Monday, December 31, 2012

Final Review of 2012 Goals

I didn't set lofty goals this year so I was able to accomplish them.  Between a newborn Mary and a move just before she was born, I didn't think I should try to do too much this year.  But it's been a good year, and I've gotten more done than I expected at this time last year.

  • School.  I don't think it could be going any better!  Sarah Beth and Daniel are both doing great, and we're in a wonderful co-op.
  • Reading.  I set a goal to read two books a month, and I doubled that, reading almost fifty books this year.  Whoohoo!  If you're curious, you can see what I read here.  There were two or three books from my original list that I never got around to reading, so I'll add them to my reading list for 2013.
  • Losing weight.  I've lost all of the weight I gained while pregnant with Mary.  Whoohoo!
  • Run a 5K.  Done, done, done!  Whoohoo!
  • Hospitality.  We didn't have someone over every month, but I'm still pleased with what we did.
  • License/work.  Well, I did get my Florida pharmacist license, but I was not able to find a job.  I'll have to add this goal to my list for 2013.
All in all, I have to say I did well this year.  I've got loftier, more time-consuming goals for 2013, but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

How did you do with your goals for this year?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Booking It: December Edition

Did you notice that I didn't have a reading update in November?  I didn't finish any books last month which really surprised me.  I got bogged down in a couple of books, and they took a lot longer to read than I thought they would.  Both were good and worth the extra effort, but they were deep reads and slow reads.  Can you figure out which two books I'm talking about?
  • The Little Ice Age:  How Climate Made History 1300 - 1850 by Brian Fagan.  This book was a fascinating read about how the climate influenced history in those years...if you can get past all of the evolutionary and manmade-climate change junk.  But the author was very careful to make the point that climate did not produce changes in history; it just influenced them.  For example, several harsh years together made things even worse for the peasants in France, and then the French Revolution happened.  But the Revolution would have happened anyway, maybe sooner, maybe later, maybe differently if the weather had been different.
  • The Organized Kitchen:  Keep Your Kitchen Clean, Organized, and Full of Good Food -- And Save Time, Money, and Your Sanity Every Day! by Brette Sember.  Since I enjoy cooking and especially baking, I was very interested to read this book to discover ways to make things quicker and easier in the kitchen.  Unfortunately, I already knew several of the tips and things, but I still enjoyed the read, and I did pick up a few pointers.  There are also some recipes in the back that I plan to try.
  • Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  I had wanted to read this book for a couple of years and just never got around to it...until finally I decided it was time!  I enjoyed reading this biography about a German pastor during World War II who did not stand by indifferently as Hitler and the Nazis destroyed his country.  
  • Winter Winds by Gayle Roper.  While the separation between married Trev and Dori seems contrived in this book, I had fun reading about their coming back together and falling in love again.
I also reviewed The Respect Dare by Nina Roesner, A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs, Sneak by Evan Angler, and Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

What have you been reading lately?

Book Review: Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

When Lady Gleandrem is kidnapped by the dragon-trapped-inside-a-woman's-body, Eanrin sets out to rescue her.  Along the way, he discovers Starflower who made the mistake of drinking enchanted waters and has fallen into an enchanted sleep.  As Eanrin helps her, he discovers what's been missing from his own life.  Despite himself, he continues to help Starflower and is astounded when she aids him in his quest in return.  Both have encounters with "the Hound" who is analogous to our Lord, as Aslan is in the Chronicles of Narnia, and both are transformed by those encounters.

When I agree to review a book, I never really know what I'm going to get until I start reading it.  And within the first few pages, usually I know whether I'm going to enjoy the book or whether I'm going to have to force myself to finish it.  Too often, lately, I've had to force myself to finish books that I've agreed to review.  But not this book.  This book made me want to forgo my household chores, ignore my children and husband, and let the laundry and dishes sit while I read it.  (I didn't do that, however.)  What a fun read this was, and I can't wait, can't wait, to read the rest of the books in this series.

I enjoyed all of the characters (well, the good ones anyway), and I really enjoyed the themes of redemption that are throughout the story.  The Christian message is obvious but not preachy, similar to what you would find in the Chronicles of Narnia.  Of course, this book is not the equal of Lewis' works, but it is still a fun read.  And I have to admit that I loved the fairy tale references such as the enchanted sleep and frogs being turned back into princes by a kiss.  Good stuff!

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, December 28, 2012

3 in 30: Finishing up the Year

Last week, I wasn't home for my weekly 3 in 30 update because we traveled up to Georgia to visit my parents.  We came back on Sunday so that we could be home for Christmas.  We had  a great trip; it was wonderful to see some old friends and to catch up with family.

Even with traveling and the Christmas holiday, I was able to get some progress done on my goals.  Of course, it helped that my goals were made with the holiday in mind!
  • With the holiday season coming quickly and with cooler temperatures, I want to start baking something extra weekly.  Last week, I made some gingerbread for our church's Christmas party, and I took the leftovers to my parents' house.  Needless to say, I didn't get to eat much of it.  Does that mean I should bake another one?  Sarah Beth has been begging asking politely since last Christmas to make gingerbread men.  Last Christmas it was just too hard with newborn Mary, so I was determined that we would bake them this year,...and we did this week.  I also made a chocolate pecan pie for Christmas dinner.  Yum!
  • I also want to involve my children more in the kitchen.  Daniel helped bake the gingerbread.  He and Sarah Beth helped make the gingerbread men, and Sarah Beth helped decorate them.  (The reason that all three of my oldest didn't help with everything was that they either weren't home or weren't interested.)
  • I want to crochet some dishcloths.  I got tired of this goal and stopped a couple of weeks ago.
How was your Christmas?  Did you do any baking this week?  Did you travel anywhere?

This post is linked to Welcome to Our Good Life: 30in30.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: The Respect Dare by Nina Roesner

The Respect Dare:  40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband by Nina Roesner was written as a companion book to The Love Dare by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick.  As the title suggests, this book contains forty "dares" or challenges for a wife to use in order to strengthen her marriage.

I want to state up front that I did not utilize this book as intended; I just read it without doing any of the dares so that I could review it.  Having said that, I can see how committing to following the dares as instructed could improve a marriage as the wife works at changing her attitude toward her husband.  As other books of this type, this one focuses on what we, as wives, can change:  ourselves.  And so, I recommend this book to any woman willing to work at becoming a better wife.

I want to thank BookSneeze for sending me a copy of this book to review, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Contagious Laughter

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Saturday, December 15, 2012

BOZ Giveaway

My real life friend, Kim, is giving away the WowieBOZowee Christmas DVD.  My children enjoy watching the BOZ DVD's, and if you think that yours might, you should head over and enter her giveaway.  You can check it out here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

3 in 30: Good Progress in a "Some Good, Some Not so Good" Week

This week has been a busy week, some good, some not so good.  Monday started off not so good with Rachel throwing up.  It may have been the stomach flu, but since no one else got it, we think it was from her methotrexate injection the day before.  She has had some vomiting and diarrhea before, but this was worse.  Later that afternoon, she was fine, and we were very thankful for that.

Tuesday, Rachel had a doctor's appointment for her JDM, and, as we suspected, she is still doing great.  (I haven't had time to write a post for her blog, but there's not much to say anyway since she's still doing so well.)  We're decreasing her prednisone again, hooray!  Afterwards, we ate at Chick-fil-A which I haven't had since the trip to visit my parents in July, and we bought Mary a new, forward-facing carseat.

Before we left for Rachel's appointment, we made gingerbread houses.  That was a lot of fun!  Next year, I'll use graham crackers and have enough candy so we can eat some while we make the houses.

Yesterday was Mary's first birthday, and we enjoyed celebrating that with her...although she didn't even realize that it was a special day.  And today we have a Christmas party for the families in our co-op, and we'll be spending most of today getting ready for that.

Looking back, this week was more good than bad!

My goals for the month:
  • With the holiday season coming quickly and with cooler temperatures, I want to start baking something extra weekly.  With Mary's birthday yesterday, I baked some cupcakes to celebrate.  
  • I also want to involve my children more in the kitchen.  My children helped make the cupcakes, and we plan to decorate some candy canes and marshmallows by dipping them in chocolate later today.  
  • I want to crochet some dishcloths.  I finished another one, but I'm tired of making dishcloths, so I've started a baby blanket.  I don't have a specific recipient in mind, but it's a fun pattern...and it's purple, NOT blue!
What have you accomplished lately?  Have you done any baking this week?  Have you had any sickness in your house lately?  Have you ever made gingerbread houses?

This post is linked at Welcome to Our Good Life:  3in30.

Finished Object Friday

I've been busy lately, and I have several projects to share with you today.  It's been fun making these things, and I'm excited to tell you about them.

Two of my friends were pregnant with boys, so I decided to make them blankets.  (I say "were" because one of them has already had her baby.)  I wanted the blankets to be fairly different because I didn't want these women getting the same (or very similar) blankets.  While I enjoyed working on these blankets, I have to admit that I'm ready for one of my friends to be pregnant with a girl.  It seems like all of the blankets I've made lately have been for boys, and I'm ready to work with some pink or purple.

Do you remember that soap I told you about last month?  The batch that I wasn't sure I would like?  Well, after it cured and I used it, I think it's my favorite recipe because I like how it lathers up.  And two of the three ingredients, I can get at the grocery store which is very nice.  It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by it's cover, or soap before you use it.

Speaking of soap, I've been saving the last little pieces of my homemade soap and the pieces I trim off the new bars.  I wasn't sure what to do with them, but I didn't want to throw them out, either.  Then I found this recipe for making your own homemade hand soap, and I tried it out.  I've been using it for about a month now, and I like it.  It takes more than the store bought stuff to feel like I've got enough soap to clean my hands, and it doesn't lather as well.  But it's a lot cheaper:  the distilled water, that one commenter recommended, and the glycerin were just a couple of dollars.  I already had the soap (the pieces I've been saving), so I got a gallon for a couple of dollars with plenty of glycerin left over for the next several times.  Mine doesn't smell as good as the store bought stuff, either, but I'm working on that.

What have you been working on lately?  Anything you can share?

This post is linked to Fresh from the Chari Tree:  Finished Object Friday.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mary!

Today is Mary's first birthday!  It's hard to believe that I held her in my arms for the first time a year ago.  The time has flown!

For the most part, Mary is a happy baby, but there are times when she's pretty high maintenance.  I guess with three older siblings, if she doesn't demand my attention, she might not get it.

Look out, World!

Mary took her first steps last week -- my earliest child to walk.  She is soooo proud of herself when she manages a few steps.  Just look at that grin!

Happy birthday, Mary!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Random Question: What is Your Favorite Christmas Carol?

My favorite Christmas hymn is "Joy to the World" which was written by Isaac Watts.  The songs and the music combine to lift my heart when I sing it, and I'm glad that it's a popular hymn so I'm sure to be able to sing it at least once every year.  What's not to love:  "Joy to the World!  The Lord has come!"

On the flip side (and I almost hate to admit it), my favorite Christmas song which has absolutely nothing to do with the real reason for the season is "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."  Oh, that song gets me laughing every single time I hear it.  But it doesn't compare to "Joy to the World" by a long shot.  But it sure is funny!

What is your favorite Christmas hymn?  Secular song?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

When I saw A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs was offered for review, I was interested in reading it because I hadn't read anything by this author, but I had heard she was pretty good.  I wasn't disappointed in how the story was written.  I enjoyed this book about a man and woman overcoming mistakes in their past, learning from them, and moving on.  Twelve years ago, Gordon rashly caused an accident which left the Meg's brother injured and unable to walk without assistance.  Gordon has been carrying the weight of this accident ever since it happened, as has Meg who feels that if she had done a better job watching her brother, he wouldn't have gotten injured. Now they "accidentally" bump into each other on the evening train back to their prospective hometowns, and as they figure out who the other one is, they have to work through their feelings of what happened in order to move forward in the present.

As I said, I enjoyed the story in this novella.  Of course, like all of this type of books, you can tell how it is going to end from the beginning, but the journey was a fun one.  Since it was a novella, it was a quick read.  The ending seemed a little abrupt, but I don't think that was such a bad thing.  We already knew how it was going to end anyway.

However, this book was a huge disappointment in another respect.  One of the nice things about kindles is that you can search for specific words, and I did a search for "God."  "God" appeared ten times in this book, and more than half were in quoted Bible verses or hymns.  "Jesus" appeared only once, in a Christmas hymn.  For a supposedly Christian novel, this is surprising.  And I don't understand the new trend of having discussion questions in this type of book.  Are people (women) really studying these books to get answers for their life questions?  How sad.  There are much better places to get information, like the Bible.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my (kindle) copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, December 10, 2012

And the Winner is...

...Sues from Castle Blake!  Congratulations!

I want to thank everyone who entered my Five Years of Blogging Giveaway and those who shared the word about it.  It's been a great five years of blogging, and I hope to have another...if not more!

Friday, December 7, 2012

3 in 30: Keeping the Same Goals

Since I liked my goals so much last month and because they fit so well with this month, too, I thought I would keep working on them.  Is that lazy of me?  Because honestly, I couldn't think of any good, different goals for this month.
  • With the holiday season coming quickly and with cooler temperatures, I want to start baking something extra weekly.  First, I made these Vanilla Wafer Cookies which I always think are my favorite cookies when I make them...until I remember the Chocolate Minty Melts that I made last week.  Oh, and I do love a good Chocolate Chip Cookie, and I made some of those, too, this week.  We are stocked up on cookies!  (No, we haven't eaten them all; I've frozen most of them to enjoy later.)
  • I also want to involve my children more in the kitchen.  Of course, I didn't make these cookies by myself, but I wish I had taken some pictures.  And Daniel got to help me prepare the Cranberry Pork Tenderloin we had one night for supper.  My children love helping in the kitchen, and I need to encourage them more.
  • I want to crochet some dishcloths.  I've got another one or two done.  I'm not sure how many I'm going to make yet, but I am giving two away in my Five Years of Blogging Giveaway which you can enter by going here.
How was your week?  What did you accomplish?

By the way, I really enjoyed seeing the Nutcracker that I told you about last week.  Unfortunately, Sarah Beth was sick and unable to go, but I think she would have loved it, too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Random Question: What is Your Favorite Christmas Movie?

If you haven't entered my Five Years of Blogging Giveaway, you can do so here.

I have enjoyed Patrick Stewart as an actor since I watched Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  (Yes, I am a trekkie.)  I'm not sure how I discovered this information, but Stewart was a Shakespearian actor before doing this series, and he even used to do a one-man show of A Christmas Carol.  When I heard that a new version of A Christmas Carol was coming out with him in the starring role, I knew it would be a good one.  And it is.  The version of A Christmas Carol starring Patrick Stewart is my favorite Christmas movie.

Of course, I also really enjoy A Christmas Story.  What child can't relate to wanting something for Christmas that his parents won't let him have?  And all of the other adventures, well, they keep me laughing no matter how many times I've watched the movie.  And you certainly will never forget the leg lamp once you've seen it.

I can't wait to watch these Christmas movies!  It's a good thing that I own a copy of both of them.  Unfortunately, I don't think my children are ready for them yet, but I look forward to sharing them with them in upcoming years!

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Ask for a Deal

John and I thought that a good gift for our children this year would be piggy banks.  (Sshhhh, don't tell!)  But I didn't want to get cheap, plain ones, so I looked on etsy to see what I could find there.  There were several dealers with cute, customized piggy banks, and I couldn't decide which one to choose (and they were all a little pricey).  So I emailed four of them, saying that I wanted to order four piggy banks, and I was wondering if they could cut me a deal.  All four of them responded with some kind of discount, and I took the least expensive one (of course!).  It was nice that I liked those banks best anyway.

My tip for today is to ask for a deal.  You may not get one, but it doesn't hurt to ask!

Have you asked for a deal lately?  How did it work for you?

Monday, December 3, 2012

November Review of New Year's Goals

If you haven't done it already, don't forget to enter my Five Years of Blogging Giveaway.

November was another good month for us.  My parents came down for Thanksgiving, Rachel is still doing great with her JDM, and life continues to move forward for us.  With all of that said, here's a look at my goals for the month and how I did with them.
  • School.  We love school!  As we drive down the road, Sarah Beth calls out words that she sees and recognizes.  It's so much fun!
  • Reading.  Here is the list of books that I've read so far this year.  I only have a couple left in my "to read" list, but time is running out!  Meanwhile, I'm working on my list for next year.  Fun stuff!
  • Losing weight.  This goal is accomplished!  Whoohoo!
  • Run a 5K.  Done, done!
  • Hospitality.  Once again, we didn't have anyone over for supper, but as I said before, my parents did come down for Thanksgiving, so we got to practice our hospitality on them.
  • Work.  I've put this goal on hold for a while.  It's soooo nice to be home all the time.
How are you doing with your goals for the year?  Have you started working on your goals for next year? I have, and next year will be challenging but in a good way.