Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paths to Power

            BOOK REVIEW:   "Until this is corrected, we can hope for very little power in our churches..."     To what is Tozer referring? A lack of obedience. Obedience is what no revival, no reformation, and no Spirit-filled person has ever been without.
     It separates true faith from dead faith.
     It bears fruit and is followed by power.
     It is costly, but we cannot afford to withhold it.
In PATHS TO POWER, A. W. Tozer delivers a charge to weak chruches: Rise up, gather the wood, and ascend the mountian. Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. But his belief cost him something. Does ours?

             MY REVIEW:    This is a very short, very compact book by Tozer, but it is packed with truth. He firmly believes that the church today needs power from God. He describes this power as:
 1. Spiritual energy of sufficient voltage to produce great saints once again. 
 2. A spiritual unction that will give a heavenly unction to our worship, that will make our meeting places sweet with the divine Presence. 
  3. That heavenly quality which marks the church as a divine thing. 
  4. That divine afflatus which moves the heart and persuades the hearer to repent and believe in Christ. 
He says also that "the church must have power; she must become formidable, a moral force to be reckoned with, if she would regain her lost position of spiritual ascendancy and make her message the revolutionizing conquering thing it once was."
        I really liked this book--it may be one of my favorites by Tozer. He also brings out the issue of letting God do His part,while doing your own part. For instance, God is the only one who can redeem us from sin, but we have to repent on our own--we can't expect God to do everything while we sit by and watch. Tozer writes: "Universal atonement makes salvation universally available, but it does not make it universally effective toward the individual."  Just because atonement and salvation are available to every man doesn't make him automatically saved--he has to repent and accept.

              I received this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Scarlet Thread

    BOOK REVIEW:  Sierra Madrid. Woman of the nineties. Bold. Determined. Her life was about to be tuned upside down.
    Mary Kathryn McMurray. Young pioneer on the Oregon Trail. She was filled with anger at being uprooted form her home.
    Two women, centuries apart, are joined through a tattered journal as they contend with God, husbands--even themselves--until they fall into the arms of the One who loves them unconditionally.

     MY REVIEW:   I really liked this book. Francine Rivers put in a lot of flashbacks, and though they weren't clearly defined, a person could easily tell where the story was. Some authors can't write in flashback without loosing their readers. Francine can.
     This is the story of two women--Sierra in the present, and Mary Kathryn introduced through her journal, which is being read by Sierra. Each struggles with accepting their husband's decisions to move. Neither of them can accept it, and almost ruin their marriages. But when they let God through to their hearts, He shows them that He knows best for them and their families.
    Sierra's father was against her marriage to Alex in the beginning and predicts his hurting her. Now after ten years, Sierra finally believes him when Alex declares that they are moving to the city. She loves their little house, their neighborhood, kid's school, and being so close to family. After the move, she can't accept the change, especially when Alex starts working crazy hours, and seems to pay her no attention.
    Mary Kathryn's husband, James, has "the fever" and declares that they are joining a wagon train to Oregon. But once they get there, he decides to go on to California. Mary Kathryn as well can not accept the change, and her husband also starts pulling away.
    As these two women battle against their circumstances and watch their families pull apart, they are joined by a single discovery, one that draws them to each other--even without knowing each other--by a striking scarlet thread.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

In Wartime

       BOOK REVIEW:    Ever since Ukraine's violent 2014 revolution, followed by Russia's annexation of Crimea, the country has been at war. Misinformation reigns, more than two million people have been displaced, and Ukrainians fight one another on a second front--the crucial war against corruption.
       With IN WARTIME, Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against each other and mired one of Europe's largest countries in conflict seemingly without end.
       In Lviv, Ukraine's western cultural capital, mothers tend the graves of sons killed on the other side of the country. On the Maiden, the square where the protests that deposed President Yanukov7ych began, pamphleteers, recruiters, buskers, and mascots compete fro attention. In Donetsk, civilians who cheered Russia's President Putin find their hopes crushed as they realize they have been trapped in the twilight zone of a frozen conflict.
      Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia--twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

       MY REVIEW:   This book was not quite what I expected. I tried to get into it, but I really couldn't. I did read the whole book, or rather, skimmed, but I can't even tell you what I read. I think the problem is that it is written for those who already know what happened. If such was the case, it would be an interesting book, as the author interviewed many people on whom an impact is being made by the current issues. However, I don't know anything about what is going on, therefore, this book does not tell me much.
       However much I did not understand the book, I can't fault the writing. It appeared to be very well-done, and I could tell that Tim had done extensive research on the project. It was merely from the wrong angle for me.
      The author, Tim Judah, is a reporter for THE ECONOMIST. He has covered several major issues, and currently resides in London with his family.

        I received a copy of this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Tutor's Daughter

       BOOK REVIEW:    Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin teaching the two younger boys, mysterious thins begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to discover the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementos?
      The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.....
When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart?
      Filled with page-turning suspense, THE TUTOR'S DAUGHTER takes readers to the windswept Cornwall coast--a place infamous for shipwrecks and superstitions--where danger lurks, faith is tested, and romance awaits.

     MY REVIEW:    I think this is one of my favorites by Julie Klassen. There is a fair bit of mystery and intrigue--one can very easily tell that something is amiss, but as to what, that is harder to determine.
     Julie's main female characters often lack a personal relationship with God, but by the end have been saved through the testimony of the male character's faith. That is a cool thing to find in each book.
     As I have mentioned before, Julie writes about the lower classes of society; sometimes both characters are such, and other times one is higher nobility. It is interesting to see all the different classes and professions she writes about. In this book, Emma and her father are respected, but placed little higher than the servants.

60 Days of Happiness

       BOOK REVIEW:   Would you like to experience true happiness?
When it comes to happiness, most of us have the same questions. Why can’t I be consistently happy? Is it wrong to be happy when there’s so much pain and suffering in the world? And perhaps the biggest one: How can I be happier? Some Christians make an artificial contrast between joy and happiness, while others claim God wants us to be holy, but not happy. In fact, he wants us to be both, and the two go hand in hand!
In 60 Days of Happiness, noted theologian and New York Times bestselling author Randy Alcorn shares sixty timeless devotions demonstrating that God not only wants us to be happy in him and enjoy his gifts, he commands and empowers us to do so.

      MY REVIEW:    This book is divided into 60 chapters, for 60 days. It looks like a really cool, well-thought-out, well-written book. Each chapter is three-five short pages long, and gives food-for-thought on the purpose, definition, and source of true happiness in God. I am excited to read this day-by-day and see what all Randy brings out.
A few of the chapter titles that look particularly interesting are:

  • What role do our attitudes play in our Happiness?
  • When are good things wrong, and when are they right?
  • Must we choose between our Happiness and God's Glory?
  • What does Thankfulness have to do with Happiness?
And of course there are many more--56 to be precise. :)

Randy Alcorn has written several books, such as: HAPPINESS, HEAVEN, and GOD'S PROMISE OF HAPPINESS. He is the author and founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM). It is an organization which teaches God's Word and ministers to those who need it. Before that, he was a minister for fourteen years.

             I received this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS in exchange for my honest review.

God's Gift

    BOOK REVIEW:   In God's Gift, Christian and his sister, Mary, believe they get more presents at Christmas. However, Jacob and Jeremiah believe they get more presents on Hanukkah. The children learn that Christmas and Hanukkah are about celebrating the gift God has given to His children. It's not about how many presents are under the tree at Christmas or the eight days of presents for Hanukkah. It's about God's provision fro those He loves. God gives the gift of the Messiah to the Christians and the gift of Light to the Jews. The true gift from God is learned in this colorful holiday story.

       MY REVIEW:    This is a beautiful, hardcover kid's book. Christian and Jacob are fighting over who gets the most presents--Christian says he does at Christmas, and Jacob says he does at Hanukkah. The boy's mothers teach them the real meaning of the season and have them tell each other what they have learned. Christian tells Jacob about the baby in the manger, and Jacob tells Christian about the oil in the lamp that burnt for eight days. In the beginning of the book, each child had prayed for toys. In the end, they thank God for His many and wonderful gifts to them.
       In the very beginning of the book, the boys are helping their fathers put up their Christmas/Hanukkah gifts. Christian and his father put up a tree and strings of sparkling lights, while Jacob and his father put up the Star of David, and blue and white lights. It is interesting to see the difference between them.
      This is the second of Lee Ann Mancini's books that I have read. They are bright, colorful,and glossy. Fun even for me to read. :) And the stories are very good--teaching children valuable life lessons that will help them to live for and love God. It can be hard to find good books like these.

         I received this book from the author through BOOKCRASH in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sweet & Sour Sausage Balls

            This has become one of our favorite dishes, and is quite easy to make. We always eat them over mashed potatoes, which is another favorite.

From this, 
and this.

To this, 
and this.

This time, I doubled the recipe and used 1lb sausage and 1lb hamburger. I figured it would work as that is the ratio in Lasagna. We actually liked it better; it wasn't as spicey as if it were all sausage.
And finally, this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Girl in the Gatehouse

     BOOK REVIEW:   Mariah Aubrey lives in seclusion with her secrets, will an ambitious captain uncover her identity . . . . and her hidden past?    Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret.
    When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans--and his heart--for a woman shadowed by scandal?
    Intriguing, mysterious, and romantic, THE GIRL IN THE GATEHOUSE takes readers inside the life of a secret authoress at a time when novel-writing was considered improper for ladies and the smallest hint of impropriety could change a woman's life forever.

    MY REVIEW:   Julie Klassen writes about society in the 1800's. But rather than focusing on the highest scales, she writes about the lower and often unknown scales.
     This particular book is the story of Mariah Aubrey, who is sent away from home to live in the gatehouse of an aunt due to an unfortunate scandal. When funds get low, she gets a few novels published, anonymously.
     The owner of the estate, Mariah's distant cousin Hugh Prin-Hallesly, rents the estate to Captain Matthew Bryant, who wants the estate in order to win back the lovely Isabella. Little does he know how related he is through Isabella to Mariah's scandal.
      In close proximity to the gatehouse is the poorhouse. Mariah befriends a few of the children, and stumbles upon mystery or two. She and her loyal companions/servants become quite attached to some of the occupants, and are quite disturbed by what they learn. But, have no fear--everything works out for the best in the end.
             ----Another lovely book that I was happy to read.

A Love Transformed

        BOOK REVIEW:   Clara lacks for nothing in her lavish New York mansion--except love.   When her husband, Adolph, dies suddenly, Clara Vesper is stunned. Not grief-stricken, as their marriage had never been a love match, but staggered by what might become of her and her children. For years she designed the sapphire jewelry that made her husband's company a fortune,  but she has little money in her own name and soon discovers that she has inherited nothing. Fearing for the welfare of her two small children, she decides to take them to her aunt and uncle's ranch in Montana, the only place she has ever been happy.
        But much has changed since she last visited the Montana ranch, both for Clara and for those she was forced to leave behind. And when dangerous secrets from her late husband's past threaten everyone she loves, Clara must fight to remain where she can fulfill her dream.

        MY REVIEW:    This is the third and final book in Tracie Peterson's Sapphire Brides series. It is preceded by A TREASURE CONCEALED and A BEAUTY TRANSFORMED.
          I personally think every author should follow Tracie's example. When you visit her page, you see book after book after book, series after series after series. It is lovely to see so many books by a favorite author! :)
          This book is the tale of Clara Vesper after the death of her husband. When prodded by her mother and brother-in-law, she runs to Montana to start a new life for herself and her young twins. But she doesn't bargain on her old love being there.
          Of course, one can assume the ending of this tale. After standing up to her mother and her brother-in-law and discovering the truth of her husband's death, she marries ______ and lives happily ever after.
          I like Tracie's books, and I liked the preceding books in this series. Unfortuantely, this book was not one of my favorites.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse

      BOOK REVIEW:   Featuring Isaac Watts, John & Charles Wesley, Christina Rossetti, and many more!     Compiled and arranged with great intention by the late A. W. Tozer, this collection of verse takes readers on a spiritual journey--beginning with an overture of praise then flowing into meditations on the work of Christ, our need of Him,and the common Christian experience. Covering nearly the whole spectrum of religious feeling--penitence and confession, thanksgiving and praise, admiration, and more--this collection comforts hearts and aids in thoughtful, spiritual worship.
      With selections grouped by theme and indexed by title, author, and first line, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse is organized for repeated use--a treasure for exalting God with words that mirror His beauty.

       MY REVIEW:  This is a very neat book. It is all hymns/poems/prayers, and divided into sections. There are familiar ones, and new ones. I think it would make an excellent devotional, or a study book, or a book just to have around if ever you need a topical poem/hymn/prayer.
     One of my favorites so far is by Gerhard Tersteegen, Allured into the Desert. The first two stanzas are:
             Allured into the desert,
            With God alone, apart,
            There spirit meeteth spirit,
            There speaketh heart to heart.
            Far, far on that untrodden shore,
            God's secret place I find;
            Alone I pass the golden door,
            The dearest left behind.

                             There God and I none other;
                             Oh far from men to be!
                             Nay, midst the crowd and tumult,
                             Still, Lord, alone with Thee.
                             Still folded close upon Thy breast,
                             In field, and mart, and street,
                             Untroubled in that perfect rest
                             That isolation sweet.

I am very excited to have this book, it is a very nice book. I like that Tozer took the time to compile and publish these verses for the rest of us to read and enjoy.

             I received this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS in exchange for my honest review. 


    BOOK REVIEW:   While recovering from a broken engagement, Lauren Phillips manages to keep busy working full-time and studying to finish her college degree. But one day, everything changes when Lauren enters the wild, uncharted territory of the Internet on her home computer and connects with a mysterious--and intriguing--man she knows only as KC.
    Despite a busy schedule, Lauren's e-mail relationship with KC quickly becomes the thing she loves the most in life . . . and the source of dreams she cannot bear to relinquish. When the opportunity comes for them to meet after a year of corresponding, Lauren faces a tough choice: is she willing to risk everything . . . including another broken heart?
    MY REVIEW:   I liked this book better than the second one. And, there is a twist at the end. I like twists in books.
    Lauren works in a bank, though her true love is to teach school--English, to be precise. In the end, she gets her teacher's degree and manages to land a position in her dream location. A small country school in a town with friends. What could be better? I thought it was a cool ending.
    I really don't know what else to write--I'm at a loss. So,                 ...THE END...


BOOK REVIEW:  Teri Moreno went to Maui hoping to start one special relationship. But romance takes a complicated twist when the Spanish teacher from Glenbrooke, Oregon, finds herself enjoying the attentions of three men: the handsome marine biologist who called her back to the islands; a charming old crush from high school; and a clumsy, endearing Australian with a wild past.
     Swept up by her feelings, yet determined to make the right choice, Teri makes powerful discoveries about God's law and His grace in this new release of WHISPERS, now book two int he heartwarming Glenbrooke Series from Robin Jones Gunn.

MY REVIEW:  This is the second book in Robin Jones Gunn's The Glenbrooke Series. The first is SECRETS, about Jessica, the millionaire's daughter who goes to Oregon to teach English class.
    This book is about Teri, Jessica's co-teacher. Teri teaches Spanish, though.
    Teri goes on a vacation to Maui to visit her sister and brother, and while there, has a difficult time deciding which of the three men after her she wants to date. Of course, she chooses the wrong one which scares away the second one, and in the end she chooses the third as she should have all along.
     I enjoyed the story, though it was a bit traditional. I liked the first book better, for sure.

A Noble Masquerade

        BOOK REVIEW:  Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the structures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned. 
        When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

      MY REVIEW:   This now is the second of Kristi Ann Hunter's Hawthorne House series. I read it back-to-back with the first, so it is hard to distinguish where the first ends and the second starts. :) This is a full-sized novel of 500+ pages, which makes it even better than the first book. 
      Again, some sentences that I found particularly fun:
    "coming up with a good reason or twenty"
    "Miranda mercilessly squashed the mental chastisement"
    "Curiosity, a spies' greatest asset and deadliest liability."
    "She should take the letters; they weren't going to bite her."
    "He didn't know why everyone wanted to compliment a man on his ability to find a competent tailor"
I also really enjoyed this book. I was too impatient to wait for it to come into the library, so I read it online, and I don't like reading books online so that's saying something. :) 
     I don't want to spoil the surprise for anyone, but it occurs in the middle of the book, and to say anymore would require speaking of the last half, which of course would reveal the twist. So, I shall end my ramblings here, and let you read the book for yourself. I will say though, it is not one you would likely guess. But it does make for an interesting story. 
     The last two books of this series are An Elegant Facade and An Uncommon Courtship (the one I'm waiting impatiently to read). 

A Lady of Esteem

       BOOK REVIEW:  Amelia Stalwood lives in a London townhouse, but she's never actually met any nobility. Then, by chance, she meets the Hawthorne family, who welcome her into their world. When a nasty rumor is circulated, threatening her reputation, society turns its back on her. Will her new friends--and the marquis she's fallen for--do the same?

       MY REVIEW:  This is the first book of the HAWTHORNE HOUSE series by Kristi Ann Hunter. It is a novella, about 196 pages long, and only available in e-book format, sadly.
       I read the third book of the series a few months back, and have requested the fourth one without realizing that it is part of the set. So, I set about to read the first two book of the series.
      And I have discovered that I am also a fan of Kristi's books. I love them! The only problem I can find with her writing is that she only wrote this series. There should DEFINATELY be more. She writes in the same era as Julie Klassen. And she has a distinctive humor and unique vocabulary in her writing which I just love. A few examples are:  
       "But to have meant so little to him that when she was out of his sight neither he nor his solicitors remembered that she would continue to age?" and
       "he hopped lightly down the stairs" and
       "he thought it best that the ladies did not see him snickering at their spat".
 It just struck me as being different in a light, almost comical way. It is quite fun to read. I really wish Kristi had more books out there--I thoroughly enjoyed these!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

       BOOK REVIEW:   Welcome to the English village of Ivy Hill, where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await.   The lifeblood of the village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. When the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant land-lady. Jane has no idea how to manage a business, but with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must quickly find a way to save the inn.
      Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law , Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to overcome her losses and find purpose for the future. As she works with Jane, two men from her past vie for her attention, but Thora has promised herself never to marry again. Will one of them convince her to embrace a second chance at love?
      As pressure mounts from the bank, Jane employs new methods, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place, including a mysterious newcomer with secret plans of his own. With the help of friends old and new, can Jane restore life to the inn, and to her empty heart as well?

      MY REVIEW:    I was the tiniest bit disappointed about this book, and I can't even tell you why. I am a fan of Julie Klassen's books, and this wasn't quite what I expected. It is also a series, which is disappointing in the fact that one has to wait to hear the end of the story. :)  But once I accepted the fact that it was not the story I was expecting, I really enjoyed the book.
      I liked the storyline. Widowed Jane Bell has to overcome her reluctance to the job and save her husband's inn. She has three months to either pay off a huge loan, or convince the bank that further extensions are profitable. On top of that, new competition moves in to town.
      One part of this book that I found enjoyable was a race (I shan't say why) between The Bell and its competition to see whose staff could have the coach's horses changed out and on the road again the fastest. Their aim was for two minutes! The Bell's staff is frantically practicing and improving their methods. For you see, their normal times are closer to ten minutes, and they had only one week in which to become five times faster--a feat for which they had many doubts. And of course, at the actual race, there occurs a twist in the case of the winner.
       In conclusion, this is the first book in Julie Klassen's new Tales from Ivy Hill series. If you are like me, wait until all the books are out, and then read them all at once. But if you can exercise more patience than I, then by all means, read this book today. It is worth it!

                 I recieved this book from BETHANY HOUSE in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Atlas Shrugged

It is tilted to show the size of the book--2in. thick.
Well, where to begin?

I think I can safely say that this is the longest fiction book that I have ever read. It is 1168 pages long and took approximately 14 hours to read and the length of 7 days.

I had heard a bit about this book before I read it, which resulted in my trying too hard to guess what would happen in the end. I spent the first part trying desperately to figure it out, and the last part realizing what a futile effort it had been. :)   Although, I did guess two things right!

ATLAS SHRUGGED can be described as a mystery novel in form, and a political one in topic. Throughout the book, one is left guessing who certain of the characters are and when they will be revealed. And yet, the book is written about the author's (Ayn Rand) political premises. She writes about the earth being shut down under the wrong and overwhelming government rules and regulations. Her political party believes in stunting the growth of the strong to build up that of the weak. One character has declared that he will stop the motor of the world--and he does. But at what price? The lastest and greatest industrial men are disappearing; the railroad (main example of the book) is falling apart piece by piece; a national emergency has been called, resulting in more rules and regulations. In a final act of surrender, atlas shrugs.

For some reason I can't quite grasp, this is not an easy book to review. It is likely due to my misconceptions when I started it, the time it took to read it, and the intense detail and overall depth of the subject. But still, I enjoyed reading the book. Especially as things started falling into place. If you want better to understand what I am saying, you'll just have to read the book for yourself. It is preceded by THE FOUNTAINHEAD, which I have not read.

I did not read this book because it looked interesting, but to grasp its topic. While I enjoyed the story, there are some scenes and language that I did not like. It has really made me appreciate Christian authors. If it weren't for that, I would strongly recommend the book to everyone out there.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana. It sounds like a difficultly elegant, multi-step dish. But it really isn't (hard. It is still elegant).

Golden Parmisan Potatoes is one of our favorite potato dishes. And it does not require peeling the potatoes, which is always a plus!

And of course, the trusty last-minute friendly green beans. One of my staples. :)

Restoring Christmas

   BOOK REVIEW:     Interior designer, Alexis Blake, has a sot at fame and a career that rises above the ordinary if she can get a home remodeled in eight weeks. But working with an unknown videographer who has a point to prove, and trying to please the aging homeowner is no easy task. Especially when all three are hampered by self-doubt and hidden fears.
   As autumn succumbs to winter and snow blankets the small coastline town of Algoma, Wisconsin, the wear and tear on the century-old home only seems to spotlight the aches and brokenness of its owner. Even if Alexis can redeem the creaky floors int he old fieldstone farmhouse, can she help restore hope for those people counting on her?

   MY REVIEW:     This is Christmas story featuring Alexis Blake and her Restoring Christmas project. She has to restore an old farmhouse in eight weeks and submit a video of her work to Heart-and-Home. But when she arrives, she finds that not only has her videographer had an accident rendering him unable to help, but the homeowner seems set against the renovations.
      Alexis has hit a wall, but her videographer fill-in, Gabe Langley, is annoyingly cheerful and optimistic. He reminds Alexis what the true purpose of her project should be--restoring Christmas, not just winning a great spot in a popular magazine.
      Through the events of the book, Alexis has a change of heart, Gabe starts healing from his mother's recent death, and Eliza (the homeowner) gets a special Christmas surprise as well.
      I enjoyed reading this book. It didn't make my favorite pile, but it was a nice Christmas story.

              I received this book from WORTHY PUBLISHING in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sweet n Sour Chicken

      I have been looking for a good, yet simple, sweet and sour chicken recipe. So far, my favorite one was really good, but quite a bit of work.

     Tonight, I tried a recipe where you deep-fry the chicken for 20-30 seconds per side, then bake in the sauce for an hour. It is still good, and much simpler.

We often eat chicken like this with refried rice. With this recipe, there is time to make the rice while the chicken is baking, rather than trying to do everything at once.

I don't use a refried rice recipe--I simple add what we have on hand. This time I added onion, carrots, ham, peppers, and bacon. The bacon was better than I expected. It lent a really good taste without putting much in.

To make the rice, I saute my vege's, add the meat, then put in the cold rice. After it heats up (or I loose patience) I add 1-2 eggs and some soy sauce and heat thoroughly. This time I also put in some pepper. It made it extra good, I thought.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

From Heaven

    BOOK REVIEW:  "We live between two mighty events....."   Advent is as much about looking back as it is looking ahead--back to Christ's incarnation, ahead to His return. FROM HEAVEN combines A. W. Tozer's best reflections on these two themes to help us better appreciate the season of Advent. Each daily reading is paired with Scripture for meditation, drawing our attention to the rising light of Christ.  "I am struck with the wonder and the significance of the limitless meaning of these two words, He came. Within them the whole scope of divine mercy and redeeming love is outlined." -Tozer

   MY REVIEW:  Just as ordering books online can result in getting a book that really isn't what you wanted, it can also result in getting a book that is so much nicer than you anticipated. Here I was waiting for an ordinary, paperback book, but instead, I got a beautiful hardcover one. It is small, just a bit bigger than a pocket-size, but simply beautiful. And a much richer shade of purple than looks on a screen.
   The dictionary definition of Advent is "a coming into place, view, or being, as the advent of the holiday season" or "the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in the commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world."   
   This book has 28 chapters, one for each day of Advent (as per the second definition)--that is the longest number of days, but double chapters can be read if there are fewer than 28. Each chapter is three-four pages long, and taken from Tozer's works. You can still sense Tozer's style, but it doesn't feel quite the same. If you have been wanting to read his books, but haven't because of his depth, this would, in my estimation, be a good book to begin with. The short chapters can be easily read, yet there is the same depth and perception as in Tozer's other books.
    I have never thought of the season of Advent before, but I like the idea of everyday purposely thinking of Christ's birth. It seems to make it all the more special when you have been dwelling on it. I only wish I had gotten this book a few weeks earlier. :)

            I received this book from MOODY PRESS in exchange for my honest review. 

Tough As They Come

        BOOK REVIEW:   Not yet twenty-five years old and already on his third combat tour in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Staff Sergent Travis Mills never backed down from the toughest challenges. But that was before the day when, on a routine mission, an IED exploded beneath him. Against the odds, he lived, but at incredible cost: Travis became one of only five soldiers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to survive a quadruple amputation. Still, his greatest challenge lay ahead. Would he be tough enough to make a life he actually wanted?
        In this remarkable memoir, Travis recalls his action-packed tours of duty with the legendary 82nd Airborne Division, the agony of the explosion, and the traumatic days that followed. Then he takes the reader on the ultimate, odds-defying adventure, where in his darkest hours he finds the willpower to push through pain and reach again for hope, this time with artificial limbs.
        TOUGH AS THEY COME is a riveting story of endurance, unconditional love of family, and deep faith that will inspire anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by the odds. Today, Travis swims, dances with his wife, rides mountain bikes, drives his daughter to school, and travels the country inspiring millions with his never-look-back, never-give-up story.

         MY REVIEW:   I do not generally like biographies or autobiographies, but this book I enjoyed. The first chapter gives a detailed account of the explosion, then from chapter two on he backs up and tells of his life from beginning to present.
        From an early age, Travis's father instilled in him a never-quit attitude. On top of that, Travis was always big for his age; this coupled with his comical, easy-going attitude made him stand out as a fearless, fun, on-top-of-everything guy. He joined the army after one year of college, at the age of nineteen. He decided to join the 82nd Airborne Division, known for its bravery and accomplishments.        Travis went on three tours to Afghanistan, each several months long. The first was the easiest one, as he was aid to one of his higher-ups. The second was much worse. They lived for days in the hot, bare dessert, with no running water, no bathrooms, and basically no beds. Their job was to stop the Taliban, who were trying to overtake the country.  And then the third one. After only six weeks, Travis accidentally stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device). He was hurled over, and lost his arm and a leg. His other leg was attached by threads which later came off, and his other arm was later amputated halfway between his hand and elbow.  This left him one of only five men to survive a quadruple amputation.
        It was interesting to read about Travis' recovery. He had a hard time for the first while, just getting used to the idea that he no longer had limbs. And then he decided he wasn't going to quit. He had amazing support from his parents, siblings, and his wife and daughter. He eventually learned to do many of the things he had done before, such as driving, mountain biking, and swimming. He is now running an institute for veteran amputees in Maine and traveling the world as a motivational speaker.
       This book was definitely worth the read, and I am very glad I had the chance to do so.

          I recieved this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS in exchange for my honest reveiw. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ham and Ham and Ham

Wednesday night we baked a ham for supper. And mashed potatoes, corn, and stuffing. And gravy!

   And then....... we had leftovers -- a 9x13 pan full of ham. So, for last night and tonight, I made our usual nights-after-ham meals.

Cheesy Ham and Potato Casserole for Thursday. This is always the first dish we make with leftover ham. You simply mix together cubed steamed potatoes, cubed ham, and cheese sauce. Can't go wrong with that. (Years ago, we used to eat it with hotdogs instead of ham, but ham is definately better!)

And for tonight, Ham and Bean Soup. Cubed ham with navy beans and milk. And butter. Another favorite. This is one that you make in the crockpot in the morning and sneak from for lunch. :)

Praise and Worship

     BOOK REVIEW:    Victorious Living. Is it truly possible in this day and time of unprecedented uncertainty and fear that seems to be plaguing so many throughout the world?  The answer to this question is a resounding. . . . YES! According to the promises of God throughout Scripture, His people are given the hope of victorious living. For instance, in Deuteronomy 11, our days could be "as the days of Heaven upon earth." Also, in Luke 12, Jesus says it's "the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom"--right here on earth, not just when we enter Heaven.
      However, this hope of a victorious life cannot be attained without understanding and applying the Word of God to our lives in a practical way on a daily basis, especially in the areas of PRAISE and WORSHIP. I am sure that anyone who will read, understand, and apply the truths contained in this volume will be well on their way to a life of Victorious Living.

     MY REVIEW:     This is the second of Victor Morgan's books that I have read. I think he has some good points, and there are some that I'm not sure I agree with. If I had to choose which of his books I liked best, I would have to say it was the first one, HEAVEN'S GREAT HOPE.
     This book is devoted to the subjects of Praise and Worship. One point made on Praise is that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that we were created to shout in praise to God. He also believes that when the Christian praises God, he is wearing a "badge" showing in whom he believes.
     A larger part is focused on Worship. "Only as we receive His life in us, can we begin to recognize and assess Him for who He really is. Only then, can we begin to ascribe true worth to Him as the loving, caring Father of us all; thus, leading to genuine, deep, heart-felt worship of the Father." He says also that we must worship God before we can be channels for Him.
    One of Victor's concepts about Worship through prayer that I've never heard before is that God cannot act directly in this earth because He has given authority to man (in the Garden) in a similar way as one would lease a possession to another---He holds the deed, but cannot control how the other treats his possession. Man in turn has handed this authority to Satan  (also in the Garden). In legal terms, God cannot just charge in and redeem this earth because He does not have that authority for the time being. He can, however, work through Man. When Man prays to God, he is giving Him permission to come and act as He wills. At least, that's how I understood it. A few of Victor's examples to support this are:

  •  " God asks us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" in Psalm 122:6. If He wants Jerusalem to have peace why cannot He simply bestow peace on it without having all of us pray for peace. The fact is, He cannot give peace to Jerusalem, though He wants to with all of His heart, without somebody in the earth giving Him consent to act in the earth." 
  •  "Herein is the reason why we must truly worship the Father---giving true allegiance unto Him, that He might have "legal entry" into the earth through us." 
  • For one instance of Israel's punishment for sin as told in Ezekiel 22:29-31, Victor says, "Our Heavenly Father does not like destruction of any kind. He is a loving Father. Yet there is a Law, that says, we reap what we sow. Israel at this time was committing enumerable sins, and their reaping time was at hand--judgment was imminent. Yet, God in His mercy and great love, "Sought for a man! Sought for a man! Sought for a man!" Why? Obviously, because if He could have found a "man" who would have requested, in faith, that this law be suspended, then God legally could and would have done just that, withheld rightful judgment. For that was obviously His desire; that is why He was seeking for a man to stand in the gap "before Him."
As I previously stated, this is a new concept to me. I think to a degree he may be right. People have felt  inspired to pray for others and later hear how that person narrowly avoided some danger or other.  I think in those instances this makes sense. However, I don't like that God has no power in earth without man. 

        I received a copy of this book from the publisher through BOOKCRASH in exchange for my honest review. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Paradise Lost

     Paradise Lost. I have heard the title before, but it never clicked that it was a poem--a poem written without rhyme. I decided on impulse that I was going to read this book, until I realized what it was. But, I requested it anyways. And then it came....
     I must say, though I did manage to read through the book, I did not understand most of it. And it took me two weeks. Try reading an unrhymed poem, 412 pages long, that you can't understand. It makes for slow reading.
     However, the few parts that I did understand, I enjoyed. And if you can find the rhythm, it can be fun to read aloud. The spelling is a challenge though. Written in what I would call Old English (I have no idea if that's right, or even what Old English actually is), some of the words are spelled differently, and being a poem that must keep rhythm, other words are cut down (flower vs. flow'r, etc.). Again, when you get the hang of it, it can be fun to read.
      The book is divided into twelve sections, called books.
~ Book I: Touches on the fall of Man a bit, then Satan's fall.
~ Book II: Satan and his legions decide whether to overtake Heaven, and whether there is or not another world.
~ Book III: God in Heaven sees Satan flying for the newly created world and tells what shall unfold. The Son offers Himself the ransom for man.
~ Book IV: Satan enters the world and begins to doubt. Gabriel is warned of his presence.
~ Book V: Eve relates a troublesome dream. Adam is warned, and told of Satan's fall.
~ Book VI: Some sort of battle between Satan and Michael in which the Son is sent and wins.
~ Book VII: At Adam's request, Raphael tells of Satan's fall and God's creation of Paradise. (Personally, this was my favorite part. The creation. I really liked how the account sounded in poem form. And from here on I had a better grasp on what was happening.)
~ Book VIII: Raphael and Adam still conversing.
~ Book IX: Satan enters the garden. Adam and Eve sin.
~ Book X: The guardian angels alert God who tells them it could not be avoided. Satan returns to his legions.
~ Book XI: The Son intercedes for Man. God declares they will not die but leave the garden. Michael is sent to tell Man, then takes Adam and tells him the future up to the Flood.
~ Book XII: Michael tells of the time from the Flood to the second Coming, then escorts Adam and Eve from the garden.

A few phrases I liked are:
     -pg 214, lines 908-912                                                     -pg 221, lines 111-114
But list'n not to his Temptations, warn                             This also thy request with caution askt           Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have heard                    Obtain: though to recount Almighty works
By terrible Example the reward                                      What words or tongue of Seraph can suffice, 
Of disobedience; firm they might have stood,                  Or heart of man suffice to comprehend?
Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress.
                                                                                           -pg 251, lines 188-194
     -pg 228, lines 249-252                                             But apt the Mind or Fancy is to rove
God saw the Light was good;                                        Uncheckt, and of her roving is no end;
And light from darkness by the Hemisphere                   Til warn'd, or by experience taught, she learn
Divided; Light the Day, and Darkness Night                    That not to know at large of things remote
He nam'd. Thus was the first Day Ev'n and Morn:            From use, obscure and subtle, but to know
                                                                                  That which before us lies in daily life,
      -pg 391, lines 48-51                                               Is the prime Wisdom;
But God who oft descends to visit men
Unseen, and through thir habitations walks                           -pg 409, lines 561-564
To mark thir doings, them beholding soon,                     Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best,
Comes down to see thir City, ere the Tower                    And love with fear the only God, to walk
Obstruct Heav'n Tow'rs, and in derision sets                    As in his presence, ever to observe
Upon thir Tongues a various Spirit to rase                      His providence, and on him sole depend,
Quite out thir Native Language, and instead 
To sow a jangling noise of words unknown:

          I have always hated poetry. Likely due the fact I had to work with it in school. But after reading this book, I think I enjoy it to a certain extent. Cheers to whomever has read/soon reads this book!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


            Likely my biggest problem when it comes to anything cooking and/or baking is failure to read the recipe before I start, or to read it fast and miss big, important things, like a foreign ingredient that I don't have and cannot be missing. Another problem is to make a familiar meal and not make sure I have everything before I start. I can start off making spaghetti and end up with hamburger gravy over egg noodles for lack of sauce, or spaghetti noodles. 

            Tonight I made the same mistake. I decided to make Simple Perfect Enchiladas from Pioneer Woman. 

And all went well, for the first five minutes. I whisked together the flour and oil, then realized I needed chicken broth and enchilada sauce! The broth wasn't a big deal, but I would have preferred to have it made before. The sauce was a bit more complicated. I had some in the pantry, but it was badly outdated (we don't usually use enchilada sauce). I used it anyway, hoping it wouldn't taste as bad as it smelled. :)   It did. I set about to make a new batch. Since I had no more enchilada sauce to use, I mixed together some tomato juice, water, flour, and several seasonings (basil, oregano, etc.). Against all odds, it actually turned out good! Then again, I assume it's good. I don't know what it was supposed to be like. :) 

                  Then came the actual assembly. It was a messier process than I had anticipated. 

        I didn't use the chilies, olives, green onion, or cilantro. I think they would have been better if I had. They were, however, still very good. 

I learned two things:  first, Pioneer Woman has a much bigger pantry than I do, resulting in my often having to substitute/skip ingredients. And second, wow, she can make some really good dishes, often with more steps than I usually do. I was surprised (because......I failed to read the recipe thoroughly and realize what it all involved!). 

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Change (For Now)

So, I have decided to add something new here--I will also be posting my cooking/baking endeavors. I have recently been trying new recipes, both simple and slightly challenging. I keep a camera in the kitchen so I can take pictures of everything (I do so much faster if I don't have to run looking for the camera😋) but what point in taking pictures if I don't share them? So here goes!

I found a yummy looking creamy crockpot white chicken chili recipe that I have been meaning to try. It is really easy, and really good. And being a crockpot recipe, you make it in the morning and smell it all day long.
         A few changes I made:  

  1. I skipped the green chili and white corn. These are not ingredients that we keep on hand. 
  2. I added a third can of beans as our family likes "beany" soup. 
  3. For onion powder, I used 1/2 chopped onion. Just because I like chopping onion. 
  4. I used red pepper instead of cayenne pepper, and regular pepper rather than white.
  5. And finally, I used one chicken bouillon cube in place of the chicken base. 
We have been looking for a really good white chili recipe, and this is it! I think it could also be made in a kettle on the stove if your chicken is already cooked. 



Seriously, this is really not as hard as it looks. Plus, it is terribly fun to make. The striped look comes from layering jam between the dough before you bake it. 

This is a very nice and pliable dough; easy to stretch the top layers to match the bottom. 

Ready to twist. Now for one small question---HOW??
All twisted. PLEASE rise like you're supposed to!
Wow! It turned out right! (This is always amazing,
and sends warm fuzzy tremors through one's self.) 
Nice stripey layers here. 
We almost decided this was too pretty to eat, but then we did. It tastes like a strudel, surprisingly. We also agreed that it also looks like a Christmas Snowflake. The recipe calls for raspberry jam, but I used strawberry. The raspberry is darker and looks a little nicer, but I am quite pleased with this. I want to try it with a really dark jam, like grape, and see how that looks. I would also sift my powdered sugar next time to get a finer finish.

Well, that's all till next time!

God's Pursuit of Man

      BOOK REVIEW:   "Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side a conquest of the Most High God."    With words like these, Tozer shakes the soul. He crumbles the lies we believe and calls us to the more sure way.
      In these pages, Tozer explains what is meant to be truly saved. It is not merely to assent to Jesus and go on our same old way, but to be conquered by the Almighty God and invaded by His Spirit. A saved person is a transformed person. Let Tozer upend you in this moving prequel to THE PURSUIT OF GOD. And being upended, may you be found standing upright in an upside-down world.

     MY REVIEW:   I have yet to read a book of Tozer's that I do not like. I do tend to read them rather fast, thus missing some of the deeper context, but I still enjoy his books. This is definitely one of such.
     There were many striking points made, a few of which are:
--There is no quick and easy way to know God. You can't simply say, "I want to know God, now I do, on with life". As Tozer says, "The man who would know God must give time to Him". This is often hard to do. We in our rushed world today want to know God now without having to put effort into it.
--Another thought is "The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him." You must give your all to God before He can bless your all.
--Have you ever thought that if only you had lived in the time of Abraham or the Apostles or even when Jesus was on earth, you could be a better Christian? I know I have thought it would be easier. But then I read, "We need to seek deliverance from our vain and weakening wish to go back and recover the past. We should seek to be cleansed from the childish notion that to have lived in Abram's day, or in Paul's, would have been better than to live today. With God, Abram's day and this day are the same. By one single impulse of life He created all days and all times, so that the life of the first day and the life of the remotest  future day are united in Him....We who experience God in this day may rejoice that we have in Him all that Abraham or David or Paul could have;" And I have to agree. Sure, it would be nice to live in the Apostle's era and share in their God-inspired ministry, but we can have that today, indeed, we DO have that today. We simply have to realize it and act on such.
--One last thought. "To will the will of God is to do more than give unprotesting consent to it; it is rather to choose God's will with positive determination. As the work of God advances, the Christian finds himself free to choose whatever he will, and he gladly chooses the will of God as his highest conceivable good. Such a man has found life's highest goal."  However long it may take to will God's will, I am convinced it is well worth it.

          I received a complimentary copy of this book from MOODY PUBLISHERS in exchange for my honest review. 

A Cousin's Challenge

     BOOK REVIEW:   After a serious van accident leaves Amish school-teacher Jolene Yoder profoundly deaf, she leaves home to learn how to read lips and communicate with sign language. But two years later, a family with children who have been deaf since birth moves to Jolene's hometown, and she is asked to return as their teacher.
    Lonnie Hershberger has lost faith in God and in women ever since his girlfriend broke up with him when he lost his hearing during an explosion. When he starts falling in love with Jolene, he worries how he can ever protect her if he can't hear. Besides, Jake Beechy seems to spend all his spare time with her.
    Ella Miller knows Jake's history with girls and fears he will break her cousin Jolene's heart. What she doesn't know is that Jake is fighting his growing attraction to Ella.
    What drastic measures will God take to break the barriers between these young lovers--and teach them to hear the voice of love?

       MY REVIEW:   This was one of those books that I saw sitting on my shelf and decided spontaneously to read again. As when this happens, I read the book backwards--start with the third-to-last chapter or so and read the ending. Then go back several more chapters and read the middle, and finally, end with the beginning. I already know the story, so why not read the interesting parts first? 😊
      This is the third and last book in Wanda Brunstetter's Indiana Cousins series. In the beginning of the first book, a van full of Amish youth has an accident, resulting in two deaths, an amputation, one loss of hearing, a concussion, and many scrapes and bruises. The rest of the book is focused on two victims, the second on another victim, and this last book on the last two--Jolene and Ella.
      Jolene lost her hearing in that accident, and for the last two years has been living with her aunt and learning how to read lips and sign. Now she is returning home to teach these skills to two young students. She is also teaching sign language to a few of the locals--her family, her cousin Ella, Jake, and Eunice (a young woman of the community). When Lonnie loses his hearing, she agrees to teach him as well.
      Ella's father passes away from an unexpected heart-attack, leaving Ella to care for the family. Her mother is diagnosed with diabetes and can't help much. When their financial situation becomes serious, Ella opens a bake shop. But she is irritated when Jake keeps coming around to help out.
                                                               ...THE END...