Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren

The Purpose of Christmas is a moving, inspirational seasonal title by Pastor Rick Warren.

In this powerful book, Warren shares the three purposes of Christmas and how they can solve your greatest needs. From the beginning, this book will touch your heart and open your mind to the rewards of accepting God's Christmas gift to us--His Son, Jesus Christ.

This is a challenging review for me to write simply because this tiny book with beautiful photography meant so much to me this year.

  • It reminded me that our family's focus must be on Jesus. 
  • It encouraged me to give control over my life to God.
  • It renewed for me the hope of God's most precious gift--my Savior. 
I'm no sure I can get my husband to read it, but I feel it would make a difference in his way of thinking too. Even we Christians get so caught up in trying to manage our lives that we forget everything we do and everything we have comes from God. We scramble about trying to make things work, when all we need to do is give our lives fully to God and let Him figure it out. 

Warren definitely has a beautiful gift for words. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and look forward to reading more of his work. 

Hardcover: 132 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; 1 edition (November 4, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416559000
ISBN-13: 978-1416559009

I borrowed this book from my local library. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions -- My Thoughts and Your Thoughts

It's that time of year again--time to make your New Year's resolutions. For years I avoided this because I have little willpower to stick with them. It seems silly, however, for a goal oriented person like myself to simply avoid them because they are tough. In reflecting on past resolutions, I realize I haven't treated them enough like my other goals. They are too vague: lose weight, eat better, exercise more (Who am I kidding? Exercise at all.).

For the record, I was underweight most of my life. Until after the birth of the Lil' Princess I was thirty pounds too light. So, now I am at the top range of--or depending upon how much I indulge, a few pounds over--what would be normal weight for my height. I just can't stand that all of it has settled into my middle and my skin is flabby.

This goal might sound silly, but it's part of my feel better, look better, eat better goal; and I figure my vanity will push things along faster than my desire to eat better and exercise.

So, in the spirit of making 2016 the best year ever, here are some S.M.A.R.T. goals for the new year.

GOAL 1 - Lose 10 pounds by June 30.

During this past week, I've signed up for the Eat This, Not That newsletter. I bought books this past year that I never had time to read, so I am thinking this short newsletter will be more effective. Today, I already made a list of foods/drinks that can help me shrink my belly and a list foods to avoid. I don't expect it all to happen at once, but baby steps. In addition, I am a visual person so this list should help. I might go so far as to create a board with photos to hang in my office as a reminder.

In order to truly make a difference, I have to:

Smaller goal: change my grocery shopping habits. While 2015 showed some improvement in what ends up in the grocery cart, there's still too much sugar, too little good fiber, and a bit too much sodium. My work schedule has created an environment where I depend on pre-packaged foods too much. I also need to stop buying soda. It's my one true vice. I really love it.

Smaller goal: There's going to need to be some better time management going on so that I can prepare meals ahead of time. If I keep Friday nights free--not always something I can do--I can make that a meal planning evening.

GOAL 2 - Find healthy recipes....and actually make them. 

I enjoy healthier options when we are out. I'm just stuck in the same old eating habits at home that I desperately need to break. So, I am thinking find a new recipe on a Friday night and then buy the ingredients during my regular grocery shopping trip.

GOAL 3 - Keep healthy snacks around the house.

Packaged healthy snacks can get expensive, but we need to start somewhere and I know my time won't allow me to make my own. I also plan to buy more fruit that I can easily carry with me to the office.

GOAL 4 - Exercise three mornings a week. 

This is going to be the toughest goal. I don't enjoy exercising and I never seem to make time for it. The reality is that if I don't do it first thing in the morning after dropping the girls off at school, it won't happen. That also happens to be, however, my prime time to get most of my work accomplished at the office because no one is around. My goal is to exercise Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:45 to 8:15. 

Smaller goal: Time block my calendar as a visual commitment to exercise.

Smaller goal: Use quieter, upstairs office space to accomplish more when in the office. If I am going to make exercise a reality, I need to distance myself from distractions. There is a new office space upstairs where I work which will allow me to not be distracted by so much office commotion.

Smaller goal: Substitute a short walk if exercise can't happen. The mall has a walking group and I have an ideal neighborhood to walk in when the weather is warmer. Not sure I would walk if it was too cold out, but we'll see.

I really think that is all I can work on right now. This will take a major commitment as it is to change some horrible habits.

So, what about you? How do you feel about New Year's Resolutions? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Avoid them altogether? Please share your thoughts. Also, if you would like an accountability partner, we could have a weekly check in time.

Get Organized for 2016

It's that time of year again--time to think about getting organized and setting goals for the new year. Here are links to organizational tips to give you some ideas:

The Dating Divas offer 75 Ways to Organize Your Life: from beauty supplies to kitchens to electronics and more you'll be in tip-top shape.

BuzzFeed Life staffer Alison Caporimo shares 31 Ways You Can Reorganize Your Life with Dollar Store Stuff: organization on a budge...nothing wrong with that.

Fab n' Free shares 200 Free Home Management Binder Printables: useful and free. Score!

BuzzFeed Life staffer Jessica Probus shares 42 Storage Ideas That Will Organize Your Entire House: some of these require a tiny bit of work, but they are awesome.

And for technology lovers I'm an Organizing Junkie shares 9 Favorite Organizing Apps to Keep Your Life on Track.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Record and Share Family Histories with

Many years ago, one of my cousins sat down to write a family history. This was in the early days of the Internet when most of the information remained hard to find. When she emailed it to us, I was astounded at the level of effort it must have taken to put together a list of dates of births, marriages, and deaths.

I've since lost that family history my cousin put together and have considered creating one myself. As a busy working mom, I know technology will be the key to me being able to compile it. That's where comes in.

With an account I can create a family tree, add people to the tree, include the relationship status of the members (married, widowed, divorced, etc.), and then invite family and friends to complete the family tree or make any changes (requires registration.) The family tree can be kept private among family and friends or public so any member can view it. Each registered member can create a biography, upload photos, videos or music to go along with their story, and print pages with photos to create books.

They offer several plans to fit every budget, including a FREE Bronze plan with 125MB Storage. With the Premium Plan members can create an event on the website that may include biographies, images, videos, and slideshows. Premium Plan members can invite and share an event with family and friends.

Now you can safely preserve memories and publish family stories online with the help of

Sponsored post.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mailbox Monday - December 28

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists.

Welcome to the final Mailbox Monday of 2015. Last week I missed this great meme because the family visited New York City for the holidays. One big change from last year--police officers carrying assault rifles in Times Square. Part of me is comforted by the extra security. The other part is freaked out by what the world has become.

We started off our trip by visiting Radio City Music Hall to watch the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. It's always a great show.

The girls and their friends took their last ride on the Toys "R" Us Times Square Ferris wheel. Sadly, this store is closing. 

We did some Christmas shopping in the city (rode the escalator up to every floor in Macy's) and spent a good part of the next day in Central Park because temperatures have been unseasonably warm this December.

I hope all of you had a great Christmas. We had two days of celebrating. It was a quiet day with just us and the in-laws on Christmas, but Saturday the whole gang was here. 

One book was under the tree for me. It is one I've wanted for a while, so I am thrilled.

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. At Christmas, the final decoration Marge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.

Yet a message delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery letter found in a Bible put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that Jimmy has never known.

That's it from me. Did you receive any books for Christmas?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Importance of Family Traditions by by J.M. Hochstetler

When my daughters were tiny, with the holidays fast approaching, I impulsively decided that on the night of Christmas Eve, when they were fast asleep, I would hang candy canes all over our tree as a sign that Santa had come. Well, that idea turned out to be a huge success. When my little girls ran downstairs that Christmas morning, they were so excited to find the treats on the tree that I knew I’d come up with a very special tradition.

Over the years, as holidays came and went, I continued my secret Christmas Eve ritual. As they grew older, however, the children appeared to take less and less notice of the candy canes. They would eat only a few, and then after we took the tree down I ended up throwing most of them away. It seemed a waste. So one Christmas I thoughtlessly came very close to letting that tradition die.

That year I was so busy with holiday preparations and the day-to-day routine that I kept forgetting to pick up a package of candy canes at the store. It seemed like such a simple, unimportant thing. The girls were too old to care about my little tradition anymore, I told myself and I shrugged off the quiet voice that nagged at me to get those candy canes!

One evening just a couple of days before Christmas, I was rushing around the house, as usual, burdened with too many holiday preparations. In spite of my preoccupation, I happened to notice my oldest daughter, Jennifer, who sat on the stairs with my youngest, Katie. Both were snuggled in their nightgowns, slippers, and robes, happily taking in our cozy living room before heading off to bed.

Below them, fire blazed on the hearth and colored lights twinkled on the tree. Holiday decorations were arranged everywhere, and pine garlands and tiny white lights draped the mantel as well as the banister on either side where they sat. The scene was so perfect that I stopped for just a moment to breathe in the heady scents of pine and spices and to bask in the room’s glow. And as I lingered, I overheard what the girls were whispering about.

“Now, you know,” Jennifer told her little sister, “on Christmas morning when Santa comes, he always hangs candy canes all over the tree.”

Katie’s eyes grew round. “Always?” she breathed, in sweet expectancy.

“Oh, yes, always,” Jennifer assured her with the easy confidence of a big sister. “There will be candy canes all over the tree on Christmas morning. You’ll see.”

My heart almost stopped. One look at my daughters’ faces told me that I’d better plan on a special trip to the store the very next day. And suddenly gratitude flooded over me at the realization that the Lord had pulled me up short from my preoccupation with all the things that seemed so urgent to remind me of something I had come way too close to missing—a tradition that was genuinely meaningful to my children.

On that Christmas morning and every Christmas morning since then to this very day, candy canes have adorned my Christmas tree. My grown children expect to see them there when they arrive Christmas morning every bit as much as my grandchildren now do. It’s a tradition I wouldn’t think of ending. Because of that simple, long-ago impulse and the Lord’s reminder to be faithful in its observance, my family is making memories that in one form or another will be passed down to coming generations. It’s a simple thing as many of our traditions are, but oh, how meaningful!

An award-winning author and editor, Joan M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers. She grew up in central Indiana and graduated from Indiana University cum laude with a degree in Germanic Languages. Her contemporary novel One Holy Night was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Carol Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Colonial America Christian Writers, and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers and contributes to the Colonial Quills and Novel Pastimes blogs.

In her everyday persona as Joan Shoup, she is the publisher and editorial director of Sheaf House Publishers, a specialty small press headquartered in the Elkhart, Indiana, area.

Joan enjoys spending time with her husband, a retired United Methodist pastor, and with her children and grandchildren; gardening; crafts; traveling; researching her latest projects; and, of course, writing.

Visit Joan online at

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

TV Movie Review: Angel of Christmas (2015)

Christmas isn't Susan's (Jennifer Finnigan) favorite time of year. That works out just fine, especially for Derek (Tahmoh Penikett), a fellow newspaper staffer who wouldn't mind starting up a romance with the vibrant blonde.

When Yvette (Holly Robinson Peete), her editor, announces she needs a fabulous human interest story for the Christmas edition of the paper, Susan knows this is the chance she has been waiting for. As Susan struggles with a story idea, her parents suggest telling the story of the family's 100-year-old heirloom Christmas angel, whose legend includes the power to bring people together.

Along her journey to writing the article of the Angel of Christmas, Susan meets Brady (Jonathan Scarfe), a handsome, upbeat artist who decides he will help Susan rekindle her Christmas spirit.

Angel of Christmas will most likely end up being my favorite 2015 Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas movie. A healthy dose of romance, writing, and a family legend that blends past and present are mixed together to create the perfect Christmas romance story.

A past heartbreak had stolen Susan's Christmas spirit, but Brady is determined to rekindle it. Derek on the other hand is an ambitious newspaper staffer who believes Christmas is overrated. Typical parental interference comes into play as Susan struggles to come up with her story idea and her parents suggest the family's angel will be the perfect subject because of its storied history--they would be happy if their daughter were settled and maybe the angel could help out. As Susan learns more about her grandfather, Owen (Marc Bendavid), and how and why he created the angel, what Susan believes is put to the test while her attraction to Brady grows.

A sweet ending that brings the past and present together leaves the viewer more than satisfied.

This movie will air again on Christmas morning at 6 a.m. Eastern.

I watched this show on Hallmark Channel. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Edeka Christmas Commerical Creates Stir on Social Media

Family serving Christmas dinner

For many, the picture above represents Christmas Day. We get together with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior, eat some wonderful food, and exchange gifts.

Edeka Group, the largest German supermarket corporation, released an ad this year that has created quite a stir on social media. Tired of being alone again for Christmas, a man fakes his own death to bring his children and grandchildren to his home for the holidays.

Now, despite the fact that this ad clearly reminded me of the Little House on the Prairie episode of "If I Should Wake Before I Die" where Amy Hearn fakes her own death so her children will come home, Edeka had the right sentiment in reminding us how important it is to spend time with our loved ones while they are with us. Every day and in every way, family must come first. It also reminds us to open up our hearts--especially this time of year--to those who are alone.

What do you think of Edeka's commercial? Is it classy--like the 2011 Budweiser Super Bowl 9/11 Tribute commercial--or just a marketing ploy to get more people into their stores? Does it go too far: is a man faking his own death a little creepy and cruel? How do you think this event would play out in the real world? Could his plan have backfired and made his family angry? My hope is that it would have played out the way it did in the commercial.

May this Christmas season be one filled with blessings for you and your families.

When Christ came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. --Ephesians 2:17

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Relieving Stress During the Holidays

This time of year it can be difficult to manage holiday preparations on top of our day to day responsibilities. Here are a few resources for tips to help you relieve stress this holiday season:

What is your favorite holiday stress reliever? Mine--watching seasonal movies and reading seasonal fiction. 

Wishing you a blessed holiday season!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: Love Your Husband Love Yourself by Jennifer Flanders

In Love Your Husband Love Yourself by Jennifer Flanders, the author shares the Biblical view of wives in marriage and how listening to God's Word blesses a marriage and families in countless ways.

Though Ephesians 5:22-33 is considered a controversial portion of Scripture in today's modern world, Flanders shows throughout her book that this is the way marriage was designed to be by our Creator from the moment He created Eve for Adam. Sharing her personal experience as a wife and mother, the author indicates the many benefits if you embrace God's purpose for passion in marriage.

Too often I fear this portion of Ephesians is maligned and used to bring division into a marriage. Here is what it says:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Each person has responsibilities to the other. A wife is supposed to provide for her husband's physical needs and defer to him as head of the family. However, a husband is charged with an even greater responsibility: to take care of his wife and love her as much as he loves himself. In this world of self-satisfaction and being told to consider what we need first and then worry about everyone else, this is not a popular sentiment. But it does make one wonder how different relationships would be if every husband and wife were doing their best to follow Scripture.

What Flanders points out so well in Love Your Husband Love Yourself is that this Biblical view of marriage is not easy. It takes commitment, dedication, and most of all--prayer. Toward the end of the book, she is talking about marriage being a marathon, not a hundred-yard dash. This is so true. We need to keep our eye on the goal and keep moving forward.

If you've struggled with accepting God's purpose for passion in marriage or if you would like to explore more on this topic, Love Your Husband Love Yourself is an excellent resource.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Prescott Publishing (February 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982626908
ISBN-13: 978-0982626900

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mailbox Monday - December 14

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists.

Another week has passed and the end of 2015 grows nearer. Hard to believe that a new year will soon be upon us.

Forgot to mention the family and a couple of friends went to Boston to see Elf The Musical at the Wang Theater. What a great show! The actor who played Buddy sounded just like Will Farrell.

This past Tuesday, the Lil' Diva performed in her high school's winter concert with the Concert Choir. The school bands also performed. They all sounded superb. I have to admit I am so impressed by the level of talent of all these kids. 

Lots of books arrived in one form or another this week.The first two I purchased from the church bazaar. They were inside a gift basket I had been eyeing for a while, so I finally broke down and bought it. 

Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred, available now for the first time as an e-book.

One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

A historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

This one the author sent me to review. I also write a blog about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her books, and the shows based upon them. The author contacted me about her book and I felt it would complement by Laura Ingalls Wilder collection nicely.

There’s not a whole lot written about Caroline Quiner Ingalls, the mother of famed Little House on the Prairie author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

And I always wondered why.

So I set about looking for her. . .in family letters, bits of biography and, mostly, through the words she spoke throughout the Little House series.

The Ma I thought I’d find wasn’t the one I discovered.

Would you like to meet her?

I think you’ll be happy that you did.


I also picked up a couple of Kindle freebies.

"Are you telling me we have a dead Santa on our hands?"

It’s a Cowabunga Christmas in Corsario Cove for newlyweds, Kim and Brien. Surf’s up at the exclusive resort they’ve chosen as their honeymoon destination. The Sanctuary Resort and Spa at Corsario Cove has everything: a spectacular location with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, luxurious accommodations, 5-star cuisine, spa services, and a staff that aims to anticipate and meet your every need.

A romantic midnight swim in the Club Level terrace pool changes everything when an unexpected guest drops in wearing a Santa Suit with a couple bullet holes in it! Who killed Santa? Kim and Brien are soon swept up in murder and mayhem trying to unravel the mystery.

I have a little secret to tell you that not many people know. Something that maybe your mum and dad don’t even know!

You see, at the very moment you were born, Santa allocated you an elf. It’s true! Your very own elf who watches to see when you have been naughty and nice. Every year, just before Christmas, your elf reports to Santa so he can decide what presents you can have from your list.

Yet there are some people that don’t believe in Santa. I know, I know, it’s crazy… but it’s true! Once those people stop believing in Santa, then their elf’s are sent away from the North Pole and only allowed back when they start to believe in him again.

Gabriel the Elf is very worried. His child is beginning to think that Santa isn’t real. Gabriel the Elf doesn’t want to be banished from all his friends at the North Pole, so what can he do? There is only one thing he can do.

He must prove that Santa is real.


Lastly, this book I won from a blog giveaway.

Hiking is a great way to relax, connect with nature, and enjoy time with your family. Bringing your kids along can be rewarding for you and for them, but it can also add new challenges and concerns to your trip. Get Your Kids Hiking is loaded with everything you need to know to hit the trail with kids; from gear to simple proven techniques that will make your hike safe and fun. Written with both the novice and the seasoned hiker in mind, Jeff Alt provides all the information you need to take your child out on the trail.
This books offers:

Age-appropriate ways to include your child in all aspects of the hike

Checklists of what to pack for any type of hike

Kid-friendly menus

Advice for hiking with a child who has special needs.

Get Your Kids Hiking is the playbook to inspire an appreciation for the great outdoors in your children and keep your young child or teenager interested in a family hiking trip.

What did your mailbox hold this week?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

TV Movie Review: A Christmas Detour (2015)

Candace Cameron Bure (Full House) and Paul Greene (Wicked Wicked Games, CSI) star in this romantic comedy about an anxious bride-to-be and a broken-hearted guy who join a married couple on an emergency road trip to New York City during a blizzard.

Paige Summerlind (Cameron Bure) is on a flight to New York City to meet her fiance's parents for the very first time. While on board, she meets the handsome and irritating Dylan (Greene) along with Frank and Maxine (David Lewis and Sarah Strange), a couple whose marriage has seen better days. As a blizzard moves in, the plane is grounded and Paige is afraid she won't make it to her fiance's house in time for Christmas. So Dylan rents an SUV and agrees to get everyone home for Christmas, giving this odd group of friends a chance to get to know one another.

I love this time of year if for no other reason than the sweet, romantic comedies that Hallmark Channel produces. Cameron Bure is the perfect actress for this channel and it's wonderful to see her back on screen. In Paige, she captures that peppy, anxious go-getter viewers saw in 2013's Let It Snow. This is definitely a character type that plays well to her strengths. Greene is realistic and funny as the romantic lead who is intrigued by Paige as she writes articles about the perfect husband and carries around her vision board. He's got a story all his own that slowly unfolds as Paige gets to know him better.

Frank and Maxine's relationship makes for a wonderful side story. Married for decades, they no longer sleep in the same bed and find fault with one another constantly. Their characters add a great deal of humor and some heartwarming moments to this movie.

Viewers will enjoy the journey as each character learns a great deal about life, love, and happiness.

This movie will air again on Tuesday, December 15 at 8 p.m. Eastern. It is also available on DVD from third party sellers at Amazon.

I watched this show on Hallmark Channel. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

TV Movie Review: Crown for Christmas

Danica McKeller (The Wonder Years, DWTS) stars as an out of work maid turned governess in the sweet and romantic, Crown for Christmas. Having premiered on Hallmark Channel in November, this is the story of Allie Evans (McKellar) who after being fired from her job as a maid in a ritzy New York hotel reluctantly accepts a job as governess to a powerful family in Europe. Little does she know that her new little charge is a princess and her father the King of Winshire (Rupert Penry-Jones).

As Allie bonds with Princess Theodora (Ellie Botterill) and brings King Maximillian and his daughter closer together, sparks fly between Allie and the king. The jealous Countess Celia (Alexandra Evans) is not about to let some silly governess get in her way, though. A marriage was arranged between Maximillian and Celia when they were children and she plans to see that the king fulfills his obligations.

This was a beautiful movie. Classic Hallmark Channel when you consider two unlikely people meet under odd circumstances and fall in love while others work to help the cause or stand between them. Great performances by all, especially Ellie Botterill, who makes her television debut in Crown for Christmas.

In some ways this is a modern retelling of The Sound of Music--minus six children and the singing. The cold King Maximilliam warms as he watches Allie and Theodora bond. Their relationship forces him to reconsider his duties and soften to become a better father.

A lovely setting, a great storyline, and fabulous costumes make this a must see holiday romance.

Crown for Christmas will air again on Saturday, December 12 at 4:00 pm Eastern. It is also scheduled for a DVD release on December 20.

Format: Widescreen, Color, Dolby
Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Hallmark
Run Time: 87.00 minutes
Pre-order here!

I watched this movie on Hallmark Channel. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gift Idea: Letters to Santa Claus by The Elves

For years, children and adults have stuffed their candid dreams, wishes, and promises into envelopes addressed to Santa Claus. Whether the envelopes come with stamps or without, are addressed to "The Big Red Guy at Jingle Bells Lane" or simply "To Santa," for over 100 years, millions of these letters have poured into Santa Claus, Indiana. Arriving from all corners of the globe, the letters ask for toys, family reunions, snow, and help for the needy―sometimes the needy being the writers themselves. They are candid, heartfelt, and often blunt. Many children wonder how Santa gets into their chimneyless homes. One child reminds Santa that she has not hit her brothers over 1,350 times that year, and another respectfully requests two million dollars in "cold cash." One child hopes to make his life better with a time machine, an adult woman asks for a man, and one miscreant actually threatens Santa’s reindeer! Containing more than 250 actual letters and envelopes from the naughty and nice reaching back to the 1930s, this moving book will touch readers’ hearts and bring back memories of a time in our lives when the man with a white beard and a red suit held out the hope that our wishes might come true.

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Indiana University Press (October 5, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0253017939
ISBN-13: 978-0253017932

Purchase here!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mailbox Monday - December 7

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists.

Before getting into this week's post, I would like to take a moment to remember Pearl Harbor Day. May we never forgot those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

Things are buzzing around here. The Lil' Princess had a concert at the Festival of Trees yesterday. The lights are finally on the Christmas tree (well, the main tree anyway). Most of the outdoor decorating is done. I have even done a little shopping.

Speaking of shopping, I've picked up several seasonal Kindle books to get me in the spirit. Some were free and others were bargain titles.

Be careful what you wish for

Mele Keahi wasn't looking for excitement when she came to Destiny Bay. She'd just lost her man, her job and her self esteem, and she needed comfort. Instead, she found herself involved in a murder, sparring with a suspicious detective and coming face to face with a ghost from her Hawaiian childhood. Not what she'd bargained for--but then--sometimes you just have to deal with what the cat dragged in.

Holly and Caleb had been best friends as children, growing up on the same street, but as teenagers they couldn't be further apart. When Caleb unexpectedly asked Holly to help him pick out a Christmas gift for his girlfriend, neither of them anticipated where it would lead.

Bubba Snoddy’s got some problems. His family has descended for the Christmas holidays and not in a good way. His cousin wants to own the Snoddy Mansion, decrepit, falling down columns, termites, wood rot and all and isn’t above using manipulative behavior to achieve his ends. Miz Demetrice is up to nefarious and illegal activities while trying to entertain relatives. His cousin’s ten year old son is the personification of a demon and has hobbies of looking at medical photographs, making stun guns from scratch, and causing havoc wherever he roams. The woman of Bubba’s dreams, Deputy Willodean Gray, is still evading his romantic pursuits. Patients from the local mental institute are wandering over the town, ostensibly assisting with the Christmas Festival thanks to a program established by the mayor to cut costs. And Bubba has just found the dead body of a man dressed as Santa in the Christmas scene at City Hall. Oh, Pegramville, Texas is just the best place to be at Christmas if a fella has a bullet proof vest and a linebacker’s helmet. All the folks think Bubba might have done did it…again, even though it was proven that he didn’t done did it the first time, and Bubba has to move quickly in order to catch a murderer.

An epic quest across the sands of Arabia

In the exotic lands of the east, a secret sect of Persian magicians study the night sky for generations.

When the stars announce a strange royal birth, Misha, a first-level mage, is ready to prove himself by chasing down this new world leader.

But then an ancient document surfaces, whispering of an artifact of immense power. The temptation to seize power is too great to resist.

And Misha is not alone in his quest. The king’s general Reza seeks power to fulfill his mysterious destiny, and both he and Misha have their eye set on the Egyptian princess Kamillah, who will do anything to gain the artifact that could break her bondage to the sorcerer Zahir.

The soldier, the mage and the princess each has a secret to protect.

But if they are going to survive the dark forces warring for their prize, they must learn to trust each other—in what will surely be the journey of a lifetime.

This free short story e-romance is an exclusive bonus from The Pebble Creek Amish Series by Vannetta Chapman. Fans of the series will enjoy this chance to briefly revisit Pebble Creek, and new readers will be introduced to an Amish community that is more deeply explored in the three full novels, A Promise for Miriam, A Home for Lydia, and A Wedding for Julia. As a bonus, this free eBook also includes Amish homestyle recipes for chicken and dumplings, green beans, and fresh bread.


I also snagged this Kindle bargain.

Molly Elliott's quiet life in Tallahassee, Florida, is disrupted when routine errands land her in the wrong place at the wrong time: the middle of a bank robbery. Accused and cleared of the crime, she flees both media attention and mysterious, threatening notes, to move across the country to Cranberry Cove, where she has inherited her Aunt Maggie's bed and breakfast on the Northern California coast. Her new beginning is peaceful - that is, until five guests show up at the inn for a weekend, each with a hidden agenda.

Mix together one blushing honeymoon couple, one flamboyant boutique owner, a deadpan traveling salesman, and a charmingly handsome novelist, and there’s more than scones cooking at Cranberry Cottage Bed and Breakfast. As true motives become apparent, will Molly's past come back to haunt her or will she finally be able to leave it behind?


I borrowed these next two from the library because I bought the fourth book in the Cedar Cove series at the church's tag sale. 

Dear Reader,

If you've been to Cedar Cove before we've probably met. You can usually find me either at home or at the public library, where I work. I've lived in this town all my life and raised two daughters here. But my husband and I—well, about six months ago, he disappeared. Just…disappeared. Where's Dan? Why did he go? Who's he with? Will I ever find out?

My hometown, my family and friends, bring me comfort during this difficult time. Comfort and a sense of shelter. I'm continually reminded that life can and does go on. For instance, everyone's been discussing weddings and babies lately. Justine—the only daughter of my best friend, Olivia Lockhart—impulsively got married a little while ago. My own daughter Kelly recently had a baby. Unfortunately, she refuses to accept that Dan might not return to see his first grandchild. My older daughter, Maryellen, is more realistic. I think she's seeing a new man, but for some reason she won't tell me who it is.

Then there's Jack, who's been pursuing a romance with Olivia, and his son, Eric, and Eric's girlfriend, Shelly (I think she's pregnant), and Zach and Rosemary Cox, whose marriage is reputedly on the skids and… Well, just come on over and we'll talk!


Dear Reader,

One thing about Cedar Cove — people sure are interested in what other people are doing. Take me, for instance. Everybody in the town knows that my husband, Zach, and I recently got a divorce. Everybody also know that Judge Olivia Lockhard decreed a pretty unusual custody arrangement. It won't be the kids moving between my place and Zach's. We're the ones who'll be going back and forth!

Olivia isn't immune to gossip herself. Will she stay with Jack, the guy who runs our local paper, or will she get back with her ex? Inquiring minds want to know!

But the really big gossip has to do with the dead guy — the man who died at a local bed-and-breakfast. Who is he and why did he show up there in the middle of the night? Roy McAfee, our local private investigator, is absolutely determined to find out. I hope he does — and then I'll let you know! See you soon. . .


That's about it from me. Hope you enjoyed your mailbox this week.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pelican Book Group's Christmas Extravaganza!

On her way home for Christmas during a blizzard, college student Izzy hurdles down an embankment. Her worst nightmare is being trapped.

Brock comes to her rescue, but after a night in the hospital, the roads are drifted shut and she can’t make it to her family home in the country. Izzy goes home with Brock and spends Christmas Eve with his family.

Once the road clears, Brock gets Izzy home on Christmas Day but her car is totaled, and she needs a way back to college. Used to fending for herself, and safe now, Izzy balks at Brock’s offer to drive her.

Does God have a plan for an enthusiastic independent goal-setter who avoids the college dating scene, and a nurturing do-gooder man?

File Size: 1126 KB
Print Length: 89 pages
Publisher: Pelican Book Group (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Purchase here for only 99 cents!

All she wants for Christmas is her Master’s Degree. All he wants is a one-way plane ticket back to Los Angeles.

Tiffany Zelling’s mission is to become a crisis therapy counselor using specially trained animals as comfort tools. She's focused on reaching the end of her school career, and nothing will stand in her way—not even a fantasy-world attraction to colleague Mitch Alexander.

After a year as interim Director of East Coast Operations Mitch's tenure has been a resounding success. Now, he’s set to return to California and lay claim to a well-deserved promotion. He can’t wait to leave behind the cold and snowy darkness of Manhattan, but when corporate bullying and a massive snowfall throws him together with Tiffany Zelling, Mitch wonders if heading west is his best future.

As two hearts build a pathway to love, goals shift and evolve. But as Christmas joy and hope move through the streets of New York, critical decisions must be made. Can their lives truly meld? Can Christmas at Tiffany’s be God’s answer…for them both?

File Size: 764 KB
Print Length: 83 pages
Publisher: Pelican Book Group (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Purchase here for only 99 cents!

Father Christmas can't grant this request...

Stan Fuller juggles a full time job as an airline pilot, along with being a single father to eight-year-old Haley-Jo. When he becomes a reluctant Father Christmas at his daughter’s school party, she stuns him and the whole school, never mind the attending press, by announcing she wants a mummy for Christmas.

Carly Jefferson is covering the party for the local paper. New to the village, she is running from a broken past and bitter argument with her mother which resulted in a rift lasting years. Haley Jo’s simple request rocks Carly to the core, especially when her editor wants her to run several follow-up pieces on the child and her father.

File Size: 1173 KB
Print Length: 96 pages
Publisher: Pelican Book Group (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Purchase here for 99 cents!

Alani O'Dwyer offered her heart to Ryan Connolly years ago, and he tossed it aside without so much as a backward glance. Though the town of Boulder Creek dubs him a hero,she vows she'll never again fall victim to his charms.

Ryan Connolly captains a raucous crew of firefighters at the Boulder Creek Fire Department, yet he's unprepared for the adventure of falling in love with beautiful and headstrong Alani O'Dwyer.

But when a meddling angel at the annual Fighters for Hire charity auction brings Ryan and Alani together, even regrets from the past can't thwart Ryan's plans to make her his own.

File Size: 1379 KB
Print Length: 56 pages
Publisher: Pelican Book Group (December 1, 2015)
Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Purchase here for only 99 cents!

Find these and other digital books on sale during
Pelican Book Group's Christmas Extravaganza!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Coming in January: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

“But everyone else has it.” “If you loved me, you’d get it for me!” When you hear these comments from your kids, it can be tough not to cave. You love your children—don’t you want them to be happy and to fit in?

Kristen Welch knows firsthand it’s not that easy. In fact, she’s found out that when you say yes too often, it’s not only hard on your peace of mind and your wallet—it actually puts your kids at long-term risk. In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen shares the ups and downs in her own family’s journey of discovering why it’s healthiest not to give their kids everything. Teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” is the first step in the right direction. With many practical tips and anecdotes, she shares how to help kids become hardworking, fulfilled, and successful adults.

It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation in your family and create a home in which your kids don’t just say—but mean!—“thank you” for everything they have.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum (January 26, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1496405293
ISBN-13: 978-1496405296

Pre-order here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kindle Bargain: Fast and Healthy Dinner Recipes (Cookbooks for Busy Moms Book 3) By Angela Moore

This is a cookbook full of quick and healthy dinner recipes. Every recipe takes 30 minutes or less to make. They are all healthy and filling. Remember, you can always change, add or subtract ingredients. Never be afraid to experiment and add to my recipes. As always however, I completely understand if you find my recipes too perfect to change.

In addition to the food preparation directions, each recipe has a conversation starter and an interesting fact. The conversation starters are geared toward children. They are not deep or emotional topics as my goal was fun dinner conversation. The interesting facts are in some way related to the food in the recipe.

File Size: 1185 KB
Print Length: 82 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Infostudio Inc. (August 30, 2013)
Publication Date: August 30, 2013
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Purchase here for only 99 cents!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mailbox Monday - November 30

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists.

Lil' Diva, the cousin--Lil' Dickens--and the Lil' Princess

Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful holiday surrounded by family followed by another successful annual bazaar at our church.

Because you know I can't resist bargain books or free books, I came home from the bazaar with several titles and picked up a few freebies this weekend.

Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, the Eighth Earl of Asherton, and his partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, encounter what seems to be a perfect crime as they investigate a fatal fire at an fifteenth-century cottage. 85,000 first printing. $85,000 ad/promo.

Over three successive nights, stranger Harry Johnson sits in the London Pub "The Old Wine Shades" and tells a story to Richard Jury about a good friend of his whose wife and son (and dog) disappeared one day in Surrey. They've been missing for nine months - no trace, no clue, no lead as to what happened. The dog came back - but how?

For Dr. David Beck, the loss was shattering. And every day for the past eight years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The gleaming lake. The pale moonlight. The piercing screams. The night his wife was taken. The last night he saw her alive.

Everyone tells him it's time to move on, to forget the past once and for all. But for David Beck, there can be no closure. A message has appeared on his computer, a phrase only he and his dead wife know. Suddenly Beck is taunted with the impossible- that somewhere, somehow, Elizabeth is alive.

Beck has been warned to tell no one. And he doesn't. Instead, he runs from the people he trusts the most, plunging headlong into a search for the shadowy figure whose messages hold out a desperate hope.

But already Beck is being hunted down. He's headed straight into the heart of a dark and deadly secret- and someone intends to stop him before he gets there.

Dear Reader,
I love living in Cedar Cove, but things haven't been the same since a man died at our B and B. Turns out his name was Max Russell, and Bob had known him briefly in Vietnam.We still don't have any idea why he came here and—most important of all—who killed him. Because it now appears that he was poisoned. I sure hope somebody figures it out soon!

Not that we're providing the only news in Cedar Cove these days. I heard that Jon Bowman and Maryellen Sherman are getting married. And Maryellen's mom, Grace, has more than her share of interested men! The question is: Which one is she going to choose? Olivia—I guess it's Olivia Griffin now— is back from her honeymoon, and her mother, Charlotte (who's in her mid-seventies at least), seems to have a man in her life, too. I'm not sure Olivia's too pleased….

There's lots of other gossip I could tell you. Come by for a cup of tea and one of my blueberry muffins and we'll talk.

Peggy Beldon

The dating game is always the same. One disaster after another. Fortunately, Hallie McCarthy can compare notes with her neighbor, Steve Marris. He's divorced and in the same boat. Right--too bad Hallie and Steve are not interested in each other!

Death is business as usual

When Frank and Joe grab one of the Network's cases, the secret government agency tells them they're on their own. Then they hustle themselves a one-way ticket to France, expecting a little action. But after they penetrate the shady world of Reynard and Company, the largest organized crime ring on earth, the Hardys begin to expect something more - murder. Maybe their own.

Posing as gun dealers, Frank and Joe immediately run into trouble with the French police. Soon they're fugitives with no one to turn to but the criminals they've sworn to expose. Caught in a deadly web of enemies and betrayed by a beautiful girl, Frank and Joe must use every ounce of cunning they possess to defeat a foe whose icy fingers slowly tighten over the entire world.

I've requested from the library books two and three from Macomber's Cedar Cove series to get read to read 44 Cranberry Point. The next several books were free for Kindle this weekend. 

Gus LeGarde’s life essentially ended four years ago, when his beloved wife leapt to her death. Today, Gus lavishes love on his family, trying to bury the pain. But trouble arrives when his arrogant son-in-law’s business partner goes missing, and Gus’s innocent friend is set up to take the fall.

When Marcella Hollister’s prize parakeet gets zapped by a wayward power line in the same pool as her mother, the ensuing psychic link helps Marcella chase her mother’s kidnappers through the Adirondack Mountains, where she unearths a fifty-year-old secret about her dear father with shocking links to a hidden treasure.

After two years of brutal captivity, Portia Lamont has escaped and returned to her family’s Vermont horse farm—only to find her parents gone to New York to try an experimental treatment for her mother’s cancer, and her childhood friend Boone Hawke running the farm.

Like the rest of her family, Boone has never given up hope that Portia would return. But when she turns up battered, skinny as a twelve-year-old boy, afraid of everything and unable to talk about what happened, he does the only thing he can—try to help her heal. He summons the town doctor and Portia’s parents, and sets out to put this beautiful, broken woman back together again.

Through her family's love and Boone's gentle affection, Portia gradually comes back to herself, and starts to fall for her old friend in a whole new way. But one thing threatens her fragile hope for recovery: The man who took her promised that if she ever escaped, he'd kill her. Slowly. And someone is definitely watching her...waiting to make his next deadly move.

When Sam Moore discovers a peculiar green marble in his garden, it links him to his vanished little brother and thrusts him back in time, where he battles a faceless serial killer to untangle the maddening mystery and stop the murder of his beloved grandson.

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him, just before being sent to boarding school. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family at the same time it takes the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

It is three days before Christmas and a bitter wind is blowing across Norfolk.

Until her daughter was born, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway didn’t do Christmas, but now that Kate is a year old, she wants it to be special.

She must get a tree, shop for food, clean the house, buy presents, including one for her new boyfriend—who she isn’t even sure is her boyfriend—and remember to get the turkey out of the freezer.

But time is rushing by and the best-laid plans don’t always work out …

Unlucky in love, Maddie LaRocque moves to Calgary at the urging of her former college roommate. Maddie's luck goes from bad to worse when she's laid off from her job two months before Christmas. Undeterred, she sets up a gift wrapping business in the lobby of the Drummond Building in downtown Calgary where she meets Annie, a ten-year-old who has recently lost her parents.

When Maddie falls into the arms of the building's maintenance man it looks as though her luck is changing, but she soon learns that Brent isn't who she thought he was.
Maddie's roommate Lily hasn't fared too well in the romance department either, having been used for her beauty and Asian heritage by a man in Calgary.

The moment Chase Drummond spots Lily, he's stunned by her beauty, but Lily resists his advances, unwilling to have her heart broken by the most eligible bachelor in town.

Will a young orphan girl be able to convince the two women that love is the best gift of all this Christmas?

As you can see, my mailbox this time is filled to overflowing. I am still hoping for a couple more books from Santa this year. 

Hope you will share what your mailbox held. Hope you have a great week.