Friday, February 20, 2015

Lately....

So I've been a very bad blogger lately. I know it. I guess I don't have much interesting going on at the moment. =) Or the interesting things is the stuff I'd rather not post about. Although I don't like to be a fake "everything is awesome always!" person, I also don't like to post about sad things, so I think that's taken the wind out of my blogging sails the past couple weeks - that and laziness. =)

Things I have been doing:
  • I've somehow read over 25 books already this year. I've been doing a lot of reviews for authors that don't require posting to a blog, which is nice. I don't mind putting reviews here... but when I don't have a lot of other content it turns into a book-only blog. If you're interested in seeing some of my other reviews, you can follow me on Goodreads or the Little Sprout Facebook page to see those.
  • I've been collecting supplies to make these Survival Candles. I think they will be fun to make with Malachi. I had to get the supplies, PLUS I realized I don't have a metal bowl to use as a double boiler, so I found one for less than $2 at the Goodwill! Yay me!
  • I have also been researching supplies for homemade soap, which was one of my 2015 Goals this year. I've been searching for a cheap immersion blender at Goodwill also, but unfortunately, no luck so far. I could buy one from Walmart, but what if I only do it once?? Then it's ruined for using in real food and I'll have to throw it away.....
Earlier this month, I spent the day with Malachi at his school for his 100th day of school activities and parade. With all the disappointments of early in the school year it was kind of good to see we made it to a milestone!!


We've also had some crazy nice weather here in the PNW - earlier this week it was up in the lower-60s! We lucked out that Malachi's mid-winter break fell on a couple of those days. We set up a playdate with a friend one day and went to the park the next!


Okay, well that is all for now. Now I have to get the little one to nap before I head off to work this afternoon!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Back to Normal

This week marks the first week getting things back to normal. Malachi is back to school - although he's not too happy about it - and Zach and I are starting up all our regular activities this week also.

I was quite proud that I have a meal plan done for the month, shopped Monday morning for my meals for the week, my husband are doing this fun little eating challenge (100 Days of Mini-Pledges) and I started my 12 week fitness program Monday also. Hopefully I can get past the first 2-3 weeks without pooping out this time!!!

One thing I decided before Christmas is that Zach and I were just a little too busy. We had:
Book Club - one Monday a month
Bible Study - every Tuesday
I work a 10 hr shift - every other Wednesday and Friday
Zachary's toddler class - every Thursday
MOPS - two Friday's a month

This doesn't count the two nights a week I meet up with a friend to walk, bunco nights and game nights with two different groups of friends and any other extra appointments! Too busy!

So I decided something had to go. So I chose Tuesday morning Bible study. I feel a tiny bit guilty about it since it a good, worthwhile thing to do, but it was one of the only things we did EVERY week that I could cut. 

I've also been on a weird cleaning/organizing craze this week. I've been going through boxes that I'm not sure I've looked at since we moved here. Yesterday I discovered a box of crafting stuff and fabric. Some of it I didn't think I would ever use, the fabric I put with the rest of my stash and found new homes for the other few misc things. Hooray! A box to the Goodwill and an empty space for me to organize later.

Today I plan to go through a box that's been sitting on Malachi's floor (again... since we moved here 2  years ago!) that I'm pretty sure has none of HIS stuff in it. I am even feeling the bug to do some painting.... Malachi's room is the only room left that I wanted to repaint/redecorate when we first got here and I'm feeling like doing it. My husband says I'm tempting fate and will jinx us into having to move, but oh well. 

Back to getting a jump on Spring cleaning!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen


Book Details
Title: The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Author: Julie Klassen
2014, Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764210716
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary
Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. 

When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play . . .

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.

Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?
 


My Review
I have loved most of Julie Klassens books... except the last one I  got. I was cautiously hoping this one was going to be better and  I was not disappointed.  

This book is set at a beautiful manor in the English countryside and has lots of lovely descriptions. You get a good feel for where they are as well as the way the larger manors interact with their tenants, servants and how they all interconnect.

Julie Klassen does a great job building up the suspense with this novel. I wasn't sure what the secret that the manor was keeping was going to be or when it would be discovered. There were several twists and turns throughout the book that I didn't expect. Who was the man in the green cloak that kept being glimpsed? Where was the secret treasure room hidden? Why is Leah so scared all the time?

I really enjoyed the interaction between Abigail and William Chapman, the curate. Although there were a couple scenes I felt were kinda stupid, like when she decided to leave her room in the middle of the night, in her nightgown, to apologize to him. But I decided not to dwell on those and enjoy the rest of the story. 

There were a lot of secondary characters in this book - lots of people to keep track of their stories as well as the main ones. There is Abigail's family, Willliam's family, the neighboring manor, Gilbert, Abigail's childhood friend, the servants, etc. I felt that most of them really added to the story, but I did get a little confused at a couple points.

My only really complaint was that it felt very long. Things kept happening and I wasn't sure how long it was going to be drawn out. But it was good and I would still recommend it. I just think it could have been slightly shorter.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for my honest review from Bethany House Publishers. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Goals 2015

I find that the older I get, the more specific and shorter my list gets. I think that in this busy season of life I’m in at the moment I’m lucky to accomplish a couple things, so I have to be more intentional about what I want to do. I do like to have a little list to look at from the year before though I've decided. I fell a little behind in my reading this year.... I'm still not sure how I made it to 108 books last year!!! I should have had more time with Malachi in school this year, but apparently I don't.


      2014 Reading Challenge        
2014 Reading Challenge
       
     Elsie has read 83 books toward her goal of 100 books.     
     
             83 of 100 (83%)  view books
       
 
Last year I made one goal - to feed my family less processed foods. I think I did that for the most part. I didn't always have a monthly meal plan in place, but I think I did a better job of not reaching for the chicken nuggets for dinner. And I was given a really yummy mac and cheese recipe from a friend, so we barely ever eat Kraft anymore!

Goals 2015
  1. Read one Jane Austen novel (eventually I'm going to read them all)
  2. Learn how to make cold-pressed soap
  3. Read 100 books
  4. Stick to my exercise routine for the whole 12 weeks
  5. Do a monthly meal plan (or at least attempt to do them more frequently) and eat more healthy
Good luck on any goals you have for this year and Happy 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sanity-Savers for Busy Moms (or just anyone really!)

The holidays are over and we’re all sighing with relief… hmm… and maybe with a little bit of letdown. I always feel this way a tiny bit after the holidays are over. It seems like such a long, drawn out build up and then poof! it’s over in a few hours! My 5-year-old son said the day after Christmas this year, “Mom, I wish it could be Christmas every day!” Okay… I DO NOT wish it was Christmas everyday… that would be way too much… but you get the idea.

But the holidays are tiring and aren't we all looking for ways to make our lives a tiny bit easier – for things to run smoother about now? I know I am.

My husband came to me a bit ago with some ad that had come up on Facebook for The Dollar Shave Club. WHAT?! A service for razors? How awesome is that? And why not?! Don’t I subscribe to other make-my-life-easier services?

  • I love my Amazon Prime because it delivers me books and music right to my email. Not to mention the wonderfulness of never paying for shipping again….
  • Who hasn't tried StitchFix yet? I feel like everyone in the world has heard about this, but what a fun way to try out new clothes! I've had limited success with this and I wish I had a little more of a clothes budget for what they send me… but it’s fun nonetheless. =)
  • And my ultimate sanity-saver The Honest Company’s diaper bundles! There’s something wonderful about not having to run out to the store to buy diapers. They come delivered to my door every couple months – hooray!

Can I be honest? I thought the razor thing was a little crazy at first until my husband reminded me about our current razor situation. We both have multiple razors – bought depending on sales, coupons, etc. We can never remember which blades to buy when we’re at the store because there are so many and so expensive and we can’t remember which ones we have…. it’s a mess really. So what ends up happening? We just don’t buy new razors until they are scary….

So my new life-saver - $6 a month, 4 cartridge. My husband and I will use the same handle (different blades of course!) and they are delivered to our door! And only $6! They have plans as low as one dollar a month. I will never have to remember to buy razors again – or stand in the shaving aisle at the grocery store trying to rack my brain for which type to buy! Hooray!

What can I say? It’s the little things that make a huge difference. Want to try the Dollar Shave Club for yourself? Hop on over there and check it out!
Are there other sanity-saving services out there I haven't heard about? Tell me about them!



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, but I received no compensation whatsoever for this post. I really do think all these things are great! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas

We had a lovely Christmas with our families. Busy, of course. But good. 



The weekend before Christmas we spent with my in-laws. Malachi loves it because he can have a sleepover in the living room with his teenage cousins and spend the whole weekend playing with them. I like it because that means I don't have to drive there on the actual holiday. Win-win.

On Christmas Eve we did our traditional Christmas Eve service at church. That is always an interesting service because all the kids are in there. Mine almost don't know what to do with themselves - whether to be awed or frustrated.

Then we come home to dinner and our Christmas Eve tradition of new jammies, eggnogg and hot cocoa and watching The Polar Express. This was Zachary's first year staying up with us to watch the movie and he was so cute! He loved it! Here was a picture I tried to take of the two boys enthralled with the movie.....
Only to be given this look which says to me, "Mom! Why are you disturbing my first viewing EVER of this train movie??" LOL

Christmas day was spent opening our gifts at home, assembling lots of toys (why do they make things SO HARD to get out of the packaging??) and then heading over to my parents for opening more gifts and Christmas dinner! My mom very nicely didn't get the boys gifts needing assembly - unless you count Legos. We had enough of those at home already. =)

So now the toys are scattered everywhere, Zouff the Elf has returned to the North Pole, we have WAY too much candy in the house and I'm trying not to think about taking everything down next week.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: When Mercy Rains by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Details
Title: When Mercy Rains
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
2014, Waterbrook Press
ISBN:  978-0307731319
Genre: Christian Amish Fiction
Series: The Zimmerman Restoration Trilogy Book 1

Book Summary
She left, heavily weighted with secrets. But God reveals all things, in His timing. And He redeems them.
Suzanne Zimmerman was only seventeen and pregnant when her shamed mother quietly sent her away from their Old Order Mennonite community in Kansas. With her old home, family, and first love firmly behind her, Suzanne moved to Indiana, became a nurse, and raised a daughter, Alexa, on her own.

Now, nearly twenty years later, an unexpected letter arrives from Kansas. Her brother asks her to bring her nursing abilities home and care for their ailing mother. His request requires that Suzanne face a strict faith community and a family that may not have forgiven her. It also means seeing Paul Aldrich, her first love.

Paul, widowed with an eight-year-old son, is relieved to see Suzanne again and to have the chance to beg her forgiveness for his past indiscretion. But when he meets Alexa, his guilt flickers in the glare of Suzanne’s prolonged secret – one that changes everything.

Suzanne had let go of any expectation for forgiveness long ago. Does she dare hope in mercy – and how will her uncovered past affect the people she loves the most?

My Review
What a great book! I’ve read a lot of Amish fiction over the years and many times they start to feel similar, but this book is a touching book of loss and redemption, shame and forgiveness, loss and restoration. 

Set in a modern day Old Order Mennonite community, this book didn’t really touch on many of the traditions or customs of this particular community. I’m so used to reading about Old Order Amish that I had to remind myself that these were Mennonite, not Amish. I’m still unsure about the use of some of their modern conveniences in the Old Order, but I chose to not dwell on it too much because I liked the story so much.

This book is told from the POV of Suzanne, Paul, Alexa and Abigail, Suzanne’s mother. When the story begins Suzanne and Alexa are living in Indiana and are fairly content with their lives as-is. When Suzanne gets the call to go back to Kansas she only accepts because Alexa really wants to meet her extended family.

When they reach Kansas, Alexa is in for quite a surprise when her mother not only receives a cool welcome, but an embittered grandmother and a family that seems to be unraveling at the seams. Alex had built up this family, the farm and their lifestyle in her mind so much that she is a bit shocked with what they find when they actually arrive. What happened to this family to make them all so angry and bitter?

This story has a few twists that I didn’t see coming. Suzanne is holding on to a lot of secrets that she tries her best to hold on to, without outright lying which causes many wrong assumptions to be made. Abigail struggles with the return of her daughter who she forced to leave in shame so many years ago. With Suzanne’s return also come the feelings of self-loathing for how Abigail treated her daughter before she forced her to leave.

Can the truth and forgiveness heal hurts that happened 20 years ago? Or will dredging up the past only cause new hurts to those who are involved – then and now?


This book weaves an incredible story of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. While also showcasing the real consequences of our sins and how they can have a ripple effect to everyone and everything around us for years to come.   I really enjoyed this story and how real the author made the situation feel real and not contrived. There are actually some loose ends that were not completely tied up at the end of the book and I’ll be looking forward to the next installment of the series.

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for my honest review by Blogging for Books. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.