Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Touching the Sky"

Hold onto your hats because I've got several more book reviews this week.  Baby nurses, nurses, nurses and Momma reads, reads, reads.

I recently read Touching the Sky by Tracie Peterson.  The description from the back of the book:

"Though their first encounter is hardly auspicious, Laura Marquardt soon discovers herself drawn to the dashing Captain Brandon Reid. As an officer over the colored troops, he eagerly supports her desire to educate blacks and seek harmony in a town where the defeat of the South is a bitter reality.

When Laura's sister marries her Confederate beau, Laura finds herself in a difficult situation after overhearing a discussion with frightening consequences. In her heart she feels she should confide in Brandon, but Laura fears to do so may endanger her sister's life. Yet as the stakes continue to rise and Brandon's motives for pursuing her come into doubt, Laura questions where to turn... and wonders if her own dreams of love may be forsaken."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end.  Peterson uses rich language to describe every detail of the ladies' dresses, the house furnishings, even the dinner parties.  I immediately fell in love with Laura and found myself defending Brandon's integrity.  Plucky Carissa is a hard pill to swallow but through the weaving of the story I found compassion and pity for her.  And Malcolm....well, let's just say no tears were spilled over him at the end of the story.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House publishers.  All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Gift To You

Thriving Family magazine, from Focus on the Family, has a 2012 Advent Calendar, a beautiful devotional for you to do with your family this December. 

While you are there, grab a FREE subscription to Thriving Family - it's full of fun stories, yummy recipes and helpful articles!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Read-Aloud

I am always in search of a good, fun read-aloud for the children.  A holiday read-aloud is even better. 

One set of books my boys loved was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald.  Ms. MacDonald has also penned a perfectly lovely book called Nancy and Plum

Here is the description from Amazon:
It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers
and made all of Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.

So begins the story of two orphaned sisters at Mrs. Monday’s Boarding School. But nothing is heavenly for Nancy and Pamela (aka Plum): their parents died in a tragic accident years ago, they’re constantly punished by the cruel Mrs. Monday, and they’re all alone for the holidays.

Luckily, Nancy and Plum have each other, and though their prospects may be bleak, they’re determined to change their lot for the better. If their plan works, the spirited sisters will never spend Christmas at the cold, dark boarding school again. But what will they find on the other side of Mrs. Monday’s gate?

Adventure, warmth, unforgettable characters, and unexpected kindness abound in this classic story by Betty MacDonald, which was originally published in 1952. With illustrations by the acclaimed Mary GrandPr√© and an introduction by Jeanne Birdsall, National Book Award–winning author of The Penderwicks, this edition introduces the spunky, beloved heroines to a new generation of fans.

We all absolutely adored this book, the characters were fun, the writing was exquisite and if you can get through the end without a lump forming in your throat, I applaud you!  Go check it out from your library today and you can get through it before Christmas!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review - "A Home in Drayton Valley"

Bethany House asked me to review Kim Vogel Sawyer's A Home in Drayton Valley.  Frail and sickly Mary Burbacher dreams of a better life for her two young children.  Her husband, Joss, though a hard worker is an alcoholic who gambles away his paycheck.  Mary's dearest friend Tarsie, an immigrant from Ireland, tries to nurse Mary back to health and suggests Mary and Joss move their family to Kansas and offers to finance the trip.  When his debts are being called in Joss has no chance but to agree to Mary's request to move.  But Mary has a secret and insists that Tarsie go along with them to see to Mary's medical needs.  When tragedy strikes along the way, Tarsie makes a promise to Mary that she doesn't know if she can keep.

I really enjoyed this book, the characters were multi-dimensional, my favorite characters were Tarsie, Joss, Simon and Ruth.  This story delves into many topics, marriage, prejudice, and prohibition, just to name a few.  The best part of this book is seeing characters soften and change as you see God working in their lives.  Good reading!

Disclaimer: Bethany House provided me a copy of this book.  All opinions expressed are solely mine.

The Chocolatiest Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

If you're a long-time reader you know I am somewhat of a hot cocoa snob.  I know what restaurants serve the best (Bob Evans - but do not, under any circumstances, look up the nutritional information), I have to doctor up gas station hot cocoa (two creams plus one chocolate cream if available), and I have been known to hide the "good stuff" in the back of the pantry.  I haven't seen Drinking Chocolate in any store lately so I had to resort to something else.  The boys all love hot cocoa as well and while I have found some super fantastic recipes that involve heating milk and melting chocolate (sister doesn't lie when she says it's the best ever - try it this Christmas), my time allotment and wallet require something simpler, like heating a kettle of water.  Something they can do themselves when needed.

So we reverted back to the powdery packets of ho-hum.  But I quickly tired of tasteless tan liquid.   I searched for recipes on Pinterest, Food Network and allrecipes but who to believe?  Recently I beseeched my Facebook friends for their favorite, tried-and-true hot cocoa mix recipe.  And one came up a near winner!

Now because, when drinking hot cocoa, taste and texture matter much more than calories, we tweaked the recipe a bit and added more chocolate.  And if you're worried about clean eating and limit your children to real food, you're definitely going to want to skip this recipe.  But if you're looking for a hot cocoa mix with a lot of flavor and a great's your recipe.  Also, too, there are hardly ever powdery bits at the bottom of your cup with this recipe.

The Chocolatiest Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

1 (8 qt) box dry milk
2 large boxes instant chocolate pudding mix
2 (30 oz) containers chocolate drink mix
½ c. powdered sugar
1 medium jar coffee creamer

Mix together and store in airtight container.  Add ¼ c. mix to each 6 oz. water.  Top with marshmallows or whipped cream.

If you are adventurous, add a tablespoon or two of cinnamon to the batch (I'm the only one here who likes cinnamon in my hot cocoa (and my chocolate chip cookies) so I just shake a little in my cup when I prepare it).  

If you decide you have already long ago derailed the train called Self-Control, add a dribble of real cream when you prepare a cup. 

And, as a side note, I always thought dry powdered milk was supposed to be cheaper than regular milk?  I only buy a box every year or two but egads - it's way more expensive than I remembered.  I think I calculated the total cost of this recipe to be around $11.00 and it should yield about 66 servings.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fun Package in the Mail

While I was in the hospital I received a fun package in the mail from Deborah.  This adorable dress & sweater set (can't wait until The Dimple can wear it!) and two hand knitted dishcloths.  Deborah had a giveaway of a dishcloth on her blog a few weeks (maybe a few months now?) ago and I mentioned to her how much I enjoy knitted dishcloths.

Deborah is a sister in Christ, a farmer's wife, homeschooling momma to two beautiful children, and blogger from the wheat fields of Kansas.  She blogs at A Delightful Glow.

I have not had the pleasure of meeting Deborah in real life (although she was mere miles from my house this summer, ahem!!!  Kidding - although Jill and I are long overdue for a leisurely Bob Evans breakfast so I think the next time Deborah is in town we need to meet up!), she is the sister of a good friend of mine, Jill.  We have commented on each others blogs for a while and are friends on Facebook.  It is so fun to use social media to get to know people halfway across the country.  I know for a fact that good friendships can blossom this way because I met Mr. Steady online over 15 years ago!

So, thank you Deborah, for the wonderful gift and thoughtful note!  So fun to get to know you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Introducing The Dimple

Gorgeous photo taken by the talented Belle Hess

On a chilly October day at 8:18 in the evening, on October 20, 2012, they placed a 10 pound, 7 ounce miracle in our arms.  She was perfect.  And after examining every inch of her beautiful body, we noticed she has a single dimple on her left cheek.  And so we introduce to you.... 
The Dimple.

I have spent the past three weeks snuggling, nursing, changing, and mostly kissing this beautiful baby. 

We are so very grateful for this gift straight from Heaven and praise God for her every day.  A few days before she arrived, I was reading in Job and verse 42:5 jumped right off the page at me, "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you."  I hope to blog more about this in the coming weeks or months but we are so grateful God's ways are so much higher than our ways.  We knew He is faithful and has a plan for each of us but now we have seen with our eyes His miraculous ways and works.