third book here.

My thoughts: This book was honestly fun to read. The children made the story that much more fun and relatable. If you're a fan of Amish fiction, even if you haven't read this particular series or author, you'll want to check this book out.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our $93 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

So far, we have spent $83. We spent $53 at Walmart and $30 at VG's. I have set aside $10 to buy a turkey and fresh green beans to go with our Thanksgiving meal we will be preparing and enjoying at home. We have not yet purchased these items (but will by end of the day Monday).


Here's what we bought from Walmart:
  • Big box of diapers
  • Grapes
  • Summer sausage
  • White rice
  • Hot dog buns
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Mushrooms
  • Yogurt
  • French fries
  • Cheese hot dogs
  • Green pepper
  • Bananas
  • Gallon of organic whole milk

Here's what we bought from VG's:
  • Three bags of cinnamon-sugar pita chips
  • Big American sub
  • Half peck of honey crisp apples
  • Wavy Lay's potato chips
Here's our menu for the week:

Hot dogs and French fries
Creamy chicken pot pie soup and biscuits
Pasta bake and garlic bread
Thanksgiving feast
Leftovers x3

Throughout the month of November, we have slowly been stocking up on items we want for our Thanksgiving feast. Here is our menu for that:

Appetizers
-Sausage with cheese ball and crackers

The Feast
-Turkey
-Mashed potatoes
-Stuffing
-Gravy
-Roasted green beans

Dessert
-Cheesecake with cherries
-Pumpkin fluff dip with cinnamon-sugar pita chips

We're keeping our feast relatively simple this year (as compared to previous years). My goal is to spend less time in the kitchen and more time playing. We'll see how that goes!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In the Kitchen With Jason (and David): Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe turned out fantastic. There was a little concern on my part with the 'dumplings' as I felt that there were too many, but it turned out that there is no such thing as too many dumplings. Make when you want a nice hearty meal; you will enjoy it.


Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, uncooked
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Unknown quantity of water
  • 1 16.3 oz tube Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Layers (or comparable product)
  • 3/4 cup flour
Directions
  • Heat EVOO in a stockpot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 8 minutes.
  • Add chicken, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and chicken broth.
  • Add enough water to cover ingredients (I used very little) and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook for 90 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken with tongs and allow to cool in a bowl.
  • When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop or tear it into strips.
  • Return the chicken to the stockpot. 
  • Flour both sides of each uncooked biscuit.
  • On a floured work surface, roll out each biscuit into rounds about 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Cut the biscuits into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick strips.
  • Gently lower the strips into the broth.
    • They will pop back up to the top and if you used a pot like mine, you will feel like you have too many of the strips. Trust me that you do not.
  • Gently separate the dumplings with a spoon.
  • Let them cook for 12 minutes.
And that is all it takes for some very delicious chicken n' dumplings.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crafty Christmas: Lavender Sachets


Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 5 weeks away!

No matter where you are in your sewing journey, you can whip up a bunch of these sweeties for gifts this year. This is very much a beginner project because let's face it, I'm definitely still in the beginner phase of sewing. The sachets are absolutely customize-able: choose fabric to match your recipient's personality and choose a scent your recipient will adore.

Here's what you need to make lavender sachets:
  • A quarter yard of fabric (this will make 4 sachets)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Pinking scissors (optional)
  • Rice (tip: don't throw away expired rice; save it for projects!)
  • Essential oils or dried flowers/herbs
Here's how you make lavender sachets:
  1. Wash and dry your fabric; iron as needed.
  2. Use the ruler to be sure all sides are even; most fabrics cut at the store are not.
  3. Measuring in 4.5 x 4.5 squares, cut out 8 pieces of fabric. This will make 4 sachets.
  4. Putting the wrong sides of fabric against each other so the right sides are facing out, sew a straight stitch along the edges for three sides. Leave at least a half inch hem.
  5. Stuff the sachet with rice and dried flowers/herbs. If you opt to use essential oils, you'll want to mix up the rice and oils in a bowl before dumping the rice mixture in the sachet.
  6. Sew up the last side.
  7. For extra fanciness, use pinking scissors to cut along the sides of the sachet to give the sachet a nice finished look.
Happy crafting!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our $85 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

Typically, we only shop at our local Walmart. But in some instances, we also shop at VG's. This week was one in which an item we needed was only at VG's, and we also picked up a specialty item that cannot be found in a typical grocery store.


Here's what we bought from Walmart:
  • Bananas
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Yellow onions
  • Potatoes
  • Gallon of organic milk
  • Frozen peas
  • Ground beef (5 lbs)
  • Garlic bread
  • Penne noodles (2)
  • Sour cream
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Mushrooms
  • Ketchup
  • Flour
  • 12 cans of Coke
  • Canned refried beans
  • Mild enchilada sauce
  • Organic food pouches for Bug (4)
  • Dish soap
We spent $69 there. At VG's, we bought a bag of stuffing bread for Thanksgiving. The cost was $3. 


And our last stop was at the Hickory Farms kiosk inside a mall. There, we bought two original cheese balls to use on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cost was $13.


Here is our menu plan for the week:

Mushroom rigatoni bake
Tacos
Pasta with garlic bread
Mum's chili with bread
Chicken enchilada rice casserole
Creamy chicken pot pie soup with bread
Leftovers

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason (and David): Beef Stew with Dumplings

Interestingly enough this recipe made more of a beef soup with dumplings than a beef stew with dumplings. This was not a problem for me, as I enjoyed every bite of it.


See the slight resemblance to soup? Doesn't matter though as it was still delicious.

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 lbs beef roast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Directions
  • Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Put the flour in a shallow bowl.
  • Dredge the chopped roast through the flour.
  • Add the meat to the dutch oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
    • If all the meat will not fit in one layer at the bottom of the dutch oven, cook it in multiple batches.
  • With all the meat in the dutch oven, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, beef stock, red wine, salt, and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 2 hours.
  • Stir in the peas.
  • Stir the Bisquick and milk together in a bowl until well combined.
  • Drop heaping tablespoons of the Bisquick mix into the pot.
  • Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with the parsley when serving.
The biscuits may take longer to cook... just a warning.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Gaming Corner: Ticket to Ride

This game may not be as well known to you as many of the other board games that I have covered in The Gaming Corner, and that is because the game is relatively new. It was released only 20 years ago, which probably makes it younger than the majority of people reading this. It is a 2 to 5 player game designed by Alan R. Moon and it has won over a dozen awards since it was released. The goal of the game in a nutshell is to score more points than the other players. And how do you get points you may ask? Well, that is what I am going to tell you.

Set Up: First, you put out the beautiful board. Around the outside is a score tracker to record your current score during the game. The rest of the board is a map of the United States (with a little bit of Southern Canada and Northern Mexico) showing a selection of cities and the train routes connecting them.


Each player then takes 45 train tokens and their scoring piece of the color of their choice. Be careful to only take 45 trains as your box probably came with 2 or 3 extra trains of each color to cover for the eventual loss that is bound to happen if the game is played a lot.


Next we move onto the train cards. The gold cards are wild cards and can be used as any color. Gather the train cards, shuffle them, and deal 4 to each player. Then, 5 train cards are placed face up along side the board with the remaining train cards placed face down next to them. This makes the drawing area.


We then move onto the destination cards. Each destination card has two cities depicted on it as well as a point total in the bottom right corner. The scores range from 4 to 22. Shuffle the destination cards and deal 3 to each player. Each player may choose to discard one of these cards if they so choose. Discarded destination cards are placed on the bottom of the destination card deck which is also placed near the board. But how do you know which cards to keep? During the game, you will be claiming the train routes on the board and if, at the end of the game, you have connected the two cities on the destination cards with a continuous path of trains of your color, then you win the points on the destination card. If you kept the cards but didn't claim the routes, you lose the points.

Game play: After all of that, you are ready to play. On your turn, you can do one of three things: draw destination cards,draw train cards, or claim a route.

Draw Destination Cards: Take the top three cards from the destination deck. You may then return one or two of drawn cards, but do not have to return any if you don't want to.

Draw Train Cards: Take one of the face up train cards or make a blind draw from the deck. If you take a face up card, immediately replace it with another face up card from the deck. Then if you didn't take a face up gold train card (the wild one) from one of the face up cards, you may take one more non-gold train card, either from the face up or the top card of the deck. If you draw a gold train card from the deck, it doesn't prevent you from drawing a second card.

Claim a Route: To claim a route, you need to discard a number of train cards equal to the number of spaces depicted on that route on the board. If the spaces are of a color, the turned in train cards must all be of that color (or wild cards), but if the route is made up of grey spaces the color of the train cards doesn't matter as long as they all match. When you claim your route, place a train token of your color on all the spaces on that route. Some routes are double-routes, with two routes connecting two cities. When claiming these, make sure to put your trains on the correct side of the double-route as another player can use the other one. You are never allowed to use both sides of a double-route and in two and three player games, no one is allowed to use second half of the double routes.

 
Example time: In the picture above, four pink trains would need to be discarded to claim the route from Denver to Omaha. Being a double route, four black or four orange trains would be needed to claim the route from Denver to Kansas City. Omaha to Kansas City takes only one train card and it can be of any color.

Scoring: The only way to score points during the game is claiming routes. Depending on the length of the route, you gain a number of points. There is a handy dandy chart on the board, in the instructions and on a player guide card so you won't have to memorize this. The points gained are as follows.

A route 1 space long gains 1 point
A route 2 spaces long gains 2 points
A route 3 spaces long gains 4 points
A route 4 spaces long gains 7 points
A route 5 spaces long gains 10 points
A route 6 spaces long gains 15 points

Right after claiming your route, move your score piece along the edge of the board equal to the number of points you gain. If at the end of the game you think your score is off, you can always count up each of your routes again to make sure the points are accurate.

Ending the game: When any player ends his or her turn with 2 or less train pieces not on the board, every player (including the one who started the end game) takes one more turn. The game is then over.

 
End of the game scoring: At the end of the game, you take each of your destination cards and see if you have trains connecting the two cities. If you do, no matter how direct or out of the way the trail of the trains take you, score the number of points listed on the card. If not, you lose that many points. Also the player with the longest continuous route of trains gains 10 additional points. The player with the most points win.
If you would like to see some celebrities (Amy Dallen, Colin Ferguson, Anne Wheaton, and Wil Wheaton) play Ticket to Ride, you can watch it on the YouTubes here. After watching about 5 minutes of the actual game play, you should be able to play it yourself; the game is just that easy.

There are about a dozen 'other' Ticket to Ride such as Ticket to Ride: Europe or Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and each are basically the same game. The boards are just different.

-Gamer Jason

Monday, November 10, 2014

Our $79 grocery trip + what's for eats this week

Because we used very little gas this week, we had $115 in our grocery envelope when we went to Walmart. I anticipated our trip would be around $92, given we purchased everything on our list. We also returned a few soda bottles that we had collected here and there. We skipped getting two items on the list - we didn't need one of the items after all and Walmart didn't have the exact item I was looking for for the other item.

Not only did we spend just $78.88 after the soda return, but we also spent quite a few dollars on items not on our list that we put in our cart anyway! We also had some items on our list that aren't for meals this week; I am slowly working on gathering everything we will need for a Thanksgiving feast at our home.

Here's what we purchased:
  • Unbleached flour
  • Honey crisp apples (4)
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Bananas
  • Fresh parsley
  • Bag of oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Cool Whip
  • Mozzarella cheese (2 lbs)
  • Jello pudding packages (2)
  • Butter (2)
  • Organic food pouches for Bug (4)
  • Egg noodles (2)
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Canned mandarin oranges
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Cream cheese (4)
  • Canned chili beans
  • Tomato paste
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Gallon of organic whole milk
  • Package of donuts (we ate these on the way to church for breakfast)
You can read what we eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks here.

Dinners for the week will be:
Swedish meatballs with buttered noodles and veggies
Mum's chili with bread
Chicken, mushroom, broccoli and rice casserole
Lasagna with bread
Dinner out as a family (will be using leftover grocery money for this)
Dinner out for date night (will be using extra money from working OT at work for this)
Dinner at our friends' house

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Saving the Moola: October in review

Before I began my personal challenge of eating no fast food, a co-worker gave me two coupons for free smoothies from McDonald's. For whatever reason, the employees are terrible about asking or taking these coupons for us and we got several free smoothies. One co-worker gave us a jar of apple butter and another co-worker gave us a jar of dry roasted peanuts. I have quite the reputation at work for being frugal, so they ask me if I want something before they just toss it.

Jason tutored a few times. Some of the money went toward items we needed and the rest went into our baby fund. He also completed a few mystery shopping assignments. We used money from our grocery budget to eat out together as a family for these assignments. When he is paid, the money will go right into our baby fund.

We received a Subscribe and Save order from amazon.com and one other order. The orders included: a baby electric toothbrush, facial cleanser, a big package of paper diapers, organic lollipops and a 10-pack of vacuum bags. The total retail value of the items was $72.55. I used gift cards we earned through Swagbucks and our out-of-pocket expense was $0.


Each month, we put money into envelopes. You can read more about how that works here. Each month, Preston gets $10 in an envelope. We used money from his envelope to buy a 50-pound of cat litter and a 15-pound bag of cat food. Amazon.com lowered the price of his food and we saved $10 there.

Jason likes to take Bug out for lunch about once per week (he uses his blow money for this). One week, he took her to McDonald's. An employee there that she was so cute and well behaved that she gave her a cookie for free.

We were given a gift of money for our anniversary; we used this to go out to dinner one night as a family. I was given several gifts of money for my birthday; we put the gifts in our grocery envelope, gas envelope and clothing envelope. My boss was very generous for my birthday; she gave me Cheez-Its and Skittles (two things I've been craving this pregnancy), a lottery ticket and a gift card for cupcakes.

I attended my first-ever Mom 2 Mom sale and found the exact brand of co-sleeper I had on my list for my future babies. Normally, they run for at least $100 and the used ones I've seen start at $70. I bought mine for $20! It was quite a steal and I was (and still am) pretty excited. I also purchased some sleepers for the new little and a dress for Bug.

For our anniversary, Jason and I went out to dinner solo. We drank water, shared a large basket of breadsticks and shared a huge salad. Our dinner bill was $20 including tip. We went out for dessert after and spent $10 (and brought leftovers from dinner home and a dessert home). Our budget for the night was $35. We put the remaining $5 in our grocery envelope.

Nana gave us 11 eggs and a big jar of pickled beets.


Jason cat sat for our friends. The money he earned went into our baby fund and went toward a lunch out as a family.

I gave my mom a massage, and she was very generous in payment. This money went into our grocery envelope.

For some insane reason, we had never joined the Disney Movie Club, despite the fact we buy one new Disney movie per month. It's free to join, so we finally did. After entering all the codes we had, we had enough points to get Toy Story 3 for free, shipped to our home. If you haven't joined yet, you should definitely check it out. We're saving up our points now to get a Muppet movie next time.


My mom and dad had some children's movies they didn't want. We chose two Sesame Street and two Winnie the Pooh DVDs.

I always check out zulily's new events and one day, there was a Plum Organics event. I figured out the math, then quickly ordered 108 pouches. Normally, I pay at least $1.22 per pouch, but including shipping, each pouch was 56 cents. I love to have these for on-the-go snacks and meals for Bug.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason (and David): Super Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let me start by saying that these cookies are delicious. So good that in fact that I had an extra one with dinner the night I made them.


I wish there were this many left, but I may have ate a few.
Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temp.
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the butter and sugars until "light and fluffy", about 5 minutes.
  • Mix in the eggs one at a time, making sure they are fully mixed in before adding the next.
  • Mix in the vanilla.
  • Mix in the flour mixture.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Line two cookie sheets with pieces of parchment paper.
  • Using two table spoons, scoop out 24 cookies, 12 onto a sheet.
  • Using a floured fork, flatten the cookies about half way.
  • Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, turning once halfway through, guaranteeing the delicious golden color.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, November 3, 2014

State of Our House Address: October in review

October is always a special time of year for our family because we have much to celebrate!

Bug finished up her swimming lessons this month. We're all sad to see them end, but very excited about everything we learned. We're looking forward to summer when we can continue teaching Bug the things we learned in a bigger pool of water. For now, we're doing what we can in the bath tub at home.


Like mama, like daughter: she loves to be tucked in and reading a good book....
and she loves reading her books when they are upside down!
We did quite a bit of traveling - we visited my parents once and Jason's mom and stepdad once. A dinosaur (aka chicken) pecked at Bug and scared the living daylights out of her. Honestly, one pecked me over my clothes and it was still frightening. They are such weird creatures! I do love eating the eggs, though. So does Bug!

Bug has graduated to eating at the table with us. Here, she's sitting on a
makeshift booster seat, made of books and a towel. It's so much fun eating all together
at the table, as opposed to her being in a high chair. Bug loves it!
For our four-year wedding anniversary, we went to dinner solo in town. It was really nice, but oh my, how we miss our Bug when she's not with us! We came home very quickly. For my 30th birthday, we had a family date and went to a big mall in another town. Bug loved getting pushed in the stroller and had quite a time playing in the play area. We plan to visit that mall again very soon - I hear a Frozen castle will be built there for the holiday season!

Bug loves to fry food up in her skillet. That night's offering was fried green beans.
She also likes frying strawberries and bananas :)
We traveled to a little town north of us to visit their downtown area. We had so much fun walking around downtown. Bug even walked some of the way, while holding our hands. We visited a huge Christmas store and picked out a few new ornaments.

Bug loved walking around downtown. I promise - Jason is not
in a bad mood here; the sun was just SO bright. I don't think
he even knew I was taking a pic. Notice how much Bug
does not care it is bright outside. She is one happy girl!
In all honestly, we weren't home so much this month. I know I say it all the time, but November really is going to be a month we stay home more (I'm making sure of it myself!). Either way, we all had a blast in October and I'm loving the cooler temperatures, cozy sweaters, hot tea, warm blankets and good books.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our $92 grocery trip + what's for eats this week

Our grocery budget is typically around $90 per week. When we have extra gas money, we will use that to cover anything over $90 that we spend. We had $103 that we could spend at the store; I anticipated our trip would be $98, but it came in significantly less at $91.18 (including 6% sales tax on applicable household items). I'm always quick to use Ibotta and Checkout 51 to get some money back from our grocery trips and I also need to check out Walmart's Savings Catcher app.


We did all of our shopping at Walmart and purchased the following items:
  • Loaf of frozen garlic bread
  • Whole carrots
  • Bag of oranges
  • Bananas
  • Applesauce
  • Organic cereal for Bug
  • Elbow macaroni noodles
  • Acorn squash
  • Fresh green beans
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • 2 packages of butter
  • Sour cream
  • Mushrooms
  • Asiago cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Tomato
  • 5 lbs. of ground beef
  • Butter-flavored popcorn oil
  • Gallon of organic milk
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Flour
  • Graham crackers
  • Canned peas
  • 4 pouches of organic food for Bug
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Q-tips
For breakfast, I always have a banana, yogurt and granola bowl. Jason eats a piece of fruit and homemade bread, typically. Bug has a piece of fruit, a pouch of food, an egg or homemade bread. On an odd occasion, Jason will give green beans to her or something odd to us Americans.

Lunches are typically leftovers. If there are not enough leftovers, Jason and Bug eat organic macaroni and cheese. We have several boxes of this in the pantry.

Dinners for the week will be:

Homemade chicken nuggets, roasted acorn squash, roasted green beans, biscuits
Cheeseburger macaroni, green beans
Mushroom rigatoni bake
Penne noodles with pasta sauce, garlic bread
Tacos
Leftovers
Pantry/freezer dinner (basically whatever you can find!)

Snacks for adults and tots alike include:
  • Popcorn
  • Fresh fruit
  • Frozen products such as French fries, tater tots, etc. (Monster really loves eating these!!!)
Bug always has pouches of food, teddy graham crackers, cheddar bunnies, baby cookies and other assorted organic goodies in the pantry for her snacks as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Book Room: The Lodge on Holly Road

James Claussen has played Santa for years, but now that he's a widower, he's lost interest—in everything. So his daughter, Brooke, kidnaps him from the mall (in his Santa suit!) and takes him to Icicle Falls. She's arranged a special Christmas at the lodge owned by long-widowed Olivia Wallace and her son, Eric. And yet…Brooke wants Dad to be happy, but she's not ready to see someone else's mommy kissing Santa Claus.

Single mom Missy Monroe brings her kids to the lodge, too. Lalla wants a grandma for Christmas, and her brother, Carlos, wants a dog. Missy can't provide either one. What she'd like is an attractive, dependable man. A man like John Truman… But John's girlfriend will be joining him in Icicle Falls, and he's going to propose.

Of course not everything goes as planned. But sometimes the best gifts are the ones you don't expect!

Additional notes: This is the sixth book in the Life in Icicle Falls series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here, the fourth book here and the fifth book here. Please note that you do not need to read the previous books in the series to read this book. These can all exist as stand-alone books.

My thoughts: Can I please, please, please move to this town? It is so magical and the characters there just make me yearn to know them in real life. Since I'm not planning a move anytime soon, I guess I'll just have to live there vicariously through these books (also, strangely enough, I have a wonderful little German town in the state I live in and we visit there for a day about once a year; I am feeling inspired to stay there for a weekend now in December, though!).

I loved how many new characters are introduced in this book and that there was so much fun romance (not smut, and I appreciate the lack of that!). For some strange reason, I also really appreciated the underlying lesson that you can't tell anyone when they are ready for a new romance. Should I die at a younger age than desired, I have specifically told Jason to find a new wife and mama for our littles; I would not be upset if he married within a year after me passing. I do realize how hard that might be for other people, but I trust Jason to do what is right for him and our family.

Anyway, that tangent aside, this book completely put me in the Christmas mood. Does anyone want to join me for baking cookies, listening to music and playing in the snow?

What? There's no snow?!?!?!

Well, then read this book and be transported to a magical place with all of the above.

Happy reading!

Many thanks to Sheila Roberts for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. You can read more about how and why Ms. Roberts provides me with books here.