Saturday, June 20, 2015

First Summer Camping Trip

We like to take several camping trips each summer if we can manage it. It is my husband's busy time at work, but if we schedule far enough in advance we can make it happen.

This past week, the four of us plus my parents headed over to the eastern half of the state to Lake Pearrygin State Park. This was a new camp spot for us and our campsite was right on the lake! I was concerned it was going to be crazy crowded, but apparently we lucked out by going mid-week (Tues-Fri) and only the last day did the annoying neighbors show up. =)

The view from our campsite:

I was a little nervous about this location and Zachary drowning, but it was up on a bank and considering he's not very adventurous, I didn't have to worry too much. We had a nice relaxing week. The boys always love camping. I used this link from Pinterest and some leftover bags from Malachi's Hot Wheel birthday party this past March (which I apparently posted nothing about!) and put together a scavenger hunt for them. Zach is really too young, but he liked walking around with his big brother anyway. 

My mom and I tried out a few new meals (mostly her ideas). We had a camping pizza which was a big success, cooked our cornbread like pancakes to go with our chili and campfire french toast (moderately successful... if I'd followed the instructions correctly it might have been better!)

Malachi was excited to be able to fish right off the side of the lake. He learned to cast out a line pretty well over those couple days.

We walked around the nearby town of Winthrop, which is a little touristy old-timey town. Then we headed out to see the Falls Creek Waterfall. It was just a short little hike, but had a beautiful view.

All in all a fun trip! Already have a site scoped out for next year and ideas for what to do and bring since we've got a better idea of what's in the area. =)

I'll leave you with this.... this is what fun looks like... maybe too much fun. =)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book Review: The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

Book Details:
Title: The Art of Losing Yourself
Author: Katie Ganshert
2015, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 978-1601425928
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction

Book Summary:
Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?    

My Review:
As always, Katie Ganshert writes a beautiful story. The characters are well developed and the writing is lovely. This was a modern day story, set in Florida’s panhandle. Carmen Hart is the local TV meteorologist and she is married to the local high school football coach. They look like they have the perfect life from the outside… but on the inside they are struggling. They have been trying to have a baby of their own for years now and the longer the process takes, the more withdrawn Carmen becomes.

Enter her younger sister, Gracie. Gracie’s life looks like a total mess on the outside. She doesn’t fit in, her mother is an alcoholic, and she is always getting into trouble in school. When Carmen finds Gracie living in a vacant motel, she takes Gracie home with her and that stirs everything up.

To be honest, I struggled with this book some. Not because the story wasn’t good or because the characters weren’t believable – because they were very real – but because it was very sad. At one point, I put the book down and just had a heavy weight on my chest from all the hurts in this book. Yes, there is hope and redemption and restoration, but the road to get there is very bleak, depressing and hard. My sorrow for Carmen’s character had me feeling her pain on many occasions and I almost didn’t want to continue on at some points because I was afraid of what was going to happen.

My favorite character in this book was Carmen’s husband Ben. He is a wonderful man who is full of integrity and love for his wife, but he wasn’t perfect. There were a couple times I was expecting a royal screw-up on his part (thank you to the author for not letting it happen… I don’t think I could have handled it) but he kept clinging to his faith, his family and his dreams throughout the story.

There are also many colorful secondary characters, Aunt Ingrid who has dementia (also a sad aspect to the story) Elias, Gracie’s friend and Carmen and Gracie’s mom were all great additions to the storyline.
So… if you want to read a beautifully written story of faith and redemption that is woven with realistic life doubts and crisis this is a great read. If you can’t stand sad book, then this is not the book for you.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Was Your Last Check-Up?

Did you know that May is Woman’s Health Month? Me neither.  Good timing though, because I just got in to see my doctor this month for my three-year well-check up with my doctor. To be honest, I’d never even met this doctor before because I’ve only see my OB or midwife over the past 7 years. This past November my regular check-up came due and I put it off until now….because who really wants to go in for those exams? No one, right? But, now that I’m in my thirties, I feel like it’s really important to pay attention to my health and staying healthy. Keeping up on these routine exams is one way of doing that.

Lucky for me, I don’t currently have any risk factors and all my tests this time around came back normal (hooray!). Getting regular check-ups are so important though, so that you can catch any potential problems early or maybe even be encouraged to make some lifestyle changes before they become a problem at all!

The past few months, I’ve been working on getting out at walking for some exercise on a regular basis and I’ve started an exercise program to help strengthen my core muscles to help with back pain. I’m hoping that by living a healthier life now, I can stay that way longer.

I want to encourage all the ladies out there to learn something new about women’s health this month. Here is a little graphic to help you know what you need to do and how often to get it done. =)

I want to encourage all the ladies out there to learn something new about women’s health this month. Here is a little graphic from Oscar Insurance to help you know what you need to do and how often to get it done. =) Oscar offers health insurance in the New York and New Jersey areas and concentrates on providing technology to help make these check-ups and their entire healthcare an easier process. Their new type of health insurance plans offer services with the Oscar app such as the Doctor on Call tool that allows their members to speak directly with their doctor through the app without having to make an appointment or take a trip to the office.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

Book Details:
Title: A Love Like Ours (A Porter Family Novel #3)
Author: Becky Wade
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764211096
Genre: Christian Contemporary Fiction

Book Summary:
Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

My Review:
Becky Wade is becoming one of my favorite authors. I think I've enjoyed every book I've read by her and this one was no exception. This book is set in Holley, Texas and is told from the POV of both Lyndie and Jake.

Who doesn't love a novel with a setting surrounded by horses? And not just any horses - a Thoroughbred ranch! Lyndie's family has moved back to Holley,Texas after about 20 years of living in California. A lot has changed. Lyndie's once best friend, Jake Porter wants nothing to do with her - and is a shadow of himself. Lyndie is determined to make Jake like her even if they can't be friends like they were before.

This was a really interesting book. The author tackled both a main character with PTSD (and did a very admirable job, I thought) and gave Lyndie a sister with severe cerebral palsy. Each of these on their own are difficult subjects, but the author wove them together into a beautiful story of healing, coping, love and restoration.

Jake lives with guilt everyday over the IED that went off and killed his fellow soldiers under his command in Iraq - he being the lone survivor. Can Lyndie's gentle way finally bring him to a place where he can forgive himself and God?

Excellent story, well-written characters and a wonderful message. This book kept me entertained from cover to cover and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

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.

Etsy Shop Re-Opened!

I've FINALLY put some new stuff in my Etsy shop. Head on over there for some lovely bags of vintage trims to use for your projects or a pretty vintage apron!

See LittleSproutBasics here! =)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: When Grace Sings by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Book Details:
Title: When Grace Sings (Book #2 -The Restoration Trilogy)
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0307731333
Genre: Christian Amish/Mennonite Fiction

Book Summary:
When trouble roars into quiet Arborville, Alexa and Anna-Grace find themselves the target for discord and exposed secrets. Can they continue to seek the God of all grace amidst the fog of confusion?  
Alexa Zimmerman wonders if the Old Order Mennonite community in Arborville, Kansas will ever fully accept her. Her family roots here aren’t what anyone thought when she first arrived, but she is hopeful that her culinary and hospitality skills will win the skeptics over. The bed-and-breakfast she’s operating needs to succeed so Alexa agrees to allow Briley Forrester, the hotshot reporter from Chicago, to stay as a long-term boarder not knowing his real motives for being amongst the Plain folk.
But when Alexa agrees to host her cousin Anna-Grace Braun, the presence of extended family brings out Alexa’s insecurities and sets Briley on the trail to uncovering a web of hidden truths. 
Plans for a secure future and the sweetness of young romance hang in the balance when Alexa and Anna-Grace have to face that their secrets are interconnected, binding the two in ways they could not have imagined. They must trust in a loving, heavenly Father and His plan for their futures.

My Review:
This is the second book in The Restoration Trilogy. If you haven't read the first book, you will be very, very confused.

This is an excellent series. This book is told from four POV's. The setting is a modern day Old Order Mennonite community. We have Alexa, her cousin, Anna Grace, the reporter Briley and Anna Grace's fiance, Steven. This book picks up soon after the first one ends. 

Alexa is living with her grandmother and has opened her B&B. She has learned she is not her mother's biological daughter and is struggling to feel like she really fits in with all her Mennonite family members. She is constantly trying to do what is right so that they look past the fact that they are not her blood family and accept her.

Anna Grace is our next character. We briefly met her in the last book, but this time she is a main character. I found Anna Grace to be a little sickly sweet - a little too perfect. But as the book went on, I liked her more. She became more realistic to me as her perfect world crumbled a little.

Steven and Briley were both new introductions. I enjoyed both. Steven was a little bit of a frustrating character because he was never telling anyone what is real dream was... to be a teacher, not a farmer like his father. I felt like Steven really created a lot of his own problems and at one point wondered if he should even be getting married to Anna Grace, but he redeemed himself to me eventually also.

Briley was a bit different because he was a total outsider. He was a rather jaded man with a very dysfunctional past who was going to dig up dirt on the Plain community. I liked him because he was a very charismatic character, but he was very unhappy with life. I won't give away what happens, but I'm wondering if his character is done for this series or if he'll be back...... 

Of course this book also catches up with some of the other characters through their interactions with these four. Just like the first book, this book is about family, God's grace and the restoring love of Christ. The characters are well developed and the stories are interwoven into each other. I am excited to read the third book and see how all the loose ends are tied up!

Learn More:
Book Info
Author Bio

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

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.