Friday, December 30, 2011

Book review AND giveaway of The One Year Uncommon Daily Life Challenge by Tony Dungy

This is an exciting, most excellent, day for me; my blog's very first book giveaway!!!

(Yes, in my opinion, it deserves three whole exclamation points.)

Here's the book:

And here's the scoop...

Now, a confession that may just rock your world.

I'm not a football fan. Not even a little bit. 

I'll wait a sec while that little snippet of info seeps in.

Thoroughly seeped?  Sorry, I mean, steeped?

Ok, the question I'm sure you're dying to ask.

Why then, did I pick this particular title, written by a beloved Super Bowl winning coach, to review?

I love my husband. (And enjoy earning brownie points to cash in for future use...)

So when he shows significant interest in obtaining a copy of this very book, I jump on it, while cringing at the same time.

The F word (football) nags me right up until I crack open the first page and start, what I'm sure will be, an arduous task.

Upon skimming the beginning entry, I relax a tad, before moving on to day two.

Not so bad.

Before I know it, February's section has come and gone, with March firmly in sight.

Victory is mine! (I'm also completely sure Tony Dungy himself would swell with amazing pride over my great accomplishment.)

Eventually, fall enters the picture, and suddenly, I'm not ready to face winter. A bleakness fills my soul.

No more pages???

Dismal as this thought is, it propels me forward in my quest to uncover any remaining hidden gems of wisdom, lurking just beneath the surface.

(Somewhere, in a snake infested pit, Indiana Jones and Steven Spielberg are lamenting the disappearance of a trade mark whip and fedora.)

Treasures found, I can, at last, safely close the final chapter of my adventure with a new, transforming, experience under my belt.

In case you missed it:

I read a book, written by a football guy, containing more football references than the amount of times Charlie Sheen coined the phrase, "winning"...

And I honestly liked it!

In conclusion, Mr. Dungy has hit a home run.

(I know, wrong sport. )

Writing in a relate able, easy to understand style, he touches on the important topics in every guy's life. He's careful to use biblically sound replies when approaching each subject, not giving pat answers, but speaking openly and plainly throughout. Also, sharing from his own unique experiences, and those around him, brings an authenticity to his words. You're left feeling as though you just had a one on one conversation with the man himself.

This devotional is sure to encourage, motivate, and enrich, numerous men out there who are striving to become the person they know God wants them to be. It truly has something for pretty much everyone and is a great opportunity for football fans to see another side of this popular, well-respected, coach, off the field. His strength, humility, and leadership qualities, are clearly evident; a tribute to the core values he holds dear.

In this day and age, there honestly aren't enough positive male role models in the public eye, so Tony Dungy's willingness to step up, sets a great example to others.

In short, I highly recommend reading this book and taking the challenge yourself. Start out the New Year, determined to live an "uncommon" life, and see what happens.

To get you started, I think it's time for a...


To enter for your chance to win a copy of The One Year Uncommon Daily Life Challenge, simply leave a comment below in the comment section, with your email included, so I can contact the winner for their mailing address, etc. This drawing will be open for a week, so you have plenty of time to join, and I'll be announcing the results next Friday, January 6th!

If you're not sure what kind of comment to leave, how about one of the resolutions on your New Years list?

And, finally, as a way of saying thank you, I'll award a bonus entry to anyone that already is a follower, or decides to start, following my blog.

If you haven't yet introduced yourself, I'd love the chance to see your face and get to know a little bit about you, reader. So please, pull up a chair, grab some slippers, and make yourself at home. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

(P.S. I'll only be accepting entries within the U.S.)

If you'd like to check out Tyndale House Publishers site, click here:

You can also find further info on author,Tony Dungy, here:

As a disclosure, I receive a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I also received a certificate for one complimentary copy of this book to be given to the winner of this giveaway.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Poppers!

With New Year's right around the corner, these little melt in your mouth delights are perfect for your New Year's Eve smorgasboard of snack foods. They're sugar, and spice, and everything nice. Literally.

Trust me, they are the whole package, minus all the work. 

And they actually taste as good, or even better, than they look!

Here's the original link:

But if you're in a hurry, here's the condensed version.


  • 1 package Cream Cheese (8 Ounce Package)
  • 4 ounces, weight Canned, Diced Jalapenos
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 8 ounces, weight Tube Refrigerated Crescent Rolls


Open crescent rolls, lay them out on the counter, and flatten into one straight sheet, pushing together the perforations. In a bowl, stir cream cheese, sugar, and jalapenos till well combined. Spoon mixture over crescent sheet and roll, wide end up. Using a sharp knife, cut into 16 pieces, then place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Pull em out, and begin popping into your mouth!

P.S. If you stick the knife you're using to cut the poppers into hot water between slices, it keeps the cream cheese from sticking. I learned this the hard way. :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is age really just a number?

Ok, so as you've gotten older, have you noticed the years piling up a lot faster than they used to? 

Birthdays seem to come at warp speed and you gradually begin feeling like an overwhelmed batter, stuck at home plate, ducking and dodging for survival. Or perhaps crouching and wheezing. 

If only that pitcher would slow down, just a little, maybe we could limp, awkwardly, to the sidelines and slump over the bench, unnoticed...

I remember, clearly, a time when I wanted to be 16 so bad because then i would finally be able to make that penultimate trip to the DMV every child dreams of, and every parent dreads. You know, where they give your Jenny permission to sit behind the wheel of a car, most likely your car, and drive out on the open road where speed limits reach a staggering 65. And half-blind seniors hold their wheel in a paper thin death grip, lest the urge to top 35 miles per hour suddenly overtake them.

Yup, you know.

But that was only the beginning. After 16, the next target was 18, because that meant high school would be a thing of the past and I could start earning money working at our local library. With the accrued cash in my pocket generously outweighing my monthly bills, I couldn't wait to be a mature 21. Everything was just cooler once you left the teens, right? I was on to bigger and better things. 

I liked 21 a lot and decided it would be nice to stay there for a while. It was the perfect compromise between young and adult. I got the respect I wanted without too much pressure to change my still slightly childish ways.

My 22nd birthday came and went with only a little shrug on my part. Another year, no big deal. After 23, though, I began experiencing a twinge of reluctance to turn 24. Somehow, that was too close to 25, which meant I'd be a middle aged 20.  

(And yes, I imagine some eye rolling, along with a few groans of "I wish I were still that young." Believe me, I get it.)

Well, that moderately dreaded 25 came and went, but it was nothing compared to 26. Let me tell you, I pretended to be outwardly happy, but inside, the number danced around my brain like a cat chasing its tail. 

Summer arrived and with it, 27. Ugh, I was over the hill and on my way to the big 3-0. I thought about applying wrinkle cream because surely those lines would be showing up in droves now. For once, I was happy that my pasty white Irish skin had seen less sun than most vampires.

Right after turning 28, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Amid the excitement and busyness of her impending birth, a new year started and, with it, one last stop before 30.

Dum dum. Those dreaded numbers which send a chill down my spine and keep me reaching for the age defying masks.

I'm currently in that limbo between two age brackets, waiting for May to boot me over the fence with a kick of finality. 

But if age is only a state of  mind, why does it matter so much? Why am I obsessing like an OCD fanatic jacked up on mountain dew? Perhaps it's because I have no control over this particular aspect of my life. Or maybe I envy Peter Pan's world of never never land...

Whatever the reason, I'm trying to stay positive and upbeat.  I have no idea what's waiting for me on the other side of 20 something, but I'm hoping it's good.

Al though I won't say my birthday and I are best buds, we are at least on speaking terms. Hey, if it brings me gifts and a free burger at Red Robin, there should be a small, grudging, level of respect, right?

While I still haven't conquered my turning older phobia, and maybe never will, I'm trying to live in the moment and not focus so much on the age thing. I gotta say, watching my daughter grow before my eyes, brings a whole new level of "time flies" to my awareness.

I'm aware that I want to take part in my life fully, not as a spectator watching from the sidelines, but as the person in the middle, actively taking those swings, even if they don't always garner massive home runs.

I want to be comfortable in my own skin, crow's feet be darned, so numbers won't control my happiness or sense of worth. 

Hey, I'm a work in progress, so be patient with me. 

My new favorite quote:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My first ever book giveaway!

Just a friendly reminder that I'll be having a giveaway of former football coach 
Tony dungy's new devotional, "The One Year Uncommon Daily Life Challenge", this Friday.

Because it's my first book giveaway, I'm super excited; and can't wait to share a copy with you, my blog friend! 

My husband received one of his own for Christmas and, after watching him flip intently through it several times, I had to pry it away from his grubby little fingers so we could eat breakfast. He can't wait to delve into it, beginning January-a perfect start for the New Year! (And even if you miss the first few entries, you can catch right up by going to the current date and joining in there.)

This is a great tool for any guy, especially husbands and/or fathers, looking for encouraging tips on how to successfully navigate all the important things in their demanding schedule. 

So, even if it's not for you, why not snag a copy for that special person in your world who could use some positive reinforcement? 

This is what Mr. Dungy had to say about the importance of strong role modeling for guys:

"Our young men today are falling into a trap... Society is telling them material success is what's important, but if we buy into that idea, we can spend a lifetime chasing that success and never really have the positive impact on people that would make our lives truly significant."

Want an "uncommon life"? 

Monday, December 26, 2011

A belated Merry Christmas to you!

I can't believe it's Monday already; time to start a brand new week and prepare for New Years! Don't the holidays just seem to sneak up on you? Then before you know it, they've  come and gone, quick as a groundhog's shadow...
While it's still fresh in my mind, though, here's a pic of my daughter, Ava, and I on Christmas morning.

 (Please ignore the bed head, blurry eyes, and jammies, if you can. :) )

It was so much fun sharing our first Christmas together and, for me, experiencing things once again through the wonder of a child's perspective.

Becoming a mom this past January, has also awakened a new appreciation for what Mary must have felt carrying and giving birth to Jesus. All the uncertainty, fear, excitement, and hope you pour into your little one. The dreams you instantly start building toward their future...

Then knowing your child will grow up to be scorned, reviled, betrayed, and ultimately sacrificed for the transgressions of others; a heart breaking thought for any mother. Especially when that little boy is perfect, sinless, and completely undeserving of his pre-determined fate.

Our natural instinct is to shield and protect our offspring, but Mary had to endure these injustices for her son's sake and, as he matured, watch him suffer torment after torment.

What grace and courage God the father must have bestowed upon this woman, when choosing her above all others, to be the earthly mother for his precious son. Obviously she wasn't a saint, but a normal person, yet she retains an almost mystical figure status; somehow too lofty for us mere mortals to relate with.

However, if I think of her as a mother who loved her child, who just happened to be the Lord of the universe,  it doesn't seem like such a stretch picturing myself in her shoes.

Even if I'll never understand all she went through during those harrowing times, I can connect with her on a basic emotional level the shared experience of motherhood brings.

She was a human, like me, who God chose for the greatest task imaginable. He used one of us to give birth to the very child that would one day redeem us. He could have sent Jesus, fully formed, ready to be sacrificed, but instead allowed him the experience of life here so his son could know us, his creation.

Because He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to work through us to accomplish His will. He believes in us, despite our imperfections.

That gives me hope.

And that hope is the gift Christmas represents to each of us.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What will you be eating Christmas morning?

Do you have a favorite breakfast staple or food tradition  your family has passed down over the years?

Growing up, my mom always made a braided Christmas bread, filled with nuts and raisins,  plus an egg glaze on top. I recall how much fun it was splitting the dough into various sections, before twisting them together into an intricate design of our choosing. Sometimes, we even got our own little loaf to eat ahead of time, while the big one was baking in the oven...

With our bread, we'd have a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice-then the pestering to open gifts began.  We might have had other things to eat also, but that bread is the only thing which firmly stands out in my mind. Although it's been years since I tasted it, but my nose can almost pick up the scent if I concentrate hard enough. I'd dearly love to put together another loaf and share it with my family so I can continue the tradition. Hopefully, next Christmas. :)

If you'd like to create a braided bread of your own, here's a recipe I found that looks very similar to the one my mom made. Unfortunately, we lost her original recipe, but this seems like a good enough substitute. If you make it, let me know how it turns out! :)

But until then, I plan on trying these cheese danish tomorrow morning. They look easy and fun, plus crescents and cheese are always a delicious combo. Yum!

No matter what ends up on your table, here's hoping you and your family enjoy some amazing food with a side of Christmas cheer!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas: The happiest time of the year?

While most people associate Christmas with happiness, joy, and excitement, there are others who dread the clockwork-like certainty of its coming every year. If given a choice, they would gladly skip ahead to sunnier months, leaving behind those cold winter days and snow covered driveways.

Perhaps remembering what has occurred during the past 360 days leaves little room for celebrating the remaining 5.

Or it might even stem farther back than that. Sadness doesn't really need a date to etch itself inside us; once there, it reminds us of its presence  with no thought of seasons passing.

It may be a little easier to block out the dull ache with the endless distractions summer brings, but ice and wind bring those shallowly buried feelings surfacing once more.

Sixteen years ago, today, I lost my mom to cancer. It seems like forever ago; back when I was just a gangly, barely-teen, in my awkward glory, who knew so little of life. Or anything remotely resembling fashion sense. I do mean re-motely.

That girl feels so far removed from the person I am now; and yet I know she's still in there each time I make a questionable style choice. :)

People have asked, do I wish I could change what happened all those years ago, if given a chance? And I can't really answer them. To say no, would mean choosing not to share a life with my mom, which I would never willingly  do. Saying yes, would mean choosing another version of who I've become, another existence, rather like a parallel universe.

The whole of ME, my core being, has been shaped, for good or bad, by events that were out of my control. Cancer doesn't need permission to take away a loved one, and God, much as we might wish, doesn't either.

In our eyes, a loss can mean the end of dreams or, perhaps, unvoiced, but carefully constructed, future plans. The death of a long held hope can be so completely shattering in its finality, and sadly, we're left to pick up the pieces of something that used to be intact.

In fact, we're mourning the loss of that intangible something, now gone, almost as much as that specific someone.

I don't recall exact images of my mom with sharp clarity. It's more an overall impression of her I remember. She dances around behind my eyelids during that magical time between waking and dreaming; more hazy hologram than reality. She's there when I'm leaning over the stove, spoon in hand, wondering just how much seasoning a pot of lentil soup needs. She guides my fingers as they slide along the piano keys, evoking the contentment of a little girl, tucked in bed, being lulled to sleep by slow, rhythmic, musical chords. Most importantly, she's present every time I do the right thing, because she taught me to always stand up for what I believe in, no matter the consequence. This is what sticks to me most; the core essence of...her.

My mom will always be part of me, though it's still not the same as receiving a warm hug, words of encouragement, or sharing a face to face conversation.  I miss those things countless moments a day, and always will...

However, I don't want to lose what's right in front of me by spending too much time chasing events gone by. Because, while I can't change or control the past, I CAN control how I let it guide my future. 

Time doesn't heal all wounds but it definitely does lessen the impact. If you, or someone you know, is struggling to cope, please allow yourself to feel sad, or mad, or down. God gave us this gauntlet of emotions for a reason and we should be able to express them, to vent when we need to.

It's all right if we don't see the big picture just yet because, while we might only see a tiny village on a map, our Heavenly Father sees a globe of opportunities.

Yes, He might take away certain things we hold dear, but He always gives back...abundantly and without reserve.  If we search for the light of His goodness, we will find evidence of it all around us. The key is looking.

December is such a busy month that stepping back from it all can be quite challenging yet, truly freeing.  Do you need to clear your mind or push the internal reset button? What may be holding you back from experiencing complete joy this Christmas?

As we prepare for new beginnings, now might be the perfect opportunity for your own re-birth as we celebrate His.

May God bless you richly and abundantly!

*Edit, For anyone who received multiple copies of this in their inbox, I apologize. My background was acting up, and I had to re-post several times to fix it! :( 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chex Overload!

As a snack food devotee with a serious addiction to the crunch factor,  I pretty much think chex cereal is the bomb. I mean the stuff tastes good with milk,  tabasco, chocolate, pretzels, nuts, bagel bites, and (sigh) worcestershire sauce, like no other. Talk about versatility!

I have so many fond memories that involve  the dumping  of corn chex into pans of buttery, spicy, garlicky, goodness then smothering those suckers with a few extra shakes of worcestershire on top. A few times I forgot the "stir every 15 minutes" bit, yet that slightly burned stuff ended up being my favorite part. 

And now, I'm about to continue the tradition with another batch-or two if I'm feeling ambitious. 

Want to make some of your own? It's the original chex party mix right here:

Reindeer Feed

Haven't made this one yet but I've done similar versions that were super delic. Only three ingredients, so I'm already hooked and ready to try.

Bring out the chex and let's begin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans

Since it IS the week of Christmas, why not share some of the festive goodies we get to indulge in this time of year? 

I found these on Pinterest ( a nifty little site that has become my new obsession) and made them today. Boy, are they yummy! I've bought these type of fancy nuts before at fairs and various shops, but they're even better home made. And so so simple to whip together. All you need is two gallon size bags, pecan halves, egg whites, vanilla, water, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Easy, right? 

For the complete directions, click here:

Tomorrow, I'll share  another delectable recipe with y'all. ( Ok, I'm not southern but y'all sounds so friendly, doesn't it?) 

If you'd like to swap one of your Christmas favorites with me, I'd be tickled pink! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

Taste of Home is my longtime favorite go to recipe spot, and these delicious cupcakes are from there. I discovered this recipe in my teens and have been making these yummy morsels ever since. The combination of spices, moist zucchini, and melt in your mouth caramel frosting are divine.

Perfect for fall/winter, these things are hard to stop eating, so be prepared to give some away if you don't want to consume your whole calorie quota for the day in one sitting.

I hope you love these cupcakes as much as I do! Happy eating!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Does parenting bring out our competitive nature?

Since having my daughter, Ava, almost a year ago, I've learned some interesting truths about myself. Becoming a parent, in all its wonderfulness, does have a certain affect on ones psyche.

Amid the obvious excitement, sleep deprivation, and wonder, something else manages to sneak in unannounced; and nearly undetected. In fact, for the first few weeks, you're probably blissfully unaware of its existence, so wrapped up in the cocoon of soft baby skin, gurgles and midnight feedings.

It's hard to pin point the exact moment you feel those first major twinges of "it."

Maybe a trip to the doctor where your little one is weighed, measured and checked against that infamous percentile chart. The one which tells you where your child falls in the "normal" stratosphere. You wait, breathlessly, for the thumbs up from that all important person in the white coat, because they will surely note the perfection that is your bundle of joy.  Has there ever been a more beautiful baby? Or one with that amazing shade of blue eyes? And look at his cheeks? Plump, pink and pinch able.

As if to agree, the doctor smiles and pats baby's head while consulting charts and clipboards that will determine if your assessment matches his. And to your delight, it does! The relief that floods your heart is immediate and that slowly growing twinge of "it" triples in size.

That "it" is pride. And "it" is here to stay.

Now, you may say, "There's nothing wrong with being proud of my child,"  and you are absolutely right. Pride in itself is not the problem, but, rather, how it manifests in you, and those around you.

As I said earlier, I've learned some interesting truths about myself since the birth of my daughter, and the discovery of mom pride is one of them. Sure, it's not my first run-in with the P word. We've all had our overly inflated ego moments or those times we've compared our skills, looks, style,  to anothers and (oh happy day!) found theirs lacking. We inwardly congratulate ourselves, while outwardly maintaining a facade of neutrality. "What, you thought MY brownies were the moistest? Puleeze, girl, yours were amazing!"

Yeah, not so much, but the lie comes out of our mouth just the same because WE know everyone ELSE knows our brownies were the clear champion of THIS bake-off. (Plus, appearing humble also makes us feel a little bit better about patting ourselves on the proverbial back.)

But that was before, and this is now.

The playing field has changed and the players are now drooly, diaper wearing, little einsteins.

Suddenly, that gracious offsetting of compliments that used to be so natural, comes a little less easily.

Your sneaky inner Gollum says, "And why shouldn't i be proud of my precioussss?" 

Indeed, why not? 

And without warning, the "kraken" has been released. While it might not appear as menacing as a sea monster, pride can have the same amount of destructive power over those that come into its path. The aftermath isn't pretty.

I know, because I've been a partaker as well as recipient of "mommy wars."

The typical chat starts out innocently enough. "I just love being a mom. Each day is such a blessing, don't you think? I'm always amazed at what a smart girl my Wanda is. Did I tell you? She's already sleeping through the night, holds her own bottle, smiles at least 10 times a day and began crawling at 3 months." Pause. "How about yours? Does he do all that?" Concerned look. "I notice he isn't eating solids yet and doesn't seem to make very good eye contact. Should you be worried? Have you talked to the doctor?"

Really, who are we fooling (certainly not ourselves) when we pretend these pseudo conversations are all about the kids? (And I'm not talking about pleasant baby talk, where you swap crazy stories, helpful tips, and laugh about how many times Johnny fell into the toilet bowl) No, I'm referring to the other kind of "friendly banter" which ends up being a game of one up-manship.

Now, here is the point where you can either rattle off a long list of your own child's accomplishments, or simply...let it go. Just like that.

But it's not really that easy because pride wants justice. Pride doesn't give up without a fight, especially if it means using your child to win.

Since we think of our offspring as an extension of ourselves, a poor reflection of them, no matter how flawed the reflector, feels like a personal attack on us. As parents, or even as a person.

That innate urge to come out on top, is a strong motivator when it comes to how we view our children and by that same token, ourselves. Holding up a mirror to our own actions may be an unpleasant but necessary experience, in order to get an impartial view of what others see in us.

Believe me, it can make you wince just a little when you come face to face with your inner self, but the epiphany you'll receive afterward is worth it. Now, I'm gradually learning to stop and ask what my motivations for doing or saying something stem from. Do I have my own interests or someone else's at heart? Is pride lurking around the corner, waiting for the opportunity to pounce?

Having talked to fellow parents, I think we all agree this job is a hard enough one without adding negative energy to the equation. So many of us worry about failing or being eclipsed when, in reality, no one has this mom/dad thing down pat.

Really, all we want is the freedom to be ourselves, and the parents our kids deserve.  When not feeling judged or compared to others, I know the best, truest, parts of me come out. I notice less of a need to let pride take over, simply because I have nothing to prove.

Why shouldn't our kids be allowed the same thing? If we want them to grow up in a safe, loving, environment let's set the example by being secure with ourselves, and in extension, them. We're all unique and no two people do things exactly a like, so why expect that of babies and hang onto those individual milestones with a death grip?

I will always love my daughter and be proud of her, but hopefully not at the expense of others. I want to uplift, instead of tear down.

For any parent out there I may have hurt by an unthinking comment or moment of pride, I truly apologize and pray for the grace to do better next time.

Let's all lay down those competitive natures that may be forcing a wedge between us and the ones we should be supporting.

In the end, we're really doing ourselves the favor.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing, from a comedic point of view

So I was thinking...

(Not always a good thing, but necessary, nonetheless.)

...That the format for telling jokes and penning books is quite similar.

First: There's The Premise. 

Essentially the whole basis for the story or joke. What topic, subject, or person are you going to focus on throughout?

Second: The Setup.

How are you going to introduce readers or listeners to the characters and story you're telling? No pressure, but if this isn't good, you might as well nix the next step and start from scratch.

Third: The Buildup.

Once the foundation is set, what's the best way to prepare for the upcoming dramatic or comedic arc? How will you grab people's attention and make it stay there? You've got the interest part down, but since timing is everything, it's all about the tension now.

The best comedians and writers know how to drag out that anticipation juuuust long enough before delivering the goods. Too soon and you lose the momentum; too long and, yup, you lose the momentum.

Momentum, good.

Zero momentum, bad.

Fourth: The Punchline/Delivery.

Otherwise known as The Payoff, where everyone is supposed to laugh.

Or cry, having learned: Gasp! The hero and heroine can never be together since he has been harboring a lunatic wife in the attic these past fifteen years. Scoundrel! And then there's a fire, blindness ensues-

Fifth: The Kicker/End/Grand Finale.

Now that we've (hopefully) moved people to chuckles or tears, the end is at last firmly in sight. The bumpy part is over and it's time for a smooth landing. "Dramedy" needs to fix whatever mess they've gotten themselves into before the last five pages run out; or too many rotten eggs are thrown onstage at some poor sap who failed to make the audience laugh long enough, loud enough, or maybe even once.

It's now or never.

And suddenly when all seems lost, a glimmer of hope. That one last sentence which turns the tide of mediocre smiles to belly shaking guffaws. That final paragraph in which the two star crossed lovers realize crazy ex-spouses, burned mansions, and blistered eyes can never extinguish true love.

(Ha, fooled you, reader!)

Sixth: Exiting on a high note.

Leaving the audience wanting more. Because there's nothing worse than overstaying your welcome. Or over punching your punchline. Or rambling too much and losing the momentum you've so carefully constructed.

Rambling can be a terrible thing. Rambling leads to bunny trails, bunny trails turn into rabbit holes, and before you know it, you're approaching Alice in Wonderland territory, where the Mad Hatter resides with his array of unusual hats and perpetual tea parties...

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

Having read Laura Frantz' stellar previous two offerings, The Frontiersman's Daughter and Courting Morrow Little, I knew The Colonel's Lady would be good.

But how good?

Well, to say I loved it would be an understatement. The word stunning comes to mind, but even that seems a bland description. How about exquisite?

All right, enough with the adjectives and on with the story. 

Here's a brief synopsis from the back cover:

Can love survive the secrets kept buried within a tormented heart?
Roxanna Rowan may be a genteel Virginia woman, but she is determined to brave the wilds of the untamed frontier to reach a remote Kentucky fort. Eager to reunite with her father, who serves under Colonel Cassius McLinn, Roxanna is devastated to find that her father has been killed on a campaign.

Penniless and out of options, Roxanna is forced to remain at the fort. As she spends more and more time with the fiery Colonel McLinn, the fort is abuzz with intrigue and innuendo. Can Roxanna truly know who the colonel is--and what he's done?

Immerse yourself in this powerful story of love, faith, and forgiveness set in the tumultuous world of the frontier in 1779.

Laura Frantz is simply an amazing wordsmith, and The Colonel's Lady is probably her finest creation to date. The vivid imagery she breaths to life so convincingly,  has a certain gracefulness about it, managing to strike a perfect mood balance somewhere between realism and wonder. Rather like that moment just before sunset when you're caught in the middle of two worlds; one about to end and the other just beginning. 

Each detail that unfolds feels like a piece of fine chocolate; meant to be savored and digested slowly so as to get the full impact. I love that instead of cramming a lot of dialogue in to propel the plot, the author allows the  character's actions to speak for themselves. 

Aside from gorgeous writing, the plot structure moves along at just the right pace, keeping readers invested in the story. Cassius and Roxanna also share some great moments of romantic tension that, while dramatic, never feel forced or contrived. 

Everything simply fits, like puzzle pieces coming together in a gradually cohesive tapestry.

The Colonel's Lady is one such masterpiece I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My healthier version of Loaded Potato Soup

Okay, so the word "loaded" gives off kind of a fattening vibe, doesn't it? 

I mean I can already feel my pants getting snugger with just the mere thought of said heaped upon goodness going into my belly. A belly that, I might add,  hasn't been completely flat since...umm ever. 

Of course, there's nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while, but during this time of year, sneaking some extra calories can be a riskier proposition than usual. With all the delicious junk already going around, it's way too easy to consume A LOT more than we'd like.

So what's the solution? 

Well, you could cut out any potentially naughty nom noms and eat like a bird until January. (Thumbs down from me.)

OR ...

Figure out a way to make healthier duplicates of your favorite foods! 

That option keeps me from feeling deprived and also offers a way to burn off all the excess imaginative energy I have lying around. Sadly, that particular "burning off" doesn't apply to my waistline...

Anyhow, here's my new and improved loaded potato soup, that cuts down on the fat without compromising flavor. Oh, and did I mention it's a breeze to make? All right, let's grab a bag of potatoes and get started, shall we?

You'll need:

 -A dozen large potatoes
-3 chicken bouillon cubes or  2-3 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth
-2-3 cups coconut milk or regular milk works fine too, but will add more calories
-2-3 tbsp butter or  margarine
-Seasonings to taste-garlic and onion powder, salt, pepper, parsley
-1 cup Plain greek yogurt-any brand
-Turkey bacon
-Low fat cheddar cheese

To begin, peel and cut potatoes into big chunks, placing them in a large pot over your stove. Fill with almost enough water to cover the potatoes then add bouillon cubes, two cups of coconut milk, butter, and seasonings. Let cook down until potatoes are soft, and liquid is thicker/more blended in. Use a masher to smush up half the potato chunks and add about 1/2-1 cup greek yogurt to pot, mixing well. The soup mixture can tend to thicken quickly, so you may want to add an extra cup or two of coconut milk to achieve desired consistency. Taste the end result to see if it needs more seasoning. Ladle into bowls and serve with pieces of scallion,  turkey bacon, cheese, and/or any other topping you'd like. 

What favorite recipes have you given a "makeover" to? Or are there any you'd like to see re-done in a healthier way? I love receiving new tips and suggestions so please share some of yours with me. And let me know how the soup turned out for you!

Until next time...blessings!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking ahead...

The Week of 12/26, I'll be posting a review as well as offering a giveaway copy of Tony Dungy's new devotional, "The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge,"  courtesy of Tyndale Publishers.

The perfect antidote for those after Christmas blues, right? So if you or someone you know is a sports fan or you're looking to start out the new year in a positive direction, come on over and leave a comment plus your email address to be entered in the contest.

To get a sneak peek at the first chapter, click here:

Cashew Chicken...


This is a great, easy, recipe I found on Simply Recipes-a fabulous site for nom noms. Make this with curried rice and you'll feel as if you've died and gone to India. It's delicious. And just to whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek...


Hello and Welcome!

Let me introduce myself. 

(Imagine me waving excitedly... :)

In a nutshell...

I have a slight obsession with books. And I say slight because I don't want to scare you off, dear reader. (However, if you too suffer from the above mentioned malady, we should get along splendidly!) There's nothing quite like cracking open the pages of a new story and touching the printed word, is there? Not knowing what precarious path you may find yourself on, or how many shredded nails later you will close said book with a sigh of relief...

Delicious, no?


I love to eat. Surprise, who doesn't? But, actually, my favorite part of the process takes place before I ever digest that first bite. Creating a masterpiece of edible delight is high on my list of favorite things, along with any BBC production sporting handsome men in starched cravats. Yes, I'm talking about the perfection that is you, Mr. Darcy.

My love affair with food has been ongoing for as long as I can remember. Hazy images filled with warm loaves of freshly baked bread, delicious crunchy casseroles, home made cakes, cookies and pies, shelves of just canned soups, vegetables, fruits, jams, pickles, etc. all filter through my mind in no particular order. Watching my Mom move around the kitchen was akin to the magnitude of a human Yoda in action. Everywhere at once, with what seemed to be eyes in the back of her head, she trail blazed a path through her domain while managing to instill a mutual passion in her youngest daughter. Granted, my first attempts at cooking were probably more along the vein of a well meaning yet bumbling hobbit, (ahem, Samwise Gamgee) but not even that could deter me. Because with one memorable taste of home cooked food, I was smitten, game over.


As a wife and new mom, I'm always looking for ways to be the best I can at these two awesome endeavors. Note, I say awesome, not easy. Much to my chagrin, those words don't necessarily go hand in hand. Yet, through ever mistake I've made, and will continue to, I take some consolation that it's one less future mishap waiting to happen because I've learned my lesson, right? Uh, wrong, but that logic does make me feel better at the end of the day. So, I'm not perfect and never will be but that doesn't mean I can't keep trying. Thomas the Tank Engine's got nothing on me.


Lastly, I love God because He first loved me. Or as the late, great, C.S. Lewis so aptly put it:

"God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love."


I'm so glad you stopped by! I love visitors and genuinely look forward to hearing from you, so drop me a line or two about yourself. Now that we've been introduced, please don't be a stranger.

Until next time...


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Vanilla Sheet Cake

In a word, A-MAZING! Trust me, once you taste this winner, it'll inevitably end up on the top of your recipe stash. So go ahead and make know you want to...


For the recipe go to:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

An Amish Wedding by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Long

Priscilla, Naomi, and Rose are all friends with one thing in common. They desire to marry, but that ultimate goal may just elude them.

Priscilla has her man; but the planned upon wedding of her dreams? Not so much. Naomi, hasn't yet found that special someone to share her life with. However, with her sister's nuptials looming, will all of that change? Meanwhile, Rose cherishes the childhood friendship she's cultivated with her fiancee Luke, but will it ever grow into the kind of relationship she truly longs for?

The three authors made this an easy read and one that I was able to breeze through with a feeling of enjoyment throughout. Getting to know each couple separately while also watching their stories intertwine, was a fun twist. Kind of like reading the same book from three different point's of view. For fans of the authors or Amish genre, this should be a home run. The Amish lifestyle is an interesting one, especially when seen through the eyes of young couples about to wed. An Amish Wedding allows us "Englischers" the chance to slow down and appreciate a culture unlike our own, where modern frills are shunned in favor of traditional practices. And who doesn't like a bit of escapism every now and then?

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall


Mattie and Gideon were the couple everyone knew would end up together. Best friends for years, they shared treasured memories and a love deep enough to get Mattie through the darkest times of her mother's ailing health. Then one Christmas singing, Mattie catches Gideon in the arms of an Englischer...and everything changes. Crushed by his betrayal and their subsequent breakup, she leaves home for the long held dream of setting up her very own bakery. Her business is a success and Mattie even catches the eye of the quiet, gentle, Sol but her heart is still bruised from the past. Though she has no real spark with Sol, Mattie would rather settle for companionship with him than risk spending a life alone. Through a whirl wind of events, she is forced to cross paths with the one man she never wants to see again; and it's all she can do to be civil. Gideon desperately wants to make amends for his wrong, but Mattie can barely contain the anger and frustration she feels about unanswered questions from that long ago night. Will anything her former love says or does be enough to bridge the enormous gap between them? Can Mattie find the peace she craves to move on with her future?

If you have the winter blues, this little novella is the perfect antidote for you. I started reading during a road trip and, three hours later, I had nearly finished the story. I found it really engaging and the characters easy to connect with throughout. Mattie Lane was likeable and someone most any girl, especially one who's been scorned, could empathize with. Cindy Woodsmall did a great job handling the awkward relationship between Gideon and Mattie. She allowed Mattie some time to vent her anger toward him as well as work through her feelings past and present. There was good tension throughout and you felt for each character in different ways. I also enjoyed reading from Mattie, Gideon and Sol's point of view and thought it gave the story a nice diversity. The Christmas Singing was a sweet story without being too overdone or heavy handed emotionally. I'd definitely recommend to friends and it's one I'll probably re-read again in a few years. It would be fun finding out what happens with Sol also. Will he get his own book? Hint hint...

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multnomah/Waterbrook in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund


 Having learned several years prior that she will likely never have children, Priscilla White is prepared to leave behind her former aspirations of wife and mother for a teaching position in India. Once the mission board gives her their final letter of approval, she'll be on her way. However, her church's Sunday morning arrival of another prospective missionary, Dr. Eli Earnest, brings an unwelcome dose or reality when he plainly informs her the board has decided only married couples will be allowed to travel to their desired mission posts.

Unbelieving, Priscilla soon discovers his words are true when she receives her own letter of apologetic dismissal from those who hold her very future in their hands. Feeling crushed, she wonders just what is to become of her calling to serve in India and the carefully mapped out plans for her life? Meanwhile, Dr. Earnest is pondering the same thing as he longs to minister to the Nez Perce tribe out West. A marriage of convenience seems the only alternative for them, but both have serious reservations about entering into a business partnership, especially with each other. Yet, with options dwindling, what choice do they have? Will Eli and Priscilla join forces together or allow their individual dreams to fall by the wayside?

The Doctor's Lady is a really good read. You know, the kind you don't want to put down because you're sure if you do, something will happen when you're not looking. Those pages might just pack themselves up and run off if you don't keep an eye on them...In fact, I've usually found the best spot for safekeeping is on a bed stand. That way, you can take periodic peeks to make sure your treasure is still there; even if it means partaking in an all night vigil. Yup, that's how seriously I took my responsibilities for The Doctor's Lady, and you should too.

The writing is quite strong, the characters well fleshed out, the journey interesting; with just enough details to satisfy those curious about what so many pioneers went through, and the overall tone vibrates with tension. I found the scenes between Priscilla and baby David extremely moving and realistic. As a new mom myself, I could totally relate to her feelings of love, loss and despair. Kids have a way of unexpectedly grabbing your heart and not letting go. This was portrayed wonderfully here and brought a tear to my eyes. Continuing our travels with Priscilla and Eli, we also share in their sorrow, joy, weariness, wonder and growth. Growth individually, toward each other, and most importantly, in Christ. They each have personal demons to conquer as they discover the paths to humility, trust, and dependence on others. Eli, especially, is prone toward independence and leaning on his own strength above all else. Can he relinquish control to the one who holds their future in the palm of his hand? Or will his pride be the downfall of all those entrusted to his care?

If you haven't yet picked up a copy of The Doctor's Lady, then make haste to the nearest bookstore. And dust off a spot on your night table.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Journey to Christmas

After seeing the interesting trailer for this dvd, I was looking forward to sitting down and learning more about the Christmas story. It's such a big holiday that, in the busyness of the season, I'm the first to admit I don't always put the focus where I should. Sadly, Christ tends to get lost in the details so I was hoping this "journey" would give me a little jolt back to reality.

 Episode one starts off introducing us to five travelers who will be embarking on an adventure to the holy land together. They all have quite different backgrounds-from a talk show host, to an artist, an agnostic, a traditional christian and finally someone with native american roots, this is a pretty eclectic bunch-and all there for different reasons. Some want to re-affirm their existing faith while others just want to walk away with some kind of faith; or at least a basic understanding of who Jesus is/was and how he might pertain to their lives. They're hoping that witnessing in person the places Christ was born, lived, taught, and died will give them more tangible evidence of his existence.

There are four episodes on two discs and each one takes us closer and closer to Bethlehem, the final destination and site of Jesus' birth. Along the way, the group visit numerous historic sites, partake in Jewish traditions, marvel at the ancients customs still practiced today, and grow closer as a team. Various pastors and scholars are also there to guide us along in our biblical understanding of chronological events and important details of the Christmas story.

The production values are very good; my only complaint stems from some conversations between the group in episode one where the sound is extremely low, making it hard to hear what they're saying. After that episode, I had no more issues with the sound and was able to, once again, fully enjoy my viewing.

What I found most interesting, was each person's take on the journey and finding out what really impacted them. Their wide range of reactions also showed me that each of us sees God very differently; what draws me closer to him might be the very thing that pushes my neighbor away. Our journey to God, just like their journey to Christmas, is uniquely our own. In the end, not everyone walked away with what they initially hoped for but I think the trip did change some pre conceived notions about religion, Christianity, Christmas, and God in general.

As someone who is very familiar with the Christmas story, I wouldn't say I learned a lot of new things persay but I still found this dvd set to be engaging, thoughtfully crafted, and a few hours well spent. This would also be perfect viewing for a small group, with a lot of opportunity for discussion following each episode.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this dvd in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Betrayal by Dianne Noble

Mormonism and polygamy have become somewhat popular of late, and given the nature of the subject, I can understand why. Most people can't imagine living in a plural relationship, sharing one man with multiple wives and children. It goes against everything we consider normal in our culture so we're intrigued to find out what makes these people tick.

The Betrayal and The Sister Wife, book one in this series, shed some light on the beginnings of the movement we know as polygamy today. It's story centers around Gabriel MacKay and the three women he brings into his marriage; Mary Rose, Bronwyn, and Enid. All though the relationship between Gabe and Mary Rose starts off as a typical monogamous one, the Mormon church quickly fills its followers heads with thoughts of celestial glory through the eternal union of sister wives. As they explain, the more women a male brings into heaven, the more exalted his position. They will all be sealed together awaiting the day each husband calls his wife into heaven by her secret name, given at the wedding ceremony in sacred trust and future expectation of coming other worldly delight. 

Mary Rose never buys into this hype but her position is tenuous at best when church leaders pressure Gabe into taking another wife, who also happens to be her best friend. How far can she and Bronwyn go in their quest to follow the "will" of Heavenly Father, even if it means treading a false path? And is it too late to right a wrong once it's been done?

Instead of rehashing all the storyline details, I want to instead focus on the writing by author Dianne Noble. She does a great job of giving details but not overloading us with too much information that isn't relevant to the story. Her descriptions of characters and various event are well drawn and easily relateable. The plot is fast paced and doesn't lag, keeping readers invested in the plight of those we've come to know. By the end, we're truly rooting for them to somehow find their way out of the muddled mess they've created for themselves. 

The final circumstances are left rather ambiguous, opening the door for a third book, which I'd love to see. Instead of leaving off where the polygamy aspect does, it would be interesting to witness the aftermath and directions each character takes. All in all, kudos to Dianne Noble for bringing us into this interesting, unpredictable, world with finesse and eloquent writing which I won't soon forget. Please give us an update on Gabe, Mary Rose, Bronwyn, and Enid in the near future!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Cups by Tony Townsley and Mark St. Germain

What a neat idea to write a book which deals with finances-for kids! While that concept might seem boring or "over their heads," it's really not if done the right way. And Three Cups does it wonderfully!

The illustrations are very nicely done, naturally drawing the eye toward them, and the story flows right off the page into the readers mind without being too wordy or complicated. As this book shows, using three cups to set aside savings, giving, and spending money is something anyone can do, whether young or old. Everyone has cups laying around their house and, if you or the kids want to be ambitious, decorating them could even be a fun craft as well as further investment into the project. Being able to see their own funds/allowance each day in a tangible way, should encourage your child toward good habits which will last a lifetime; and what better time to start then now? You're never too young to begin learning valuable lessons and, for parents, this book is a great tool to get them started. I wish I'd had this growing up, as I'm sure it would serve me well as an adult. I look forward to sharing Three Cups with my own daughter and going through the experience of money management together in a fun, approachable, way. Start planning for your child's future by investing in the Three Cups philosophy!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lilly's Wedding Quilt by Kelly Long

Can I just say...I loved loved loved this book! Having read other Amish fiction titles, I tended to be disappointed in the romance department. Usually these novels are very sweet but a bit dull when it comes to the relationships between the main characters. This story was definitely sweet but also edgier and I found it so refreshing to see the author not shy away from Lilly and Jacob's attraction for each other. Don't most young people have these feelings of excitement, longing and passion in a relationship? Just because these ones happen to be Amish doesn't mean they don't share the same emotions any "Englisher" does. I thought Kelly Long captured the wonder of first, or even second time, love really well making it very relate able to anyone who's ever experienced it before themselves.

This is the first book I've had the chance to read by Kelly Long and it definitely won't be the last. I'm planning on checking out Sarah's Garden, the first book in the Patch of Heaven series, and hopefully the following one when it comes out. I'd love to find out more about Seth, Jacob's warm hearted brother, and can't wait to see where romance leads him. Lilly's Wedding Quilt is a very engaging story and I found myself picking it up every spare chance I got. I'm always excited when I find a new favorite author and Kelly has definitely been added to that list. Thanks for a great read and I look forward to the next one!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Love on the Line is a fitting title for the story of our two main characters. It both literally and figuratively describes their relationship, along with the various other circumstances which have also put their lives on the line.

In Texas, bird lover/activist Georgie Gail, telephone operator for the small town of Brenham, whiles away her days fielding multiple phone calls, local gossip, and admiring her beloved feathered friends. Lucious (otherwise known as "Luscious") Landrom spends his time hunting down criminals Texas Ranger style, and along with the help of his trusted pistols Odysseus and Penelope, manages to bag outlaws left and right; all except for Frank Comer, the one who got away. Or rather gets away; repeatedly. To his chagrin, Lucious realizes the only way he stands a chance of catching the elusive criminal is by going undercover as an unsuspecting telephone repair man. Disguising himself, and ditching his fancy duds for faded overalls, Lucious changes his name to Luke Palmer, while trying to ingratiate himself with the town locals in hopes of discovering the Comer gangs whereabouts.

Upon meeting for the first time, Luke and Georgie initially have a clash of wills, but attraction quickly gives way to a softening of hearts; despite the fact the Texas Ranger openly admits to hunting birds for sport. Much as this admission galls Georgie, what will her reaction be should she find out Luke's true identity is Lucious Landrom, the man who's very name she has mocked on more than one occasion? And can Luke capture his intended targets without arousing suspicion, while still continuing to romance Georgie? With secrets abounding, can they nurture their growing love or will it be disconnected just as surely as the snap of a telephone wire?

This was an enjoyable read for me and I looked forward to spending time in the world Ms. Gist created. Having penned several other historical western novels, she proves herself very capable of handling the subject matter here competently and rather seemlessly. There are interesting details about various winged creatures, along with the crafts of marksmanship, hat making, telephone operating, etc. Small town life is depicted in all its pleasantness yet the underlying hardship is not glossed over but rather the reader feels for Georgie as a single young woman living in a man's world. She wants her independence while also retaining a sense of femininity, despite her strong viewpoint on women's rights. This was well portrayed and relateable.

I've usually found the romance in this author's books to have a nice sizzle but for some reason this one was more of a fizzle for me. I can't exactly pinpoint why, because the characters are likeable enough, but it just didn't leap off the page and grab me as I thought it would. Perhaps, it was missing more elements of the unexpected. While well written, the plot turns all went in the basic direction I expected them to and the "spoiler" toward the end wasn't a surprise as I had already figured out who the main villain really was long before his reveal. Or maybe that was intentional?

Either way, I don't want to be overly nitpicky as I did enjoy the story and have no qualms about saying Deeanne Gist is a very talented writer who does this sort of fiction with an engaging flair. I know she spends a lot of time researching each project ahead of time and it shows in the little attentions to detail, which I appreciate. They give an authenticity which can't be duplicated and the reader can feel when an author has done their homework. I'll look forward to Ms. Gist's next book, and in the meantime, probably re-read some of her "oldies but goodies."

Thanks to Bethany House Publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Just In Case You Ever Wonder... by Max Lucado

This is the first children's book I've read by Max Lucado. Upon receiving our copy in the mail, my husband and I sat down with our 9 month old daughter to flip through it and see what her reaction was. She instantly grabbed at the pages, jumping up and down excitedly; so much so that I was forced to inch away for fear she'd rip the paper before I could even start the story. And mommy wanted to read the words as much as baby wanted to see the pictures, so it was a win win for both parties.

The illustrations were nice and simple; nothing too elaborate but enough color/movement to keep the kiddies interested. And the writing itself was beautiful, evoking just the thoughts and emotions that fill most parents heads when they think of their child. Who doesn't want to hear over and over just how special they are, that their mom/dad are there for them no matter what, that heaven is real? Full of reassurances that are sure to cling to every child's (and parent's) heart, this book is a lovely way to end each day. As my daughter grows older and is forced to deal with every day doubts and insecurities, I believe this story will be a comfort to her, also allowing an outlet to voice concerns as well as much needed affirmations. I was misty eyed by the time we had finished our first read through and I'm betting that will happen again. (Both the read through and the misty eyes.) Especially as my daughter begins to understand; she is so uniquely special that there is no one else on earth quite like her, I'm on her side even when the world may be against her, and most importantly, I love her very very much and always will...just in case she ever wonders.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
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