Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trusting Grace

     BOOK REVIEW:   All of her life, Grace Bidwell has longed for children, but now the chances of her dreams coming true are looking slim. Widowed and caring for her elderly father, she struggles to maintain her late husband's farm until she places an ad for a hired hand.
     Robert Frasier arrives in town with three pitiful, bedraggled children who have nothing but the tattered clothes on their backs and a load of hurt, pride, and anger. Believing this is divine intervention in her life, Grace welcomes them with open arms. As feelings grow between her and Robert, Grace will have to convince him that she is a woman who can be trusted with his heart.

     MY REVIEW:   This is book three of Maggie Brendan's Virtues and Vices of the Old West. I have not read the previous two books, but their titles are The Trouble with Patience, and A Sweet Misfortune. I don't know how intertwined the books are with each other, but this book can definitely be read on its own.
      I enjoy books about the West in the early days, but this book disappointed me. Not only was it focused only on the romance between Grace and her hired hand, Robert and the potato farm, but there were also a few parts that I did not think needed to be included in the story.
     One thing I liked about the book was how readily Grace stepped into the kid's lives and was there for them. And her care for her father, who suffered from an unknown ailment.

  I received this book from REVELL per their blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Catching the Wind

   BOOK REVIEW: What happened to Brigitte Berthold?  That question has haunted Daniel Knight since he was thirteen, when he and ten-year-old Brigitte escaped the Gestapo agents who arrested both their parents. They survived a harrowing journey from Germany to England, only to be separated upon their arrival. Daniel vowed to find Brigitte after the war, a promise he has fought to fulfill for more than seventy years.
   Now a wealthy old man, Daniel's final hope in finding Brigitte rests with Quenby Vaughn, an American journalist working in London. He believes Quenby's tenacity to find missing people and her personal investment in a related WWII espionage story will help her succeed where previous investigators have failed. Though Quenby is wrestling her own demons--and wary at the idea of teaming up with Daniel's lawyer, Lucas Hough--the lure of Brigitte's story is too much to resist. Together, Quenby and Lucas delve deep into the past, following a trail of deception, sacrifice, and healing that could change all of their futures.

   MY REVIEW:  If you've ever read Cathy Gohlke's Secrets She Kept, you would find a resemblance between it and Catching the Wind. Both are written in flashback (every-otherish chapter) to reveal an old tale that is being discovered years later. And, both books are exceptionally well-written, telling a moving tale of tragedy and discovery.
   We think we face trials in our lives, but compared to those told in this book, they are nothing but trifling annoyances that hinder our grand illusions of the wonderful life we think we deserve.
   I really enjoyed this book--I read it all at once without a pause. The story unraveled in an interesting, not too slow manner. And the discoveries that Quenby made where quite interesting, though they can somewhat be guessed toward the end. I would say this is a perfect lazy afternoon book that doesn't make you feel as though you just wasted a whole afternoon.

        I received this book from TYNDALE PUBLISHERS per their blogger program, and was not required to write a positive review. 

Band of Sisters

   BOOK REVIEW:     Driven by a shameful past and a perilous future, Maureen O'Reilly and her sister flee Ireland in search of safety, liberty, and opportunity. But after surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor has died, and his family--refusing to own his dept--casts her out. Impoverished and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to find employment in a prominent Manhattan department store, only to discover the elegant facade hides a dangerous secret.
   Despite her family' disapproval, Olivia Wakefield vows to honor her father's promise but can't find Maureen, the woman her brother-in-law so rudely turned away. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, who Olivia dares hope will become more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he's hiding.
   As women begin disappearing from the department store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But will they be too late? And in the midst of a world gone mad, can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?

   MY REVIEW:   I am becoming a fan of Cathy Gohlke's books. I have previously read her Promise Me This and Secrets She Kept. She seems to have a deeper plot than some other authors, and something else I can't put my finger on.
   This book is set in the 1910's, about the immigration of Maureen and her sister from Ireland. Determined to make it on her own after her father's friend is found to have passed away, Maureen takes a position in a department store, narrowly surviving a tragic mistake. Forced to live in less-than-desirable circumstances, Maureen's sister starts to pull away and blame Maureen for their troubles in Ireland. Meanwhile Maureen stubbornly refuses help from those who would be friends.
   I was reminded as I read this book of the difficulties facing immigrants, especially women on their own. The city is unforgiving and treacherous to those who don't know it, and filled with preditors.
   Two things I was impressed with in the book are, first, the effort a group of first-class women put into helping those who needed it. They called themselves a Band of Sisters. And second, Maureen's efforts in helping both her friends and those in the same dire circumstance. She could have turned a blind eye and remained in ignorant "safety", but she chose to help those who didn't have anyone else to care about them. It truly is an inspiration.

The Gatekeepers

   BOOK REVIEW:  Since George Washington, presidents have depended on the advice of key confidants. But is wasn't until the twentieth century that the White House chief of staff became the second most powerful job in government. Unelected and unconfirmed, the chief serves at the whim of the president, hired and fired by him alone. He is the president's closest advisor and the person he depends on to execute his agenda. He decides who gets to see the president, negotiates with Congress, and--most crucially--enjoys unparalleled access to the leader of the free world. When the president makes a life-and-death decision, often the chief of staff is the only other person in the room. Each chief can make or break an administration.
   Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, award-winning journalist and producer Chris Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity, whose members have included Rahm Emanuel, Dick Cheney, Leon Panetta, and Donald Rumsfeld. In doing so, he revises our understanding of presidential history, showing us how James Baker and Panetta skillfully managed the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, ensuring their reelections--and, conversely, how Jimmy Carter never understood the importance of a chief, crippling his ability to govern. From Watergate to Iran-Contra to the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the Iraq War, Whipple shows us how the chief of staff can make the difference between success and disaster.

    MY REVIEW:  I found this to be an interesting book. It covers the chiefs of staff dating back to that of Richard Nixon, who, as I understood it, was the first or at least near the first president to have an official chief of staff. There were a few presidents after him who decided to forgo that position, but their presidencies suffered for it. Having someone take care of the less-pressing political issues and monitor the president's schedule and those who get to see him at any time appeared to be a help to the presidency.
   The introduction to this book details a meeting of several previous chiefs of staff to give helpful "tips and tricks of the trade" to Rahm Emanuel as he prepared to be Obama's chief of staff. The next chapters cover the presidencies of Nixon through Trump.
   Not only did this book give insight to the chief of staff's position and influence, it also aligned the presidents for me and the main points of their reigns.
   One thing I didn't like about the book is the language included in Chris' collected quotes. Surely the quotes can keep their authenticity without such expletives.

I received this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS per their blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride

     BOOK REVIEW:  After a sheltered life in Pittsburgh, Hope Irvine is ready for a new adventure. When her father takes a position as a preacher in a railroad car converted into a traveling church, she's thrilled at the chance to accompany him. While accommodations in their new chapel car home are tight, Hope couldn't be happier putting her musical skills to good use and ministering to the people of West Virginia alongside her father. But when their chapel car arrives in Finch, West Virginia, they find a coal mining community that has hit hard times and is suspicious of outsiders.
    Luke Hughes works for the coal mine when he can, but the struggling company doesn't always offer steady work. When Reverend Irvine and Hope arrive in town, Luke is intrigued by what the reverend can teach him---and by the lovely and kind Hope.
    When Hope's desire to bring supplies and Sunday school classes to neighboring counties leads to her traveling with a flirtatious young mine manager, Luke is hard-pressed to suppress his jealousy. But when he begins to suspect the manager's motives are less than charitable, can he prove it without hurting Hope, or worse, putting her in danger?

    MY REVIEW:  I have read one or two of Judith Miller's books over the years, and a few that she wrote with other authors. I can't remember what I thought about her other books, but I was a little disappointed with this one. I liked the idea of a traveling chapel car, but I thought the storyline could use some help. Luke and Hope seemed to fall for each other pretty fast, and the beginning sort of jumped along, so we went from them meeting to their being an almost couple. Then introduce the miner's irresponsible, yet charming son, and you have the whole girl-falling-for-the-wrong-guy-then-finally-waking-up-only-to-have-the-right-guy-start-rethinking-things vein.
   Aside from that, the book was written well--I had no problem keeping up with the story, etc. I think this is a stand-alone novel, but Judith has also written several other series, such as Home from Amana, Postcards from Pullman, and a few with Tracie Peterson, like Bells of Lowell, which I didn't care much for, and The Broadmoor Legacy, which I enjoyed.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sweet and Sour Sausage Balls

  For supper tonight we had the above mentioned meal. It was inspired both by the sight of sausage in the freezer and the lack of anything else in close range. :) 
  This is a favorite meal of ours, and we always eat it with mashed potatoes. Tonight I had decided to make a different kind of potato, but mashed were hopefully asked for, so here we are again. I did add a twist to them this time----I mixed in some of the sauce from the meat, making a lovely orange color, which shall hopefully keeps others away.  :)

  The meal was then completed with green beans and bread. 

Monday, April 17, 2017



This past Saturday, I was once again making pizza for supper. But having made it many times before, I decided to do it a different way this time---which could have interesting results, as there aren't many ways to make a pizza. :) 

What I did, was mix all the toppings together. I started by frying the sausage, then decided to throw in the pepperoni, chopped peppers, and pizza sauce. Then I put in a lot of Parmesan cheese, and at the end decided to add onions as well, which came out slightly crunchy as they didn't have much time to soften. I was afraid the crunchy onions wouldn't fly with the rest of the family, but they didn't seem to mind. 

When the crust was done baking, I added some mozarella cheese to the mix and dumped the whole thing onto the crust. I was a little worried as I spread it out, because it seems to make a bigger pile than if you put on the toppings individually. I will say though, it didn't take nearly so long as doing everything separately. I put more cheese on top, stuck it in the oven, and hoped for the best.

It ended up tasting very much the same, but with everything being (and tasting) lovelily combined. My brother thought it tasted like a sloppy joe pizza, which is fairly close but for sausage instead of hamburger. And it was fun to do. My mom likes big chunks of sausage, which got beat up in all the stirring, so I'll have to take care for that if I do it this way agian, but otherwise I believe I shall, if not for the novelty of it. Goodness knows what I'll do when I get tired of this way, though. :) 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lemon Cream Dessert

This isn't my picture, as I couldn't cut the dessert and still
serve a whole pan---but I could cut out a piece and then
finangle it back in, and cover the lines with more CoolWhip!

  Easter calls for a yummy dessert (I don't really know how, but it makes sense), and this was the one requested.
  I think it looks hard, but it really isn't. This was my second time making it, and it was much less harrowing than the first time---I had to make the lemon layer three times before realizing I had copied the recipe wrong and there in lay the problem. But we did eventually figure it out and make the desset. :)

   The first step is to make your lemon layer, as it needs to cool before layering.  (DO NOT start sampling this, as it is very difficult to stop. Plus, when others see your look of pure delight, they will be inspired to follow your example.)

    While you wait for the lemon layer to cool, you make your crust, which is just flour and butter. You're supposed to add walnuts as well, but we don't like that. Plus we never have them on hand. :)   Another option is to make a graham cracker crust.

   There is supposed to be a picture of the creamcheese layer here, but I was already spreading it on the crust before I realized I had forgotten it. :( 

    And while your crust is baking, you can either make the cream cheese and pudding layers, or you can run off and do something else and make them later while the crust cools, or after it cools if you like. :)

Oh, right------this is the pudding layer.

    The pudding layer gets even better----you add a half a carton of CoolWhip yet! (There is a reason this dessert is good!  It has been proven to break even the most devout dietest.)

    Now begins the layering process. The cream cheese layer can be rather tricky, as it likes to pull up the crust. I found that running warm water over the back of a metal spoon repeatedly (and using that to spread the layer)  worked fairly well.

     Next is the lemon layer, which goes on beautifully if it's at the perfect temperature of warm, yet not warm enough to damage the other cool layers.

        And then the pudding layer. Again, don't start sampling this. And it's probably better to make this dessert when no one else is around (unless they are there to wash dishes, in which case they deserve to lick a few spoons).   ;)

     Then you top the entire cream cheese-y lemon-y pudding-y dessert with your leftover carton of CoolWhip, plus however much more you want (we had a half carton in the fridge which I also used). After that you have to wait a whole four or so hours for the dessert to chill.  Unless, as in my case, you made the dessert for a particular event and have to wait a whole 24 hours before you can even taste it! Life can be so cruel sometimes.

       And since this dessert doesn't have enough sugar in it  (which is a TOTAL lie because it is completely full of sugar)   I decided to sprinkle more on top. Anyways, the CoolWhip just didn't give as much of a "finished" look as I thought it should. :)


Hmm, I suppose I should remember to include the recipe. I don't suppose you'd all like to go hunt it down and make sure you have the right one and everything. Besides, the point of posting this is to share the recipe, and not doing so does defeat the purpose, which would be quite sad indeed.

Oh right, here it is......

Lemon Cream Dessert

Thursday, April 13, 2017


   BOOK REVIEW:   Our world needs fewer walls and more bridges. Be a bridge builder.   Jesus didn't say the world would know we are His followers by our rhetoric, our political learnings, our charity work, or even by our knowledge of the Scriptures. He said the world would know us by our love for one another. Yet it's so easy to put others at arm's length, to lash out, to put up walls.
   In One, Deidra Riggs calls us to put our focus on self-preservation aside and, like Jesus, make the first move toward reconciliation. She helps us understand that we are secure in God's inexhaustible love, making us free to love others lavishly--not just in what we do but in what we say, what we don't say, what we will endure, and what we will forgive.

    MY REVIEW:   This was, for me, one of those books that you can read for hours and still be in the first half. (I still can't decide if books like that excite or bother me. I like getting through books, but I also enjoy having more to read. I suppose I should choose one or the other and be done with it, eh?)
   Following in my previous vein of letting the book speak for itself, I shall put forth a few of the things that stood out to me. And they are:

  • "There is no division between secular work and holy work for the children of God. Everything we do is sacred--because it all matters to God. The Israelites knew this and, as such, they approachd the instruction of life in the faith as more than the passing on of information from one generation to the next. Their relationship with God was their identity. The same is true for us today."  This made me stop and think. Just as we ought to understand that God sees everything we do, we need to understand that everything we do is to God's glory, not ours. 
  • "Before and above everything else, we are loved by God. All of us. Even those who don't claim to be, as well as those who don't believe they are. We are all loved by God, created in His image."  You've probably heard "Just because you don't believe in God doesn't mean He's not real." This is the same. "Just because you don't want to be or think you are loved by God doesn't mean you're not---because you are. God loves everyone, even the worst of sinners. Yes, He doesn't like their deeds, but He does love them.
  • "God enters our wilderness experiences. He walks through the valley of the shadow of death right along with us. God is our ever-present help in trouble."  I tend to use God as my way out of trouble, but He is there to help us in trouble. There is a verse that says trouble and trials come to strengthen us, to bring us to God. Why do we wish away struggles when they are in fact a means of drawing to God? Are we too concerned with our own selves?
   I enjoyed reading this book. Deidra also pointed out that her goal is for unity, not uniformity. That is, I believe, key to the whole thing. Each person is different and special, and there will be differences between us. We don't all need to be replicas of each other, but rather, united in love with each other, supporting and assisting and calling out to each other. We are definately here to serve, glorify, and witness for God, but we are also here to help our fellow believers do the same. 

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


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places

   BOOK REVIEW:  Perhaps that's the greatest reason why He calls us to dangerous places: so that we will know His astonishing, sacrificial, life-restoring love.  Weaving together scripture, her story, and the testimonies of others, Kate McCord explores what is lost and what is gained when we follow God at any cost. She writes for those who go and those who love them, since love shares in suffering. Written with the weight of glory in the shadow of loss, Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places will inspire Christians to count the cost--and pay it--and so come closer to the heart of God.

   MY REVIEW: This is the third book written by Kate McCord after having spent several years in Afghanistan, the previous two being In the Land of Blue Burqas and Farewell, Four Waters. I enjoyed all of them. It makes me wonder abit how a person can write three books on their experience in Afghanistan, but the books are surprisingly different. In the Land of Blue Burqas is Kate's story of her ministry there. Farewell, Four Waters is a novel compossed of different true events, making a nonfiction fiction, if there is such a thing. And Whiy God Calls Us to Dangerous Places is about the sacrifices made both by Kate herself, those she left behind, and other aid workers who gave themselves to serve.
   I liked the emphasis in this book on WHY. Why does God call us to dangerous places? A few reasons Kate gives are:

  •   Because we can't touch people, heal their bodies, hand them a book, or worship and pray for them from 7,400 miles away. Love and truth takes on flesh and walks the earth, and He does so within us. 
  • Because He loves people who live in dangerous places. In fact, He loves people so much that He Himself came to a dangerous place. 
We can't witness from a distance. And we can't profess to have the greatest treasure and not want to share it with those who so desperately need it too.
   Kate sent out for statements from other aid workers to include in her book, so not only is this her story, it is their story. I always like when authors do that--it shows they are not interested in bragging up their story, but in getting the story out to inspire others.

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gifts from Heaven

     BOOK REVIEW:  No prayer is too big for God.   Sometimes it doesn't feel like God is listening to our prayers. But now and then He powerfully reminds us that He hears our requests and is strong enough to help. What begins as simple faith ends with an astounding gift from our loving heavenly Father.
    These true, uplifting stories are from ordinary people experiencing extraordinary help in times of need. While some answers to prayer feel ordinary and go unnoticed, this collection highlights amazing events that could only happen with God's supernatural intervention. With accounts of such things as unexplainable healing and miraculous protection in terrifying situations, this book will inspire you to believed that God can answer even your most "impossible" prayers.
     Let these stories touch your heart, strengthen your faith, and encourage you to pray more than ever before.

     MY REVIEW:  I blondly chose this book without really realizing what it was. Oh, I knew it was about prayer, but I didn't know it was a collection of true stories of answered prayers. Books like this usually take me 2-4 days to read--I had this one done in 24 hours. :) I really really liked it!
     I agree, it can seem like God isn't hearing my prayers, but after reading all these stories of amazing answers to prayer (and amazing faith in God to answer prayers) I was reassured. I have to remember that God's time is different than mine, and He knows best. Just becuase I think I needs answered now doesnt' mean it's the best time. Wouldn't it be nice if we could see the whole picture? But then, why would we need to rely on God if we already knew everything?
     James Stuart Bell has compiled other books like this, such as Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters, Heaven Touching Earth, and Encountering Jesus. I would recommend getting ahold of any (or all) of his books.

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Night Pizza

Tonight Emily learned how to make pizza. She had SO much fun.

I let her go crazy with the seasonings--I think that was her favorite part. :) 

These are all the different kinds she used.

She likes to decorate with her initial. :)

English Lessons

   BOOK REVIEW: Could she come to love the questions themselves?   The church wasn't just part of Andrea Lucado's childhood. It was her childhood. It provided more than happy moments. It provided an invitations to know Jesus.
   When Andrea arrived in Oxford the year after she graduated from college, she expected to meet God there. What she didn't expect was that God would be so much bigger than she'd believed.
   In this engaging memoir, Andrea speaks to all of us who wrestle with doubt and identity. "So many nights in Oxford", Andrea writes, "I felt like the details of my faith were getting fuzzier. Nights turned restless with questions. I questioned God's existence, and the doubt was getting into my bones."
   In ENGLISH LESSONS, Andrea takes us through the roads of England and, more important, the paths of the soul. Here she explores the journey of a changing faith and an unchanging God--and why growing up starts with realizing just how small we are.

   MY REVIEW:  I have never read Max Lucado's books, but I have heard of them. When I saw that his daughter had written a book, I wanted to read it. And now that I have, I want to read some of Max's. I really liked English Lessons. It is worthwhile, interesting, and fun to read. Some memoirs can tend to be dry, but this one wasn't.
   I really liked the descriptions of Oxford that were included. I like big historic buildings and rivers as much as the next person, and as I read I wished there were pictures, or better yet--that I could actually be there! :)
   One of the many things I liked from the book is this paragraph:     "A friend from Nashville once told me that when he hears conflicting and confusing voices in his head, he knows those voices are not from God. God is not a God of confusion, he explained to me. God is clear. When I regret, wonder, and question my past, I feel anxious, guilty, and foggy. But when I release those moments of opportunity offered by various rivers over the years, and I focus on what's in front of me and all around me, the fog clears, the guilt fades, the anxiety subsides. That's when I hear God's voice because I've finally quieted the others. That's when I can see His face. Through the clearing of the fog, he comes into view, and His eyes are kind."   How true--when we stop wishing for yesterday, we can have today and hope for tomorrow. And if we stop agonizing, we can hear God.
   One more plus--this is a beautiful, hardcover book. :)

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

Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

 Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

This is the third time I have made these cookies, and cheers arose when they came out. Our family loves them. They are a bit time-consuming to make, but well worth the effort. I would say they are like making cinnamon rolls, really.

After making the dough and refrigerating it, you roll out a portion. 

Then you cover it with your pecan-brown sugar-butter filling (there's a reason they're good).

Then you roll it into a log.

Next, you cut the log into many many little cookies, and bake them. 

Then you eat as many as  you can before the rest of the family realizes they're done. :) 

I had a few that turned out nearly perfect!

And several that didn't  :)