Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Pinned, I Made: English Toffee



Goodbye, Saltine Toffee!

That's all I've ever made before...and while I always thought it was fabulous, well, that was before.

Before THIS:



Amanda, aka The Taste Tester, is right: you must make it.

It. is. beyond. fabulous.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

I didn't find the process quite as painful as Amanda makes it out to be. ;-) I even made sure I had a stool to sit on, just in case! But, the toffee mixture came together for me in about 20 minutes - using Sam's Club butter and low heat (burner was set on 3.5 out of 10).


I didn't add any nuts (not a fan of most), and the toffee was absolutely delicious to me. Nice and crunchy...smooth and buttery. Mmmmm!

Also, my own personal tip: I use chocolate chips to melt on top AND I make sure it's a mix of milk chocolate and semisweet. In my opinion, it makes the perfect chocolate topping.

Mmmmmm!!!

Need a last minute gift idea?! Head on over to Amanda's for the recipe...and MAKE IT. (Um, you still might need to buy a gift...you just might eat the entire pan yourself instead of sharing)! :-D

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**DISCLOSURE:Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Waiting for Morning by Margaret Brownley



Thanks to Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze, I was able to read and review Waiting for Morning by Margaret Brownley.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Molly Hatfield comes to Arizona Territory seeking stability and security. But living in Cactus Patch provides her with more than she ever dreamed.

There is nothing Molly wouldn’t do for her teenaged brother, Donny. Blaming herself for the accident that left him wheelchair bound, Molly has dedicated her life to his care. But in 1896, gainful employment for a woman is hard to come by. So when Molly learns that an eccentric rancher in Cactus Patch, Arizona, is looking for an heiress—someone to take over management of the ranch in exchange for future ownership—she jumps at the chance to provide a real home for her brother.

However, Molly didn’t bank on meeting Dr. Caleb Fairbanks, the town’s charming unmarried doctor. Caleb has a way with Molly that makes her nervous. But it’s how he is with her brother that really alarms her. Caleb sees past the wheelchair and genuinely likes Donny, but Molly fears he’s putting unrealistic ideas into her brother’s head. Falling in love with Caleb would threaten everything she’s worked for, even her brother’s future happiness. But it could be the very reason God brought her to Last Chance Ranch.


MY THOUGHTS:
Another heiress wannabe has found her way to Last Chance Ranch, this one with a questionable work history and an invalid brother in tow. Trying to learn the workings of the ranch and care for her brother, Molly struggles with guilt, inadequacies, and exhaustion and is challenged at every turn by the town’s new doctor.

Although book 2 in the series, Waiting for Morning can be read as a standalone. The workings of Last Chance along with the ranch hands and even some of the townspeople, like Aunt Bessie, weren’t as prominent in this story -- and I missed hearing about them. The medical issues of the day added an interesting element to the story, but I felt that Molly’s dance hall past felt forced and unnecessary in the present plot.
I review for BookSneeze®
Waiting for Morning didn’t flow as smoothly for me, but I’m still looking forward to book 3 to see what happens to the Last Chance Ranch! Overall, I preferred Kate’s story in Dawn Comes Early.

Thank you to Margaret and Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MyMemories Suite v4 is here!



Back by Popular Demand


For a limited time only!!!  50% off valid until November 28th!
What’s New in v4

This upgrade can be purchased for $19.97  $9.97
This special pricing is available only until November 28th.

Copy and Paste this Promo codev4eCyber



MyMemories Suite v4 includes everything in previous versions and more!

New photo tiling, photo ripping, new paint tool, enhanced text, shape and word art 
tools, and 15 designer templates including 210 backgrounds, 753 embellishments 
and 587 monograms all created by designers from the MyMemories Design Store.

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**DISCLOSURE: Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Monday, November 26, 2012

Onion Crunch - Review and GIVEAWAY!



Have you seen Loeb's Onion Crunch yet?
Onion Crunch is a new crunchy, onion condiment and the only all-natural kosher (parve), vegan and non-gmo, crunchy onion topping in the US - and it tastes great! 
It’s a great healthy topping for holiday green bean casseroles, mashed potatoes, veggies and stuffing (plus hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers!) Kids even eat their vegetables when Onion Crunch is sprinkled on them.
I received a sample of Onion Crunch to try and our whole family loved it! The smell was amazing - very fresh - and the ingredient list impressed me: onions, palm oil, wheat flour, and salt!

We continue to weed out the processed foods, and I was pleased to see how natural (and non-gmo) Onion Crunch is!

I tested the yummy smelling topping with Onion Crunch Chicken:


Sometimes simple is the best...and Onion Crunch Chicken was some of the BEST chicken I've ever eaten. It was so moist and flavorful! My husband, who admittedly thinks I'm a pretty good cook, grabbed leftovers the next day and said to me, 'Hey! I had some of that oniony chicken you made and...WOW.'

Yes, it was really that good. So simple. So good!

I've already seen Onion Crunch in my local grocery store, but if you can't find it, you can buy it online HERE. You can also have a chance to try Onion Crunch FREE by entering to WIN a 6 oz bottle below (open to US residents only)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Barrie, from Onion Crunch, for sending me product samples to review and give away!

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer



A dream of a better life...
A tragedy aboard a wagon train...
A tentative agreement...
Will it lead to love for two seeking hearts?

If you’re a regular reader of my book reviews, you’ll know that Kim Vogel Sawyer is one of my favorite authors. Her style is relaxed and natural, and every story evokes emotion (I usually cry somewhere in every one of her books)!

As I said, Kim’s style is relaxed and natural. I don’t find her stories overly exciting or surprising (no big twists and turns or mysteries) - but that’s not a bad thing.

Instead of heart pounding page turning, Kim’s writing just gives me sweet satisfaction as the story takes place. From the very first pages, I am always drawn right into the story, easily relating to the characters and making me feel like I’m reading about friends.

I was able to review A Home in Drayton Valley, courtesy of Bethany Book Reviewers, and it was just what I expected from Kim: a sweetly satisfying story!

Joss and Mary Brubacher are struggling in NYC - physically, financially, and spiritually. When a way is made for them to travel west, Joss packs up his family and reluctantly includes his wife’s friend, Tarsie.

On the journey, Tarsie does her best to nurse Mary, as well as tend to the Brubacher’s young children. However, the unthinkable still occurs, but not before Mary elicits a serious promise from Tarsie. A promise that Joss doesn’t really care about. All he really cares about is himself.

Enter Simon...and Ruth (loved them)!

You’ll have to read the rest! ;-)

If you’ve read and enjoyed Janette Oke, you will love A Home in Drayton Valley - and any of Kim’s other books.

Thank you to Kim and Bethany House for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chuao Chocolate Review - available at select Target locations!!



There's chocolate.

And then there's CHOCOLATE.

I had the opportunity to taste 3 of Chuao's chocolate bars: the Firecracker, Honeycomb, and Potato Chip bars...

YUM.

Although the main ingredient is a creamy, smooth, rich-tasting chocolate, each bar definitely has its own distinct personality.
The Firecracker includes chipotle pepper, sea salt, and pop rocks!! I know the pepper and chocolate thing has been around for awhile, but this was the first time I've actually tasted it! And you know what?! It's amazing! The flavors compliment each other perfectly! The Firecracker bar, for me, wasn't one I could gobble up in one sitting, though. The spiciness held me back a bit and allowed me to savor small bites at a time. But it was definitely delicious (and something you should try)!

The Potato Chip bar was also new to me. Again, been around...but hadn't tried. Although not as surprising to my taste buds as the Firecracker bar, how can you go wrong with the classic salty and sweet mixture? It was very good, similar in texture to a crisp-rice type of candy bar.

I think the Honeycomb bar was my favorite. The very small crispy crunch of the caramelized honey added just the right amount of sweetness and interest to the dark chocolate. It was excellent.


You can order these chocolate bars, along with many other flavors, right from Chuao's website...or check out your local Target! The Firecracker, Potato Chip, and Honeycomb bars are now available at select Target locations!

On the side of each package, you will see: indulge often. These Chuao chocolate bars definitely felt like an indulgence. The perfect chocolate bar to treat yourself (often!)...or a wonderful gift to any chocolate lover!

Thank you to Travis and Echo Media for sending me the product to review!

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano



Today, CFBA introduces A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiance, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton's path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza's determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone's antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.

When all of Hamilton's and Eliza's best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.

MY THOUGHTS:
I had a hard time getting into this book. I couldn’t connect the characters with the 1880 time frame. I think the author was trying to keep things high-spirited and fun, but it only made the characters seem too modern, both in speech and actions (such as the overuse of ‘snorting,’ eye-rolling, and under-the-breath muttering in supposed women of refinement - and I couldn’t imagine any high society woman of that era having trousers on, even under a skirt)!

Although, that’s the beauty of fiction - the author is limited only by her imagination, and the story can be far from realistic. Those looking for a light, more comedic read will enjoy Eliza’s antics in trying to recover her stolen inheritance - with the help of Agatha and the Beckett brothers - but, I prefer a more serious historical tale - devoid of snorting.

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:
A Change Of Fortune

Thank you to Jen and Bethany House through CFBA for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs



Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books, I was able to read A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Wrapped in a cloud of steam, the engine rolled to a stop, the screech of metal against metal filling the frosty air. Snow blew across the railway platform and around Meg’s calfskin walking boots. The weather definitely was not improving.

She ordered tea with milk and sugar, eying the currant buns and sweet mincemeat tarts displayed beneath a bell jar.
Later, perhaps, when her appetite returned. At the moment her stomach was twisted into a knot.

“Anything else for you?” the cashier asked as she handed over the tea, steaming and fragrant.

Meg was surprised to find her fingers trembling when she lifted the cup. “All I want is a safe journey home.”

“On a day like this?” the round-faced woman exclaimed. “None but the Almighty can promise you that, lass.”

MY THOUGHTS:
I don’t usually read Christmas-themed books, but A Wreath of Snow's beautiful, wintery front cover and the teaser on the back made my decision!

With her brother’s bitterness overshadowing what should be a joyful time, Meg tries to cut her Christmas visit home short. Unfortunately, snow...and a stranger...change her plans. But secrets are hidden by more than just the not-so-stranger and will make this Christmas one to remember!

A Wreath of Snow is a short, quick read, but full of emotion. The characters struggle within themselves to extend mercy and forgiveness to those around them. With snow, Scottish brogues, and a little curling, A Wreath of Snow is the perfect story for a cozy-up kind of afternoon.

It’s only November, but after closing the book, I was in a Christmas-y mood! If my children had begged to put up the tree, they may have convinced me that day! ;-) Instead, using the recipe that Liz includes in the back of the book, I gathered up some butter, sugar, and flour and whipped up a batch of Scottish Shortbread. Light and buttery: Mmmmm!

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Sift confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and flour together in a bowl. Add softened butter, using your hands to knead the mixture into dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for no longer than 30 minutes.

Press cold dough into the bottom of a greased 8x8 pan (round or square; glass is best). Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.

Sprinkle granulated sugar across the top. Cool completely, then cut into 8 servings.



AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book HERE.

Thank you to Liz and Blogging for Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

WIN IT! Chuao Chocolatier's Sweet Makeover!



Very, very few people can say NO to chocolate! ;-)

Chuao Chocolatier is Giving Away a Sweet Makeover

Enter to Win a $1,000 Designer Shopping Spree and
Other Fabulous Prizes!

Don’t settle for waxy, boring chocolate. You deserve the very best! Chuao is giving America a chocolate makeover with their handcrafted, all-natural gourmet goodies, now available in select Target stores and specialty retailers nationwide. To celebrate, they are launching a Sweet Makeover sweepstakes and offering YOU the chance to win a $1,000 designer shopping spree on Shopbop.com, along with many other crave-worthy prizes!

To enter, simply like Chuao’s Facebook page where you can then enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win the $1,000 designer shopping spree.  But Chuao's not stopping there, check out these fabulous prizes they are giving away each week:

  • A one-year subscription to Birchbox ($120 value)
  • A Broscato Vibrastrait flat iron ($150 value)
  • Philosophy Miracle Worker Collection ($190 value)
  • Clarisonic Mia2 Skin Cleansing System ($150 value)
  • Gourmet Chuao chocolate ($180 value)

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free sample product in exchange for sharing this giveaway information with my readers via Echo Media Group. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blueberry Muffins from The New Best Recipe



I've posted about blueberry muffins in the past HERE. 'To Die For' they were called. Mmm, yes, they were.

UNTIL I made the Blueberry Muffins from The New Best Recipe.


(Don't have that cookbook on your shelf yet?! You must. Besides tested and tried dishes, The New Best Recipe has illustrated kitchen tutorials and unbiased product ratings from America's Test Kitchen and it is over 1000 pages of ahh.maz.ing-ness)!


Ok, back to the muffins.


The New Best Recipe Blueberry Muffins should be called 'to die for' or 'the best' or something!

The added sour cream in NBR's recipe takes the cake...or muffin. The sour cream compliments the blueberries perfectly, making a most fabulous tasting muffin.

You must try them!

And, if you have the ingredients around to make the Lemon-Glaze following the recipe...oh, do! That puts these muffins over the top!

(When I don't have those ingredients, I use NBR's other topping variation: Cinnamon Sugar-Dipped OR I brush the muffin tops with a vanilla syrup [like DaVinci's coffee syrups] and sprinkle with turbinado sugar).

Oh, my mouth is watering! Time to share the recipe!

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
from The New Best Recipe via acookingbookworm.com

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-1/4 cups (10 oz) sour cream
1-1/2 cups (7-1/2 to 8 oz) frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl until well combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds (small spots of flour may remain, and the batter will be thick. Do not overmix).

Using a large spoon sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking, divide the batter among the greased muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Invert the muffins onto a wire rack, stand the muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.

Ginger- or Lemon- Glazed Blueberry Topping
While the muffins are baking, mix 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or grated lemon zest and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Bring 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer until the mixture is thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup. After the baked muffins have cooled 5 minutes, brush the tips with glaze; then, working one at a time, dip the tops in lemon sugar or ginger sugar. Set the muffins upright on a wire rack; serve.


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**DISCLOSURE: Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Amish Family Cookbook by Jerry and Tina Eicher



Today's featured authors from FIRST are Jerry and Tina Eicher and their cookbook, The Amish Family Cookbook.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

From bestselling author Jerry Eicher (more than 350,000 books sold) and his wife, Tina, comes this warm and inviting peek into an Amish kitchen, complete with recipes, Amish proverbs, and a dash of Amish humor. Readers will laugh and eat robustly with The Amish Family Cookbook at their side.

Product Details:
List Price: $ 14.99
Spiral-bound: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736943773
ISBN-13: 978-0736943772

MY THOUGHTS:
The Amish are well-known for their family-style type meals and are often known as great cooks. I enjoyed looking through the Eicher's new cookbook, which gave the feeling of thumbing through old family recipes, or one of those old-fashioned church cookbook booklets that I found piled in my grandma's cupboard.

You won't find any mouth-watering pictures of the recipes in this cookbook, which may be a turn-off to some, but those who are looking for family-friendly meals and sides, the recipes will speak for themselves.

To successfully review a cookbook, I think you should actually MAKE one or two of the recipes (I AM a 'cooking' bookworm, after all)! The family really enjoyed Yost's Baked Chicken Pieces on page 157 and several other recipes are marked for further testing!


AND NOW...A FEW RECIPES FOR YOU TO TRY (CLICK ON PICTURES TO SEE THEM LARGER):









Thank you to the Eichers and Harvest House through FIRST blog reviews for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Things New by Lynn Austin



Today, CFBA is introducing All Things New by Lynn Austin.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women--daughter, mother, and freed slave--in a riveting tale.

MY THOUGHTS:
Lynn’s books are always well-researched and written, and I have enjoyed each one I’ve read.

Although I’d have to say that Wonderland Creek tops my favorite list, All Things New was no exception to Lynn’s deeply historic, yet easy, style.

The epic saga tells of a mother, daughter, and freed slave in the days following the Civil War. Lynn’s careful descriptions of the landscape, ruined plantations, and even tattered clothing, brought to mind vivid scenes of Gone With the Wind.

The post-war emotions of bitterness, grief, and fear, as well as the struggles to overcome them with hope, are palpable and page-turning to the reader. So much so that my only disappointment was that the story did not continue. Loose ends were tied up adequately, but the epic style (and setting) lends itself to continuing the stories of the characters.

Good cozy-up-under-a-blanket-on-a-gray-day type of read.

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:
All Things New

Thank you to Lynn and Bethany House through CFBA for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Friday, September 14, 2012

Taming the Wind by Tracie Peterson



A young widow nursing the wounds of her past...
A cowboy with demons of his own...

MY THOUGHTS:
Taming the Wind was a good tie-up to Tracie’s Land of the Lone Star series. I must admit that the beginning felt a bit slow to me. I love historical fiction, but some of the more historical facts felt forced into the dialogue which left me skimming certain passages. After setting the book down, whether attending to my children or doing my dishes or bedtime, I had no real desire to get back to the story.

Fortunately, the storyline picked up about halfway through the book, when Laura’s baby decides to make an early arrival, and I had no problems finishing the book.

Taming the Wind could be read as a standalone, but it was helpful to know the ending of book 2 to connect with Carissa. It was also nice to reunite with Hannah and William from Chasing the Sun (book 1), and a surprise that book 1’s villain even makes an appearance with a mistaken kidnapping!

I was glad that Taming the Wind ended happily. Carissa and Tyler’s painful pasts lend plenty of seriousness to the story, but steer slidin’ added some humor to the pages. If you like western-style romance, Tracie’s final installment to the series will please you.

That's what I thought! See what other reviewers are saying HERE!

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Tracie is giving away a Kindle Fire! Enter by clicking the contest icon below (or in my left sidebar)! Hurry! Entries accepted until September 25!

Tracie Peterson Taming the Wind Kindle Fire Giveaway

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:
Taming The Wind

Thank you to Tracie and Litfuse for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke



ABOUT THE BOOK:
Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. His family, refusing to own his Civil War debt, casts her out. Alone, impoverished, and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to obtain employment in a prominent department store. But she soon discovers that the elegant facade hides a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city.

Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield determines to honor her father’s debt but can’t find Maureen. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, whom Olivia begins to see as more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he’s hiding. As women begin disappearing from the store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen take a stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?

MY THOUGHTS:
After thoroughly enjoying Promise Me This, I couldn’t wait to read whatever Cathy came up with next. Band of Sisters was not quite the story I was anticipating of two Irish sisters fleeing their homeland for a better life in America.

Oh, that’s the basis of the story...but, the typical immigrant tale that I expected of discovering that America isn’t all gold and glitter had a much darker side in Band of Sisters.

The crux of Gohlke’s newest book is white slavery: women and young girls being kidnapped by traffickers and sold for immoral purposes. And although Cathy set her novel in 1910 NYC, she shares with her reader that she was challenged to write about a current need. Sadly, she states,
today, in this twenty-first century, there are far more people trapped in bondage, more people exploited and enslaved in every way, than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.’
Shocking, isn’t it?

I’ve read about the issue on a few other mom blogs, but in my small protected circle, it’s difficult to imagine such happenings still occurring - and how huge the issue really is.

Band of Sisters relates the story of one Maureen O’Reilly and her determination to protect and provide for her young sister. Her courage is sorely tested when she recognizes that all is not as upstanding as it seems at Darcy’s Department Store.

However, Maureen’s painful past makes it almost impossible for her to trust those who promise to help, let alone love the one man who knows her miserable history.

Cathy is definitely a fabulous writer. Despite the vile subject, she did not go into great detail (which I greatly appreciate), although some of the name-calling by Maureen’s sister made me a bit uncomfortable (and the revelation of her mother’s behavior was quite unsettling).

I thought Cathy successfully used her writing skills to call attention to a problem that has never gone away...if anything, it has grown. Current at the time was Sheldon’s book, In His Steps. Cathy used this man’s challenge, ‘What would Jesus do?’ as a basis for the wealthy society ladies who wanted to make a difference, but weren’t sure where to start.

I believe the phrase has been almost overused in the past few decades, somewhat diminishing it’s vital meaning. Truly, what WOULD Jesus do in each and every situation you find yourself in? Are you willing to DO what He would do? Not just in the big things! Sometimes, just learning to hold our tongue is a small, but HUGE thing!

If we each allowed the Holy Spirit to control us, doing what we know Jesus would do, what a difference could be made! Starting with our own life, then our family, friends...the world!

Truly weighty subjects in Band of Sisters - white slavery and our willingness to humbly submit to the Lord. The book was definitely thought-provoking.

**Check out this interview with Cathy HERE!**

A big thank you to Cathy and the Tyndale Blog Network for sending me a copy to read and review!

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Tomato Life Saver...and maybe yours, too!!




My garden did extremely well this year, and I was just about in tears over my tomato situation. I had so many and the job seemed endless. A good friend told me about her Victorio Strainer. I'd never heard of or seen one...but, when I saw it in action, I had to have one! 


If you are a serious canner - or plan to be, see if your mom or grandmother or great aunt has one collecting dust in the basement: then GET IT. Beg them for it. 

If not, BUY ONE HERE. It is worth every cent! I halve my tomatoes to make them easier to smoosh in the hopper, but there is no need to blanch, skin, core, seed, etc piles upon piles of tomatoes. Yippee!

You place the tomatoes in the hopper (notice...the blossom ends are still on!), turn the handle, and the seeds/skin/blossoms shoot out one side and the pulp and juice drain out the other! Ahhh-mazing! 

The strainer makes easy-peasy (and QUICK!) work of pureeing your tomatoes. Obviously, if you want diced tomatoes or salsa, well... get to blanching and dicing! ;-) But, for getting the perfect start to things like your spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, or ketchup the Victorio Strainer is the way to go! My yield was also much larger, as I didn't realize how much juice I wasted in skinning and seeding on my own. 

I am so glad I discovered this wonderful time-saving device! I'm no longer dreading a bountiful harvest! Bring on a bigger garden next year! ;-)


And, ooooh! There are additional screens!! A berry screen (can we say crystal-clear, seedless jelly?!), a pumpkin screen (can your own smoooooooth pumpkin for pies, cakes, cookies!), a grape screen (I have grapes in my hedges!!), and a salsa screen (nom, nom!).

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**DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated in any way for this post. The product mentioned above is a personal favorite that I wanted to share with my readers. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**
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