Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wildflowers from Winter - a Waterbrook Multnomah review

It's not too often that I read something emotional that doesn't leave me disheartened. I don't like novels that have horrific loss, grief, pain. Real life has enough of that, and I prefer to lose myself in something light . . . and hopeful. Wildflowers from Winter, written by Katie Ganshert, is one of those books that has grief and loss. The difference with this book, though, is that the characters feel real, and Katie doesn't write the grief so that you feel like you've had your heart ripped from your chest. Thank you!

Iowa native Bethany Quinn has made her life in Chicago as an architect, leaving her painful past behind her. But when her mother calls to tell her that her once-best friend has had a loss in her life, Bethany painfully makes her way back to Peaks, Iowa. Staying with her grandfather on his farm (who happens to have farm hand Evan Price living with him) while she pays her respects, Bethany vows to not stay long. Her job is demanding, and problems wait for her in Chicago. However, when she suddenly inherits the farm and Evan inherits the farmhouse, things become more complicated. Evan wants the land, but she wants to sell and have her own business. Meanwhile, Bethany struggles with her past and issues in Chicago. Torn emotionally, Bethany has to make several decisions and determine where she stands with God.

The characters in this story feel so real. No put-ons, no dramatic flair, just real-feeling people dealing with their problems. And while this book has romance in it, it's not one of those novels that is empty romance (or what my husband calls "fluff puff"). This is a great first novel by Katie, and I look forward to reading more from her!

I highly recommend that you visit this link at her website, where you will find the first three chapters of the book as well as background information on the novel!

I received Wildflowers from Winter as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

No Safe Harbor - a Bethany House review

I have read some great books lately, and Elizabeth Ludwig's No Safe Harbor is one of them! This is one of those books that I love--it drew me in from the first page, left me with questions I wanted answered, and by the time I got to the last page, my questions were answered! This novel is very well written, the dialog matches the characters, and the scenes unfold naturally. It has a soft ending, making way for the second story in the Edge of Freedom series which is due for release sometime in 2013.

Set in the late 1890s in New York City, No Safe Harbor tells the story of Cara Hamilton, who has sailed from Ireland in hopes of finding her brother Eoghan whom she fears is dead. She finds her way to a female boardinghouse with the help of a countryman. Knowing that she should not reveal her brother's name because of the danger that it could put her and him in, Cara is guarded. But when a fellow Irishman named Rourke offers to help her, her wall gradually comes down. When she finds out who Rourke is and the whereabouts of her brother, Cara is forced to decide between Rourke and her own twin brother.

No Safe Harbor is filled with suspense, intrigue, romance, and edge-of-your-seat anticipation! If you like historical fiction, this one won't disappoint!!

About the Author 
Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.

I received No Safe Harbor as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Bethany House Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Wicked Wager - a review

I received an email from author Anya Wylde a couple of months ago, asking me if I would read and review her novel. The Wicked Wager is a cozy mystery with a little bit of romance thrown in. This is not a Christian fiction novel, but neither is it profane.

The story starts out with two characters--the heroine Miss Emma Grey, and Lord Richard Hamilton--in Regency England. Lord Hamilton decides upon Miss Grey as his wife, and while the family mostly supports the two, Miss Grey's uncle--the Duke of Arden--does not. Not persuaded to be thwarted by the Duke's decision that they not be wed, Lord Richard plots a scheme to trick the Duke into allowing him to wed Emma. What results is an interesting tale of woes, frustrations, and murder! As a who-dun-it type of story, The Wicked Wager is a story that nicely weaves some romance, mystery and a splash of comedy here and there.

The story started out a bit slow and dull to me. It didn't feel like it had much content at first. I struggled to hold on through several chapters, but then things took off a little. The characters seemed very corny, flaky if you will. There were a few instances where there were POV issues. I had a hard time in places trying to figure out which character was acting narrator at the time.

There were secondary characters in the book who fell in love. I felt that they added to the storyline, but their story, I felt, began to take precedence at one point and I lost interest in the actual main characters' story.

At the end when the murder mystery evolved and then was preparing to be solved, the explanation by the Duke went on and on. I felt like there was too much emphasis in the "explaining" of the murder.

Overall, this story was an interesting read. It had sort of a classical Jane Austen type of tone to it. I think that this author is one to watch. With some more editing and focus on POV, there will be some interesting reads come from Anya Wylde.

Thank you to Anya Wylde for the free copy of her book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cover Girl BLASTFLIPSTICK Giveaway

CONGRATULATIONS TO NIKKI S. for winning the BLAST Flip Stick giveaway!!! I have emailed you, so please check for details on how you can receive your win!

As some of you may already know (especially if you participated in last week's giveaway)I received a box of new lip shades from BzzAgent. Covergirl has a new product out called blastflapstick. It's two lipsticks in one, a double-ended stick. One one side is a creamy shade, and on the other is a glittery shade. I received three tubes: stunner, minx, and vixen. Two of the tubes I knew right off the bat wouldn't look too great on me, so I chose one to review and decided to give the other two away! Last week, I gave away the "stunner" tube. Today, I'm starting the giveaway for the other--minx!

The shade that you see on the left is the shade I'm giving away. The name is "minx" and it's #855. These lip shades are matte in texture. They won't leave a glossy shine, but instead have a shimmery look or what I'd call slightly frosty. One side of the tube is creamy, and the other side provides the shimmery look that you'll get.

In addition to the tube of lipstick, you'll get some coupons for you and your friends for $2 off one COVERGIRL Blast Flipstick Lipcolor.

Scroll down to enter to win this. You can enter once a day. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
This giveaway is only open to residents in the U.S.  Winners will be randomly chosen by and will have 48 hours to respond from the time I send the alerting email. Failure to respond within 48 hours will result in a new winner being selected.
I received this product as a result of a BzzAgent campaign. I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion. My opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cover Girl BLASTFLIPSTICK Review & Giveaway

UPDATE: Congratulations to Elizabeth T. for winning this giveaway!! You'll be receiving an email from me today!
Thanks to all of you who entered. Check back for the other stick to be up for grabs on Friday!

I received a box of new lip shades from BzzAgent this week. Covergirl has a new product out called blastflapstick. It's two lipsticks in one, a double-ended stick. One one side is a creamy shade, and on the other is a glittery shade. I received three tubes: stunner, minx, and vixen. Two of the tubes I knew right off the bat wouldn't look too great on me, so I chose one to review and decided to give the other two away!

I tried out the "vixen" shades. It was a wee bit too bright yet for my coloring (I'm fair skinned with freckles, so I generally tend to gravitate toward lighter, less bold colors for my lips), but I knew I had to choose one to review. :) Knowing that I could blend these shades without one of them totally "eating up" the other color, I gave it a whirl. I LOVE that you can mix these shades and actually see how they blend. The color was very long-lasting, which thrilled me!

These lip shades are matte in texture. They won't leave a glossy shine, but instead have a shimmery look or what I'd call slightly frosty. I'm not a frosty fan myself, and this lipstick wasn't over the top with that. It also has a pleasant scent to it (not overly waxy smelling) and isn't unpleasant to taste.

Now let's cover the giveaway portion of this blog post!! I'm giving away ONE stick of COVERGIRL blastflipstick and some coupons for you and your friends for $2 off one COVERGIRL Blast Flipstick Lipcolor.
The color is called stunner (#840). You can see it on this link and by looking at the image on the left. If you like a red lipstick, you will love this one!

Scroll down to enter to win this. You can enter once a day. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This is a BzzAgent campaign. I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion. My opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


UPDATE!! Congratulations to Joy H. in winning the giveaway!! You'll be receiving an email from me shortly about getting your copy of The Blessed Church. Congratulations!!

I'm giving away a free, hardcover copy of The Blessed Church by Robert Morris. If you're interested in winning a copy of this book, you can enter below on a daily basis. This giveaway will end on 11/27, so enter quickly!

Whether you are a pastor, a volunteer, or a church member, you want your church to grow well. After all, there’s no better place to experience God than in the loving, healthy community of a church. But what does an effective church look like? Is it possible to grow and be healthy at the same time? 

Pastor Robert Morris has experienced firsthand the spiritual and relational excitement of a growing, dynamic church. In The Blessed Church, Pastor Morris brings you practical wisdom for cultivating real growth by nurturing true and Biblical health in your spiritual community. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Blessed Church - a Waterbrook Multnomah Review

Everyone is curious to know the secrets for church growth. All churches go through valleys and peaks, and Robert Morris' book The Blessed Church: The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love gives some tips for church growth--not just in the numbers sense but in the wisdom, knowledge, and experience sense.

As I read the book, I felt like it could greatly benefit those who are newly called to preach and for those who are newly pastoring. It also would be beneficial for pastors who have found themselves in a funk or who are discouraged by a stagnated fellowship or a drop in membership and/or attendance.

At first I felt a little skepticism, because Morris' own church is a large church. We're talking thousands of attendees and members, multiple church services, and church BRANCHES. Yes, I said BRANCHES. That, to me, is remarkable. In a day where we find that some large churches tote the prosperity gospel line, I found myself starting out this book a little biased and definitely looking for signs that this church might be one of them. I'm ashamed to say that, but I also believe that we also have to be cautious in what we read.

Upon further reading of this book, I found several nuggets of great advice and truth. I'm a big staunch supporter of those in leadership positions being leaders. Notice I said leaders--not kowtowing slaves or hard-nosed dictators. There's a middle ground there that is hard to stand on, yet a pastor (or Sunday school teacher, or prayer warrior, or choir leader, etc.) should try to maintain that. Anyone in church leadership should be willing to listen, to delegate authority when needed, and jump in there when work needs to be done.

Some things that I wrote down that I found relevant to me and to those I know were these:

  • What frustrates you is probably what God has ordained your ministry to be. Aha!! Brilliant! I definitely could see that possibility. (this from Chapter 6)
  • Write a vision for your church so that the body knows what the goals of the church are. (chapter 10) I think a lot of times, we just are focused on having church: worshiping, listening to the preaching, going to Bible study, that we fail to think about a vision of where we're hoping to head in the future.
  • Pastors need to delegate. Exodus 18:13-23 was shared, in which Jethro gave Moses advice on delegating authority to other men so that Moses was not spending from daylight till dark in hearing the needs of the people. "Otherwise, you and your associates will all fall prey to burnout, which, in turn, eventually leads to what I call the prayer of the burned-out pastor." WOW!! How many times have you seen the same people doing everything? Often, this is a situation where there's not enough delegation happening. (Though sometimes it's as a result of there not being enough willing to do the work!) Too often there's an individual who doesn't trust someone (or "someones") to help do the job because they think it won't get done properly. This, like Morris iterated, causes burnout and oftentimes bitterness on the part of the person doing it all, and sometimes on those who would like to help but who are turned down.
I really enjoyed this book, and I found a lot of good suggestions for growing the church. I think that God doesn't necessarily want every church to be a thousand-plus church membership, but He wants us to remain busy and excited and goal-oriented.

I received The Blessed Church as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

Israel at War - a Tyndale review

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a history fan. I also have, in the last few years, developed an interest in world events centered around the Middle East and how it relates to Biblical history. So when I had the opportunity to read and review Joel C. Rosenberg's Israel at War: Inside the Nuclear Showdown with Iran, I snagged the opportunity. This book was a play-by-play account of what is now happening.

Benjamin Netanyahu the current Prime Minister of Israel as reported in Joel's book, has increasingly felt the burden to protect his people from threats from those who see Israel as a threat. Joel has had opportunity to work with and interview Netanyahu, and he reports the state of the issue with Israel and its future. Joel also reminds his readers of previous history and how that history affects the current day and the future.

I really enjoyed reading this account. I also appreciated Joel's reflection on a portion of the Netanyahu family that I did not know--the fact that they have personal Bible studies on the Sabbath.

About Joel

Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of six novels – The Last Jihad, The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll, Dead Heat, The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative – and three non-fiction books, Epicenter ,Inside the Revolution, and Implosion with more than two million total copies in print. The Ezekiel Option was named by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as the Gold Medallion winner of the "Best Novel of 2006." Joel is the producer of two documentary films based on his non-fiction books. He is also the founder of The Joshua Fund, a non-profit educational and charitable organization to mobilize Christians to "bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus" with food, clothing, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief.
I am a member of Tyndale Blog Network, a fabulous website that sends free books to read and keep if you write a review for your blog and for a major retailer (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble). Tyndale Blog Network is through Tyndale House Publishers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When to Speak Up & When to Shut Up - a Baker Publishing Group Review

How often have we had something to say and realllllly wanted to say it but worried that it might not be the right thing to say? In When To Speak Up and When to Shut Up, author Dr. Michael D. Sedler addresses this type of problem and others.

The Bible says in Proverbs 21:23, "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles." It's easy to say that until we get into a situation at work, among difficult family members, when someone cuts you off in traffic. It's easy to spout something off when we're in that emotional moment. 

More appropriate verses from the Bible (just a few of my favorites):
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 34:13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 
Matthew 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

In his book, Dr. Sedler covers the cost and purpose of silence, asking good questions (because we can all do this in a bad way at times), dealing with anger and resentment, and taking a stand when it's appropriate. He weaves in Bible examples and personal examples of situations to illustrate his points.

I found this book helpful in many ways. For myself, I have a problem with wanting to rise to defense when my silence would be the best way to go. Facebook is one place where I often want to speak up, and I have learned that many times, it's best to shut up and pray.

Some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Sedler's book:
  •  "Silence may allow the truth to come forth on its own. . . . When you are in a situation . . . take a deep breath, pray an extra prayer and make sure you are not 'bullied' to speak out. Your silence will probably be of greater impact that an emotional outburst."
  • When coming into contact with someone who is angry at us: "1) Listen. Be sure to hear what your antagonist is saying. 2) Clarify. Ask the person to clarify any areas that are unclear. 3)Exhaust the list of complaints or concerns. . . . ask if there are other issues. Do not begin to defend yourself at this point. 4) Ask for suggestions. Allow the person to give as much input as possible about solutions to the problem presented. DON'T: 1) Don't become self-protective. 2) Don't own problems that belong to others. 3) Don't argue."
  • "Instead of attacking one another, we need to attack the problem."
  • "Silence. Speaking up. Both change destinies. When we use these tools inappropriately, we can do great harm. And when we use them as God intended, we can change our world for the better."
I think anyone who is alive should read this book! It has some great suggestions for speaking up and remaining silent at the appropriate times. 

I received When to Speak Up & When to Shut Up, a book published by Chosen Books, from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid for my review.

Tangled Ashes - a Handlebar Review

Tangled Ashes, a new novel by Michele Phoenix, is a Christian fiction novel published by Tyndale. This novel tells the story of a castle in Lamorlaye, France. The castle has its roots that date back to several hundred years, and this particular story touches on the history of the castle during World War II and the German occupation of France.

Marshall Becker, an American architect, has been put on a project of renovating the Lamorlaye castle. An alcoholic struggling with wanting to quit, Marshall finds himself drawn to Jade, nanny of the castle owner's children. Jade has her own demons that you don't find out about until much later in the story. Therese, an interior designer working on the castle project, also has her own little part in the story, as well as an old squatter named Jojo.

During the story, the castle has some suspicious happenings. Parts of the renovation destroyed, a fire, etc. Becker finds himself battling an impossible deadline for completing the work. While working on a portion of the stairs that needs redone, he finds himself having alcohol withdrawal shakes. He has to deal with the children annoying him, the nanny who scolds him for yelling at his workers (and the children when they interrupt his work), and his desire for alcohol.

All throughout the story, little by little, the WWII story is told until it all unfolds at the end of the novel.

My thoughts? The story is very well-written as far as grammar and syntax are concerned. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the historical part of the story and discovering how it related to the book's 21st century happenings. The plot for the historical account was much stronger than the plot for the modern story.

The historical part of the novel was in-depth and drew me in. I found myself wanting to skip the REAL story and just read the chapters devoted to the WWII parts of the story. It would've been a great historical novel in my opinion.

The 21st century part of story was very choppy, I felt. I couldn't get a good idea on what exactly the plot of the story was until I was in the last chapters of the book.

The characters weren't developed enough. They seemed very split-personality-like. One moment, I would like Becker and Jade, then the next minute I really didn't like their characters at all. Jade was a very stand-offish type of character--she wanted Becker to be a man and give up the alcohol, yet she didn't want to be his friend and try to listen to him when he needed to talk. The story gave special notice to why Becker drinks. At times, I thought maybe he would get to talk to Jade about it, that maybe she would lend an ear, but nothing was ever developed from his story of alcohol abuse. I'm not sure why the author even created a story for the excuse for his drinking, because nothing ever was mentioned again.

I didn't like the three main characters surrounded in the plot in the story. They all seemed very selfish and, frankly, emotionally volatile. The story has no good ending, which isn't a problem to me, but the ending seemed just thrown together. It just felt like the characters didn't learn anything. They started out the story with problems (bad attitudes, selfishness, hermit-like tendencies) and finished with those same problems.

**SPOILER** Becker goes back to the US, Jade seems to want to continue in her pessimist attitude toward her life, and Therese seems to want nothing to do with her newly-found father.

I was very aggravated with this story. I felt like I'd wasted my time. However, if you enjoy a book that tells a story but there's no growth for the characters and no specific plot (instead, what seems like several little ones that could be developed and, I feel, exude promise), then you will enjoy this novel. It's definitely a different writing style than I typically enjoy.

I was given Tangled Ashes in exchange for an honest opinion. Handlebar Publishing provided the copy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tackling Costochondritis - My Regimen

This blog entry is about my nearly two year struggle with costochondritis. You can read my story and follow my blog entries in chronological order by going to this link.

Writing a blog entry for dealing with this monster (costochondritis) is not easy. I probably should start writing down a list of thoughts before I blog about this. I have a feeling I'll be sitting here cutting and pasting my words so that they'll not be so jumbly (and the spell-check says "jumbly" is not a word--but I'm saying it is today). More than a year's research is floating around in my brain, and I know that there's no possible way that I can get it all in in one blog entry (hence the need for a whole series of posts so that you can read on your own time). Today I'm going to devote my blog entry to the regimen I'm going to attempt to follow. I say attempt because my history doesn't exactly include a heaping amount of determination or will-power. However, I'd love to get my life back, and that's a whole lot of determination right there. And that also reminds me to tell you that I'm going to write a post (or maybe more?) about what a bad day is like for me and what a good day is like for me.

But first I want to share with you what I'm going to do to tackle this problem, and with God's help, eliminate it. Speaking of God, I also need to share with you in a blog entry about my struggle and my spiritual growth.

Diet Life-Changing Eating Plan
I hate that word Diet, and anyone who has ever been on a diet surely hates it, too. The word is not pleasant and brings back the thought of endless FAILED attempts at changing my eating habits. The word Diet has an unpleasant letter arrangement that I also associate with failed attempts at changing my eating--d-i-e. Yup, every time I go on a diet, the plan always dies. I don't have much will-power. So, that being said, I have chosen--instead of Diet--to use the phrase Life-Changing Eating Plan.

My eating plan is developed around the perfect whole foods diet eating plan. ;) Whole foods means that there is nothing processed in such a way that nutrients are stripped. So, basically, here is a list of foods I will be eating, followed by a list I won't be eating.

Life-Changing foods (what I'll be eating):
  • whole grain bread, crackers, with no sugar or ingredients that contain -ose
  • fresh fruits and frozen (no sugar added, no preservatives)
  • fresh vegetables and frozen (no preservatives)
  • brown rice, barley, etc. (not refined)
  • no-salt nuts
  • non-breaded meats
  • organic yogurt (no sugar), cheese (no processed junk)
Life-Inhibiting foods (what I won't eat):
  • white flour
  • canned fruit, dried fruit (including GMO fruits and veggies, which I avoid anyway)
  • white rice
  • breaded, processed meat
  • anything with sugar in the ingredients or -ose or -ol in the ingredient list
  • anything with monosodium glutamate in the ingredient list
Since I also suffer from acid reflux, I also plan to eliminate tomatoes, onions and celery from my diet (my acid triggers) for a while.


Stress & Tension - My Slow but Steadily Plunge into Pain
Relaxation is going to be a huge part of my regimen because I've developed the habit of bracing. During the last thirteen years, I have bit by bit held tension in my upper torso. As a result, my neck was my first source of problem. I have alignment issues (because of one leg being longer than the other), but that is only half of my neck problems. When I was 22, I started getting tension headaches. I just thought for years that I was afflicted with migraines; looking back on it and knowing what I do now, it was a part of my stress problem. Thirteen years later, I still have neck problems, but I've added upper back, shoulder, mid back and lower back to my list of pain. Last February, I added chest to the mix. Instead of now simply responding to a stressful situation by tensing my shoulders and my chest muscles, I now tense my shoulders and chest muscles when I am not stressed. I will be sitting in front of the television, reading a book, or simply having a conversation and realize that my muscles in those areas are tense. I consciously realize it several times a day and force myself to relax those muscles.

Morning Pain
My mornings are rough. When I wake up, my sternum and ribs (front and back) are sore. If I awake while lying on my side, it feels like my sternum is being squished. Painful. As the morning progresses, I begin to feel better. This lets me know that I tense my muscles up during sleep.

How I'm Hoping to Fix It - Skilled Relaxation

Last year I discovered a website that has brought me my greatest number of resources in fighting and winning the battle against acid reflux and costochondritis. And that website introduced to me the book on the left: Recapture Your Health. I bought it (and no, I have not been paid to talk about this book), and boy has it been an eye-opener. It's a holistic look at healing your problems when allopathic medication won't bring you healing. (The authors don't dismiss modern medicine--they prefer a natural healing when possible combined with allopathic means of handling other health needs, such as genetic illnesses.)

One third of this book's major topics deals with relaxation (the other two main topics cover exercise and whole foods diet). The idea behind relaxation is to teach your body not to respond to the fight or flight mode that many folks find themselves constantly in. For me, relaxation is simply lying on the bed for half an hour, focusing on my breathing and keeping thoughts at bay. I also occasionally listen to classical music (Pachelbel's Canon is one of my favorites) when I'm having trouble with focusing on relaxing. I don't listen to relaxation CDs with people telling you what to do, nor do I do self-hypnosis or things like that. I simply lie down and relax. I do this twice a day, according to the suggestion in the book. I've not done it long enough to see results. As a matter of fact, the book states that it can take 6-12 months to see major results. Maybe three months before I see noticeable results. I don't care if I have to wait a year--if it'll work, I'll try it three times a day if I need to.

Supplements & Helpful Practices
Here is a list of supplements that I am taking:
  • regular multivitamin
  • folate
  • fish oil and/or flax seed oil
  • magnesium
  • B12
  • Frankincense oil
  • Vit. D
  • chiropractic care & massage therapy as needed
  • gentle stretching & walking
  • Echinacea (two weeks on, two off)
I'm keeping a notebook to keep track of my relaxation sessions, vitamins,and symptoms. This will help me to see if there is a pattern to my pain. Some people claim that weather makes costochondritis worse. I've not been able to see if there is a pattern yet for me. Time will tell.

My goal is to be whole and well again. The ultimate goal would be to pass on my findings to someone else battling this so that they can be made whole and well again, too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You Don't Know Me - a Litfuse review

First, let me make my apology to Litfuse and Susan May Warren for not getting this review out when I was supposed to. I was scheduled to put my review up on the 3rd, and somehow I must have deleted the email, and weeks later noticed that there were reviews being put up on the Litfuse site. After then emailing Christen for info on the blog tour, I got delayed with a bad costochondritis flare-up (was not able to type up my review) and then went out of state for my dad's knee surgery and to help out afterward....It's not been my month! Please accept my apology for my tardy review.

If you've not read Susan May Warren's Deep Haven series, you have really been deprived! If you enjoy a nice, Christian contemporary novel with little splashes of romance and suspense thrown in, you will love the novels in this series. I've been given the opportunity once again to review one of these novels (last year I reviewed an advanced copy of The Shadow of Your Smile and also My Foolish Heart). Susan absolutely is a terrific writer. She magnificently fleshes out her characters in a way that leaves me wondering how she does it! I can tell that she spends quality time allowing her characters to develop into their own personalities. She weaves the storyline in a way that feels natural and not at all forced.

The emotion in You Don't Know Me was palpable. Several times, I found myself in tears because of the characters' emotional situations. When a book can bring me to tears, I know it's excellent!!

About the Book: 

A Deep Haven Novel

Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.

Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?

Meet Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. Find out more about Susan May at

If you would like to read more reviews from this blog campaign, click {here}!

I received You Don't Know Me as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tackling Costochondritis - What Works & What Doesn't, Part 1

With this battle with costochondritis, I've read of soooooo many things one can do, supplements that can be taken, etc. Here is a list of things I've discovered through searching, and in blue italics are my own personal thoughts on those that I have tried.

  • NSAIDs temporary relief, not a cure
  • Steroids
  • Noni juice
  • Flax seed oil  haven't tried long enough to see effects
  • Fish oil  haven't tried long enough to see effects
  • Sunbathing  works great for me in relieving pain short-term (half an hour in the sun is great)
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin
  • Heat  dulls the pain temporarily but tends to cause throbbing later
  • Ice   I didn't find it to be comfortable at all
  • gluten-free diet  haven't tried for costochondritis yet
  • skilled relaxation  I think it will really help long-term, haven't tried long enough to see a big change yet, but my stress levels are much lower
  • Rolfing (a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation)
  • Massage therapy  has helped relieve stress knots, but no relief from sternum pain
  • aerobic exercise   no decrease in pain, but makes me feel more energized
  • stretching   light stretching helps some, but I can easily go too far, with the result being great pain the next day
  • Acupuncture
  • Prolotherapy
  • compression
  • Magnesium, B12   I take these daily (350 Magnesium, 1000 B12) and have for a long time.  
  • Chiropractic care   short-term help, good for overall wellness
  • Essential oils   this one's being worked on currently--Frankincense oil
  • Breast reduction - this was literally recommended to me a few months ago. Because I'm large-chested, the weight of my breasts do cause the pain to stick around. However, I'm more inclined to stick the tried-and-true method below....
  • Weight loss   on my way....

Tackling Costochondritis - the History of My Issues With It

I'm doing a series of blog entries on my struggles with pinpointing the cause and the cure for costochondritis. During these next few weeks and months, I'm going to document the inception of my issues with costochondritis, my struggles with pain, what's helped and what's not, and my research on holistic treatment and--hopefully--a cure for this chronic condition.

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the sternum. It is often a temporary problem that some have, but for others like me, it becomes a chronic condition. Lifting something as simple as a full laundry basket, mopping a floor, or scrubbing a dirty dish releases needle-like sensations of pain along my sternum. Below is my story, followed by the research I am doing to combat this problem. I'm not satisfied with dulling the pain--I want it eliminated.

The beginning--trying to find the trigger
On January 24, 2011, I remarked on my Facebook account that I felt awful. I had awful reflux and just didn't feel good. I began looking into the possibility of Celiac's Disease, and began an elimination diet. On February 6 (almost two weeks into my elimination diet), I began to feel like I was losing my voice, I had a dry cough, tight-feeling chest and just felt bad. I also had a swollen type feeling in my throat, as if I'd eaten something that caused an allergic reaction. A ARNP at an urgent clinic thought she detected a lump on my thyroid and wanted me to have an ultrasound. A second opinion from my regular GP revealed no such lump, but a diagnosis of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux was thrown out there, which matched my symptoms.

Then sometime toward the end of February or early March I began feeling like I had a chest cold--bronchial tickling, coughing, feeling like I had glue in my bronchial tubes, and a low-grade temp that would come and go but didn't ever reach 100. I kept coughing to try to release the junk, but I couldn't produce a productive cough. That kept up for weeks--on April 18 I posted that I was beginning to feel better. However, in its place was a nasty pain in my sternum area from all of the coughing. The pain continued--it hurt to touch, it hurt to twist my body, it hurt to lift things. I began searching online (while I also was still trying to get answers from medical professionals), and discovered costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the sternum that can be caused from blunt trauma to the sternum and/or ribs, excessive coughing, a virus, and other things. Further research taught me that some people have it for a few days while others have it for years. Unfortunately, I was not part of the majority that only has it for a few days or weeks. More than a year and a half later, I still have it. Also during this time, I developed panic attacks and suffered from anxiety, because it was such a painful time. Costochondritis mimics heart attack pain, and when the pain was at its worst (especially at night), I would wonder if I was about to have a heart attack. On April 29, 2011, I finally had a confirmed diagnosis by my chiropractor of costochondritis. My GP prescribed Mobic.

Since those early days, I have learned that my costochondritis problems increase prior to menses, in the cold, sometimes on rainy days, and completely went away when I got pregnant this past May (unfortunately, the pregnancy ended and costochondritis came back about six weeks later).

Suggestions Made to Me
Allopathic treatment for costochondritis
The only internal treatment that was suggested to me was Mobic. It took several days for me to find relief. I was given the prescription for only a month, and when it was out, I was still in pain. I asked for another refill and was given another month's worth, but was under the impression that I would not be given more. After beginning to take the second month's worth, I began feeling better and decided to just use Tylenol and Advil as needed. The pain was manageable, but flared up if I did too much (just about any housework was too much) and also increased before my menstrual cycle.

Dangers of prescription drugs for pain relief
Doctors cannot issue a cure for costochondritis. There is no medication that will eliminate this problem. In fact, NSAIDs are well-known for causing more problems, specifically problems with the gut. I can vouch for that!! NSAIDs also block the body's synthesis of proteoglycans, the molecules that bring water to cartilage. So while you're getting pain relief, you're also depriving your cartilage of the moisture it needs. It's suspected (but not yet confirmed, not that I've found anyway) that conditions such as osteoarthritis can actually increase because of the lack of hydration.

Holistic treatment
Chiropractic care
I have been getting chiropractic care since 2008, and I continued with that. It seems to also help with the pain level.

Massage therapy
Recently I began seeing a massage therapist, who has been progressively working on the incredible knots in my back. I went from having many many knots the first session, to only having a handful or two the third session. I've not seen a decrease in my pain, but at least the knots are going away. These are as a result of the chronic bracing that I've done during times of stress and pain.

Check back for my next blog entry about costochondritis soon!

My goal is to be whole and well again. The ultimate goal would be to pass on my findings to someone else battling this so that they can be made whole and well again, too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Trouble With Cowboys - a Litfuse review

Jami's Thoughts
It isn't very often that I see a cowboy story pulled off really well. Denise Hunter's The Trouble With Cowboys does a nice job of using appropriate slang at just the right times without seeming overpowering. This story is about a young lady struggling to make ends meet. When her job as equine columnist for Montana Living comes to an end with the promise of a love column opened up, Annie Wilkerson knew there was no way she could give folks love advice because she's never been in love.

When ladies man Dylan Taylor needs help with his blind horse who has become very restless, he goes to Annie, whose skills as trainer are exactly what Braveheart needs. But Annie's not too keen on the idea of spending time near the flirty Dylan, but when he tells her he has already sought the advice of everyone else in the area, Annie feels like she should help--especially since the only other possible option for Braveheart is to put him down. There's only one problem, though: Annie doesn't trust cowboys. After her cowboy father left her mother and sister and her when she was young, Annie has a large distrust for cowboys. The fact that Dylan seems to attract women like flies to a cow patty doesn't help matters. So Annie--against her better judgment--hatches a plan that, in exchange for helping his horse, Dylan must help her with her new lovelorn column.

This book was a great story. I read it in two sittings, and it left me wanting to read more! If you'd like to read more reviews about this book, click {here}!

About the Book: 
Only one pair of boots—and the cowboy wearing them—can get Annie out of the mess she’s in.

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now.
The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn’t know what to trust—her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.

Meet Denise: 

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! Find out more about Denise at

Denise Hunter’s The Trouble with Cowboys Facebook Party & Kindle Fire Giveaway
To celebrate the release of The Trouble with Cowboys Denise is hosting a fun Author Chat Party on Facebook. She'll connect with readers and give away some amazing prizes - including a Kindle Fire! 
Save the Date for October 11th!

Grab your copy of Denise Hunter’s latest book and join her for an Author Chat Party on October 11th at 8:00 PM EST (that’s 7:00 Central, 6:00 MST, & 5:00 PST)! Haven’t read The Trouble with Cowboys yet? That’s okay, don’t let that stop you from coming to the party! (You may win a copy!)

During the evening she’ll be sharing the story behind the book, posting discussion questions, testing your trivia skills, and of course, there will be plenty of chatting and fun giveaways – books, gift certificates and – a Kindle Fire! She’ll also be giving you a sneak peek of her next book too!

RSVP today and then come back on the 11th … and bring your friends!

 I received The Trouble With Cowboys as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Be Still My Soul - a Multnomah Review

Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof is a story that felt different to me. Different than other books I read. How? Well, it has a "tone" (only way I know to describe it) that hit my heart immediately. Set in the turn of the last century in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this story will bring all sorts of emotions to the table. Melancholy, forbidden, hopeless are words that I would use to describe Lonnie Sawyer's life. She lives at home with her parents and her siblings, but her father is not loving toward her. She looks forward to turning 18 when she can move in with her aunt.

But before that can happen, a man named Gideon messes up with her plans when she allows him to kiss her and her father witnesses it. Deciding that she's no longer pure, her father forces her to marry Gideon. Both Lonnie and Gideon do not want to marry but do so because they see no other way around it.

When Gideon decides to move to another town for better job opportunities, Lonnie goes along with him, but the trek is arduous. Lonnie collapses when Gideon doesn't allow her to rest, and as a result they wind up at the home of an older couple. From here, chaos ensues for both of them. With a lack of love toward one another, can they make it or will Gideon leave?

This book kept me on the edge of my seat!

I received Be Still My Soul as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.


Faithful to Laura - a BookSneeze Review

Faithful to Laura, an Amish fiction novel by Kathleen Fuller, is a well-paced novel with solid characters and an intriguing story.

Laura Stutzman, whose face is forever scarred after an attempt on her life by a man who also stole her family's life savings, has decided to pay back her family. Taking on a job away from home for another Amish family, Laura is determined to no only repay her debt but to find some answers and put the man who nearly killed her behind bars.

Sawyer Thompson was adopted by an Amish family when he was an adolescent. Now as an adult, he rides the fence on whether to remain Amish or to go back to his Yankee roots. When Laura Stutzman works in his parents' shop, his head turns. In spite of the scars on her face, he finds himself drawn to her. But when his rich grandmother from New York finds him and demands that he return with her, he finds himself at a crossroads that he doesn't like.

This is a story that I found myself wanting to finish once I started. A touching story! If you enjoy Amish fiction, this one is a keeper!

I am a member of BookSneeze, a fabulous program through Thomas Nelson. BookSneeze sends members free books to read and keep in exchange for written reviews on a blog and on a major retailer's website (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms - a Multnomah review

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, an Amish fiction novella written by Cindy Woodsmall, is a book that has been on my to-read list for a while. When I finally got to reading it, it didn't disappoint!

This story is written during the Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom (hence the title). Annie Martin is a Plain Mennonite whose family has gone through tough times in recent years. With the separation of her parents' in past years, Annie has a hard time relating to her mother at times. As the result of an argument, Annie and her mother decide it would be best for Annie to spend a few months with her grandfather in Apple Ridge.

Aden Zook is a young Amish man whose family has had their share of heartaches, too. Aden's twin brother Roman and their father were both involved in a horrible accident, leaving Roman confined to a wheelchair. Aden has a stuttering problem, and he lacks the confidence to date.

When Annie comes back to Apple Ridge and helps in the Zook diner, Aden finds himself remembering his feelings for her. But one major thing stands in their way: Annie is Mennonite, and Aden is Amish.

The characters in this story are so endearing. The powerful story of the Zook brothers' past and Annie's own heartbreak will melt your heart. Their troubles seem impossible to overcome, and Cindy does a good job weaving the storyline into a way that the story finds resolution quite well.

Cindy has an excerpt of this story on her website if you would like to read it. Click {here} to go to that page.

I received The Scent of Cherry Blossoms as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Over the Edge - a Litfuse Review

Over the Edge, written by Mary Connealy, was one of those books that I enjoy reading simply because there's no nonsense--just pure, honest to goodness enjoyable reading. Edgy, climactic, entertaining and simply hilarious, this book is perfect for the die-hard historical romantic fiction readers like myself who like a little chuckle every now and then.

Hardy, raw, and sturdy, Callie Kincaid has gone west to find her straying husband. She held off a bunch of robbers on the way to Colorado--not her cup of tea while traveling with her infant son. The lone shooter after the driver and his shotgun rider were shot, Callie held off the robbers while she sent off others to get help. The help that she didn't expect to get was that of her own husband's--who now had forgotten her.

Seth Kincaid, having lost his memory after war-related trauma and a horrific childhood accident, found himself drawn to Callie's relentless spunk . . . and her wrath. Finding her with blood all over her face and nasty cuts everywhere, he managed to get her under a doctor's care before she succumbed to deadly blood loss. Boy, was he in a quandary when she woke up ready to make him hurt just as bad as she!

Filled with raw emotion, adventure, romance, and humor, Over the Edge is a book that will make you want to read more. It is the third book in a series called The Kincaid Brides. Try it out! I'm willing to bet you won't be disappointed. Now, excuse me while I go track down Books One and Two. ;)

Click {here} to read more reviews on this book!

About the Book:

Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he's never been the same. He was always a reckless youth, but now he's gone over the edge. He ran off to the Civil War and came back crazier than ever.

After the war, nearly dead from his injuries, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he's got a lot of excuses, but his wife isn't happy to find out Seth doesn't remember her. Callie has searched, prayed, and worried. Now she's come to the Kincaid family's ranch in Colorado to find her lost husband.

Callie isn't a long-suffering woman. Once she knows her husband is alive, she wants to kill him. She's not even close to forgiving him for abandoning her.

Then more trouble shows up in the form of a secret Seth's pa kept for years. The Kincaid brothers might lose their ranch if they can't sort things out. It's enough to drive a man insane--but somehow it's all making Seth see things more clearly. And now that he knows what he wants, no one better stand in his way.

Meet Mary: 

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively "romantic comedy with cowboys" for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series, and her novel Calico Canyon was nominated for a Christy Award. She lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her husband, Ivan, and has four grown daughters.

Visit her on her Web site

Celebrate with Mary by entering to win a Nook Color with GlowLight!

See what folks are saying about Over the Edge!

One winner will receive:
  • A Nook Color with GlowLight
  • The entire set of Mary Connealy's The Kincaid Brides series
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 28th. Winner will be announced at the "Over the Edge" Author Chat Facebook Party on 8/29. Meet Mary, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at a trivia contest, and more. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group.)!

So grab your copy of Over the Edge and join Mary on the evening of the August 29th for a chance to connect with her and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 29th!

I received Over the Edge as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright - a Litfuse review

The Stars Shine Bright, the fifth novel in the Raleigh Harmon series, blew me away again! I've reviewed two of Sibella's other novels in this series, and I love Raleigh Harmon. If you're looking for a character with an engaging personality--spitfire, really!--this one is for you. The story is packed full of twists, turns, emotional elements, and an ending that will tug at your heartstrings.

This novel is a Christian suspense novel about an FBI agent named Raleigh Harmon. Hailing from Virginia, she's been called to work in Washington State at a racetrack. Assigned to a lovely horse-owner named Eleanor, Raleigh's task is to find out what is happening in the horse racing business. Horses get sick, die, are kidnapped, and it's Raleigh's job alone to remain undercover to solve the mystery.

But when her personal life gets in the way, it makes it hard for Raleigh to remain undercover. Concerned for her job, she tries hard to remain professional and keep her head on her shoulders. With her rich Virginian fiance visiting, she finds her task at keeping her job a secret is on the rocks.

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

More about the book:

After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.

Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Meadows.

She’s never felt more alone.

Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancĂ© wants them to begin their life together—now—precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.

With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancĂ© will make things better—or worse.

Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.

Meet Sibella Giorello:

Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism. 

She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories.

In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

Visit Sibella Giorello online at, Facebook or Twitter.
Win a Kindle Fire from SibellaGiorello in "The Stars Shine Bright" Giveaway! Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the latest book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire! 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Sibella's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

I received The Stars Shine Bright as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to give a favorable review; my opinions are my own.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Saturday Blog Spotlight

Each week, I'm going to highlight my favorite bloggers with an interview and a link to their blog so that you can check them out!

This week my Blog Spotlight is A Simply Enchanted Life! Read our question and answer with Kristin at A Simply Enchanted Life below.
A Simply Enchanted Life
Kristin is a busy mom of five children who loves to read and makes awesome soaps, jewelry, and more!

Jami: What made you decide on the name A Simply Enchanted Life?
Kristin: I thought long and hard about this name. I wanted something that fit my personality and love for whimsical things and that also credited my lovely family. I feel simply enchanted by my life as a mom!

Jami: What is the focus of your blog?
Kristin: Mostly reviews but I am a very random person at times so you may see a recipe or something about my shop from time to time.

Jami: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Kristin: Read and play computer games.

Jami: Your latest store stock that I see includes soaps and perfumes. What "flavors" do you sell? What is YOUR favorite flavor?
Kristin: I sell a variety of scents and flavors. I prefer essential oils to fragrance oils but I do indulge from time to time and offer something yummy, like 'Pink Sugar' which would have to be my favorite flavor! It reminds me of cotton candy which I have always loved!

Jami: Why did you decide to make soap?
Kristin: One of my daughters and my husband have eczema and my niece has psoriasis. Store bought soaps irritated their skin and often I found that even "handmade" wasn't natural and would cause an outbreak. I wanted to know for sure what was used on their skin to avoid the breakouts.

Jami: You've been dabbling with polymer clay. What's your favorite piece that you've created?
Kristin:  My favorite piece I unfortunately never took a picture of before I gave it away as a gift. I had sculpted a evenstar (I'm sure the LOTR fans will know what this is) and embedded a crystal into the center flower. It was a gift for a friend and I still regret that I never took a picture. My next favorite would have to be my newest sculpture of Galadriel.

Jami: You're a lover of books. Name 3 books that you've read recently that you'd recommend.
Kristin: 1. The Hobbit, I read the works of J.R.R. Tolkien yearly and The Hobbit would have to be my favorite.
2. The Redemption of Sarah Cain by Beverly Lewis
3. The Bible. (still in progress) I'm almost done with the Old Testament this year and it seems that for the first year I'm really grasping some of the harder to read books of the OT and really enjoying them. Most recently I've just finished up the story of Hosea and Gomer. Such a powerful message and a symbol that God loved me while I undeserving and had done nothing to earn His love.

Jami: What's your favorite book of all time?
Kristin: Fictional books I am going to have to go with The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes I'm cheating and saying four books instead of one)

Jami:  Favorite author?
Kristin:  J.R.R Tolkien

Jami: What's coming up in the near future for A Simply Enchanted Life?
Kristin:  I have a lot of new plans in the work for A Simply Enchanted Life! I have a special surprise coming at the end of the year that I can't yet reveal and in the next couple of months I'm planning some One of a Kind polymer pieces that I'm very excited about. With crafting ADD you never really know what to expect from me!

Jami: Anything else you want to add?
Kristin:  Thank you for interviewing me and for the interesting questions that I really had to think about! And I hope you all have fun reading some of the suggestions I gave and have a simply enchanted time doing so.

Make sure you visit A Simply Enchanted Life blog and store!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

I love making homemade spaghetti sauce. For several years now, I've been trying to make more homemade foods to save money. Also, I know what's in my food (i.e. no chemical additives, etc.). I used to buy ready-made spaghetti (and pizza) sauces that come in a can or jar, and while they definitely are easier and more time-consuming to use, I like knowing that I'm making my own with what we have.

I like to make my spaghetti sauce in big batches so that it can be frozen and pulled out whenever I decide to make spaghetti. Here's what I do. (You can click on the images to see them in a larger size, by the way.)

My usual recipe:
2 lbs. turkey
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2-15 oz. cans tomato sauce (or 2 cans tomato paste & 2 cans water)
diced onion

The recipe you're seeing in pictures (altered due to fewer cans of sauce on hand):
2 lbs. turkey
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
diced onion

Prepare your ingredients. For me, I always  use oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic seasoning (which includes salt and a little bit of chives), chopped garlic and basil (at this time, fresh basil from my herb garden). Also, I used a can of tomato sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes because that was all I had on hand at the time. (So in this case, I made a concentrated spaghetti sauce with the plan to later add a can of spaghetti sauce to the frozen batch.) Two cans of each is what I normally use, but feel free to add more, if you like a very saucy recipe. Our tomatoes are not ready yet, so I'm having to use store-bought sauce and tomatoes for now. (Note: You can also use tomato paste in place of either the sauce or tomatoes--just make sure you add a can of water for each can of tomato paste or your sauce will be really thick.)

Put ground turkey (or lean beef, if you prefer) and diced onion (I use 1/4 an onion, because we're not big fans of onion) on to cook. Add some water so the turkey doesn't stick to the skillet. I usually use two pounds of turkey for a big batch. Two pounds makes for a very meaty sauce. If you prefer a more saucy recipe, you can simply add more sauce and tomatoes to the recipe.

While the turkey cooks,add your sauce, tomatoes, and spices into a pot. Put the stove on medium heat until it starts to gently boil, then adjust the heat down a little. If it's splattering, turn it down a bit more. As the sauce is cooking, taste it to see if you like the flavor. Add extra herbs/seasonings as needed.

Once your meat is fully cooked, drain any remaining fat then add the meat to the pot of sauce that you have simmering. Your results may not look like mine, especially if you prefer a more saucy and less meaty sauce.

Cook your sauce for an extra few minutes to lock some flavor into the meat.

Spoon your sauce into quart-sized Ziploc bags and lay flat inside the freezer.

Happy spaghetti eating!