Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review: Together With You by Victoria Bylin

Book Details
Title: Together With You
Author: Victoria Bylin
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764211539
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction

Book Summary
Sometimes the most unexpected love can be exactly what a heart needs...
When a Lost Child warning blares over the mall's PA system, Carly Mason finds the little girl playing with a stuffed rabbit. Something about Penny Tremaine is different. An ex-social worker, Carly recognizes that the child suffers fetal alcohol effects, and a piece of Carly's past suddenly confronts her. Never again will she become personally involved with a client. The risks are far too great. But something about Penny--and Penny's handsome father--tugs at Carly's heart.

Dr. Ryan Tremaine is trying to put his life back together. With his ex-wife remarried and on a trip far away, his two teenage sons and Penny are living under his roof full time. Ryan has put his faith in his Sink-or-Swim list, a plan to reconnect with his children. The first step: recruit Carly Mason to be Penny's nanny.

Ryan never anticipated being so drawn to Carly, an attraction Carly seems to fight as much as he does. Could Carly be the missing piece that helps his family stay afloat, or will their blossoming romance only complicate things further?

Book Review
This is the first book I've read by this author and it was a very emotional, well-written book. Told from the perspective of Carly, Ryan and sometimes Penny, this book takes it's readers on a story of love, guilt, confusion, and ultimately redemption and forgiveness. 

Carly becomes the nanny for Penny, a 5-year-old girl who has recently lost her mother to an accident and is living with a father she has just met. Penny also suffers from Fetal Alcohol Effects. Ryan also has his two sons from his failed marriage living with him for the summer - boys he barely knows because he's been such a workaholic in the past. Ryan is hoping Carly can help him with his SOS list to connect with his children over the summer. Carly is a believer, but Ryan is not... and he has no interest in God.

This was a very good book. The characters were deep and their struggles were real. Ryan and Carly were both very broken people. Even Carly with her faith in God has a lot of very real struggles. My only real issue with the book was the love story between Ryan and Carly. On Carly's side, I was frustrated with how attached she allowed herself to become for a man who was not a believer. She just couldn't let it go no matter how wrong she knew it was and I just got really annoyed by it. 

Other than that, I enjoyed the way Ryan tried so hard to connect with his family and right his past wrongs the best he could, how Carly was so awesome with the kids and how Carly and Ryan conducted themselves with integrity throughout (even though I was annoyed with her far-gone interest in him, I could appreciate that she didn't ACT upon it.)

Definitely worth the read and gives the reader a lot of food for thought about FASD and God's grace.

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

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Easter!!!

Malachi and I have been enjoying the Easter Holy Week. I wanted to be a bit more intentional about talking about the Easter story with him this year and it just happened to be half days all week at school, so it was the perfect opportunity to do some Easter projects.

On Monday we made Restoration Eggs. This is something I just happened to come across on Pinterest and thought it would be a great way to remind us to talk about the Easter story each day. You are supposed to start 12 days before Easter, but since we just made them the Monday before, we've been doubling up and doing two eggs each day.

The idea behind the eggs is that each of the 12 eggs is filled with a symbol from an event of Holy Week. Each day we open an egg (or two) and then talk about that symbol and read a passage from our Bible.

Malachi helped me collect all the symbols for the eggs and then we have been enjoying reading all the passages each day. I think it has given him a better understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made for us at Easter.

(We used a couple examples from different people on Pinterest, but here was one of the examples we pulled from.)

We've also made several trips to the library this week for some good Easter reading. Some fun and some religious. I really enjoyed The Story of Easter by Aileen Fisher which explains how our current Easter has come from a combination of old Spring Festival holidays and the Christian story of Jesus.

We also really enjoyed The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt and a book I bought off Amazon Benjamin's Box by Melody Carlson which ties in with our restoration eggs.

Of course, Zach has enjoyed Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells and A Tale of Easter by Tasha Tudor.

We also decorated Easter eggs this week... because that's the thing Malachi wanted to do the most obviously. He also had apparently forgotten how good egg salad sandwiches are and so I had to re-introduce that to him. =)

And our final project of the week was making Resurrection Rolls. This is something I've seen around for a few years and keep meaning to do with the boys... but... I just never do. Oops. So I made sure I did it this year.

Crescent rolls (the tomb), marshmallows (Jesus' body), spices and butter (oil and spices) all wrapped up in a cocoon and baked for 12 minutes (3 days) was a great illustration for the resurrection when they came up hollow inside... and really yummy too!
(Here is a link to the recipe we used for our Resurrection Rolls)

I hope your week was great and you and your family have a wonderful Easter celebrating Jesus' resurrection tomorrow. =)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

Book Details:
Title: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden
Author: Karen Newcomb
ISBN: 978-1607746836

Book Summary:
  To accommodate today's lifestyles, a garden needs to fit easily into a very small plot, take as little time as possible to maintain, require a minimum amount of water, and still produce prolifically. That's exactly what a postage stamp garden does. Postage stamp gardens are as little as 4 by 4 feet, and, after the initial soil preparation, they require very little extra work to produce a tremendous amount of vegetables--for instance, a 5-by-5-foot bed will produce a minimum of 200 pounds of vegetables. 

When first published 40 years ago, the postage stamp techniques, including closely planted beds rather than rows, vines and trailing plants grown vertically to free up space, and intercropping, were groundbreaking. Now, in an ever busier world, the postage stamp intensive gardening method continues to be invaluable for gardeners who wish to weed, water, and work a whole lot less yet produce so much more.

My Review:
This is a very handy gardening book. No color photos included, but there is a lot packed into this book. Planing seasons, different examples of plot sizes and shapes, and explanations on different kinds of plants are all in there. There is also instructions on how to prepare your soil and keep it nutritious for your plant.s I enjoyed a few of the small sections included on things like moon phases and how they might affect your crops.
There seems to be very detailed sections of rotating crops and how to get your postage stamp garden to thrive. This method reminds me a lot of the Square-Foot Garden method where you are doing more intensive gardening rather than having your crops all spread out in rows. This is nice for obvious reasons and perfect for someone with a small space to still have a great vegetable garden. The author seems very knowledgeable and the writing is easy to read and understand. I will definitely be using this as a reference for years to come.

More Info
Author Bio

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

No Zombies

I have learned something about myself this week. I am caught up on watching Downton Abbey and I don't have another show I'm currently watching, so I decided I needed to pick something new from Netflix. My options were Once Upon A Time or The Walking Dead. I actually watched a good portion of Once Upon A Time the first season, but because of my work schedule and not having DVR at the time, I got behind and finally gave it up. I liked it, but for some reason I thought I should try watching something really new - to me.

Sooo... during Zachary's nap the other afternoon I put on the first episode of The Walking Dead. Now... I read a lot of books... a lot of paranormal and fantasy books. I have watched and read about werewolves, vampires and witches, but apparently I am not cut out for zombies. I watched most of the first episode, but I was kinda grossed out by the time Zach woke up and finally I just turned it off. Something about that rotting flesh, I think. No zombies for me... back to messed up fairy tales I go. =)

Malachi has been home sick a lot the last few weeks. Kindergarten is kicking our butts lately. A couple Sunday's ago he threw up so hard that he broke all the blood vessels in his face! I had no idea that could even happen and kinda freaked out and took him to the doctor. He was totally fine the next day, but I kept him home until I could get a note from the doctor because his poor face looked so bad.

He's home again today with a bad cough.... I am so ready for all the sickness to be gone!

Other than that we're just laying low at the moment. Zach is turning into a little two-year-old dictator and driving us all crazy. I think I am about ready to dig out my Mommy School stuff I did with Malachi about this age. 

My husband and I are currently exploring options for Malachi's school next year. We are not too impressed with our neighborhood school and we're not too convinced a new teacher next year is going to help the situation. This month has going to a couple different informational meetings to see what else might be out there for us to consider, so that should be interesting if nothing else.

Book Review: Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Book Details:
Title: Dauntless (Valiant Hearts Series)
Author: Dina L. Sleiman
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764213120
Genre: YA Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Though once a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest," her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king. 

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

My Review:
This book is set in the time period of King John - think Robin Hood. It is told from the POV of Lady Merry Ellison, Timothy Grey and Allen, one of Merry's "men". You also hear from the villain of the story, but you are unsure who he is until near the end of the book.

I liked this book. It didn't really grab me and keep me reading in rapt attention throughout the whole story, but it was good. Merry is an outlaw and is trying to keep a band of orphans safe from being killed by King John. They are a fun group and I felt like the author did a really good job with them. 

There is a love triangle that goes on between Merry, Timothy and Allen. Unfortunately it's pretty obvious what's going to happen from very early on in that situation. For the most part the story is fairly predictable except I wasn't able to guess who the bad guy was until he was revealed. 

It was a clean read, but I was a little surprised with the amount of kissing in it. It wasn't bad, but for a YA Christian book, I was a little surprised. I really appreciated all the historical references and the effort the author obviously made to make a fictional novel as historically accurate as she could.

Update: Want a little explanation on the kissing scenes from the author? Read her view here.

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

Friday, February 20, 2015


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!