Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Mind's Eye- February Sketch Challenge

This month I decided to do something that I have never done before and do a page for a scrapbook challenge! My favorite scrapbook company My Mind's Eye hosts a contest on their blog challenging folks to design a page (using MME product) according to a specific set of directions. This challenge asked you to design a page off of a sketch.

Because I really liked the sketch and really love MME I decided to give this thing a shot!

Almost as soon as I had decided I knew what I wanted the layout to be about and what direction I wanted to go with the colors, as well as what special emblishment I wanted to use! But the layout almost didn't happen as the weekend I planned to do this layout I got really sick with the flu! However, after I was back on my feet it was one of the first things that I wanted to accomplish! After I got started and picked specific papers for the base page and a collection set for the mats the rest of the design elements fell into place rather quickly and it came together faster then I anticipated!

Here is the page title: "Tweetie"! 

I love the way the branches turned out! I used twine for the branches and punched leaves out of paper that had a leaf pattern in it so that I could punch along the lines and give my leaves veins! 
This bluebird was the diving board for the rest of the layout! I was thrilled to find a chipboard peice in my stash that proclaimed "Spread your wings"!

Loved the way the orange journaling tag pops off of the robin's egg blue of the layout! The dark latte colored chipboard piece anchors it well.

Hope you like it! I know I do! Actually I can't stop staring at it because everything just says "Yes!" to me! I'm looking forward to putting it in my book!

Materials List:
Base- MME "The Sweetest Thing" collection- "Tangerine Happy Woodsy" and "Bluebell Every Day"; Mats- MME "On the Bright Side- Two" collection; Chipboard- "The Sweetest Thing" collection "Honey Perfect"; Twine- MME "All is Bright" collection; Journaling Tag- MME "On the Bright Side-Two" Accessory Sheet; Buttons- American Crafts- "Daydreams" assortment; Cardboard Sticker- Doodlebug Design- "So Tweet"; Rub-on Letters- American Crafts- Mini Marks "Purkey".

Monday, February 25, 2013

Practicing Love- Encouragment for New Mom's

Tonight I was doing a bit of trawling around on Pinterest and found this article from the Dayspring woman's blog inCourage titled "100 Ways to Encourage a New Mom". I thought the post was a great one and worth sharing for those who might be looking for practical ways to do something useful for a new mom- or a new mom with several other little ones. I hope that I can put some of these into practice with the very next newborn mom that I encounter! I particularly liked suggestions that involved photos (like #17, 49 & 50) and I'm also thinking about putting together a 'mom's care basket' that include things like #67, 75, 84 & 93.
Many of these things may not seem like a lot- but I think that many of the smallest things can mean the most! Through those small things we can show our love to someone who is pouring all her love and energy into her new child!

The first few thing go like this:
  1. Fold her laundry – especially all the socks
  2. Leave immediately when the baby falls asleep so she can nap
  3. Bring chocolate
  4. Don’t tell her to call if she needs anything, just drop by and help with everything
  5. Take the big kids out for a play date
  6. Tell her she’s a hero
  7. Bring her food in disposable dishes so she doesn’t have to deal with washing or returning them
  8. Don’t tell her to carpe diem
  9. Cry with her
  10. Laugh with her

The rest are here

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: The Tutor's Daughter

Read with caution, this review may contain spoilers.

I have to admit right off that I hesitated in picking this book up to review. I love Regency era fiction and you would think that in a Austenesque saturated book market that I would have my pick of the lot. However, I have sadly found that 'lot' lackluster and filled with improbable modern situations, thinking, and anachronisms. My other fear in reaching for this book was the fact that I had read one of the author's previous books (The Apothecaries Daughter) and found the heroine, well, kinda too clueless for her own good and I worried that this would be more of the same.
But...Bethany House Publishers periodically holds a 'book banter' session on Facebook with it's various authors and after 'attending' author Julie Klassen's banter session I decided the book just sounded too good to let it pass by!

The book is about Emma Smallwood a warm, intelligent young woman who plays assistant to her father, a man who is a tutor and runs a private boy's academy. Growing up the only girl in an all-boy environment Emma is a woman who relishes order and who has 'a place for everything and everything in it's place'.  Ever since her mother's death two years previous Emma has been ever increasingly tending her fading father- and the boarding boy's education. With the send off of their last remaining pupal Emma looks for- and finds- just the right distraction and challenge for her father and together they travel to take up an in-residence position at a country estate tutoring the two younger brothers of two of her father's most memorable students.

In Emma's mind memory of the two elder Weston brothers hold equal strength- but for decidedly different reasons. The elder, Henry, was snarky, teasing, daring boy who tired her patience but was a surprisingly good chess partner. The younger, Phillip, was closer to Emma's age was kinder and more congenial becoming a friend and confidant until his departure years previous.
Before long, strange things begin to happen to- and around- Emma like midnight piano playing, secret notes under her door, and frightening, escalating, and unexplainable pranks. Bewildered at the secrets Ebbington manor holds, Emma peals back the layers until she discovers what the family is hiding- but little does she know that what appears to be the answers to her questions has nothing to do with the danger she is in. Through all the twists and turns she finds herself questioning which Weston brother is unchanged from her memory and trustworthy- and which- curiously enough might be seeking her heart.

The one and only pet peeve I had with the book is that Emma constantly refers to Henry Weston as Henry Weston. This really seemed unnecessary to me as Emma comfortably calls the other boys by name whether in person or in her internal monologue and never refers to anyone but the Weston parents by a 'proper name'. Even if she called him by a proper name in public she could have referred to him casually in her mind. It really grated on me...however....

The novel that Julie Klassen has created is a superb one. The writing was clean and well paced and the plot well developed and unfolded.  When beginning this book I didn't have many expectations but before long I knew I was reading a great book and really enjoyed it from unassuming start to charming ending! The back cover suggests that the book may remind the reader of Jane Eyre or Downton Abbey but for me it harkened back to Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. I wanted a great, satisfying, uncomplicated read this weekend and that is what I got. Klassen has created a clever novel without trying to be clever- and in a world of books that try hard to be something they aren't this one trys and secedes.

Final Rating: 4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Book of Gratitude

Last year a dear friend of mine committed to a year of gratefulness after reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Every night she posted to her Facebook three things from that day that she was thankful for- and she inspired me. Seeing what a difference this made in her life- and by extension in my life- I purposed to follow her example this year and keep a journal of gratefulness.

My idea of what that journal would look like took shape when my favorite scrapbooking company, My Mind's Eye, posted this great chipboard book to their blog. Their book was a delightful, free form, whimsical book that gave great spaces for the journaler to write their thoughts. My books turned out more structured... but I think they still work. :) I ended up making three of these books- two identical ones to give at Christmas (one to my grateful friend), and one with the same cover but different papers for the guts for myself. There is one page (front and back) for each month. Each month is tabbed with a chipboard circle. All of the books are done almost exclusively with MME papers and embellishments.

Here it is...

The cover:

Book Review: Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day

I have high standards for the books I read. Whether fiction or non-fiction a great book is one that shows understanding and respect of the craft itself and one that gives the reader something in return for the time they have invested in reading. All too often today I find that even though I read a lot and a wide variety that even the best looking books have some serious shortcomings.

When I first saw this book as an option on the blogggers review list I was really excited! The subject of world religions is an interesting one to me and I have done a little reading on some of the prominent ones but I really liked the idea of having a guidebook that would give me short overviews of many different ones and could be an easy reference book anytime I encountered something 'new'.

This book is divided into 40 brief chapters that cover about the same number of religions from around the world. The chapters are uncomplicated and entirely readable within the advertised 15 minute window. The chapters are largely historical in nature and provide the background story for the beginnings of each religion. In this context the book does live up to it's informational promise.

What I found lacking in the chapters was more information on the specific beliefs and tenants of the specific religion. I really hoped to find in these short chapters more info and discussion on the human side of things, what people believed and what their motivations (be it cultural or other) are for their belief and this book just didn't deliver on that. While in some context it is helpful to know the historical  background I think it really would have been more practically useful to include more of each religion's dogma.

Something that I came to suddenly realize after getting several chapters into the book was that there are no footnotes in this book. I flipped through the pages looking for some reference, or at the very least- bibliography that would allow the reader to verify the content or do further study on their own and there is none. This fact was extremely disappointing to me. As far as I am concerned a non-fiction 'study' book with no footnotes or reference to original source documentation/content is as good as fiction, or at the very least, opinion. As the book is not billed as opinion I am given no choice but to question the accuracy of the material it contains. One glaring example of the un-sourceable material was on page 83 where the categorization of the Islamic branches being described is noted as being derived " from a conversation with Samer Abdulraman" with no information as to who this person is or why he is an authority on the subject being discussed.

I had two other real issues with this book. One being that I assumed coming from a Christian publisher that this book would be written from a Christian perspective- I really didn't feel that was true. I wanted to hear a good explanation of these other religions with the starting point of a Christian worldview. What else would you expect from a Christian book- right? Part two of my disappointment was that throughout the book the author uses God with a capitol G in describing all of the gods of the world. I don't remember ever seeing this type of usage before. As far as I was aware the capitalization of God refers specifically to the singular Christian God where as the lowercase usage of god referred to the wide multitude of pagan deities. To put all "God's" on the same plane is not consistent with Christian beliefs.

In the end the concept of this format- that one could get a lot of info in a short-read time commitment- is a great one. While much of the information contained in this book seems to be accurate (from my admittedly limited knowledge) I have no way of confirming that without footnotes. A book that I hoped to be a great reference for my library and something that I could turn to over and over again has not completely measured up and that's the most disappointing thing of all because I think that with just a little more work this could have been a great reference book- even if I didn't completely agree with the author's perspective.

Final rating: 2

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a honest review and opinion of the product.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Impromptu Foodie Friday: Guacamole

Tonight I made Mexican for dinner and included a batch of guacamole to go along with the delish new Tostedos 'Cantina' chips that I picked up the other week. The guac turned out great and I was immediately sorry that I hadn't thought to photo the recipe as I was throwing it together so I could put it up here on the blog! Despite my lack of forethought I snapped a few shots of the final product and thought I'd go ahead and post the recipe anyway!

5 ripe avocados
2 T. sweet onion, finely minced (or grated)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp granulated garlic (you could use 1 fresh clove, minced)
1 tsp. Frank's Red Hot Sauce

1/2 lime, squeezed (opt.)
1 tomato, seeded and diced fine (opt.)

Cut open the avocados and scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a potato masher until the consistency is part smooth and part chunks. Add all the remaining ingredients and give it all a good stir to combine everything.

Note about the optional ingredients: I listed these ingredients as optional because I did not put them in tonight's guac- if I had remembered that I did indeed have lime in my fridge I would have added it as it brings a nice back up singer to the party! ;) The tomatoes can be added if that is your taste- but for me I like my guacamole straight up without any goofy stuff. If you like your with- more power to ya!

Serve with tortilla chips or use as a spread on sandwiches or burgers! (Yum-o!)
To store, transfer to an airtight container and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guac to keep it from the air, cover with lid. This guacamole will not get brown as quickly as some others and can sit open for some time during service.

Yield: 3 cups+, easy!

Eat Well!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

This review was written about four months ago and has sat in my drafts list for all that time waiting for it to feel 'finished'. After all this time I've never been able to pin down that unfinished feeling and so I've decided to go ahead and publish it- only after doing that was I able to figure out my missing piece... :) 
The only thing I might add is after reading spend a moment checking out these commendable sites:

Early this summer if you asked any random kid, a friend, or the average man on the street what movie was the hot topic and thing to see they all would have answered the same: The Hunger Games.

As Christians approached this movie the predominate question they asked was "Is it an appropriate movie for me and my family to watch?" And then, "Is it an appropriate book for my kids to read?" It's a good question to ask about any movie that a Christian watches or book that they read- and this movie sparked a great deal of debate in many circles. People talked about depictions of violence and the dystopian setting and nature of the story. People saw redeeming value in the heroine's initial act of interposing herself in her sisters sure death conscription into "The Games" while some were unable to see beyond the horror of children being forced to kill one another. These books originally published in 2008/2009/2010 seemed now several years after their initial publication to have come to the fore front of the public consciousness and were creating a firestorm in hearts and minds- and when a firestorm erupts you never know where its sparks are going to land...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book Review: Against the Tide

This review may contain spoilers. Read with caution!

This review is a difficult one for me to write. I'll come right out front and say that I had huge expectations for this latest novel of Elizabeth Camden after reading "The Rose of Winslow Street" which I hugely enjoyed. "Against the Tide" turned out to be a beast of a different color.

This novel is set in 1891 and is the story of twenty-something Greek native Lydia Pallas. After the calamitous death of Lydia's family at an early age she grows up in an orphanage/school reminiscent of something from "Jane Eyre". Now a grown woman Lydia is fastidious and focused making her a perfect fit for her job translating for a prominent Admiral at the Boston Navy Yard. Lydia's job is something she does with great care and pride, it is her great calling in life and the root of her security.

Into her perfectly ordered world walks Alexander Banebridge, or Bane, as he prefers. Bane is the  literal embodiment of a Greek god walking amongst men and drifts in and out of Lydia's office mysteriously meeting with the Admiral and driving her nuts with his meddling ways. When Bane ends up needing a translator for top secret documents he hires Lydia but soon 'the plot thickens' as Lydia finds out what Bane is really up to and finds herself getting into more danger and chaos then she counted on. Soon she must confront a personal demon as she helps Bane to face his past and bring down the ruthless head of an opium trading ring.

Along the way a romance developers between Lydia and Bane that felt was rather uncomfortable. Bane makes it clear to Lydia from the onset that a) He is a Christian and has dedicated his life to God; b) He will not be sticking around; and, c) He cannot be involved in any relationship- ever. Lydia however, despite his enigmatic ways, falls for him, and when he does leave falls into a deep, life threatening depression.  As a result of her desperation to prove herself to him she puts herself in ever increasing danger even as she falls deeper into a serious illness. Even though I liked Lydia at the beginning of the book I found her increasingly annoying as I read on because she does not behave in a way that seems true or consistent with the Lydia to which we are first introduced. As for Bane I didn't care for him from the beginning of the book, he felt unreachable as a character and proved to be wholly unpredictable- and I felt- unprincipled because of the way he dallys with Lydia. I found him frustrating as he at one moment is falling for Lydia and pursuing a relationship with her (while he can enjoy it) and then turning on her and 'switching off' the relationship when it suited him. There is nothing gallant in a 'hero' who acts so callously towards a woman. I really wanted to smack him! Overall, I really didn't like the romantic plot that runs throughout the story and found it weak and hair-pulling.

In the end I think that the plot/story had great potential but the puzzle pieces were cut so crazily that it had a difficult time coming together in a pretty picture. Something that really bothered me was a revelation in the authors notes at the end of the book. It seems that while "Winslow Street" was a stand alone book "Against the Tide" is something of a sequel to Camden's first book "The Lady of Bolton Hill"! As I hadn't at the time of finishing "Tide" read that first book I was quite frosted at learning that Bane's character was introduced there! It really explained a number of things. I have since gone back and read "Bolton Hill" and liked Bane in that book, I really believe that if I had read that first book first I would have liked him, or at least understood him, better in this third book.

Despite having issues with the characters in this book I still enjoyed Camden's writing style and the overarching plot. I will look eagerly forward to reading more of Elizabeth Camden's books at time goes on!

Overall rating: 2.5

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a honest review and opinion of the product.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Well, it is the first of February and officially one month into the new year (really?!) so I figured it was about time I posted my follow up post on what I decided to resolve for the new year. I never understood why people thought that trying to make yourself change huge things (literally) overnight was a good idea. I am happy to report that my theory on not starting full tilt on January first but easing into it and creating new habits is proving to be true! Over this past month I have periodically checked over the list I was keeping in my little notebook and tried to add in more things and keep myself on track. It's working well and I hope that by the end if the year I'll be able to say that I have something to show for my year and a list to measure some personal growth by. At least I hope so! I'm looking forward to sitting down and looking over things at the end of  the year!

I decided to take inspiration for my list from one I saw on Ree Drummond- Pioneer Woman's blog. (I love that gal!) Here is my list:

  • R- Read and Review- My goal in this one is to do one book a month minimum and post a review of it here.
  • E- Early to bed-  The thing is- when one gets in a habit- even one that you don't even like- it's hard to break! I always plan on going to bed at a decent hour like 11 PM but last year things got really out of hand and I was doing 2, 3, or 4 AM without blinking! This one is working out better than I hoped.
  • S- Swim regularly- This one may take longer to get started then I had hoped. The reason being that the brand new rec center in town is not the old rec center at all. It makes me sad. I have been waiting to go back to swimming until they opened and now that all is said and done the Y is running the place and the fees are obscene. Looking for another place to go now! 
  • O- Organize my days of the week- Are you a person that likes knowing what is going to be happening on a given day? Well, I am. Except that I could never get down just what I wanted to do without breaking my plans! But I need that structure or I'm never going to get anything done! Does any one remember in LHOP Ma Ingles having a set day for each thing/chore that needed to be accomplished? That's what I'm aiming for!
  • L- Laugh more freely (but not so LOUDLY)- My family gives me conflicting messages. One minute they tell me to lighten up, and "oh, come on- that was funny!" The next they are telling me to shush as my laughter and talking have grown above the acceptable level! They confuse me. And remind me that I need to find a middle ground.   
  • U-  Dairy is Unconsumable in the evening (if you don't want to be congested come morning)- I know this sounds like a really odd one, and well, it is. :) (Do you know how hard it is to match an 'U' word with your mental list?) However, since instating it and sticking with it I have been feeling so much better in the sinus department!
  • T- Take time to write (both blogging and other)- This one is a bit obvious and hopefully progressing well as I've been able to do more blogging this month with other things that I've been cutting out. Now to just find to time to cover 'other'...
  • I- I Can't worry about everyone- I wouldn't call myself a worrier. But sometimes I am. And sometimes, more often than not, I can't help but worrying. The good news is that I don't worry about things, the bad news is that I worry about people. Which I think is probably worse. Somewhere I've got to find the right side of the line between 'acceptable concern about family, friends, and morons of my aquaintance' and 'my give a darn's busted'.  
  • O- Others can't tell your story- Scrapbook- I adore scrapbooking! Really, I do! Thing is that I have let other 'life' things get in the way of enjoying and documenting how I do spend my time. It is important to me to leave that record for my descendants, I don't want for them to have to guess about who I was or how important different things were or were not to me.  
  • N- News is to be shared- but not my me- Coming to this one really makes me itch. You see it reveals one of my worse traits. ...Hi, my name is Hannah and I'm a blabber. (Hi, Hannah.)  I don't mean to be a big fat blabity-blabber but I love news and I love sharing it, and I love spreading it and before I know it I've ruined someone else's big announcement or spilled the beans on something important. (To clarify, I don't do this in a gossiping or malicious way- I'm just incurably excited!)  A while back I was teaching the BL girls on Humility and was convicted that in this case this problem is rooted in the lack of that quality. So...I'm learning to bite my tongue. Heaven help me!
  • S- Study Scripture (outside BSF)- This one is both an easy one and a hard one. I love to study scripture but all to often I find myself ending up echoing Tevia's lament and saying Oh, "If I was a rich man"! This year, though, I want to be 'training' in a different way than just keeping up with my BSF lesson. I want to be going the extra mile and trust that it will prove beneficial at a later date. I have several devotional/study/theology books and I am going to start working to incorporate reading those on a daily basis.
So that's the list. Maybe it's too long or complicated or ...something. But it is what it is- and it is my goals for this year.
What did you end up resolving for the new year? What are your goals and hope-to-change things for 2013?