Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Birthdays and Beaches


Our beach vacation is over...a whole year to wait to visit a beach again...

on the plus side...
We had an awesome trip!!

Some highlights:

  • The kids discovered boogie boards at high tide.
  • The pool is way fun when you add some goggles or a face mask with snorkel.
  • We found an ice cream shop with 92 flavors, including sorbet that little old lactose-intolerant me could eat.

  • Homemade tie-dye can be lots of fun as long as you realize that it doesn't always turn out the way you planned.

  • Even at the beach, you can have a battle between the army men and the cars (the cars are the bad guys...of course).

  • The first vacation with our cousins brings lots of smiles.

  • Two of my favorite people are now a year older!  Happy Birthday, Julie and David!!  I'm glad you got to celebrate it at the beach this year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Netgalley: Angels on the Nightshift

Angels on the Nightshift by Dr. Robert Lesslie

Based on true life accounts of Dr. Lesslie's time as an ER attending physician, Angels on the Night Shift takes you inside the miraculous recoveries and the heart-breaking losses of patients, doctors and nurses working in the ER.  This is the 4th book Dr. Lesslie has written on the subject.

My Thoughts:

This was a well-written, very engaging book.  Dr. Lesslie did an excellent job of combining patient stories with those involving the nurses and doctors in the ER.  Through it all, he weaves an on-going story surrounding the mysterious disappearance of narcotics from the ER drug cabinet.  The reader is left guessing and re-guessing who the perpetrator might be.

I have not read the first 3 books in this series but I can assume from this one that several of the same characters are in those books as well.  Dr. LEsslie does a great job of fully developing every person he describes.  We feel like we are in the room with them.  I look forward to reading his other books.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

I received a complementary Kindle version of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blogging for Books: Tandem

Tandem by Tracey Bateman

The little town of Abbey Hills has been through a lot.  Six months before, brutal murders occurred in the town that led many to believe that vampires were living among them.  All the murders stopped when a house fire reportedly claimed the lives of two people, one of them being the killer.

Now it's time for the estate auction of Markus Chisom, one of the fire victims, and Lauryn McBride owns the auction house in charge of the sale.  As she sorts through Markus's many antiques, she also has to deal with the Alzheimer's that is stealing her father from her.

Amid the estate, Lauryn finds letters that belong to the Dastillion household in New Orleans.  Amede Dastillion answers her inquiries and travels to Abbey Hills, hoping to find her long-lost sister.

Can Amede answer the questions that plague the town?  Will Lauryn be able to survive the secrets surrounding Chisom's home?

My Thoughts:

This book is Tracey Bateman's attempt to write a Christian vampire tale.  I say "attempt" because I don't really think it works.  One of the main characters, Amede, struggles with whether vampires have a soul and can God really accept them into heaven.  In true Twilight fashion, she is a "vegetarian" vampire, eating only animal blood.  But really, human-like creatures sucking the blood out of something?  Even if it existed, can that really be God's plan?  I don't think so.  A lot was mentioned about God making them this way and that they can't help it.  I don't buy that either.

As far as the mystery part of the storyline, it was pretty good.  I did figure out who the bad guy was.  But there were a few twists at the end that I didn't see coming.  I thought Lauryn was the best character in the book.  She was real and struggled with real issues.  In my opinion the book would have been great if it had only been about her and her life.

Apparently there was another book written in this series that comes before Tandem called Thirsty.  There was a lot of information that the reader was expected to know from that book that I didn't know.  By the end of Tandem I had figured out most of what happened in Thirsty but if you are going to read Tandem, I suggest you read Thirsty first.  You will be less confused. 

Bateman can definitely write well, I just think her content could have been better.

I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

I received a complementary version of this book while participating in the Blogging for Books program.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

May Reading List

I'm reading 24 books this year.  Want to join me?  See the whole list here.

I actually finished my May books early, but I just didn't get around to writing up the reviews until now.  Oh, well, I haven't changed my opinion of the books, so I guess it doesn't matter when I write them up.

Thought I'd shake it up a little this month and tell you about my non-fiction book first.  Oooooo, I'm such a rebel!

Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie OMartian

Stormie OMartian has written numerous books on praying specifically for areas of your life.  This book, obviously, focuses on praying for your children.  This is an easy book to read.  Each chapter is about a different topic that you can pray for your children - their salvation, their friendships, their future spouse, etc.  Each chapter also includes a sample prayer as well as Bible verses that apply to the subject.  I think this is a great resource for every parent.  We all know the biggies that we need to pray for but sometimes we need a boost to help remind us of everything else.  Bottom line - this is a great book to keep around.

On Every Side by Karen Kingsbury

Bethany, Pennsylvania has found itself in the middle of a national debate over the Jesus statue in its public park.  On one side of the fight is lawyer Joshua Nunn, newscaster Faith Evans and the whole town of Bethany who want the Jesus statue to stay where it is in the park.  Opposing them is Jordan Riley, a big-city lawyer out to make the city of Bethany pay for every wrong that was imposed on him as a child.

The book centers on a political debate over whether a statue in a public area violates the separation of church and state.  The relationship between Jordan and Faith also takes center stage.  I thought the premise of the book was interesting.  It is based on a real-life town and their real-life legal battles.  (The article is included in the back of the book.)  However, Jordan and Faith's relationship including their past together was a little far-fetched for me.  It seemed too coincidental and sappy.  But, then again, I'm not a sappy person.

My biggest issue with the book was the names Kingsbury used.  The lawyer was Joshua Nunn, as in Joshua, son of Nun, from the Bible.  The park was Jericho park, as in "Joshua fought the battle of Jericho."  Then there is the Christian woman named Faith and the "bad guy" named Jordan that they had to "cross" to "win the battle for Jericho" Park.  It was just a little cheesy for me.

Bottom line - this book was OK, but very cheesy and sappy.  I've read a lot of Karen Kingsbury books and this was not one of my favorites.

Next up - June books - Bringing up Boys by James Dobson and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Learning to be a fish (Part 2)

Julie had her first ever swim meet last night.  It was a nice evening at an outdoor pool and it went spectacularly well.  She swam in 3 individual events and 2 relays (pretty hefty schedule for someone who has only been swimming with a team for a week!).

The league puts you in an age group based on your age as of June 1, so even though Julie will be 9 on Sunday, she gets to swim in the 8 & under category all season.  Yay!

The results?
  • 1st in 25m Butterfly
  • 2nd in 25m Freestyle
  • 3rd in 25m Backstroke (very close to being 2nd in this race)
  • 1st in the mixed age IM relay. Just in case you're not up on "swim speak," I'll translate. This race had a girl from the 14 & under age group, one from the 12 & under, one from the 10 & under and one from the 8 & under.  They each swam a different stroke.  Julie was the youngest, swimming in the 8 & under group.  She swam the freestyle leg in this race and she was the last swimmer in the relay, the anchor.  The coach could choose which swimmer swam each stroke, so Julie did not swim her leg against other 8 & under kids, just against whoever that team had for freestyle.  (You'll see that in the video below.)
  • She also swam in a 10 & under freestyle relay and her team did not place, but, since this is my blog and I can brag on my kids if I want to, it wasn't her fault at all that she didn't win.  The girl before her lost a LOT of time.
But the best result?
She had a BLAST!!

Julie had been worried all day about the meet and about competing.  She was so nervous on the way there that I thought she might lose her dinner.  But, thankfully, she had such a good time that she's willing to do it again.  Yay!!

I took a couple videos while we were there.  This one is the first race she was in, the 25m Freestyle. For this race, she is starting at far end and swimming towards the camera.  (Sorry about the shakiness on the video.  People kept walking by and bumping my arm.)

This last video is of Julie's last race, the mixed age IM relay, where each leg of the relay swims a different stroke.  She's starting on our end and swimming away from the camera.  You can't see it well on here, but it was a close race there at the end and Julie pulled out a win!

I'm so happy that she had a good time.  We were all exhausted by the time we drove the hour back home, but happy.  I am definitely looking forward to our next meet being at our pool, only 10 minutes away.  We'll know what to expect then and be more prepared.

What about you?  Are you trying something new this summer?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Learning to be a Fish (part 1)

David has been taking swim lessons for the last 2 weeks.  He's not Michael Phelps yet, but he's getting better.  He almost made it the short way across the pool.  (He's the one in the black and red shirt.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dinner Plans

We have a guest post today.  Enjoy.

Hi, I’m Laura, Cathy’s older sister. She says I’m her favorite sister, but, then again, I’m her ONLY sister so I guess she has limited choices. Cathy asked me to do a guest blog post on freezer cooking. I am a working mother with a crazy work schedule some times. My husband works night shift so he isn't home for dinner a lot. I didn't see the point in cooking on night he wasn’t home. I was tired of eating EasyMac and chicken nuggets every night, but I was too tired or didn't have time to cook something better.

About 2 years ago, my sister and her friend introduced me to freezer cooking. I had never really heard about it or tried anything like it before, but it seemed like a good idea. We got together and cooked a bazillion different meals (O.k. that’s just an estimate), bagged it all up, and put it in our freezer. This was AWESOME! I got something out of the freezer for dinner in the morning to thaw before I went to work; I threw it in oven or microwave when I got home. Wha-la, dinner!

This was all well and great, but I had trouble keeping track of what was left in my freezer and we really only cooked a few meal components. So this past year I decided to take this freezer cooking thing one step further. I sat down with my calendar and decided to actually plan out our specific meals for each night. I decided to keep it fairly simple.

  • I came up with a list of 12 meals (main dishes + sides) that we all liked and put them in a 2 week rotation (I didn't include Wednesdays since we eat at church.) It looked something like this:

          1 - potato soup w/ cornbread

          2 - burgers and dogs w/ mac n cheese

          3 - cornflake chicken w/ hashbrown casserole

          4 - ham & pineapple w/ baked corn casserole


  • I made a list of ingredients and what needed to be cooked and how. 
  • Then I made 4 batches of each meal. We are a family of 3 and don’t need an entire casserole for dinner so a lot of things I made 2 full dishes and divided each in half for a total of 4. This gave me a total of 48 meals which lasts for 8 weeks.
  • I assigned each meal a specific day of the week. For instance, on Mondays I get home late, so I always planned my crock pot meal for that day. I wrote on the calendar what was for dinner each night. 

  • I label each freezer bag with what is in the bag (Duh!), the night it is for, and a # 1 through 4. All the 1s go on a freezer shelf together, all the 2s together, etc. This gives me 2 weeks of food per shelf. 

  • I keep one shelf full in my kitchen freezer for easy access in the mornings to thaw. When my kitchen freezer is empty, I grab another shelf worth.

This method has really worked for us. It keeps me from fixing “junk” for dinner like Easy Mac and
chicken nuggets. It allows me more time with my family and less time in the kitchen cooking each
evening. It eliminates the “what should we have for dinner?” dilemma. It actually keeps my husband and I from overeating since I serve smaller portions. And, believe it or not, it’s cheaper. I am able to buy in bulk and freeze in smaller portions.

My list is fairly simplistic and doesn’t include breakfast or lunch, but this method could definitely be
used for those as well. You could also have a much more extensive repertoire of meals and expand your calendar beyond a 2 week rotation. (I do switch out some of my meals each time I cook based on what is in season and what is on sale.)

Do you freezer cook? Do you have any recipes to share for freezing? Do you have any other meals ideas?

Thanks, Laura!   

Friday, June 8, 2012

What's on tap for this summer?

School's out for the summer - dunna, nu, nu, nunna, na (just sing the song in your head and you'll understand).

We are at the end of week 2 of summer vacation.  Here I thought summer would be slow and lazy, yet both weeks have been busier than I anticipated.

Last week my brother and his boys were in town so we spent a lot of time with them.  David and his cousin, Micah, are only 9 months apart and they don't get to see each other much. Understandably, they make the most of the time they have.  There was a lot of running, swimming, ball playing and pretend gun shooting in our neck of the woods that week.  They were both very sad to have to leave each other.  Later in the summer the boys get to be together for a whole week at a local Bible day camp.  David is already counting down the days.

Last week we also got to celebrate David leaving Tiger Cubs behind and becoming a Wolf Cub.

This week the kids participated in our church's VBS program.  We hold VBS at night, so we still had our days to play.  However, since VBS goes pretty late (in bed at 9:30), David learned how to sleep in a little bit.

Also this week, Julie started swimming with our local summer swim team.  It's her first time swimming in a (semi) competitive environment and it takes some getting used to.  While she does LOVE to swim, she's used to just jumping in the pool and playing, not swimming laps.  I think she is getting used to it and enjoying it.  She is a little apprehensive about her first swim meet next week (I'll make sure to get pictures for you) but I think she'll be just fine.

Coming up in June...
Cub Scout day camp for David
Vacation for all
And the all important birthdays for the kids - the time when Mommy reflects on how old she is getting because her children are getting so old.

Hope you're having a great summer!
What is the most exciting thing you have going on this month?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Another School Year Done

It's been over a week now since my kids have been out of school.  May 23 was their last full day of class.  Yes, I know we get out very early here. We start insanely early too (though not as early as some).

I love to see how they have grown through the year.

First Day of School

Last Day of School

First Day of School

Last Day of School

On the last official day of school, everyone just goes to get report cards, hug teachers and get pictures.   My kids also like to visit the grade that they are going into in the Fall.  It was so hard to visit Fourth Grade knowing Julie will be there in just 2 1/2 short months.  I can't believe I'm about to have a Fourth Grader.  Here's to a fun summer of my kids still being kids.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Booksneeze: Garden of Madness

Garden of Madness by Tracy Higley

The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Daughter.
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.
Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.
As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.
In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelite’s one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all – to save the kingdom, and to save herself.
My thoughts:
I was intrigued by the summary of this book.  I haven't seen many (if any) stories about ancient Babylon or King Nebuchadnezzar's family.  The book of Daniel in the Bible, which records most of what we know about King N, is one of my favorites so I was excited to see what this author had come up with.
I liked the character of Tiamat.  She is a strong female heroine who isn't very princess-like.  She has a workout room where she punches bags and uses pulleys to strengthen her arms. She also races chariots, which is a unique sport in itself and even more unique when a princess does it.  Tia is only satisfied with the truth and refuses to be used as a pawn by others.  Other central characters, like Tiamat's mom and her late husband's brother, Pedaiah, are also fully developed and well-rounded. 

As for the story and the mystery involved, it's pretty good.  There were several plot twists that I did not anticipate which were new and interesting.  I did think the mystery was a little drawn out.  There were periods of the book that didn't really advance the story, but I could overlook those sections because I thought the premise was just so original.
I thought Higley also did a great job of presenting the supernatural elements in the book - the demons that were masquerading as Babylon gods - and the oppression that they cause.
My only issue with the book was Higley's portrayal of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He's insane for most of the book (as he is in the book of Daniel as well), so our knowledge of his character comes from his daughter.  She remembers her father as a loving, caring and great man who did things for the good of his people.  My study of King N in the Bible tells differently.  It shows a ruthless, arrogant man who would do anything for power, including kidnapping his enemies children and forcing them to live in Babylon and work for him.  Maybe King N changed for the better and became a follower of Yahweh at the end of his life (that is definitively the author's view), but that's hard for me to believe.  Seeing as history doesn't tell us King N"s character at the end of his life, I guess Higley is entitled to her opinion.
Overall, Garden of Madness was a well-written, entertaining book.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.