Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, a few weeks ago I downloaded an e-version of Melissa Jaegers novel A Heart Most Certain, which was released today! This is the first book in Ms. Jagears new Teaville Moral Society series, and the first I've read by her. Prior to this series, it appears that she authored a series on mail-order brides. Frontier fiction isn't exactly my fave genre, but I'm glad I gave this one a chance.

{spoiler alert: I think this is the best Christian novel I've reviewed from Bethany House so far.}

Quick synopsis: Lydia King is a poor, young, single lady living in Teaville, a bustling city in 1905 southeast Kansas. She's active in her church because it's the Christian thing to do, and she's waiting for the town's most eligible bachelor to propose and save her from a life of poverty caused by her father's gambling and her mother's health care costs.

In an effort to impress her intended's mother, she attempts to garner a donation from Teaville's notorious miser and lumber mill owner, Nicholas Lowe, to provide sewing machines to make blankets for the poor. His answer to her is no, again and again. As she tenaciously (and desperately) pursues his donation, she finds that Nicholas is quite generous toward others, but in his own way. Spending more and more time together as they help others, they find their hearts and their faith challenged in the darkest ways.

My thoughts: When I completed this book, I felt like I'd been discipled. The key principles of the life of a Christ-follower are to know, follow, and share Jesus, and she stepped us exactly through those principles as she transformed Lydia from a pew-sitter to a follower and sharer of Jesus. Lydia goes through an incredible heart change, and it's because she is being discipled and challenged by her new friend. All of this is wrapped into a beautiful love story, with appropriate Pride & Prejudice references woven in. Bonus!

It does't hurt that Nicholas is the Darcy-type. Brooding, a little mysterious, take charge, and brave, exactly as a romantic hero should be.

This is a great read, but for far more than the romance it contains. You will be challenged to live out your faith in Christ, just as Lydia and Nicholas are challenged.

Pick this one up! You'll find it here, and a novella prequel to the series right here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Kristi Ann Hunter's newest novel, An Elegant Facade. It's the second in her Hawthorne House series, and the first I've read by her. I feel like I have a lot in common with Ms. Hunter, as she is a mom, has a computer science background, loves reading, and I've enjoyed following her on Instagram since I started reading this book.

Quick synopsis: Lady Georgina Hawthorne is primed and ready for her debut London season. She has planned, schemed, primped, and strategized how she will snag an illustrious eligible nobleman for a husband during her first season as well as become the most notable lady on the scene. She has good reason to do so--she is desperate. Not even her family knows her terrible secret. Along comes Mr. Colin McCrae, who is untitled, yet wealthy, annoying, yet handsome, and possibly a danger to her plans when he happens upon her shame. As Georgina and Colin continue to be thrust into one another's paths, the fireworks are bound to begin.

My thoughts: This was a fabulous Regency romance! Lady Georgina is a character that I wanted to dislike, and I was amazed at how the author guided us through an entire range of emotions for her, to the point of empathy and redemption. Additionally, without giving the big secret away, it had never occurred to me that people of this age would have struggled mightily with things we now consider common. That, in and of itself, made me think about many other things that are a bother now but would have been a huge struggle before these modern times. So basically, I love that this book gave me some perspective.

I truly liked Colin McCrae from the beginning. Scrappy, self-made, and clever, he was almost sure to match Georgina wit for wit without backing down.

As this is from the inspirational fiction genre, Lady Georgina has an encounter with God that will shape the course of her life. There are some great truths for the reader as this is woven into the story.

Like many of the books I've read since I've started reviewing from Bethany House, this left me wanting to know more about these characters, and luckily enough, this is the second in a series of books about the Hawthorne family. If you're looking for something new to read, I'd begin with Ms. Hunter's novella A Lady of Esteem which is free on Kindle, then progress to her first full-length novel A Noble Masquerade. After you've read these, you'll be cheering to know that Lord Trent's story will be released sometime in 2017. I'll be ready.

You can read more of my book reviews right here!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Vacation: Somewhere Down in Texas

I find myself at the precipice of a whole new world opening up to me. My children are old enough for all of us to enjoy a vacation, with enough forethought. There is no baby, so no diapers to pack and no special diet to accommodate. We just need lots of wipes (I will now always carry wipes in my bag, as long as I live because they are brilliant) and perhaps some extra clothes. The world is my oyster!

As is the case, at the beginning of the month we found ourselves getting lost in the Hill Country, spending a few nights in Canyon Lake near New Braunfels for a little summer vacation, Texas-style. Anyone who complains about the landscapes in Texas either has a terrible memory, or they have never experienced the Hill Country for themselves. It's lush and rolling hills provide the perfect backdrop to have a little fun with our family.

Because we were traveling with kids, we opted to stay at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Hill Country, which has a great splash pad, both an indoor and outdoor pool, movie showings in the evening, and our fave, the glow-in-the-dark hayride. We stayed in one of their Hill Country cabins, and it was definitely the best "camping" experience I've ever had. If Mr. G could promise every camping trip would have those accommodations, I would be the first in the car. Full kitchen, great deck, bunk beds for the kids, and TV. I would do it again.

My parents and brother went with us, so my mom watched my children at the splash pad so I could go have fun. :) We floated the Guadalupe River that day. Because of the crazy flooding we've had this year, the Guadalupe had many restrictions on it. At least once I thought I would smash straight into a cypress tree. Next time we'll opt to float the Comal River if the conditions are similar, since it's a little less intense. That evening we dined at The Gristmill in Gruene, which is a must-do if you've never been. The food is SO GOOD, and there is a LOT of it.

The last day we headed to Schlitterbahn, which has been on my bucket list for years. We attempted to go once on vacation when my brother and I were young, but it was a rain out. It made it all the better that my second attempt was with the rest of my family.

On our way home, we rounded out the trip with BBQ from Black's in Lockhart, a tiny little town known as the BBQ Capitol of Texas because of its two renowned BBQ joints. Always worth the detour.

It was a great time to be away for a little bit and spend time with my whole family in a very laid back place. My brother has some big life transitions going on right now, and we made a point to celebrate that while we were there as well.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Our Week

We had our first solid week of regularly scheduled Fort Worth summer fun over the last week. I try to keep any normal week at home structured the same, so the kids know what days we will grocery shop, what day of the week we'll go somewhere fun for lunch, and what days we play at home. That's the same for summer and school year. Sometimes I spontaneously throw that schedule out the window, but it works well for us as it manages everyone's expectations.

This past week, we adhered to that schedule, with Wednesday being a day that we headed out to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for their fabulous story time. I talked about it here, but never circled back around to re-visit it. This summer the theme was "Artful Alphabet," and they have worked through books for each letter of the alphabet. Each story time, there are 3-4 spots set up around the museum with a reader who is located by an art piece that goes along with the book they're reading. It's a brilliant way to introduce the children to art.

Each week, they offer the story time, along with a craft and a snack. It's incredibly well done, and the staff and volunteers are wonderful. Highly recommend.

We ran into a fun friend and her grandson and story timed with them, before heading to lunch with another friend from church. It was a great day.

Taken on the front lawn of the Amon Carter, with Will Rogers in the background

Thursday, we were looking at a list of things we'd planned to do throughout the summer that we've called the "summer fun list." We realized that of all things, we'd yet to do the Zoo splash pad. So we jumped up and got dressed for some water fun. It's alway so fun to mark a milestone of the kids' growth, and that day was certainly one of them. Activities that last year seemed to require tons of talks about bravery were easy. Even my stress level was down. Maybe it's because we found a better spot to set up our stuff, but likely it's because my kids are a year older, a year more awesome. We had a blast.

Our weeks of summer are numbered. But for this week, we're still crossing things off our "summer fun list!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: A Beauty Refined by Tracie Peterson

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, a few weeks ago I downloaded an e-version of Tracie Peterson's new novel, A Beauty Refined. It's the second novel in her Sapphire Brides series, and the first I have read by her. Ms. Peterson is a prolific inspirational novel writer, with many series in her collection.

Quick synopsis: Set in 1890s, Phoebe von Bergen is a lovely, young German woman traveling alongside her father as he searches for sapphires for a sapphire-obsessed Duchess. We join them on their journey in Helena, Montana, where an unexpected informant shocks Phoebe with truth about her family that will turn her life completely upside down and inside out. Along the way, she falls in love with a handsome man who is a lapidary* dealing with his own past relationship issues, where lies and untruth have committed him to living a life of nothing less than pure honesty. While Phoebe falls in love, she faces great danger as she attempts to confront the dishonesty surrounding her own family.

My thoughts: This is one of those fascinating to read stories, where a mystery begins almost immediately and is resolved somewhat quickly, revealing one of the main conflicts of the novel. Add a "love at first sight" relationship (or at the very least a "very interested at first sight" relationship), and I was hooked. Phoebe von Bergen is a true treasure, and I could not help but cheer at how very explicitly Ms. Peterson shared the Gospel. In the book, we see Phoebe begin to walk with God. Love!

This was an interesting story wrapped in a setting and topic that was completely unfamiliar to me. I knew nothing of the mining or refining of sapphires before reading it. This is one of the things we love about books--going somewhere we've never gone before, yes?

I enjoyed this one. If you're looking for a light read and enjoy American West historical fiction (that's what I'd classify this as), check it out.

*New vocabulary word for me. A lapidary is a person who cuts, polishes, and engraves gem stones.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Back the Blue

I can't move forward here without addressing the insane violence from last week in Dallas. I'm from a law enforcement family, and I must take a moment to shake my online head at the terrible events of Thursday. More than that--I'm incensed that someone would target an entire group of people for the actions of a few.

It's infuriating.

Even as officers are belittled for the enforcement of the law (complaining about receiving a well-deserved speeding ticket comes to mind here), day-in and day-out they show up to insert themselves into the places none of us want to go. Can you imagine the awful things they have seen? Responding first to the scenes of gruesome accidents, placing themselves between an active shooter and those who protest against their very selves, and yes, even writing you a ticket because you can't be bothered to obey a posted speed limit sign that is there for the safety, protection, and order of traffic.

They are entrusted to uphold the law, and it's a sad state of affairs, but they are also entrusted to protect citizens from one another. What a mess that is.

And yet, brave men and women still answer the call to protect and serve us. May God bless them and their families for it.

I'm mad that anyone messed with them. I'm overwhelmed with grief for the family of DART Officer Brent Thompson, a well-liked guy from my hometown with an awesome family, as well as the the other four families impacted by this national tragedy.

So how do I respond, as I think of this through a motherhood lens? My children are not old enough to understand the violence that has occurred, but they are old enough to understand respect. How do I raise children who honor our law enforcement officers? I was taught from my childhood that a man with a badge was to be revered for his and his family's sacrifice. The word "cop" was not acceptable to my parents. They viewed it as derogatory, and nothing less than "officer" would do. I know that may seem silly to some, but words are impactful. This was their simple way of imparting respect, even in the tender years I didn't grasp all that was required of the profession.

We will make an effort to get to know the policemen and women who are responsible for our part of the city, even after the initial swell of support has calmed down. They'll not be nameless and faceless to our family.

We will #BackTheBlue in however we can, whenever we can, and teach our children, as well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weekending: Independence Day Edition

After such a busy beginning to our summer, we're looking forward to spending some time at home over the next few weeks before school starts. As such, we spent some much needed time at home this past weekend.

While we were visiting the Hill Country last weekend, we stopped at a brand new HEB, and it had me longing to grocery shopping there, so Friday the kids and I took off for a quick trip to the next town's HEB. Plain and simple, we need an HEB in Fort Worth, specifically the west side. I spent the rest of the day digging us out from under our trip the previous week. That evening, we grabbed dinner out, snow cones on the way home, and The Good Dinosaur from Red Box. We were neither hot, nor cold on the movie.

instant winner at the Buddy Bucks machine, right there

Saturday was a slow day, and that was perfect! I was able to finish a new book by a new Bethany House author that kept me up late into the night. I'm working on a couple of book reviews that I've really enjoyed lately.

We headed to church on Sunday morning, and it was just good to be there. Our pastor preached an atypical July 4th sermon on how we live in a post-Christian America and what our responsibilities are as Believers in a society that has turned its back on God's plan for how we should live. Sobering to say the least.

On July 4th, we slept in as late as our children would let us (7:30 am), then swung through Krispy Kreme for red, white, and blue donuts. They are my fave sprinkle donuts--a good crunch to the sprinkles.

For the very first time, we made one of those famous flag cakes that people have been making since probably 1776, or maybe not because they had more reverence for the flag than modern society. I don't know. Either way, my kids thought this was the most original and brilliant idea I've ever come up with. So thanks, internet.

That evening we headed to Granbury to view the fireworks over the lake. They tend to tout that their fireworks show is the best in Texas, and I have to say they do an awesome job. We spread a blanket, drank Sonic drinks, and celebrated!

Friday, July 1, 2016

FFF: What's Got My Summer Going

I'm looking forward to a good old fashioned Independence Day holiday close to home. Stay safe and have fun with your family!

{This post contains affiliate links.}

::ONE:: Cozi Family Organizer

Back in the fall, Mr. G and I were looking for a joint calendar that we could put all our appointments in, along with a working to do list, and grocery list. This app is exactly what we needed. So far, I haven't upgraded to Cozi Gold, but even that cost is less than the amount of money I usually spent on a paper calendar each year. I didn't even realize how awesome the shared grocery list would be. No more forgetting the list at home, and Mr. G is always great about adding the little things to the list that I would try to remember off the top of my head, then of course, forget to purchase.

::TWO:: Eagle Creek Black Pack-It Folders

I attempted to pack small for camp (details on that here), which led me to these Eagle Creek Pack-It folders. I grabbed one in the medium size, as it's the perfect footprint for my rollaboard suitcase. If you take the time to fold your clothes correctly using the included guide, you will be amazed at how wrinkle-free your clothes remain, as well as how many outfits you can stuff in there! I'm now considering grabbing the smaller size for smaller sized trips--it's that good. Found here.

::THREE:: Elta MD Tinted Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen

found here

I blogged about this tinted moisturizing sunscreen a few weeks ago, but I've really put it through its paces since then, with a day on the Guadalupe River and another full day at a water park. My goal was to come home as pale as I left, and this stuff worked wonders. It is my new favorite and worth every dollar.

::FOUR:: Pure Barre

After being out of pocket for around 3 weeks, I'm attempting to do my own personal 20 in 30 (20 classes in 30 days) this month, starting TODAY. I always see results when I get back to business with Pure Barre, and this is a great month to make it happen since I have a birthday coming up in August. If I think about it again today, I might even take my measurements. I ♥ Pure Barre and can't say enough good things about it! I've been taking for over three years now, have been an instructor for a little over one year, and it is the longest I've ever loved a workout. Take 10 classes, and you will not believe how quickly your body changes.

::FIVE:: Lululemon Running Skirts

found here

Whether it's the Pleat to Street (on sale here) or the Pace Rival (not on sale, but here) these are a great way to beat the heat and look cute doing it. I wrote a post a long time ago (found here) where I detailed my angst over the running skirt as part of my mom-athleisure wardrobe, and obviously, the running skirt won.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

We Now Return To Our Regular Programming

The past three weeks have been fast and furious around here. I left on the 11th for Beach Week with the student ministry at our church. The kids spent time with their grandparents, and I served on the kitchen staff for the week. One, our food is much better than typical camp food service because it's not food service, and two, I ♥ the team of adults I served with, so I signed up to go again this summer. For the adults that go, it is truly a mission trip because we work hard.

Beach Week is hosted by Student Life, and the site we attended was in Orange Beach, Alabama. Our interim student minister challenged our students to invite their unchurched friends, and they really stepped up to it! We took quite a few that were not only new to our church, but new to church in general. It was a privilege to be part of reaching them for Christ and get to know some of them. The speaker was Ed Newton, pastor of Community Bible Church in San Antonio. He had a really interesting backstory, but the best part was how he laid out Gospel living in a plain and real way to the students.

Last year, we needed more help in the kitchen, so I had about twenty minutes of beach time the entire week. This time, we had more help and thus had a little more free time. I got to stick my toes in the sand for at least a little bit each day. All in all, it was a great week of serving God, with a little beach bonus thrown in!

I was only gone a week, but my family has had some other goings on since then that I'll detail soon, but right now, we're looking forward to settling in for a few weeks of our normal summer schedule: story times, splash park, and probably more pj days than are truly proper.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Review: From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, last week I received a copy of Elizabeth Camden's new novel From This Moment. This is the first book of Ms. Camden's I've had the pleasure of reading, and as of writing this, I have already read a second!

A quick synopsis: Magazine publisher extraordinaire, the debonaire Romulus White has no intentions of settling down before the age of 40, leaving broken hearts all over Boston. Stella West is an London-based artist Romulus has been begging for 3 years to come work for his magazine. As luck would have it, he discovers she has mysteriously moved to Boston, and he determines to persuade her to work for him. Stella's move to Boston is more costly than Romulus could ever imagine. While she frantically works to find closure in the questionable death of her sister, Romulus must do battle to protect his precious magazine.

My thoughts: This is part mystery, part love story. I found the characters well developed and well described. The language was enough to picture Romulus and Stella in my head and practically feel the dust from the streets of 1897 Boston under construction as they built the first subway in the US. They are colorful and full of energy. Stella and Romulus's foibles perfectly balance one another. On another level, I loved that Ms. Camden tackled the burgeoning electrical engineering industry during this time in American history.

As usual, I found myself wanting to know what happens next. While that is not likely to happen as this does not appear to be a series, there is a prequel to the story! In the novella, Summer of Dreams, we discover the love story of Evelyn and Clyde, who play a central part in From This Moment as Romulus's cousin and best friend.

If you love historical fiction, this is a great one, with quite a bit of historical fact thrown in! I learned a bit of Boston history, along with a bit about the growth of our nation's infrastructure, presented in a way that enhanced the story rather than appearing as a history lesson.

The book was fascinating, and I highly recommend!

Friday, June 10, 2016

FFF: We ♥ Summer

I'm back with another edition of Friday Fave Five, linking up again like I did last week!

{This post contains affiliate links.}

::ONE:: Elizabeth Camden Books

found here

This week I read this one full length novel, plus one novella that is a prequel, but I cannot get enough! If I can get myself together, a full review for this one will be up next week, which will be a record for me. Easy read, compelling story. If you're going on a road trip this weekend, download this book. The prequel is free (found here), if you want to kick the tires a bit.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of From This Moment from the publisher to review, but I currently have at least one other novella and novel of Camden's downloaded on my own.

::TWO:: Amon Carter Museum's Summer Storytime

We visited the kick-off of this summer story time series last week and had a great time. It's an incredible program, really, that they let children get up close and personal to the artwork while providing a top notch story time. I'll be back next week with more details around this, because I think it's my favorite little kid thing here right now in Fort Worth.

::THREE:: GAP denim surf shorts

found here

Already a pattern has emerged in my summer style choices. If I'm not in a swingy dress (a la last week's FFF found here), I'm constantly reaching for these shorts. They're easy wash and wear like athletic shorts, but more chic. They go with everything and have awesome pockets.

::FOUR:: Elta MD Tinted Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen

found here

After years of little attention to my skin, this year I'm slightly obsessing. One of my Pure Barre clients is a dermatologist, and one lovely Saturday morning at the barre, we got on the topic of sunscreens for face because everything I use stings like fire. She says we should all be using products with good old fashioned zinc oxide and brought me this to try the following week. I give it two very pale thumbs up.

::FIVE:: Aggie Baseball v. TCU

The last matchup between A&M and TCU was epic. I'm hoping this one will be much less dramatic. We cheer for the hometown team (TCU--we live in Fort Worth) unless they're playing our Aggies, then we're out! We'll be yelling super loud for the Ags to BTHOTCU and wearing every bit of maroon we can find.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White

Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I recently received a copy of Roseanna M. White's latest work, The Reluctant Duchess, for review. This is the second of three books in her Lady of the Manor series. I loved the first book, The Lost Heiress (review here), so when the opportunity to review this one hit my inbox, I jumped on it! I couldn't wait to know what happens next.

A quick synopsis: We pick up some time after The Lost Heiress where recently the charming Brice Meyerston has inherited the Duchy of Nottingham. On a trip to Scotland, he finds Lady Rowena in a desperate situation. The handsome, wealthy, society sought-after Duke offers his hand in marriage to her in what seems like a lark, but really, he feels that God has moved him to do so out of compassion to Lady Rowena. He is certain that she is meant to be his wife.

The new Duke and Duchess of Nottingham now find themselves in the middle of danger from all sides, as they attempt to first, become at least acquainted with one another, and second, hopefully fall in love and find happiness in their marriage. Conflicts in the previous book pick up right where they left off.

My thoughts: Right off the bat, I'd like to mention that I've read this book cover to cover at least 3 times since it arrived in April. It has some really great swoon-worthy moments. You know--those particular passages that you want to read over and over again. Am I the only one that does things like that?! While it reads somewhat like a fairy tale, there is a redemption theme for all of the characters. My only disappointment is a piece of the ending. We are left scratching our heads at a big, unanswered question--a blank space in a very important conflict in the story. My guess is that it will be wrapped up in a nice bow in the final book, but there was no storyline prep done here for the final outcome.

I can't wait to check out the last in the series!

Monday, June 6, 2016


Our first June weekend came and went without a lot going on. The rest of June is busy, so that's perfectly fine by me.

The kids have been in swimming lessons for the past two weeks, which just piled on to the already busy end-of-school. They were tired. It was overcast all day long, and I think all of our moods matched it, so we ordered in pizza and read another chapter of Charlotte's Web, our current bedtime story. I haven't read it or watched the movie in a long, long time, so I was slightly horrified when the goose's thoughts turned to fattening Wilbur up for the Zuckerman's Christmas dinner. This led to a nice little discussion about what's going on when we eat ham for Sunday lunch at Grannie's house. Good times.

Saturday was a routine day of regular life: housework and parenting. We met our supper club friends in Burleson that evening for tacos and snow cones. I've posted several times about this group, but we had a good laugh off of how well rested and fresh we looked in this post. We only occasionally get sitters to meet up, so we have to be creative about where we eat. There are 18 of us including children--hence the tacos and snow cones.

This Sunday was a unique day for us because it was our first day serving in the children's department at our church! Mr. G is teaching 6th grade guys Sunday school, and I'm just doing whatever I'm told. I had a lunch meeting for adults going to student camp as sponsors, followed by another meeting later that afternoon for the strategic advisory group I've been serving with. I've loved being part of it as I get to bring some of my work experience out of retirement to serve God! Requirements documents, anyone?

So that was a long day for me. While I was there, Mr. G held down the fort at home. When I got home, we played in the sprinklers.

Now we're back here to Monday. Time to get started on laundry and finish the sprint up to VBS this week!

Friday, June 3, 2016

FFF: Friday Fave Five

{This post contains affiliate links.}

This the first time in a lonnnnnng time I've done a link up! It sounded fun to bring back the FFF, so here are my Friday Fave Fives for this week.

::ONE:: Braids by drybar

drybar opened in Fort Worth a few weeks ago. It's super close to TCU, and right across the street from University Park Village, the best shopping center in town. (Think Kendra Scott, Anthropologie, Apple Store. You know--THAT kind of shopping.) Last week, they stopped by Pure Barre to do braids to help celebrate PB's 3rd birthday in Cowtown. (More of my PB obsession here, here, and here.) I found out that you can stop in for a braid at drybar for only $10, or add one to your blowout service. They do little girls' braids for even cheaper, I think. Since I cannot braid little girl hair for the life of me, this is an excellent development.

My drybar braid. I loved it and wore it for 2 days.
I was not driving when I snapped this pic, Mom.

::TWO:: drybar Detox Dry Shampoo

I should be embarrassed by how many days this has allowed me to go without washing my hair. Spreading the drybar love during the braid bar, they left a sample at Pure Barre for post-workout hair. This might be the best dry shampoo I've tried. Found here.

::THREE:: Old Navy Swing Dresses

If you see me this summer, I'll probably be wearing this dress somewhere. In multiple colors, but in particular navy and white is on sale now. Inexpensive and breezy. Found here.

::FOUR:: MPix economy photo books

Back in the dinosaur ages, we would print out a whole roll of film and have all those pictures to flip through. After our trip to Disney, I wanted easy access to all our pictures, but obviously I'm not going to frame all of them. I looked through multiple photo book vendors and thought MPix software was the easiest to work with and least system intensive (think amount of time it takes your webpages to load). I also wanted plain pages with no clipart or journaling, so this fit the bill. Our Disney book turned out great, and now I'm trying to decide if I want to make books of our last several years of pics.

I chose the charcoal art cloth cover--a nice darker gray that won't show dirt from the little hands that love reliving our trip. I sprung for the gold imprint on the front bottom corner. Found here.

::FIVE:: Fightin' Texas Aggie Baseball

If you need me, I'll be watching the NCAA baseball tournament this weekend.

Here's your @ncaacws College Station Regional field #12thMan

A photo posted by Aggie Athletics (@12thman) on

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Through the Bethany House blogger review program, I received a copy of Jen Turano's latest book, Playing the Part, in exchange for a review. This is the third book in her A Class of Their Own series, which I have now read in its entirety! I reviewed the first book here.

The series revolves around the lives of three women who have been roommates in 1880s New York City. This volume picks up on the final lady to be covered, actress Lucetta Plum. Lucetta has an interesting past which led her to the stage. Apparently, being a "lady of the boards" in this time period (boards = stage) gives her a reputation that is in direct opposition to her actual character for her friends that know her well. She has faith and attempts to live a life of righteousness.

Throughout the book, she is running from a crazed stalker-fan who is intent on making her his mistress. Her benefactress Abigail Hart (who throughout the series has been bound and determined to play matchmaker for each of the ladies) intervenes to move Lucetta to safety in a rather gothic and creepy location, all the while crafting a new plan to hook Lucetta up with her grandson. Her young, wealth, and handsome grandson has some secrets of his own which kept me reading late into the night. I had to know what the deal was!

As the story unfolds, we find mysteries in each character's past that link them all together in some form or fashion. Lucetta herself is portrayed as a strong and steadfast person, and I couldn't help but root for her.

This was an easy, entertaining read, and so perfect as the summer begins. If you're looking for some clean poolside stories, make sure to grab this series! You can find them here on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Preschooler No More

Like everyone else on this side of the world, last week was super hectic as we wrapped up school for the year. Who would have thought that preschoolers would have such busy ends of the year? But they do. Especially when you have one graduating pre-K.

Do I really have a child old enough for kindergarten?

Yes, yes I do.

His graduation fell on my husband's birthday, which is part of the reason we celebrated it through the weekend. For us, "graduating" preschool seemed like a bigger milestone than finishing kindergarten will be, but who knows, we may do it all over again next year! I bought a cookie cake with "Kindergarten, Here He Comes!" on it, and we went out for supper at Joe T's with grandparents.

It seems only months since I made the decision to stay home with this guy, and now he's leaving me for big kid school. I'm excited for all of us, but especially for him. We've already seen how it has enlarged our community, and it's not even the first day yet! He is a learner, and he's going to love school.

If you're going to be a new kindergarten mom like me, I ran across this post from Dallas Moms Blog. I love how she mentions making new friends for all. I think school has a way of carving a tight knit community out of a big city.

Kindergarten, here we come!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekending

Thursday was Mr. G's birthday, so we extended the celebration into the weekend. Friday night started with a little road trip to Stephenville for supper at the original Hard 8 BBQ. The way to Mr. G's heart is definitely Texas BBQ.

It truly was the perfect Texas evening. The weather was in its late May sweet spot (not too hot, definitely not cold). A gentleman was covering all sorts of great old country on the patio, and the food was excellent. I think it checked all of the favorite things on the birthday boy's list. The only thing missing was golf, maybe?

Saturday was a day spent enjoying Fort Worth. It rained like crazy overnight, but cleared up to a beautiful day. We only got out for a little bit, preferring to stay at home and Lego build and bike ride. Saturday for lunch we checked out a pizza place that has opened up on Camp Bowie called Olivella's. The pizza is Neapolitan style, which is great, but the patio is AMAZING. It's climate controlled and has a retractable roof, along with just straight up being pretty. Its location makes it a hidden gem. If you live in Cowtown, definitely go try it. We also visited the new REI. Yep, we have an REI now! If we could only get a Nordstrom...

Sunday afternoon was church, then the guys went to Colonial while the girls went shopping. Little sister was not pleased to be stuck with me, until we ran into a random dance party in Dillards. Nothing cheers her up like a good beat, and apparently, a photo booth!

Monday we spent the day mostly at home. I picked up filets from Roy Pope's earlier in the weekend, and we grilled corn and roasted broccoli to go alongside it. This roasted broccoli I found on Pinterest is one of my favorite veggie recipes. I've parked in on my "Food Wins" Pinterest page here, which has every successful Pinterest recipe I've tried.

I even set a patriotic table to observe Memorial Day. I found some super cute "charming check" placemats by the Pioneer Woman at Walmart (found here) and couldn't help myself. Asking "why" the table was red, white, and blue opened up a good discussion with our oldest on freedoms and the sacrifice others have made protecting those freedoms. We are grateful for our men and women who serve and have served our country.

It was a great weekend of downtime, good food, and reflection before heading into the summer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why Weekending Is Coming Back to This Space

On Friday night, Mr. G and I were taking a little walk down memory lane and had varying recollections about a now-defunct restaurant in Fort Worth, and it hit me, "Maybe I blogged about that?" I searched the blog right then, and we spent the next 30 minutes laughing about what our life was like as DINKs back in 2007 through 2010 on a trip through this website.

All of that to say, I realized how much I have come to love this space as a diary of what's been going on with us. GROUNDBREAKING, I know.

So here's what I've been up to for the past many months that may or may not have landed here:

  • Raising two precious preschoolers and all of the fun playing, singing, and boo boo kissing that comes with it.
  • Serving on a strategic advisory team at my church.
  • Teaching a lot of Pure Barre, as well as growing my skills through additional training.
  • Taking a lot of Pure Barre, because I still enjoy it as a primary exercise.
  • Potty training a child.
  • Mentoring an awesome young lady at TCU regarding our mutual faith in Christ.
  • Reflecting on life with a child in kindergarten next year.
  • Laundering everything we own on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Leading a Ladies' gathering on Wednesday nights at church.
  • Writing for Fort Worth Moms Blog.
  • Currently finalizing the craft list and supplies for VBS 2016.
  • Reading a lot!
  • Taking time off from leading a Sunday school department, we've been part of a young adult Sunday school class since August.

  • Over the next several weeks, maybe I will find it in myself to break these down into separate blog posts, because a bullet does no credit to the amount of time I've actually dedicated to them. Especially those first and second items. When people ask how I've been, I usually say, "Busy." It feels good to list it out and see that I'm not making that up.

    {Because you can't have a blog post without a picture.}

    Am I the only one with photos like this on my roll?
    I bought this shirt a while back and love it,
    but not with a sports bra and tights. Found here.

    I had a friend comment to me about how easy it is to be a stay at home mom. Yes, it's very easy to be a stay at home mother if you have no commitments to anything except your kids and the occasional playdate. I find it harder to balance when I'm volunteering at a high capacity with a child on my hip and the other pulling at my leg. I don't have a nanny, and the children always come first. However, it's absolutely my choice to take on those commitments, and my husband and I both find it good stewardship of my time to give back so much to the Lord through service to our church. One of the nice things about staying home is choosing how to spend the available time.

    My heart--and my schedule--is full!

    Monday, May 23, 2016


    Ahh, weekending. So nice to meet you again.

    We kicked off Friday with an earlier than usual start to run my car to a body shop before they got too busy. Sadly, I was rear-ended on Thursday, but thankfully was by myself and am fine. My car needs body shop therapy, so I'm ankle deep in insurance dealings. It could be worse. The rest of the morning was spent with donuts, laundry, and legos. The house was in ship shape by the time Mr. G made it home from work. I grabbed a late afternoon PB class and headed home to get ready for...

    Date night! This past weekend was Parents' Night Out at our church, which means awesomely inexpensive childcare. Such a great ministry to parents! It was also the last one before a break for the summer, so tons of kids were at the church. A good thing, I think. We ended up at Rio Mambo (very random), then shopped for socks for the kids (very wild). We picked up the munchkins a little early to head home for an early start the next day for a...

    Road trip! Friday afternoon we were pining for Aggieland, so we grabbed up baseball tickets and headed that way Saturday morning. There was a 30% chance of rain, which I noted was a 70% chance that nothing would happen at all. I would make a poor meteorologist. The heavens opened up, and it rained like crazy. It made for fun to watch the grounds crew batten down the hatches. After we realized it would be a more than 2 hour rain delay, we dashed to Wings and More for a late lunch.

    We toured the campus a little, then as we debated whether to head back to Olsen Field, the kids both fell asleep in the backseat. It was a sign to let it go. So we did. With a stop at the Czech Stop in West on our way back home with sleepy kids.

    Sunday was an early start to church for me. We are no longer serving as directors in the 12th grade department, but I offered to help them with breakfast for Senior Sunday as I remember always feeling like I could've used another set of hands when I was leading it! I laid out everyone's clothes, and Mr. G did an awesome job getting them together on his own. After church we lunched with our Sunday school class, celebrating two families who completed their time at seminary and are departing to go out into the world beyond Cowtown to preach the Gospel.

    We ended the day with a trip to the park and snow cones. Bring on the last week of school!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX

    My little family of four just returned Tuesday from a fun trip to Great Wolf Lodge in nearby Grapevine, Texas thanks to a generous Christmas gift from my parents. We had a blast! It's only about 40 minutes away, but we don't spend much time over on that side of town, so it was a great get away. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was perfect for my kids at this age.

    With our bags packed before we left for worship Sunday morning, we left straightaway from the church parking lot. A quick stop for lunch and checking into our room by 1:45 had us in the waterpark by 2:30. Our oldest was tall enough to ride all but the biggest ride, and the ride range our little lady fit into was perfect for her abilities and mom's maximum comfort level! We spent hours in the water over the three day time period we were there--there was something for every age and ability.

    The waterpark was the main attraction, but we thought we'd check out the MagiQuest adventure too since we'd be there over the course of 3 days. If you've never heard of the game, you purchase magic wands and go on a scavenger hunt throughout the hotel, finding different items, completing different "quests" then graduating on to "adventures." The data is stored somewhere so you can use the same wands on subsequent visits to GWL and pick up your game right where you left off. The kids enjoyed the hunt, and it gave us something to do when we got a little too pruny from the water. In any other hotel, I would've been annoyed with children running up and down the halls, but that is what this hotel is made for! You just go with it.

    One evening we joined the pajama jammin' dance party before a bedtime story in the lobby. Wiley the Wolf helped lead the dancing and turned the storybook pages, which was a hit with all the kids. The next night we decided to close down the waterpark. It was awesome--no wait for the slides and hardly anyone in the wave pool. Lots of practicing swimming and hyping swim lessons for summer 2016.

    After completing our last quest to become master magi and another morning into afternoon at the waterpark, we let the kids pick out their last treats of the trip. For sister, it included a trip to the little girls' spa, Scoops for a full service pedicure, complete with tiara and a scoop of ice cream. Brother hit up the arcade with Dad during girl time. While our kids were a great age for the experience now, I can see where they would enjoy it even more as they are older, and I can't wait to do it again!

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Easter 2016

    The first quarter of 2016 passed by in a blink of an eye, and I've been missing this space. I have so much to tell about what I've been up to, but today I'm easing back in with a little family holiday update.

    We had somewhat of a crazy Saturday, but it turned into a nice Easter spending time with my family in Corsicana by Sunday morning. My brother received some great news about a new job opportunity that week, and it was good to be out of town and in some sunshine since it had rained so much around here the week prior.

    Saturday morning was Pure Barre, soccer pictures, followed by a soccer game, then handing off the kiddos so we could attend a wedding Saturday evening. I think that was our first date night in about 4 months, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Sunday was filled with church and family, my favorite things. My parents' church has a living cross each year where everyone adds fresh flowers to the cross. One of my mom's friends sent this pic of the kids as we placed our flowers there.

    I wish I had a photo of the finished product, because it truly was a lovely tribute covered in blooms. The message of the cross, of Jesus dying to save us from our sins, is the most beautiful, sacrificing love. What a God we have that He would love us enough to make a way to bring us back to Himself through His Son after all our wandering.

    My mom, brother, and I headed over to my grandparents' church to attend with them while my dad and Mr. G entertained my kiddos. After an Easter ham lunch and an Easter egg hunt, we came home that evening with bags and bags of Easter candy to a huge Nothing Bundt Cake in the fridge that I had forgotten to load into the car for Easter lunch at my Grannie's. Three cheers for chocolate cake for breakfast all week long!

    Saturday, April 2, 2016

    Book Report: A Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason

    Through the Bethany House Blogger Review program, I received a copy of Susan Anne Mason's newest book, A Worthy Heart, in exchange for a review. This is the first work of Mason's that I've read, and it's the second book in her Courage to Dream series. Review spoiler alert: I've read this 3 times since I received it back in early January!

    A quick synopsis: Maggie Montgomery is headed for America from Ireland to visit her older brother, by all appearances. Really though, Maggie is longing for escape from a stifling relationship in her homeland. During her visit, she meets her sister-in-law's brother, a handsome man with a troubling past that landed him in prison whom she is forbidden to have any contact with. But the heart knows what it wants, and can she really be stopped? Will her past come back to drive a wedge between them, or will his past be a deal breaker?

    My thoughts: This is a fascinating story about not just asking for forgiveness, but accepting God's forgiveness and walking forward in the life God has for those particular characters in the story. This is a major theme in the book, and what a great challenge for the Believer. If God has forgiven, why can't we? I love love stories, and this definitely fits the bill even if it's a little farfetched. It's fiction though, so there you go! Maggie is definitely the kind of character a woman might wish to be: beautiful, kind, witty, and faithful. Ms. Mason made me empathize with the characters, which kept my eyes on the page late into the night!

    As I mentioned, this is the second book in the series. I've decided to go back and check out the first book in the series, but you could definitely read them out of order without confusion. A good add to your summer reading list!

    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 in this life.

    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.

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