Wednesday, November 25, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING and a blogging break!

I want to wish each of you a HAPPY THANKSGIVING tomorrow!

Above all of the delicious food we will stuff ourselves with, I hope you will all enjoy your time with family and friends!

I'm so excited to be hosting our family's Thanksgiving this year! Preparations have been going on for days!

Because I'll be busy mashing potatoes, gabbing with my sisters, eating leftover turkey on homemade rolls, and shopping on Black Friday, I'm taking a little blogging break!

I've got several recipes that I want to share...and a few book reviews as well. I'll be back when I'm a few pounds heavier and several dollars lighter... ;-)

So... to give you something to read in my absence - here's a list of

100 Things That Make Me Happy
(in no particular order):
  1. My husband
  2. My two miracle children!
  3. Singing hymns
  4. The smell of baking bread
  5. A new book
  6. My down comforter
  7. Christmas music
  8. A good thunderstorm
  9. Fun, colorful socks
  10. Packages in the mail
  11. Candles
  12. Coupons
  13. Fresh, clean sheets
  14. Brand new crayons
  15. Cheesecake
  16. A clean bathroom
  17. Trying (and loving) a new recipe
  18. Seeing the first robin of spring
  19. SPRING
  20. The smell of lumber
  21. My kids' giggles
  22. Classic reruns - like Andy Griffith and the Honeymooners
  23. Rainbows
  24. Chocolate! Chocolate!! Chocolate!!!
  25. Drives to "nowhere" in the car with my husband
  26. Breakfast
  27. The smell of my husband's shaving cream
  28. Cinnamon
  29. Visits with friends
  30. When my little boy says, "gank yoooo" (thank you) :-)
  31. Snuggling on the couch
  32. The Dollar Store
  33. A clean (clutterless, empty) countertop
  34. Freshly painted toenails - in red!
  35. Going to church
  36. Holding hands with my husband
  37. The first snow
  38. A brand new baby
  39. Sprinkles
  40. Warm brownies
  41. Big, fat snowflakes
  42. A new CBD catalog
  43. A real letter in the mailbox
  44. Watching Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea for the nth time!
  45. Background music
  46. Reading my Bible
  47. A good hair day
  48. Kisses from my little girl
  49. Kisses from my little boy
  50. Thanksgiving dinner
  51. Completing a craft project
  52. Hershey's Mint Truffle kisses
  53. Laughing with my husband
  54. A new magazine
  55. Taking pictures
  56. Blogging
  57. A full candy dish
  58. Cold, icy coke
  59. Cooking and baking for others
  60. Wireless internet
  61. Burt's Bees lip balm
  62. Black and white movies
  63. Jeans that fit
  64. Sunsets
  65. Sweatpants
  66. Picnics
  67. A bright, starry sky
  68. Newly sprouting plants in a garden
  69. Wii bowling
  70. My husband's smile
  71. The "mute" button on the remote!
  72. Naps
  73. Potato soup
  74. Entering contests (winning would make me happier)! ;-)
  75. Walking through crunchy fall leaves
  76. Strawberries
  77. Garage sales
  78. Mineral makeup
  79. My engagement ring
  80. UPS deliveries
  81. Crockpots
  82. Fluffernutters
  83. Homemade pizza and wings
  84. A spring breeze
  85. The sound of waves against the shore
  86. Helpful customer service
  87. Baby wipes
  88. Air fresheners
  89. Satin-finish paint
  90. My ice maker
  91. Peppermints
  92. Tide-to-Go pen
  93. A long-lost facebook reconnection
  94. Ice cream (with hot fudge)!
  95. Ceiling fans
  96. Chocolate chip cookies
  97. My slippers
  98. Phone calls from my husband
  99. My bread machine
  100. Finally accomplishing a task!
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Caramel Apple Dip

I combined a couple of different recipes to come up with this light and fluffy dip.

caramel apple dip

20 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup water
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow cream (fluff)

Place caramels and water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave, on high, for 1 minute. Stir. Continue cooking and stirring at 30 second intervals until caramels are melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Add marshmallow cream and cooled caramel mixture and beat until creamy.

Serve with sliced apples or other fruit (To keep apples from browning, sprinkle with lemon juice).

Recommend: YES

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Ok, I had a hard time getting a good picture of this dip. There was no way I could get a picture that told just how deeeeelicious it was!

jalapeno popper dip
It really DID taste just like a jalapeno popper!! I served it with bite sized tortilla chips...and, YUM! I've got enough ingredients for another batch, so I'll be making it as part of Thanksgiving Day treats! Mmmmm!

jalapeno popper dip
If you like jalapeno poppers...but not the price and time, make this dip for your next get together! I guarantee that your guests will ask you for the (super simple) recipe!


2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 oz canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained (I could only find sliced, so I ran them through my mini food chopper)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs

In a large bowl, beat together softened cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth and creamy. Stir in chilies and jalapenos. Pour mixture into a pie plate or shallow oven-safe dish.

Mix melted butter with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs until combined. Sprinkle evenly on top of cheese mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Serve warm.

Recommend: YES

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An Amish Christmas by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron

Here's a new Amish Christmas-themed novella, published by Thomas Nelson:

An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County
By Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron

Book Description

Follow the lives of three Amish families through the Christmas season.

A Miracle for Miriam: Miriam fell for Seth, but he broke her heart. Years later, after he’s nearly killed in an accident, Miriam sees him at a Christmas party and notices something is different about him—not just how he looks, but how he acts. When Seth pursues her, she must decide whether to guard her heart or accept his love.

A Choice to Forgive: Lydia has loved two men in her life. Daniel disappeared one Christmas Eve long ago, leaving only a note saying he wanted to live in the Englisch world. And Elam, Daniel's brother, to whom she has been happily married for 15 years. When Elam dies, Lydia gives up on ever loving again. But she is shocked when Daniel wants to return to the Order and her life.

One Child: The birth of one child forever changed the world two thousand years ago. On this snowy Lancaster Christmas Eve, another child will change the world of two couples.

*As I did not receive my copy in time for a personal review, I can't give a full thumbs up or down. However, I've read books by both Wiseman and Fuller, and think An Amish Christmas would be an enjoyable read*

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

Julia is shocked to discover that the headmistress of the orphanage is getting married! Julia is even more shocked when she learns that Mrs. Hamlin’s fiancé has arranged for all of the orphan girls to be shipped west on an orphan train. Although sad to say goodbye to “her” girls, Julia is more than glad to accompany them to their new homes along the train route.

Arriving at the train’s last stop and anxious to return to New York City, Julia is beyond shocked to learn that the headmistress and her new husband have sold Julia as a bride to an old miner!

Although Julia refuses to marry the man, she has no money to return east and her future looks grim. With the help of a few newfound friends and the handsome (of course) and single (of course) parson, Julia begins to find a home -and love - in Lonesome Prairie.

Even though some of the characters weren't as complex as some books, I thought that Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss was a good, rainy day read. I enjoy having "simpler" books to pick up when I want to cozy up with a good read, but don't want to get too involved in thinking through an intricate plot.

I appreciate Tricia, Ocieanna, and Summerside Press, through FIRST and LitFuse, for sending me their book to read and review!

Book Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296


The authors, Tricia and Ocieanna, have put together an amazing contest for this blog tour! Enter the Fall in Love With Lonesome Prairie Contest and WIN a perty Montana Gift Basket!

Click on the image below to fill out the contest entry form:

Fall in Love with Lonesome Prairie!

The Winner of our ‘Fall in Love with Lonesome Prairie’ giveaway will receive a fantastic Montana Gift Basket, including:

*Winter fleece throw
*Huckleberry chocolate bar
*Paula Dean candle
*Burt’s Bees gift set
*Wild Huckleberry taffy
*Montana stationary notebook
*Montana greeting card set
*Montana ball cap
*Montana apron
*Montana refrigerator magnet
*Charlie Russell 2010 Montana Calendar

The winner will be announced December 14th, just in time for an old-fashioned Montana Christmas.


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Friday, November 20, 2009

Safe and Bright House Party!

I'm so excited!!

I was chosen to host a Safe and Bright House Party, and tomorrow's the big day!! This House Party is sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

I was sent a big box full of wreaths, lights, and decorations for my guests. It is going to be so much fun!!

Not only will it be fun to get together with some friends and get creative with our wreath making, but I think that party food is always something to look forward to!

So amidst the wreaths, lights, and (yes!) Christmas music, we'll be snacking on some pretty yummy goodies!!!

I'm going to make these tarts again:

shortbread tarts
But fill them with a cheesecake filling!

And, dips are always a popular party snack! I've got several planned!

Caramel Apple Dip...mmmm!

Jalapeno Popper Dip... oh, YUM!

Chipped Beef Dip in a bread bowl... num, nummy!

Oh, and I just had to make these again... the Mini Mint Cream Cupcakes!

Mint Cream Mini Cupcakes
Oh, don't you wish you were coming?! ;-)

Check out House Party! Here are some examples of their past parties: Hunts Backyard Garden Fresh House Party, Shutterfly Photo Book House Party, Windows 7 Launch Party....

You just might find a current party that you'd be interested in applying for!

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

The Swiss Courier
The Swiss Courier was a great change of pace from the Amish and mail-order bride books I’ve been reading lately.

Coauthors Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey delivered just what I was expecting and also what I wasn’t! I loved it!

The Swiss Courier was a true heart-pounding page-turner. Right up until the epilogue, I was surprised! “Hmmm…I think he’s on that side!” and then, “Oh, and he’s on that side?!” and, “He’s who?!!” :-)

The Swiss Courier tells the story of Gabi Mueller, a young Swiss American, who is working with the Americans on undercover war secrets. After a couple of frightening assignments, Gabi is asked to help courier an important scientist out of Germany.

The ingenuity and courage of those who placed their lives on the line to do what was right made for a very exciting story. Once I picked up The Swiss Courier, I had a hard time putting it down. I found my nose in the book late into the night because it’s hard to stop reading in the middle of an escape attempt! It’s also hard to fall asleep after your blood pressure has been raised a few notches! Ha!

If, unlike me, you haven’t been watching Hogan’s Heroes reruns recently, you may get a little overwhelmed with all the “jawohl, uberreichkommandantfuhrerstrasse!” terms that are smattered throughout the book! But, for the most part, I was able to understand what was being said…and remember, there’s always google to help you out! :-)

Two complaints: at the end of chapter 2, I felt that the Lord’s name was used in vain and that greatly disappointed me. And, in the epilogue, the main characters are getting ready to drink wine. Again, very disappointed that this would be in a “Christian” book? Both of those subjects could have been left out…neither added anything (but compromise) to the story and would not have taken anything away if not mentioned.

If you like action and intrigue, you should find yourself a copy of The Swiss Courier.

Thank you, Tricia, Mike, and Revell, through FIRST, for letting me review The Swiss Courier!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook!

Book Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Monday, November 16, 2009

Finger Puppets - Five Star Publications

I was graciously sent a set of finger puppets from Five Star Publications, through Mama Buzz, to review. My daughter was so excited when I opened the package, squealing, "For MEE, Mommy?!!"

Five Star Finger Puppets

The puppets I received differed slightly from the above picture. My package contained 5 little finger puppets on a paper hand: a mouse, a snake, an owl, a pig, and a (kangaroo)? I haven't decided if it's a kangaroo or a bear? :-)

It certainly didn't matter to my daughter. She immediately put ALL five on her fingers! And wouldn't take them off! She walked around "whooo"ing like an owl, squeaking like a mouse, and "oinkkkk"ing like a pig.

Five Star Finger Puppets

The puppets stayed glued to her hand during a trip to grandma's house. One of Little Girl's favorite books at Grandma's house is one about Piglet.

It's a good thing that the 100 Acre Wood also consists of Kanga and Roo and Owl, because Little Girl had to keep ALL of the puppets on during the entire story. :-)

Five Star Finger Puppets
I believe that these little finger puppets make a fun and unique gift (or hint, hint: stocking stuffer!!) for any little child. It is always encouraging to me as a mama to find a product that fosters the imaginations of my children...not a toy that is full of blinking lights and annoying sounds!

(By the way, Little Girl even took the puppets to bed with her... she loved them)!

From Five Star Publications:

Parents and teachers looking to inspire children to read more – and have more fun while doing it – get a hand with Five Star Finger Puppets. Handmade in the U.S. with soft, durable, hand-washable yarn, they are child safe with no removable parts and come in packages of five that include owl, snake, child, dog and cat characters. Retail: $12.95.

Thank you, Five Star Publications and Mama Buzz, for allowing me to review your fun puppets!

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**


Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Number One Egg Bread

For awhile, I was getting fresh eggs from a friend and trying to find recipes to use up all of the eggs I was getting!

I tried this bread recipe and it was fantastic! When toasted, it reminded me of a croissant! And, it would make excellent french toast (we never had enough leftover to try it)!

egg bread

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (or 2 Tablespoons bread yeast)
2/3 cup warm water
6 egg yolks
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Place first 8 ingredients in bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer. Select dough setting.

When cycle is complete, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 12 inches long. Braid the three strands together, and seal the ends. Place the bread on a greased cookie sheet. Beat the remaining 1 egg with water; brush onto bread. Let the bread rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Brush the bread with eggwash again.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Recommend: YES

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recycling Truck by Green

I have two young children. My children drink a lot of milk. A lot.

We recycle our milk jugs. A lot of milk jugs.

When I was first approached by Mama Buzz about reviewing a "green" recycling truck made from recycled milk jugs, I jumped. I've got a little boy who loves trucks - why not?!

And hey, I wanted to see what happened to all of those milk jugs I rinsed and tossed into my recycling bin!

Not bad, eh?! :-)

Green Toys' Recycling Truck is one well built toy. The truck is made of 100% recycled plastic and has no metal axles. The truck is solid and sturdy, not flimsy in any way.

green toys recycling truck
I loved that Green Toys had no extra packaging materials with the recycling truck. No layers and layers of plastic and bubble wrap. No countless metal or plastic ties securing the truck to the box.

Less packaging material not only means less waste, but for me as a mama it means = less hassle and the kids get their toy quicker!

Before I received the truck, I wondered what the kids would "recycle." I assumed that anything small enough to fit in the truck's slots would be prime choking material.

On the back of the box, Green Toys made little "cards" of recyclable items to match the truck's slots: bottles, cans, and paper.

Clever! And, something my kids really won't choke on! Still at first, I thought my kids wouldn't even use the cardboard squares. I was wrong! Recycling became a fun game!

My son mostly shoved any card into any slot. But, my little girl, who is a bit older, loved matching the bottle card to the bottle slot, paper card to the paper slot, and so on. She even began telling her brother how to "recycle!" :-)

Once the kids were finished "recycling," the bed of the recycling truck dumps and the back opens, so that they could easily remove their cardboard recycling items and start all over again.

green toys recycling truck
Green Toys Inc. makes more than just a recycling truck! You can check out their entire line of classic children's toys here.

Green Toys Inc. makes all of their products in the USA and you can purchase the toys through many online retailers, like Amazon and Fat Brain Toys.

With Christmas right around the corner, the toys are really quite affordable, ranging in price from $10-$30. If eco-friendly products are important to you, Green Toys is a company you should definitely check out!

While my kids are happily recycling playing away, do you know where the box the truck came in is? Ah yes, the recycling bin... :-)

Recommend: YES

Thank you, Green Toys, through Mama Buzz, for sending our family your recycling truck to test and review!

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**

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