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.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas is Coming!

It is the first week of December and I'm finally packing up my Fall decorations and dragging out the Christmas ones. I always find this a very exciting process.... I'm not sure why! Obviously I know everything I have, but it's always fun to dust off the items and start deciding where I'm going to put them this year!

I had a bit of excitement the night before December 1st. I have my Elf on the Shelf calendar prepped with most of the days already planned out. I was having Zouff, our elf, deliver the new Lego Advent Calendar to Malachi and Zachary on his first day here. Suddenly I realized I had no idea where I put Zouff last year when I packed up the Christmas decorations!

My husband is on an extended hunting trip, so I was on my own for finding the wayward elf. Then I realized he had moved a bunch of stuff around in the garage this summer.... uh oh. First I checked the couple small boxes I have in a closet in the house.... nope. Then I looked around the garage floor ... nope. Then I started panicking. I called my husband and we tried to remember where he had put the Christmas bins... nope. I climbed up the rickety ladder to the garage attic (in my pajamas in below freezing weather I might add)... nope. Finally I discovered the bins behind a bunch of other stuff (log splitter, elk head, bins of kids clothes)... and Zouff was laying at the top of the closest bin. Success!!!

This photo is a bit dark (it was a bit late by the time I got this set up!)

Zouff left a special note for the boys:
Dear Malachi and Zachary,
It's so good to be visiting you boys again this year! I am excited for all the fun we'll have together. I have brought you this new Lego Advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas because I know it was your favorite last year! Have fun!  ~Zouff
Malachi was SO excited about the return of Zouff and the calendar. =) He had told my mom a few weeks ago that he didn't know if Zouff was coming back this year (I have no idea why he thought that). Zachary is also old enough to think it's exciting. =)

Today we found Zouff hanging upside down from a swing in the doorway to the playroom. Silly elf.

I know some people think the elf is weird and creepy, but the kids seriously get so much fun out of it. To be honest... it's a lot of fun for us adults too. =)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Easy Weekend Home Projects

Heather from Shutterfly contacted me recently about doing a guest post here. Of course I took her up on it because don't we all love Shutterfly?? I love her ideas for simple home projects. I was just thinking earlier today of a home decor sign I want to try making to add to my Christmas decorations!

The weekend is a sacred time – time to take a break from the demands of the workweek, hopefully relax, spend time with family, and get chores done around the house. Weekends are also a great time to tackle a simple home project. Here are five fairly easy projects you can accomplish in one weekend that will improve the look and feel of your home without a long involved effort:

Create storage space in your entryway. From the moment you enter your home, it’s likely that chaos ensues – especially if you have kids or animals. It’s common to set down your mail and anything else you’re holding on the nearest surface, which often ends up being your kitchen counter or table. Those items are then pushed aside and forgotten or lost. By placing a decorative desk or hutch in your entryway, you create a place to keep mail, keys, your purse, grocery ads, and anything else that doesn’t have a proper space. Use baskets, shelves, and file holders to organize the desk.

Design custom home décor. There are probably several spots in your home that could use some accents or throws. Find a reputable online site and spend the weekend creating personalized home décor such as blankets, table runners, wall art, cups, iPad cases, coasters, and more. This is a fun project even the kiddos will enjoy and it can all be accomplished without leaving your home for supplies.

Paint. There’s no better – or easier – way to liven up a room than to paint something. Whether it be an accent wall, a piece of furniture such as a chair or hutch, or something else, paint can change the entire look and feel of a room. Plus, painting is fairly cheap compared with other home project ideas.

Strip and stain wood cabinets. Does your kitchen need a facelift? If you’ve got wood cabinets, create a whole new look with this basic home project. All you need is a stripping agent, sandpaper, a pretty stain, a sponge brush, and polyurethane for sealing. 

Organize your closet. Organization and getting rid of the junk aren’t just for spring cleaning anymore! Take time to rifle through your closet and find items you no longer need. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you’ve worn or used the item within the last year. If not, donate or sell it. Use shelves, tubs, hangers, and racks to organize the closet so it’s convenient and functional.

Author Bio: Heather Hewitt is a seasoned writer and guest author who enjoys connecting people with thoughtful products, services and ideas as they relate to crafting, photography, gift giving and personal expression.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's All Fun and Games Until....

Well, we are having quite the interesting experience in public school this year. If you've been following me at all, then you'll know I've not been too excited about it all along. I've been trying to keep an open mind and I've also been telling myself it's going to get better..... but it has really yet to do so unfortunately. I feel like every week something happens to frustrate me and they are starting to really build up. 

Malachi seems to be having a good time so far though. His favorite subjects are PE and recess (of course!). He seems to be doing well and getting along okay with the other kids. Most of my complaints stem from the fact that there are 23 kids in his classroom and only one poor teacher! I think she seriously needs some help other than us parent volunteers once or twice a week.

Last Friday I got my first call from the school nurse. I'm actually surprised it took this long to happen. =) Apparently Malachi and another kid collided on the playground and Malachi came away with a big bump on his eyebrow bone. It's been quite interesting to watch the progression of colors everyday as it heals. 

I am in no way blaming this one on the school... this was completely an accident caused by rambunctious boys playing. It's almost comical how terrible his eye looks considering it wasn't actually his eye that got hit. I'm almost afraid to take him out in public because of the comments and stares we get! I told him it looks like he was in a UFC fight!

It is now Wednesday of the week following this collision and his eye still looks basically like the one in the fourth picture. Good thing school pictures have already been taken! I was taking daily pictures (obviously) but when I figured out how long it was going to  take to go away I decided to ease up. =)

Anyway... here's hoping to this being the only incident with the nurse this year. =)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Product Reviews: Crazy Cups Single Serve Coffees

Today it is a very cold day in the Pacific Northwest. We aren't too used to below freezing weather here - even most of the winter, but this has been a frigid week with last night in the 20s! Eek!

It's a perfect day to curl up on the couch with a book and a yummy cup of coffee! A fun company contacted me to sample some of their flavored coffee and today seems like a good day to talk about them. 

Crazy Cups produces a HUGE variety of flavored coffees packaged that are Keurig K Cup compatible! They currently have 20 flavors of coffee including  Banana Foster Flambe, Salted Caramel, Death by Chocolate Cinnamon Churro and many, many more!
Crazy Cups coffees each have 13g of pre-ground coffee which is 30% more than k cups for an extra flavorful cup! Also, all flavors are sugar free with zero calories!

In addition to flavored coffees, Crazy Cups also have four yummy hot chocolate flavors and a hot apple cider! Yum! Perfect for the upcoming holidays, right?

An awesome feature of Crazy Cups is that the packaging is recyclable! Ever feel bad that you're filling up the landfills with millions of little plastic single-serve coffee containers (one of the reason I tend to use my reusable one most days!) Crazy Cups Cool, Peel, Recycle technology allows for a more responsible and eco-friendly alternative for those days when you just want to brew yourself a quick cup!

Crazy Cups sent me an awesome sampler of coffees to try out! I have to admit, I don't think flavored coffee is really my thing. I guess I'm a little boring in my half-and-half and coconut sugar each morning. I really enjoyed the yummy hot chocolate flavors though! Each cup of coffee or hot chocolate is full of flavor and is very sweet! You can smell the flavors coming from your cup even before you take your first sip!

Want to win your own sampler of Crazy Cups??? Just download their app and get entered in the giveaway where they're giving a box to a lucky winner every day until the 15th!
Click here to link to the android app! The iPhone app should be launching soon.

Please visit the Crazy Cups website for more information and to view all the yummy products!

Disclosure: I received a free sampler pack of Crazy Cups coffees to test in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts are opinions are strictly my own.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fall Fun

We are full speed into Fall and it's been busy around here! Malachi is loving school (even though I'm still not too sure about the crazy teacher and even crazier school) and Zach and I are enjoying our solo time together. =)

Zach and I spent a day together with our MOPS group at the local pumpkin patch. So fun to run around with this little man. I feel so blessed that he is finally running around like he should be. I can't even get too mad when he's running away from me!

This particular pumpkin patch has a lot of fun activities for kids. A huge sandbox in the barn is a big hit and so is the water trough and pump. We also saw some little bitty kittens that Zachary was super excited about. We went on a hayride, bought a few tiny pumpkins and went through a hay bale maze in the barn.

Definitely fun to spend time with friends and with Zach!

Malachi was disappointed that we weren't going to go to the pumpkin patch as a family, so Shaun and I decided to take the boys out all together to the other patch in town.

This was Zach's first day with boots and he was excited about that. =) Malachi had a great time walking around and "measuring" pumpkins for the right size (middle picture above). He finally found the one he thought was perfect.

Malachi and I carved his pumpkin a little too early.... it was rotting by the time Halloween arrived.... but we had fun doing it.

Malachi also went to the pumpkin patch with his school and his dad. Unfortunately, his dad broke his phone and he doesn't have the pictures from that day, but we DO have a good one of the giant pumpkin they carved together.

And last but not least - Halloween! My boys went as a cowboy and a pirate this year. Zach wore Malachi's old pirate costume. My mom made  both the costumes.

Malachi had a terrible runny nose, but he was super excited. I had to work, so all my pictures are secondhand from my mom and husband. Love these silly boys. =)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review: The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

Book Details:
Title:  The Daughter of Highland Hall 
Series:  Edwardian Brides #2
Author: Carrie Turansky
2014, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 9781601424983
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Eighteen-year-old Katherine Ramsey travels to London with her family to make her debut into society and hopefully find her future husband. Her overbearing aunt insists she must secure a proposal from a wealthy young man who is in line to inherit his father’s title and estate. But Katherine questions her aunt’s plans when she gets to know Jonathan Foster, a handsome medical student and strong Christian who is determined to protect the poor and vulnerable in London’s East End.

When a family scandal puts a damper on Katherine’s hopes for the season, she has time to volunteer with Jonathan, caring for children in one of London’s poorest areas, and romance blossoms. Katherine’s faith grows and she begins to envision a different future with Jonathan. But when Katherine’s work in the East End puts her in danger, Jonathan distances himself from Katherine to protect her. A wealthy suitor reappears, and Katherine must choose which path to follow. 

My Review:
I read the first book in this series The Governess of Highland Hall. This book picks up right after that, but I think it could easily be read as a stand-alone book. There are definitely references to the past book and a tiny bit of the continuing story of Julia Foster and Sir William Ramsey, but I do not think it would make the reader confused.

This was a pretty good story set in London England during the Season in the early 1900’s. Katherine Ramsey is coming out for her debut Season in London and is trying to find a suitable husband. She is looking for a wealthy man with a title, of course. Her aunt takes her to her presentation to the Queen and to all the high society parties.

Jonathan Foster is finishing up his medical training and is trying to make a decision for his future. Does he go back to India to continue in the missionary work of his parents, or does he make is own way and work at the local hospital or the free clinic in the East End. The more he works with the poor in the East End, the more he feels pulled there. Katherine starts volunteering with Jonathan at the clinic and grows to love the work.

There is also an interesting side story going on about Katherine’s lady’s maid Lydia and her sister Helen. Helen has run off from the family farm to London with a man! Lydia is extremely worried for her and Katherine and Jonathon offer to help her find her sister. They come to find her living in a very unsavory place and have to work together to get her out of her situation.

The budding romance between Katherine and Jonathan was very genuine, I thought. It wasn’t forced or contrived and I felt like it moved at a moderate pace. There were the usual misunderstandings, but what relationship isn’t?

I felt like this was a pretty good read. It was interesting to read about places like the East End and their conditions and also about the opposite side of society like the presentation to the royal family.

Additional Book Info:
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Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this book free of charge by Blogging for Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.