Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Report: The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I received a copy of Julie Klassen's newest book, The Painter's Daughter, in exchange for a review. I've reviewed one of Julie's books before (here) that I purchased myself and have picked up a few more since then because I truly enjoy her storytelling. So obviously, I jumped at the chance to grab her latest for a review!

A quick synopsis: Sophie Dupont is the daughter of a painter, residing in a picturesque English seaside town where many artists come to paint the beautiful landscapes of the region. Her father runs an art shop selling supplies and also paints. She finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, until an unlikely hero - the brother of her child's father - appears and offers to marry her to save her reputation and "do his duty" on behalf of his family. Captain Stephen Marshall Overtree is on leave from his duty with the infantry when he stumbles upon Sophie while searching for his brother. Their marriage sets them on a journey to love through mistrust, faith, in-law conflict, and separation by war.

My thoughts: This is a beautiful, while somewhat unlikely, love story. I wish the "love" part of the story had been developed more. A key component of the story - crisis pregnancy - is so relevant in current US society with the choose life movement, and this moved me to do more for women facing that issue here in my community (more on that later). Sophie approached that by placing her faith in the Lord. Most particularly, I loved that Ms. Klassen shared the Gospel message in a very straightforward way on page 154, "Did she know the matchless peace that came from God's merciful grace--sending His Son to die to pay the price for mankind's sins, so all might live with Him, forgiven, forever?"

I enjoy a good story where the heroine is swept off her feet by a truly good man. Ms. Klassen made me feel for the characters, whether that was anger, sadness, joy, etc. and I think that is one of the signs of a good book. Another great Regency read!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Someone I Loved Died

Picture me sitting down in front of my little silver laptop and cracking my knuckles over this page. Ah, where to begin? I feel like I've experienced an entire lifetime in the past month, but how do I explain it when I am yet still processing it?

Found here

On December 12th, I lost a family member--my uncle, my mother's brother, the father of my 3 teenaged cousins. He was only 10 years older than me and 13 years younger than my mom. The loss is devastating.

The funeral was a week before Christmas eve, smack-dab during the most wonderful time of the year.

It's very hard to make merry when you are in the midst of that pain, even for a follower of Christ. While there may be joy in the season, there is sorrow of the heart with the knowledge you won't have a chance to see a loved one again.

And it was exactly as bad as I always thought it would be to explain death to my little guy. We've shielded him from that harsh reality of life up to this point, but there was no way around it. He knew Uncle T, and he understood the conversations happening around him. Of course during our short discussion, the dreaded question came: "So will you die, Mama?" I managed to keep it together until I left the room.


I have some great pics of the kids from the holidays that I'd like to post, but I can't do that without first acknowledging that this Christmas was a very hard season for my family.

Here's to 2016 being a year of hugging loved ones close and finding joy. I continue to say, "Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 62:6)

If you ever need a resource, our preschool minister provided the book Someone I Loved Died. It's an age-appropriate biblically-based explanation of death and going to heaven for the believer in Christ.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Lynn Austin's newest book, On This Foundation, in exchange for a review. I decided to branch out a little bit from my usual Regency period fiction to an Old Testament Biblical fiction piece. I loved reading Francine Rivers's Mark of the Lion series, so I was hopeful that maybe I could make it through this.

I got busy with a few church responsibilities and required reading that went along with them, and the first time I picked On This Foundation up, it didn't seem like light reading. So I put it down. And then a week later, I picked it back up, determined to try again to make good on my promise of a review. I'm so glad I did, because I enjoyed it so much!

If you're familiar with the Bible, this book is a telling of Nehemiah's story--how he was called by God to go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It covers his appointment as Governor of Judah by King Artaxerxes, people who stood in his was, and his commitment to honoring God in his efforts to begin the work to restore the holy city.

Keep in mind that while the story of Nehemiah was true and well-tended in this work, it is indeed a piece of historical fiction. There are a few peripheral characters surrounding Nehemiah who are fictional. Their stories are interwoven with not only what the Jewish people were suffering during that time, but how Nehemiah's strategies impacted them as he came on the scene.

When I finished, I told my husband I thought he would enjoy it. It appeals to both men and women, especially followers of Jesus Christ and those who love to read God's Word. You probably already know the story, but this is an interesting telling of it. In particular, these people were living in a time where Queen Esther's "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14) moment was so recent, and there were several reminders of that throughout the book. It was a great challenge for me personally. With world events as they are, Christ-followers the world over will be facing those moments for themselves.

If you're looking for a book to cuddle up with over the holidays, this would make a great one! This is the third in Lynn Austin's The Restoration Chronicles series. Now time to check out the others!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Meal Plan Monday: Cold & Rainy Edition

Like everyone else, I've spent the weekend Christmas shopping from the same spot I'm sitting in now, wearing stretchy pants, and otherwise not paying attention to most of the things I've eaten. But I just posted a photo on instagram about not missing a Monday working out, so today I guess I'll apply that to meal plans to eat. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so they say. So here we go!

The weather is gray, chilly, and seems to be begging for soup. That was my jumping off point this week.

Monday: Homemade Chicken and Noodles
I have chicken in the crockpot cooking as I type, just salt and peppered. After dance this afternoon, I will boil and drain some noodles, and dice the chicken, added together with the juices from the crockpot plus a little broth, carrots, and peas because we need veggies. And then I'll season it.

Tuesday: Taco Soup
I usually make this with hominy, but I have corn on hand this week, so I'll be substituting that instead. Recipe found here.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
I've been facilitating a ladies' group at church this year, and this is our last meeting for the fall. We decided to have our Christmas party catered, so I'll be putting that together. Thankfully, the rest of the fam will eat from the church kitchen!

Thursday: Leftovers
We've got company coming in for the weekend, so we'll either be eating leftovers from Monday and Tuesday or hot turkey and cheese sandwiches (think grilled cheese, with turkey) from the stove.

Friday: Fun Night
Out to eat, for sure!

I'd love to expand my soup recipes, but ingredient lists a mile long and things like "lentils" turn me off. Do you have any
recipes you would recommend?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Inexpensive Quality Disney Princess Costumes

Back last February/March, my little lady had some birthday money to spend, and I thought she would have fun traipsing around the house with a Disney princess dress. As I started searching (Disney Store first because that seemed like the spot), I couldn't believe the price tag of something made of such seemingly cheap and scratchy materials.

As I kept googling my way into different corners of the internet, I came across the Disney Collection for JCPenney concept. It's basically a pop-up Disney Store, with merchandise designed by the same group that designs for Disney theme parks and stores. And we have one in our local JCPenney! I grabbed the kids after naps one afternoon, and we headed for over for the ladybug to try on a few. After donning the entire Disney princess wardrobe, we both agreed on Cinderella. Most of them are regularly priced $38, but usually they're on sale for around $25. The quality is better than the big box stores, but about $35 less than THE Disney Store.

Disney Collection Princesses for JCPenney

Elsa | Anna | Snow White | Cinderella | Rapunzel

I was inspired to share this little find because I haven't heard anyone mention these. I popped in our newly reopened Disney Store this week, and another mom was looking through dresses for Halloween. I mentioned the JCPenney dresses. She had no idea! Currently, I think the Frozen costumes at JCP are the cutest outside of the actual Magic Kingdom.

As you're searching for Halloween costumes, or even starting your Christmas shopping, check Disney Collection for JCPenney out. I've washed and hung ours to dry a few times with success. It's even made it through a whole day at the Magic Kingdom and is still kicking. We found the dresses true to size.

This is not a paid ad, just a mom find I wanted to pass along. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Family Goes to Walt Disney World

Last week we took an incredible trip to Walt Disney World with our family. I could not believe the amount of planning that went into a Disney vacation. I've been working on it, along with a travel agent, for around 6 months. We squeezed nearly every bit of fun out of Disney that we could, while being mindful of two preschoolers who both still nap. It took planning, editing, and fantastic logistics, but I couldn't be more pleased with the way it unfolded.

We left out early Sunday morning, which was an adventure of its own. We flew Southwest (seamless as usual) and traveled by Mickey's Magical Express to our resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Recapping our trip would require multiple posts, and that seems like way more details than you probably want, so my quick summary is this: we visited all four parks, stayed in Magic Kingdom the most, and loved Peter Pan (the ride) and Rapunzel (the character) the best. I can't think of a princess or character that we wanted to see but didn't. We saw them all.

We had a Disney dining plan and ate everywhere we wanted, and one of them twice. Be Our Guest was my personal fave, and we ate there both lunch and dinner on different days. While I was checking in for lunch, two separate parties walked up to ask if they could get reservations, and the attendant told him that it was booked out for 6 months. That's bananas. The ambience is incredible - it's like you stepped into the animated movie. We even thought the food was good. Our dinner there was our best meal food-wise. Mr. G would say his favorite meal was Hoop De Do Review, which is a fun dinner theater musical review at Fort Wilderness. At the risk of sounding like I've been Disney-fied, everything truly was magical.

With my little guy on Dumbo
My ladybug on Prince Charming's Carousel

I have over a thousand pics to wade through, and those are just mine--they don't include Mr. G's! It was such a nice break to get away, even with such a busy trip, and I definitely saw God's hand on my little fam during the time we spent together. I came home re-energized and pumped to have had the opportunity to show my kids the magic of Disney.

If you're planning a Disney trip or have any questions about taking preschoolers (what works, what doesn't) then give me a shout!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

I'm dusting off the blog today to post our meal plan for the week. We've been gone on vacation, had sick kids, and overall busy, so I took some time yesterday to be intentional about what we'll put in our mouths this week. I also need to drink some more water after all the diet coke I drank at Disney World!

Monday: Green Beans with Bacon and Potatoes
This is a family favorite I posted a few years ago. It has something in it for everyone!

Tuesday: Domino's Pizza
Pizza is a tradition on soccer practice night, you see.

Wednesday: Supper at Church
I have no clue what's on the menu, but we're eating it. Besides the hot line, there's an awesome salad bar with different lettuces, fresh veggies and fruits, baked potatoes, and soup. My post-vacay self may need to check out the salad bar.

Thursday: Chicken and Rice Skillet
I'll have to post the recipe for this soon. Here's the closest I could find, but mine doesn't use as many ingredients. It's one of my husband's faves that I've been making since I was trying out my new pots and pans during our newlywed days. It's one skillet, delicious, and makes great leftovers.

Friday: Date Night
Fingers crossed this involves Mexican food.

Most of my meal plan Mondays include recipes that we go back to over and over. Familiarity and ease of prep is what I'm looking for always. What's your go-to weeknight meal?
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