Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sunshiney Day

© Mc Moisei | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Summer has finally arrived!  No more worrying that my flowers will freeze at night. No more wearing jackets at baseball games.  It's 85 and sunny, baby.

But then there's that - the sun.

I've had a love/hate relationship with the sun my whole life.  On the plus side, I love being warm, I love the feel of the sun on my skin when I've just stepped out of a super cold, air-conditioned building.  I love the sunny glow that I get after spending the day at the beach.

But what I don't love?

Sunburn.  That skin that I love the warm sun on is pale, pale, pale.  And it's not the kind of pale that turns brown in the sun.  It's the pale that freckles and burns.  I am either white or red, never brown.  I burn when I just think about the sun.  I never, never tan.  Never.

So hello summer, hello sun, hello sunscreen and lots of it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tyndale Book Review: Take a Chance on Me

Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren


I'm participating in the Tyndale Blog Network where I provide an honest review in exchange for a free book.

(from the back cover)

Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor - oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake resort, and doting father. But he's also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near.

New assistant county attorney, Ivy Madison, simply doesn't know any better when she bids on Darek at a  charity bachelor auction.  Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jenson Atwood out of jail and in Deep Haven fulfilling community service, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity's death.  All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she's always longed for.  And once she gets past Darek's tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with...which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife's case.

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy - a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

My Thoughts:

I am either drawn to reading a book or turned away from it by it's cover design.  Petty, I know, but it's true. I, personally, thought this book had an awful cover design and I procrastinated reading it because of that.  In fast, I was supposed to post this review in April (a fact which I totally forgot - sorry, Tyndale).  But I can honestly say this is a book that you shouldn't judge by its cover.

I absolutely loved this book!  I couldn't put it down once I got started.  This is the beginning of a 6 book series (see Author Q & A below), presumably with each book about a different child in the Christiansen clan.  It is very reminiscent of several of the Karen Kingsbury series. (I loved them too, so that's a good thing.)

I thought this story about Darek and Ivy was sweet without being sappy.  It's a classic romance mixed with some real life heartaches.  The overarching theme of forgiveness shines through the book as does the theme of moving past your past.  Ivy shows that even though you don't have any control over the circumstances of your past, you do have control over how you handle things in the present.

I highly recommend this book.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Here are some additional resources you can read about the book.

Q & A with author Susan May Warren

1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?

I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through
challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow
up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting
for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to
pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a
parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to
decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when
those collide with real life.

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.

Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent
my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small
town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps
Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to
escape for a vacation.


Excerpt from Chapter 1

Ivy Madison would do just about anything to stay in the secluded, beautiful, innocent town of
Deep Haven.

Even if she had to buy a man.

A bachelor, to be exact, although maybe not the one currently standing on the stage of the
Deep Haven Emergency Services annual charity auction. He looked like a redneck from the
woolly woods of northern Minnesota, with curly dark-blond hair, a skim of whiskers on his face,
and a black T-shirt that read, Hug a logger—you’ll never go back to trees. Sure, he filled out his
shirt and looked the part in a pair of ripped jeans and boots, but he wore just a little too much
“Come and get me, girls,” in his smile.

The auctioneer on stage knew how to work his audience. He regularly called out names from
the crowd to entice them to bid. And apparently the town of Deep Haven loved their firefighters,
EMTs, and cops because the tiny VFW was packed, the waitresses running out orders of bacon
cheeseburgers and hot wings to the bidding crowd.

After the show was over, a local band would take the stage. The auction was part of the
summer solstice festival—the first of many summer celebrations Deep Haven hosted. Frankly it
felt like the village dreamed up events to lure tourists, but Ivy counted it as her welcoming party.

Oh, how she loved this town. And she’d only lived here for roughly a day. Imagine how she’d
love it by the end of the summer, after she’d spent three months learning the names of locals,
investing herself into this lakeside hamlet.

Her days of hitching her measly worldly possessions—four hand-me-down suitcases; a loose
cardboard box of pictures; a garbage bag containing The Elements of Legal Style, How to Argue
and Win Every Time, and To Kill a Mockingbird; and most of all, her green vintage beach bike—
onto the back of her red Nissan Pathfinder were over.

Time to put down roots. Make friends.

Okay, buying a friend didn't exactly qualify, but the fact that her money would go to help the
local emergency services seemed like a good cause. And if Ivy had learned anything growing up
in foster care, it was that a person had to work the system to get what she wanted.

She should be unpacking; she started work in the morning. But how long would it take, really,
to settle into the tiny, furnished efficiency apartment over the garage behind the Footstep of
Heaven Bookstore? And with her new job as assistant county attorney, she expected to have
plenty of free time. So when the twilight hues of evening had lured her into the romance of a
walk along the shoreline of the Deep Haven harbor, she couldn't stop herself.

She couldn't remember the last time she’d taken a lazy walk, stopping at storefronts, reading
the real estate ads pasted to the window of a local office.

Cute, two-bedroom log cabin on Poplar Lake. She could imagine the evergreen smell
nudging her awake every morning, the twitter of cardinals and sparrows as she took her cup of
coffee on the front porch.

Except she loved the bustle of the Deep Haven hamlet. Nestled on the north shore of
Minnesota, two hours from the nearest hint of civilization, the fishing village–turned–tourist
hideaway had enough charm to sweet-talk Ivy out of her Minneapolis duplex and make her
dream big.

Dream of home, really. A place. Friends. Maybe even a dog. And here, in a town where
everyone belonged, she would too.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gratitude Project

My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.



Today I'm thankful that:
  • Yesterday was the last day of school.
  • I got to sleep in today.
  • The rain held off long enough to let me plant some flowers that I have had sitting outside for several weeks.
It's the little things :).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Food Test Results

Dreamstime stock photo - source
Other posts in this series:
What is an alternative medicine doctor and what do they do?
What testing do you get when you choose alternative medicine?
What is a detox diet and why do you do it?
What supplements and shakes do they recommend?

Last Thursday was the big day - the day I got the results from all the bazillions of tests that I took at the alternative medicine clinic in Atlanta.  Tim went with me this time, which was good.  He took notes while the doctor talked and I tried to absorb it all.

The tests with the biggest impact on my life were the Food Sensitivity tests.  The first one, the IgG blood test tested over a hundred different foods to see what I am most sensitive to.  (IgG is some kind of antibody your body creates when it feels attacked by an outside agent, like a food. You can read more about it here if you are interested.)

The test showed different levels of sensitivities, from "no reaction" up to "severe reaction".  Only one food showed up as "severe" for me - pears.  That means I am not supposed to eat pears for 9 months.  Then after that I can eat them sparingly.  That's really OK.  I'm not a big pear eater.  Next up, in the "high reaction" category - peaches.  What is it with me and fruit?  OK, no peaches for 6 months.  All that is no problem.  I can easily live without peaches and pears.

Then comes the biggie, the "moderate reaction" category.  Two foods showed up on there - chicken and tomatoes.  Um, that's a little harder to handle.  So now I'm not supposed to eat chicken or tomatoes for 3-4 months.  That means no pizza, no marinara, no salsa, no ketchup, and no barbecue sauce.  As for chicken, well, I eat it in probably half of all my meals now.  And that's all I eat at a fast food restaurant.  Cutting it out for 4 months does not make me happy.

In the "mild reaction" category were tons of food, such as all berries, carrots, cinnamon, lemons, plums, pumpkin and tea.  (Clearly I have issues with fruit, which is bad, because I love fruit.)  These items I can eat, but I need to limit them to 1-2 times a week.

Then comes the IgA test results.  IgA is another type of antibody that your body can create, this time in response to eating gluten.  These results came from my adrenal stress test.  I got to chew on a cotton plug 4 times during one day.  I put those spit-filled cotton ball things into a test tube and wrote the time of day on them and mailed them off to be tested.  Besides showing low adrenal function, i.e. no energy, it also showed my Gliadin IgA results.  I am highly gluten sensitive.  Normal ranges are 1.0-25.0 ug/mL.  Mine was 78.0, over 3 times the top end of the scale.  What does that mean?  I should not eat gluten any more. :(

The good news is that I am NOT sensitive to eggs, peanuts or dairy, which means I can add them back in.  Adding in eggs makes finding gluten-free items much easier.  And I just love cheese, so being able to add that back in is a relief as well.

I had some other results that I will tell you about in another post.  Right now I'm just trying to fully grasp what no gluten, no chicken and no tomatoes means for me.  Literally, that is every food I love and 3/4 of my current diet.  Just trying to figure out what I could have at a fast food restaurant is daunting right now - nothing with a bun, no chicken.  That pretty much only leaves fries...  Even fast food salads have chicken on them and they are premade so asking for something special to be left off doesn't always work.

Just like the last time I went to the clinic when they put me on the detox diet, I think after a week or two and some research, I will be fine.  But right now, I'm overwhelmed.

Any resources or recipes that you know of that are gluten, tomato and chicken free would be great!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Piano recital 2013

The craziness is almost done for the year.  We are on the last week of school - Hooray!  Life is calming down a little bit as we are almost to the end of our end of year activities.

This week was Julie and David's piano recital.  Growing up, I was in a piano recital every year for 10 years. I remember the excitement mixed with the nerves, wanting to play every note just right but never actually accomplishing that.  It's different being on this side of the equation, being a proud parent even when my kids don't get every note correct.  I understand a lot more why my parents would tell me they were proud of me even when I wasn't perfect.  I'm proud of my kids just for trying, for being brave and vulnerable in front of others and for learning a skill that not everyone can do.  I'm proud of them for practicing hard even when they didn't want to.

I'm so proud of them that I can't wait to share their accomplishments with you.



This year's recital was a little bittersweet as it's the last one with this teacher.  David has decided that he would rather play drums than piano, so next year we will be starting him in drum lessons.  Julie has become so advanced in piano that her teacher feels like she would do better with someone else, someone who can better show her piano technique.  So Julie will be starting with a new teacher in the Fall.

We have loved having you as a teacher, Mrs. Christy, and we will miss you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Gratitude Project



My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.



Spring is here, flowers are blooming and school is almost done.  We've got so many things to be thankful for.

  • I'm thankful that I got some unexpected flowers to plant in my yard.  I just hope the frost this week didn't kill them.
  • I'm thankful for sunshine and no wind the last few days - finally Spring warmth has arrived!
  • I'm thankful that there are only 5 days of school left - only 5 days of waking up early.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Update on April cleaning challenge and April books





In April, I was following Money Saving Mom in her 30-day house cleaning challenge in an attempt to clean up my house.  I did great on weeks 1, 2 and 3.  But week 4?  I flopped.  I did pretty well keeping things clean that I had previously cleaned, but I didn't do any new Spring Cleaning.

And books in April?  Besides the Northern Lights trilogy which I already reviewed, I didn't complete any other books.  There are about 3 that I started and am still in the middle of, but the trilogy were the only ones done.  That should bring my total up to 25 for the year.  Maybe once school is out, I'll have more time to read.  Maybe...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Glimpse into last week

I finally have some downtime, some breathing room, some time to think and blog.  Last week was entirely too crazy.  Three big events went on that required lots of logistics and planning and lots of running around.  Luckily, I was only in charge of two of them (as if that wasn't enough!).  The third I wasn't in charge of.  I just had to help with it.  So here's a little glimpse into that crazy week.

Monday was filled with last minute errands and decorating projects for Tuesday's big event, the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon at school.  While my kids were at school, I went to get some donated flowers from Kroger, vases at the dollar store, and a gift basket from the gift basket place to give to a retiring teacher. Oh and did I mention that our family was completely out of food, so a large grocery run happened somewhere in there too.  I also had to fit in a trip to school to talk to the substitute janitor about setting up tables and chairs for Tuesday and to pick up checks from PTA.

In the meantime, I double checked on catering, and made sure my flowers to be used as table decorations and teacher gifts were still alive.  I cut apart cheap leis and hot glued the ends and covered LOTS of flower pots with checked fabric to use as table decorations.  Since Tuesday's lunch wasn't my only event of the week, I also checked on the ice cream truck and inflatables for Wed night's event.  Then I took my kids to piano lessons after school, made dinner, helped with homework, and got the kids ready for bed.  More decoration preparation (say that 10 times fast), loaded up the van, then fell into bed.  Phew!

Tuesday was the big day.  It was Teacher Appreciation Luncheon day and I was in charge of the whole shebang.  Thankfully, it went off without a hitch.



The food was good and there was tons of it.  The tables were simple but pretty.  Most of my helpers showed up (I've been doing this long enough to know there's ALWAYS people who cancel at the last minute), and I didn't get a single complaint from anyone.  At the end of the day, I was completely worn out, but very happy that it went well.

Tuesday night David had a baseball game that I really hoped would get rained out.  But, alas, no, they just played in the pouring rain - boys!

He makes a cute catcher, doesn't he?
Wednesday was my second big event of the week.  Why I planned these for the same week, I don't know.

The day started out with a VBS craft workday.  Since I'm in charge of VBS crafts this summer, I had to be there and tell everyone what they needed to do - cutting, paper mache, sorting, etc.  That lasted all morning.  I came home, ate lunch and thought I would lay down for a quick nap.  I ended up sleeping an hour and a half.  I was that exhausted.

On to the evening activities...I have been our Awana Commander for the last two years and Wed evening was our big Awana end of the year party.  The kids rotated around between an ice cream truck, inflatables and a movie.  Originally they were supposed to play kickball instead of watch a movie, but, of course, it rained, so we had to do some last minute scrambling to bring everything inside.  Once again, besides the rain, everything went well.

Thursday - Ah, relaxation day.  And as everyone knows, there's no better way to relax than to get a little blonder.  Highlights for summer?  Check!


Friday was our school PTA's big event of the semester, Family Fun Night, and I spent pretty much all day helping to set up for it and helping to run it.  We had a lot of things going all at once.  Like every good children's event, we had inflatables and food.  There was also face painting, popcorn and a cake walk.  We added in there a Talent Show (I might be biased but my little girl did GREAT in the Talent Show, showing off her mad piano skills) and last, but not least, our newest event, an art auction.

For the art auction, everyone in school created a unique, very nice piece of artwork.  We displayed them all and allowed parents to buy their child's (and only their child's) artwork for any donation that they wanted.  We also had each class create one large piece of artwork as a class and we auctioned those off to the highest bidder.  Those big pieces turned out fabulous!  Unfortunately I didn't win either of my children's big pieces, but I did get pictures of a few of them.

A fifth grade class's painting.  I thought this one was the best!

Julie's class painting - loved it, but bidding against some fierce competitors and didn't win.
Between baseball, running errands and Mother's Day, our weekend was no less busy than our week.

But today and tomorrow I can relax.  And blog.  And breathe.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Gratitude Project


My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.



Another busy week here - end of school will do that to ya.

  • I'm thankful that my two big events this week - Teacher Appreciation Luncheon and Awana End-of-Year Party - both went off smoothly.  They were fun but I'm glad they are done.
  • I'm thankful that I got to get my hair highlighted today.  I needed it and it looks so much better now!
  • I'm thankful that there are only 2 weeks of school left.  Then we can sleep in and swim the summer away.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Supplements and Shakes

Dreamstime stock photo - source


Other posts in this series:
What is an alternative medicine doctor and what do they do?
What testing do you get when you choose alternative medicine?

So what do you do when you are eating a very limited diet and you need more nutrition than you can get through food?  You add in a whole bunch of nutritional supplements.

Besides giving me a new diet, the Naturopathic doctor also "prescribed" nutritional supplements for me.  I say "prescribed" in quotes because she wrote them down as if they were prescriptions, but they are all over-the-counter items and they are all natural, non-synthetic vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are normally found in your body.  There is really no prescription needed.

The first set of items I mix up together in a shake every morning:
Thankfully, on my way home from Atlanta, I stopped off at a good friend's house in Chattanooga.  She sells Advocare products and is much more wise about nutritional supplements than I am.  I had her look through all my stuff to make sure it was normal, non-quacky products.  She assured me that it was.  

Her husband was also invaluable because he showed me how to mix all this up into a good tasting shake.  Personally, I had never made a protein kind of shake in my life.  But, thanks to Jon, I can now whip up a shake every morning for breakfast.  The secret?  Add frozen strawberries and some honey.  Makes it super yummy.  The Foundation Gut Enhancement itself is vanilla flavored and would probably taste OK without the strawberries, but it is yellow and all I can think about when I see it is that it looks like I'm drinking pollen.  I just can't stomach it by itself.  So I add the strawberries to make it pink and I put it in a dark glass.  Then I can't see the pollen looking yellowy parts as much.

Also on my list to take are a bunch of supplements in pill form:
  • Ultrazyme - A digestive enzyme to take with each meal.  It just helps the food to be digested easier and for the digestive tract to get a little break.
  • Liver pills - Integrates vitamins and minerals to improve liver function.  Your liver helps detox your body from any drugs you may be taking.  Since I am taking a lot, my liver has been working overtime.  So she prescribed several things to aid liver function.
  • Pro-adrenal - Helps provide support for your adrenal gland, the infamous stress hormone gland.
There are, in total, 12 pills to take every day.  It's a lot to remember.  I have 3 pills containers now - one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner.

The last set of supplements are those I take at bedtime.  I have been on sleeping pills for over a year now and have been having a hard time weaning myself off of them.  In light of that the doctor prescribed me something to help me feel sleepy more naturally:
  • MaxRelax - A mixture of several amino acids.  This causes you to relax and keeps your mind from racing when you are trying to go to sleep.
  • Natural Calm Magnesium - Magnesium is used for a lot of things, but in this case, it is used for liver repair.
These two are both dissolved in water.  The MaxRelax is cherry flavored and, by itself, just wasn't very good.  So instead of having 2 glasses of water for 2 different things, I decided to just mix them together.  The magnesium is raspberry-lemon flavored and together, they are much better.

This list is very overwhelming to add to my daily regiment.  To make it easier, instead of adding them in all at once, I added them in slowly over a few weeks.  I started with the Foundation Gut Repair and added in a new item from the list every 2 days.  That allowed me to see any adverse effects from any of the products.  For instance, the glutamine taken in the recommended doses made my stomach hurt, so I had to play around with a lower dose of that until I could handle it.

I also made up a chart to put on the fridge to tell me what to take at each meal. And, as I told you already, I found 3 separate weekly pill boxes to use, one for each meal.

I didn't like the fact that the appointment ended with them ushering you into their store.  They make sure to tell you that you can buy your supplements from anywhere, but they, conveniently, provide a store on site and knowledgeable sales people to aide you with your purchases.  At that point, I had been there for almost 4 hours.  I was hungry and tired and I just wanted to be finished.  So I handed the list over to their saleslady and she went and collected everything on it.  $300 later, I was ready to go.  Yes, $300 for a one month supply.

The good news is that, since then, I have had time to look around at other places that sell this stuff and I am more knowledgeable for next time.  I can have a list of other prices and other ingredients with me to compare and decide where to buy anything that I need to continue on.

As you can see this was a BIG doctor visit for me.  I'm sorry for the long posts, but I process things by blogging about them and it took me about 3 weeks to process everything.  I just finished my last take-home test.  Hallelujah!  Fingers are crossed that all the results will be ready for my next visit on May 16.  I'd really like to find some answers and a treatment plan that will work well for my pain.

I've provided links to each product that I bought so you can see the ingredients.  I am not being compensated in any way for those links. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Gratitude Project



My one word for this year is Gratitude, being thankful to God for all he has given me.  Join me in the Gratitude Project every Thursday.  I list what I'm thankful for and you tell me what you're thankful for.


Today is the first day this week that I haven't had to be somewhere immediately after taking the kids to school.  It's the first day that I've had an afternoon "off".  The first day to enjoy the sunshine and the breeze and the chance to plant some flowers.
  • I'm thankful for Spring and all the beautiful green life I see outside.
  • I'm thankful the school year (and the craziness that goes with the end of the school year) is almost done.
  • I'm thankful for the craziness - for baseball games that David loves, for field trips and field day, for awards nights and piano recitals.  I'm thankful that we can have fun and show off the things we've learned all year long.

What are you thankful for today?
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