Archive for December, 2011

Dr. David Chambers has turned his back on his field of biblical archaeology and his faith. He has his reasons, of course. Another casualty of his u-turn is fellow archaeologist Dr. Amber Rogers- his former fiance.

After his final dig in Israel, David returns home; home to an empty condo; home to a small office on campus. As he debates which discipline will be his new academic focus, his phone rings, colliding the past, present, and future. 

Old friends. Old colleagues. An even older mystery. As a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is revealed, David reluctantly decides that for his friend, he’ll do one last dig……………

This book had me hooked by the end of the first page. It combines biblical history, archeology and biblical prophesy while throwing in a little bit of love-gone-wrong, mystery, and murder. If you know even a little bit of the first three, this book is guaranteed to make you think.

I really hope there are more titles by these authors, because they are definitely a fantastic writing combination. Both authors have other titles separately, but together, they make a dynamic writing team.

I give this title 5 out of 5 stars, and would give it more if I could. There is no question I’ll be sharing this title with folks.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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Santa Came Early ♥

Yep. He/she sure did! Yesterday it snowed. Wait- I think this started on Thursday, didn’t it?  I can’t remember. But yesterday we had a lot of snow, and it’s STILL snowing. SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I was shoveling out the chicken run, I decided Santa needed to come early.  The little girls were out in the snow with me, wearing their new gloves with glee. Once I finished with the chickens, I went back in and brought them a bag.

BOOTS!!! I’m not a fan of product endorsement in general, but one I don’t totally object to is Hello Kitty. And, when you live in the desert where boots are terribly difficult to find at all (unless you are in Tractor Supply, and had I been thinking with my whole brain, I would have started there first and seen if they had boots to match my chicken boots- but I digress  :lol:), it stands to reason you really can’t afford to be too picky in this kind of situation.

The little girls are *thrilled* beyond belief with the snow and the boots.  J, 10, is still out shoveling the driveway. No kidding- the shovel standing up is nearly as tall as she is! And loaded with snow, I’m sure it’s just as heavy, too.  😆

Hunny, who is a California boy and NOT a fan of snow if he has to be in it, thinks we are crazy. I, however, continue to really miss the snow, particularly around Christmas. There is only a single Christmas Day memory I have as a child where we did not have snow; it was around 60 degrees and we were outside riding bikes- in western Michigan. Then, it was a novelty, and not something we particularly enjoyed.

Christmastime and snow are like peanut butter and jelly. Like New Mexico and green chile. Like California and sun-dried tomato pizza. Like knitting and yarn. Like chickens and eggs. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh………….

J, 7, just came in and said, “I love these boots, Mama. I love, love, LOVE them!”  ♥♥♥  She’s made her mark around the backyard with snow angels. She’ll be back out later, after her pants have dried a wee bit.

So, digging out?  I shoveled a path from the house to the coop/run. None of the chickies came out yesterday because of the snow, and at least a foot had accumulated in there. I will have to get back out this afternoon and shovel out some more, with the way it’s still falling. Their ramp was totally covered, and they would have been swallowed with the accumulation.  😆  Most of them are outside now, under the the non-snowed portion because I bribed them with goodies and was able to pick them up and put them outside.  😀

Hunny spent about 30 minutes digging out his truck. Tromping on the side, the snow was up to his knees, and he’s 6 feet tall. I think it’s safe to say we’ll have a white Christmas.  :mrgreen:  He’s out getting gas now and he still has some shopping left to do. I have to go to the other end of town to get our annual shrimp and crab platter and the plan is to do church tonight before heading over to the grandparent’s. We’ll see how the roads are. 

If nothing else, it is magical to watch it fall, while drinking something hot. If nothing else, there is nothing better than being hunkered down in a house full of your favorite people, knowing there is nothing pressing to have to get to and that there is plenty of time to just kick back and enjoy being. If nothing else, there is nothing better than knowing the real reason behind the holiday and knowing that everyone (even if you don’t believe at this moment right now) is welcome to God’s love, grace, mercy, and blessings, though they may be disguised. It’s never too late to begin believing; God is ready when you are.

We are blessed.  I hope you are feeling it, too!  Merry Christmas!

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A Christmas Miracle

“That sky sure is making some delicious snow!”  J, 10.

Yep. It’s snowing. It’s not just snowing, but there is snow on the ground- since yesterday.  {gasp!}

Indeed, my girls have decided the snow is a bona fide “Christmas miracle.” I might not go quite that far, but I have to say, this is the first time it has felt like Christmas to me in the 16 years we’ve lived here. This Michigan girl doesn’t think it feels like Christmas when you are out shopping in shorts. Sorry; that’s just the way I roll.  😆

Since our snow shovel finally died a few months ago, we’ve been going without. What do you need a snow shovel for in the desert? I learned early on that they are great for scooping leaves and other yard waste. Had I known I wouldn’t be able to easily replace it, I would have rationed the usage for essential times, like when it’s actually snowing. I’ve gone to a few stores and no one has any. We’ve learned that our metal feed shovel works pretty well (gee, I sound like a farmer, don’t I?  :lol:) but it’s heavy.

While I didn’t find a new snow shovel, I did manage to find the little girls gloves that are lined. The thin, stretchy kind are easily found, but when they get wet (which happens quickly) their hands get cold. My kids have not ever had snow boots, and really, they are actually impossible to find unless you are looking at baby gear, which is completely illogical, imo.

Santa did manage to find the little girls rain boots, though. I suppose that’s better than the standard plastic bags we’ve used over their shoes.  😆

All my girls ♥♥♥ the snow.  My 10 year old completely shoveled the driveway today, and then she and the youngest (7) stayed outside and made snowmen.  Well, there was one snowman and some snow “reindeer” or goat looking thing.  I am surprised no one made a chicken, but I think they were running out of snow.  Maybe tomorrow.  :mrgreen:

Today was a good day. My secret obsession was fed. Christmas shopping on my end is done; sugar cookies are finished. I have some wrapping to get to, and then, it’s pretty much time to kick back.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than watching the snow fall while you are toasty in your sweats and slippers, and drinking hot cocoa.  (Unless maybe your chickens are inside with you.  :lol:)

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It Must Be Love

Nope. It’s DEFINITELY love.  ♥♥♥  😀

When we got our chickens (ya, I know, but I’ve given you quite a break from the chicken love posts  😆 ), hunny was skeptical about the “pet” aspect of it all.  They had a purpose outside of just being cute- to give us eggs. Eggs they give us, of course, as we think everyone is laying now. I don’t any of us anticipated how attached we’d get to our girls.

Seeing as it’s winter and the days are shorter, some days we get more; some days a few less. On average, we get about 7 eggs a day, and I’m kind of glad pre-baking that they are taking turns, because come spring, we’re going to be innundated with eggs. But I’m not complaining!

We’re working on our 6th dozen of eggs in the fridge, and we’ve been blowing through them pretty regularly. This is about a week’s worth of eggs. A big scramble today and baking this week should whittle that number down. We are totally having a great time!

The last several years, I’ve been “working” on getting hunny on board with the chickens. He’s a major animal lover, and has always had fantastic rapport with birds, so I figured, even though these birds would be bigger, he’d still enjoy them. Initially, he was skeptical. After all, chickens are not known for their exceptionally large brains and “skills”.  😆

As babies, chickens are cute and fuzzy. We used to play with them on our bed (covered in towels, of course). My Sugar used to crawl up the leg of my shorts and take a nap. All of them have been regularly handled since they were day-old chicks, so this is probably why they are more like pets than anything else.

In the beginning, I was thinking along the lines of them being friendly but utilitarian; as in, once they stopped laying, they would go to freezer camp (if we could find someone to process them) and would be re-purposed. Now, our rule is: We don’t eat our friends.  😆

We will muddle through eating strange chickens, all the while reminding ourselves that we’re doing them a favor. Given the terrible conditions they were forced to live in, not eating them would not honor their miserable lives. But. We simply do not eat our friends.   :mrgreen:

These days, it’s surprising if someone goes into the run and Rocky doesn’t hop up on top of them. Depending on the person, the head might be the landing zone; we bigger people have backs and shoulders that do quite well. It’s actually pretty funny.

When hunny goes to put them to bed at night, he talks to them and checks to make sure everyone is ok. They’ll hop down from the roost and come to check out the food/water, and give him love boops. Yep, this is what it sounds like- not all the time a coo, but more of a “boop boop boop,” as they talk back, and come for their evening petting. We’ve got a few who really like to be scratched/rubbed under their wings.  It’s pretty funny when they come to you and lift a wing as if to say, “Hey, would you scratch right there?  Ya, that’s the spot….. ahhhhhhh.”

As part of our backyard plan, we had talked about moving the chicken condo to the garden area. In the few weeks of our discussion, while I initially agreed, I’ve changed my mind. While I’m sitting here at my computer, I can glance over and see all my girls- not just see them from afar, but REALLY see them; to make sure everyone is behaving. We’ve still got some plucking going on (no, not a need for more protein or more space, but habits, I’m afraid, that need some more intervention, now that the big brooder is out of the living room), so this is particularly important right now.

I realized in short order that where we were planning to move the condo to would be further away, and would necessitate me moving my chair. No longer would I be able to just glance over or see them out of the corner of my eye; I’d have to stop what I was doing and roll my chair back. In all reality, this would mean I’d have less eye-time with them.  Booooooo!!  😥

So, the new plan is to put the shed in that part of the garden instead, and join the two paths together. We’ve also got to finish the other set of nesting boxes, but that will happen after we’ve built the shed. In a perfect world, we’d still figure out how to get into the country, but this will have to do until we get the house back on the market and sold.

The best part of all of this, is, of course, the girls. There is nothing cuter, in my opinion, than a really sweet chicken coop and run. Chickens give a whole new meaning to “friends with benefits.”  😉  😆

Yep, it’s love alright!  😆

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This is the 3rd and final book in the Ada’s House series. I reviewed The Bridge of Peace, which is book 2 in this series. Having also read (and reviewed) books 1 and 3 in the Sisters of the Quilt series (When the Heart Cries ; When the Soul Mends) was nice, because many of the characters were familiar and like becoming reacquainted with old friends.

Sylvia Fisher is not a typical Amish woman. She loves cows. Well, she loves all  farm animals, but she particularly loves the dairy cows on her family farm. She also likes working the farm along side of her father. 

While her grandfather was alive, he really got her- he understood her passion, and taught her his philosophies on dairy management. When he died, Sylvia has struggled to find a man who treated with the same kind of respect, and trusted her with farm matters. Her father, though perhaps more liberal than others, feels that once Sylvia marries, her traditional place in the home will become her focus.

Elam and Sylvia have been courting. Sylvia’s father, having only daughters, forges a farm partnership with Elam, assuming he and Sylvia will marry. Sylvia is upset with both her Daed and Elam, neither of whom bothered to consider asking her opinion before changing the operations of the farm.

Sylvia can’t imagine giving it all up. Elam’s marriage proposal leaves her conflicted. “Didn’t she want more from true love than heart-pounding attraction?” She promises him an answer in a few weeks, while she sorts out her feelings.

Three weeks later, after storming out, Elam hasn’t been back to the farm. Sylvia is ready to sort things out with him, and she thinks,“If he could see her side of it, and if she could see his side, they could work this out.” Her heart soars, as she sees Elam upon arriving home.

Her hope turns to horror, as she gets the news that Elam and her younger sister, Beckie, are going to marry. Sylvia is devastated. And, to make matters worse, her Daed refuses her plea to let her leave the farm.

Several years later, illness forces Sylvia and Elam into the same house- the house her grandfather left her in his will- the house she relinquished to Beckie andElam upon pressured requestbecause of illness.  Sylvia does her duty as a sister, and takes care of Beckie and Elam’s young children, since Beckie is too sick to care for them herself.

Sylvia and Elam had been vaccinated for whooping cough, which put them in the position of caring for the farm and for the sick family “around the clock like a married couple.” An unplanned and unwanted situation necessitates an urgency for Sylvia to leave the farm, regardless of her father’s objections to letting an unmarried daughter move away.

Life on the Blank farm was more than Sylvia could have hoped for. She was partners with Michael, and was increasing the herd. Although her father forbade her to have any contact with her sisters and she had to give up her portion of the farm along with all the money he’d put aside as her salary through the years, Sylvia was content with the trade-off. Dora and Michael provided her with solace; she filled their need to nurture.

Life was good; simple. At least it was until prodigal son and recovering alcoholic Aaron Blank comes home. He’s intent upon buying an appliance store in town and convincing his parents to sell the beloved farm and move with him there. Sylvia and Aaron could not be on further ends of the pole.

In addition to this main story line, there are the continuing stories from the other books in the series. Cara came to the Amish as the niece of an Amish couple; hoping to hide herself and her daughter from a violent stalker who was bent on killing her. Cara and Ephraim were childhood friends, in her brief time visiting. When Ephraim was grown, he went to the city to try to find Cara, but was unsuccessful. Cara and Ephraim, are now in love and hope to marry (book 1, Hope of Refuge).

Also making appearances are Lena and Grey, from The Bridge of Peace (book 2), Deborah and Jonathon (book 1), and Ada and Israel. Being the final book in the series, all of the story lines are nicely wrapped up.

Because I totally loved this book, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. All of the characters, even those from the other series, feel like friends. It was nice to get an update, and I love how both series are intertwined. I do think reading the other books is helpful, but not essential. Not having read any of the other books should not be off-putting in the least.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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Half Way There

Can you believe it?  I know I can’t! Nearly three weeks ago, I started a Holiday Challenge. Today is just over the half-way point (20 days out of 39), so I thought I would share some statistics y’all prolly could care less about.  😆

When we started, we had 275 players, who had pledged nearly 38,000 miles. If people don’t post for 8 days, they are automatically dropped. At this point, we’re down to 263 players, who have pledged 36,650 miles. The database is predicting we’ll hit 39,600 if the pace stays the same (which is unlikely, but hey, quite the goal.)

At this point today, 19,894.41 miles have been logged. This breaks it down to: 3.67 miles per day per member on my team and 3.89 miles a day per runner on the other team. Obviously, this isn’t an accurate reflection of what people are actually doing (because I, for example, only run 5 days a week), but the numbers are fun! The teams are still relatively balanced, too, with the other team just having a single player more than my team.

At this moment, right now, I am on the leaderboard at #50 with my measly 111.25 miles since Thanksgiving Day.  I say measly, because, seriously, there are some crazed folks out there! 😯

On the leaderboard, numbers 10 through 50 are under 200 miles.  Those others?  Sit down for this!  😆

#1- 324.9; F, 30-34

#2-  313.4; M, 55-59

#3- 278; M, 45-49

#4- 272.15; M, 40-45

I’m in 3rd in my age/gender group. I have no illusions that I’ll have a leaderboard finish, either. What I am finding really surprising is how many hardcore runners there are with huge mileage that are over 40.

Seems a lot of people do their long runs on the weekends, and with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day falling on a Saturday and Sunday this year, I think it’s safe to say that I can’t promise to run either of those days, particularly Christmas Day. That means, I won’t be surprised when I fall off the leaderboard on the weekend, if I make it on there that long.  😆

I should hit my pledged 140 miles by the beginning of next week, though, so anything over is total gravy.  😀 I also upped my yearly goal, and I’ll be interested to see if/when I hit that.

You can relax and know that I will share final results for the challenge and my yearly totals. I won’t let you down!  😆

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3 years. That’s how long it’s been since Gideon broke Mattie’s heart. 3 years, a move out of state, and as Mattie’s business takes off, her heart is still slow to mend. 

Gideon was the love of her life; her lifelong good friend. Mattie still can’t understand why he cheated on her with an Englischer and then broke their engagement. Their first date had taken place on her birthday, Christmas Eve, when they attended the Christmas Eve singing together. The following three years, they celebrated their love and the season the same way.

“And then she caught him.

Her heartbreak had been compounded by confusion. Nothing had prepared her for his betrayal.”

And now, she had Sol. Quiet Sol. Solid, dependable Sol. Sol who was slowing gaining confidence with her. Seeing each other was now regular, instead of just at special occasions, and Mattie felt comfortable with Sol. Sol was Gideon’s polar opposite when it came to getting along with young women, and Mattie was looking forward to going to the Christmas Singing with him.

Mattie’s business as a cake maker had taken off; she had orders coming out of her ears, and she couldn’t be happier. She’s planning for a busy holiday season of birthday and wedding cakes, and she can’t wait to see her original designs.

Then, disaster struck. Mattie’s cake shop caught on fire. As she watches, she sees a flash of fabric- fabric the same color as the dress her niece was wearing that morning. Mattie knows her niece will never find her way out of the fire without someone to help her…..

A trip across state lines finds both Gideon and Sol at the hospital, checking on an unconscious Mattie. Gideon finally found a driver, and gets to the hospital before Sol, who was out on a hunt, arrived.

Once Mattie is released from the hospital, the only realistic option for her is to go home to Pennsylvania while they wait to get the insurance sorted out. Mattie’s apprehensive, but is convinced she can avoid Gideon while she’s there. It doesn’t take her long to figure out she’s wrong about that, though, when she realizes how involved they both are with her cousin’s impending marriage.

Will she be back in Ohio in time to attend the Christmas Singing with Sol, as they had planned? Can Mattie finally get some answers and bury her feelings for Gideon?

This book is classic Cindy Woodsmall. I love it! You’ve got a solid storyline, packed with relationship history. While the plot was relatively predictable, the particulars were not, and that was fun.  I also really liked that both men were good guys, which ultimately made the choice more difficult.

I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone who likes Amish fiction. It’s a really nice feel-good story, and I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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I think it’s safe to say I won’t die running races.  😆

Yep.  I did another 10k.  :mrgreen:

This time, I came home with a medal.  I got 3rd place in my age group. (Ok, there might have only been the three of us- I don’t really know 😆 but still- a medal!)  I’ll be really interested to see where I landed over all.

I took 5 minutes off my time and came in at 64:15 with a 10:21 minute mile.  I had to watch out for ice; there was still some snow (particularly on the bridges) and the course was pretty hilly this time.  No wind, thank goodness, but there were a few times I was wondering if I was going to have enough traction to make it up the hill.  😆

I also won a 40 lb (heck, it might have been more than that, since it was literally a struggle to carry the thing) fruit basket for best outfit.  I decided not to wear my flashing antler headband, but I had some wreathy ribbon things in my barrettes; I was wearing a neon green jacket, red gloves; I had a holiday bandana (which I didn’t end up using but it was cute); I had some tinsely hair bands on both wrists and ankles, but I am convinced what sealed the deal was my ornament necklace.

We found a tube of plastic mid-size ornaments (with sparkle!!) in the $1 bin at Target.  J (dd#2) strung them together with green embroidery floss and I wore them around my neck.  Now, I will admit the sound was driving me nuts nearly right away, but I managed to put most of them on my back to cut down on the noise. I’m sure the others on the course were really glad I didn’t wear the Christmasy jingle dog collar that I learned would fit.  😆 The original plan was to wrap silver tinsel around my legs, but once I got there and learned the judging was happening at the end, well, it just seemed more practical to skip it.

The spouse was worried about getting frostbite in minimalist shoes, but shoot.  Once you get going (as I’ve tried repeatedly to explain), it feels like it’s at least 20 degrees warmer than it is, and honestly, I was fine.  I had debated about wearing my Injini toe socks, but decided against it. As it was, I was wearing double tights, shorts, my long sleeve compression shirt; tech fleece and then my tech outer shell puffy jacket.  By mile 2 I was thinking “Dear God, why didn’t I listen and leave the jacket behind?”  😆  I tied it around my waist.  Just after we turned around (somewhere around mile 3.5, I think), the gloves came off and stayed off.  It was 35 degrees when we started and not much warmer when it ended.  I had my fleece headband around my ears, and while I brought my cap, I certainly did not need it.  Next time, I’ll know.

So, there you have it. I can run in the cold and wet and not have disastrous results.  In this case, the hardest part of the race was carrying the fruit basket out to my truck- really!  😆

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Sephora’s three children are grown. Her husband is a well-known plastic surgeon. She looks like the picture of an accomplished southern lady. 

Life isn’t quite what Sephora had hoped for. She’s lonely. Her husband is a serial cheater. Sephora can’t even enjoy the magazine shoot and garden party for Southern Living Magazine at her home because the guest list includes women he’s cheated with.

Sephora decides she’s had enough.  She has her bags packed, and is ready to move to their summer house on the lake, when her husband, Bender, comes home early and unexpectedly.

He’s got cancer. He’s dying.  He wants her to take care of him at the summer house on the lake. ~~~~

I think the plot is pretty solid; it has a lot of potential. The book didn’t feel particularly long, and there were a lot of characters. Most of the characters weren’t necessary. In my mind, they didn’t add anything to the story line, and actually detracted from it because they weren’t central to the meat of the story.  It seemed like a lot of the book was spent on characters who didn’t matter, and there wasn’t enough development with the characters who did.

I didn’t feel Sephora’s change; I didn’t have enough good in the relationship for her to be “in love” with her husband. I found myself thinking his change was disingenuous, because the nature of brain tumors is often a change in personality. Did Bender change because he was repentant and he really did love her or was it the brain cancer?  There wasn’t enough of any of it to get a sense of how she took care of him while he was home and sick; a few paragraphs do not a relationship make, imo.

There was one scene where Sephora runs into a mistress at the hospital. Current mistress?  Former mistress?  I have no idea.  Apparently, the mistress would come on certain days every week. I just find this part odd. We already know that he cheated with numerous women throughout their decades long marriage. A lot more could have been done with this scenario, but it just wasn’t developed well enough for it to really grip me.

For my taste, the whole thing was undeveloped.  I think the premise is good.  It wasn’t a terrible read, but it certainly didn’t push my buttons. It was marginally ok. The characters weren’t deep enough or rich enough for me to really get into their heads.

I don’t think it was a matter of having too many characters or too much stuff going on- they just weren’t developed enough. One character in particular died and later on, this person was classified as a friend who mattered; a friend who would call. Honestly, by that point, I had to stop and think about who that person even was! Here again, the relationship was not ever developed to the point where I remembered the character or thought that kind of emotion could be assigned to it.

This was an e-book for me, so I have no idea of the “weight” of the book by looking at it- was it a heavy book?  A really thin book?  No idea. If it was the latter, I would say there could have easily been additional chapters to help with background and clarity- even memory sequences with an eye to the affairs would have been nice.  There was not enough background to really feel *why* Sephora was finally ready to go; you just had to accept that she was. On the flip side, there also wasn’t enough to understand why she decided she still loved him.

I’d like to say I could give this title raving reviews, but I just can’t. I have to give it 3 out of 5 stars. If this is typical of this author’s work, I’d probably read another before deciding not to get additional titles. There was just not enough there for me to want to actively pursue additional titles.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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