Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: The Tutor's Daughter

About the book
Filled with page-turning suspense, The Tutor's Daughter takes readers to the windswept Cornwall coast-a place infamous for shipwrecks and superstitions-where danger lurks, faith is tested, and romance awaits.
Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin teaching the two younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to find the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementoes?
The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems-and secrets-of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her...
When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart?

My thoughts
In all honesty, it took me a few chapters to really get into this book.  It is not because it is not well written, it just starts a little slow.  Having said that, once the story line picked up, it was difficult to put it down.  The characters are well written and I was able to identify with each of them, either personally, or, at the very least, I could see loved ones in the different characters.  Along the lines of great writing, was the descriptions of the locations, allowing the reader to truly feel as though they were there. On the negative side, I did find several parts that were predictable.  On the positive side, there are still many parts that were not.  I recommend this book to those who enjoy love stories with a bit of suspense, to those who enjoy historical romance and  those who enjoy shows like Downton Abbey, as the settings are similar.

About the author
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. 
Find out more about Julie at

I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity and the author for the copy of the book I received to facilitate this review.  As always, my opinion is my own.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book review and giveaway info: Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska

About the book

     Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams-a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests-her former fiancĂ©, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town's colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA's pressures.

     In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children's governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover-as Ellie did-that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?
About the authors
Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.
Find out more about Tricia at

Ocieanna Fleiss is a published author and editor. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. 
Find out more about Ocieanna at

My thoughts
The media often portrays stars, both those on the screen and those in the music industry, as lost souls who struggle from deep personal struggles. In Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, Ginny, a  rising star in the music industry, shows us what could happen when one of those stars learns to deal with those deep struggles in a way that does not involve sex, drugs, or alcohol. She discovers a simpler life, true love, and a relationship with God. It was easy for me to sit back and wonder why she struggled so much with the issues she faces, but I quickly remembered that everyone is different.  We all come from different places in our lives and while some experiences are similar, often each of experience our lives in vastly different ways.  I enjoyed reading the story of Ginny, along with the love story that she was reading as well.  I also really enjoyed the Alaskan setting and the way the authors described it.  I was never one who wanted to travel to Alaska, but after reading a couple of books set there, I have added it to my bucket list.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good love story, especially one that revolves around second chances and to anyone who enjoys stories set in Alaska, as you will really get a feeling for what it is like to be there.

About the giveaway

Celebrate with Tricia and Ocieanna by entering their "Glacier Bay" Giveaway and RSVPing for their Facebook Party on Feb. 12th!


One fortunate winner will receive:

  • A gorgeous handmade “Glacier Bay” bracelet

  • A handmade cowl in "Glacier Bay" blues and greens

  • A bottle of custom-made "Glacier Bay" sparkle polish in blue

  • Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss and their two other “Love Finds You” titles {Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana, and Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington}

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 11th. Winner will be announced at the "Glacier Bay" Author Chat Party on February 12th. Connect with authors Tricia and Ocieanna, get a sneak peek of their new book projects, try your hand at the Alaska trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be great giveaways—gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, and join Tricia and Ocieanna on the evening of February 12th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 12th!

I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity and the authors for the copy of the book I received to facilitate this review.  As always, my opinion is my own. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Giveaway Info: Nuby!!!


Nuby is holding a HUGE giveaway this weekend on their facebook page.  The giveaway will last through the weekend, and end at 11:59pm Sunday, January 20th.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Multi-blog giveaway: Jewelry from Kranich's Jewelers

jewelry giveaway

Sponsored by Kranich's, and hosted by S.O.S. Mom, Real Momma and The Bunny's Reviews, one lucky person will win his or her own choice of one (1) piece of jewelry from a selection of dazzling and gorgeous earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces and watches! Prize is valued at up to $150. All choices can be viewed via the following link

Kranich's Jewelers was established in York, Pennsylvania, in 1903. The company was originally called Kranich Brothers Jewelers. The Kranich Brothers had stores in York, Lancaster and Altoona, Pennsylvania as well as one in Worcester, Mass. The Altoona store opened in 1923. Charles and Mildred Kranich operated and expand the Altoona operation. In 1962, Charles and Mildred were joined in business by their son, Michael. In 1976 the Kranich's opened a store in Downtown State College, the home of Penn State University. Charles and Mildred Kranich died in 1978 and Michael took over the family business. Michael Kranich, now retired, was succeeded by his sons in the 1990’s. In 1996 Kranich's opened a second State College location at the Nittany Mall. In 2000 Kranich’s opened a location in the Johnstown Galleria. In 2008 Kranich’s dramatically expanded their Logan Valley Mall location and Corporate offices. In 2012 Kranich’s opened a huge new store on North Atherton Street in State College.

Throughout its history, Kranich's Jewelers has specialized in fine diamond jewelry and engagement rings. Today, Kranich's Jewelers also specializes in fine timepieces, colored gemstones, gold and platinum jewelry and pearls. They feature selections of Designer Jewelry, Estate Jewelry, Penn State Jewelry and Fine Crystal. Kranich’s features pieces by Simon G, Verragio, Ritani, Hidalgo, Belle Etoille, Swarovski, Pandora, Gucci, Burberry, and Michael Kors. In recent years, Kranich’s has actively grown their ecommerce business ( Kranich’s Jewelers is able to provide a high level of personal service at competitive pricing. The internet has given the company an international reach. In Central Pennsylvania, Kranich's Jewelers remains the leading source for Fine Jewelry and Gifts.

The Kranich family believes it is very important to contribute to the communities they serve. Consequently, they are involved in many civic and charitable activities. In 2003, Kranich's celebrated their 100th year. In recent years, Kranich’s has been inducted into the Blair County Business hall of fame and has been named one of Central Pennsylvania’s leading businesses by Pennsylvania Business Central Magazine.

Visit Kranich's at these two following addresses to view their beautiful collection, and

This giveaway event will be running until Janua
ry 29th inclusively and is open to US residents only. To gain entries to win, simply fill out the form below. Good luck! 

Giveaway Info: $10,000 Target gift card

Back in October, I shared with you about UNREAL candy and how excited I was to see a company making better-for-you treats, that actually taste great and cost about the same as comparable candy.  I just wanted to share a contest they are currently having to celebrate Target carrying their brand. 
It's super simple to enter:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway Info: The Lesson

About the book
Centered on one of Suzanne Woods Fisher's most loved characters, this is the story fans have eagerly anticipated. The precocious M.K. is all grown up (well, almost) and ready to take on the world-with surprising results. Fisher's trademark plot twists and turns are as unexpected and satisfying as ever in this third book in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series.

In her wildest dreams, spunky and impulsive nineteen-year-old Mary Kate Lapp never imagined herself behind a schoolteacher's desk. A run-in (literally) with the schoolteacher compels her to act as a substitute teacher, just as her restless desire to see the world compels her to apply for a passport . . . just in case. The only thing of interest to M.K. in the sleepy Amish community of Stoney Ridge is the unexplained death of a sheep farmer that coincided with the arrival of a mysterious young man into the community. Frustrated that no one takes the crime seriously, she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately, as tends to be the case for M.K., she jumps headlong into trouble. 

My thoughts
As with all of Suzanne Woods Fisher's books, I really enjoyed The Lesson.  The author has a great way of showing the Amish as real people, with quirks and issues just like everyone else.  In the beginning of the book, I found myself a little annoyed with Mary Kate, but as the book progressed, I realized I was very much like her at that age, and I enjoyed watching her grow as she experienced the things life handed her.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish literature and coming of age books.

About the giveaway
Celebrate the release of The Lesson with Suzanne Woods Fisher by entering to win one of TWO iPads!


Two winners will receive:

  • A brand new iPad

  • A $15 gift certificate to iTunes

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 20th. Winner will be announced on 1/22/13 at Suzanne's Blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

I would like to thank Litfuse Publicity and Suzanne Woods Fisher for the copy of the book I received to facilitate this review.  As always, my opinion is my own. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pinspired: Snowman Pencil Holder

I am always looking for ways to re-use things around my house.  Recently, I also found myself in need of something to corral my BIC permanent markers, so when I found a snowman pencil holder on Pinterest, made from a recycled vegetable can, I couldn't wait to make it.
I gathered my supplies (except, I ended up not using the googly eyes):
Supplies Needed 
tin can (I used the can from a 29 oz can of tomato sauce, but you can use a smaller one)
glue (white glue would work as well as hot glue)
white yarn (mine is actually off white, but pure white would look nicer)
a square of black felt
orange felt scrap
optional: googly eyes or permanent markers for the face

1) Wash the can and remove the label.
2) Cut a square from the black felt that extends about 1/2" past the edges of your can.  Fold the square in half and make a slit.
3) Center the square over the top of the can and cut from the slit to the inside edge of the can.  Do this until you have cut the center out and can slip it down snugly over the can.  The felt will stretch, so if you cut it a little small, that is okay.
4) Cut the edges off the square, so that it resembles the brim of a hat.
5) With the remaining black felt, stretch it around the top 1/3 of the can.  You have to pull on it a bit, but it will fit perfectly.  Glue this down.  I found it a little easier to have the felt taller than the can and then to cut it down to size after it was glued on.
6) Starting on the same side of the can where the seam to the hat is, put a bit of glue down and start wrapping the white yarn around the can.  I started at the bottom and worked my way up.  I wrapped it around several times and then pushed the yarn down to keep it tightly wrapped, so no tin showed through.  When you get close to the felt, put a drop of glue down and glue down the yarn.  Cut the remaining yarn off.
7) Adjust the brim of the hat so that it sits between the yarn and felt.  Mine fit snug enough that I did not need to glue it, but if yours does not, you can glue it in place.
8) Now it is time to make the face.  I simply cut a small triangle from the orange felt and then took my scraps of black felt and cut out roundish circles, smaller ones for the mouth and slightly larger ones for the eyes.  Coal is not perfectly shaped, so this is a very easy part of the craft.  I had planned to use googly eyes, but really preferred the look of the "coal" felt eyes more. Feel free to use whatever you like.  Also, the felt sticks well to the yarn, so you can play around with the face until you find what you like, then glue them down.

recycled can

The total cost of this craft was less than 25 cents, as I have about 1/3 of the black felt square left and almost all of the orange felt left, along with most of the skein of yarn. If you had to go out and buy all the materials, it would still cost under $2, as you can use a low-quality yarn. This is also a fun project to do with kids, but I would not recommend using the hot glue gun with little ones.

This has been shared on Simply Rebekah, Your Green Resource.

Review: Vinyl Disorder

Show off your unique family on the family car with these vinyl decal family kits from Vinyl Disorder, and mix and match stick family car decals. Every member of the family is special, which is why you get to pick and choose individual stick family decals to represent each of the unique members of your family on your car or even on your walls. There are stick family car decals for every member of the family, from baby figure stickers to grandparents figure decals to choose from. You can choose to add stick family members for those other things that define who your family is such as your pets stick people and other car family decals. Are you looking for non-traditional vinyl decal family kits or vinyl decal family kits that are a fun twist on the typical car window stickers family?  They also offer several kits with different themes to choose from, ranging from sports to Star Wars family decals. My son has been telling me he wants our van to be an Autobot, so I chose the Transformer decals for our van.

In addition to vinyl designs for your vehicle, they also offer wall quotes and wall decorations, such as glow-in-the-dark designs.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Finding peace

This is adapted from a talk I gave in church this past Sunday.

What is peace?  There have been several events in the past few months that likely have rattled your sense of peace, whether it is weather related like the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy or caused by government decisions in places like Syria or Israel.  The impending fiscal cliff is certain to be causing stress to many as well and I am sure we all felt our peace being shaken when we heard of the horrific events that unfolded in Newtown, CT and then right next door in Webster.  There is no doubt that those events are examples of what peace is not.  Can we, as individuals, achieve peace in such a tumultuous world?  What if we sheltered our families from all outside influence and barricaded ourselves in our homes?  I am certain that even then, especially those of us with children, peace would be fleeting.  So what can we do to find peace in our daily lives?
The easy answer is to say that peace can be found in the gospel.  In Psalms 29:11, we read The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.  When I was a young girl, I used to spend the day before my birthday having lunch with the next door neighbor of my paternal grandmother.  Ginny was a good friend of our family and her birthday was 2 days before mine.  When I was 17, her husband John was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and they were told he would only live a few more months, 6 tops.  For 2 years, I watched as my dear friends struggled through that wretched illness.  John suffered physically while Ginny suffered emotionally.   They were still dealing with the awfulness of it all when my maternal grandmother received the same diagnoses in May of 1995.  It was a little more than 2 months after my baptism and I hated thinking of my grandparents going through what our friends had been dealing with.  I remember getting down on my knees and praying to Heavenly Father, first asking that the doctors be certain they knew what they were doing and second, that if they were correct, that my grandmother would not suffer long and that she would be taken quickly.  She suffered a stroke the next day and passed away peacefully a few days after that.  My first thought was that I did not mean that quickly, but my heart immediately felt a peace that I could not explain.  Through the funeral, that peace stayed with me and it was the knowledge of the gospel that brought me such peace.  I knew where she would be and I knew I would see her again. Knowing the Plan of Salvation certainly doesn’t make death easy, but it does allow us to have a peace of heart, but what about other times in our lives?
Like all of you, I have had difficult personal experiences to deal with.  One such event happened several years ago, when my oldest two children were just toddlers.  I do not want to get in to details of what happened, but I initially just shut down.  I made sure that the most basic needs of my family were met and that was it.  One of the little ones had taken a bag of pretzels and spilled them on the living room carpet.  Every day, I looked at the mess and thought to myself, “I really should clean those up.”  And every day, I let them sit there, watching them get ground into the carpet more and more.  During those first few days, I spent lots of time in prayer.  I have no doubt that Heavenly Father was carrying me through those few days.  Finally, I pulled myself together and got the vacuum out.  I cleaned up the pretzels and continued on to clean up the entire apartment.  During the weeks that this event was occurring, I found my strength, but also a great peace not only in prayer, but also in reading my scriptures and attending church.  One scripture I came across was John 16:33, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.  It is that scripture that stays with me to this day, so that when I am hurting, I remember that Christ felt this pain, too, and so much more.  It is a very real reminder that I can get through this and that I am greatly loved, even if I do not feel loved by others, I KNOW I am loved by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  And, I do know that I am loved by many people here on earth, but some days, like many people, I struggle to feel that love.
Now, I have talked a lot about how we can find peace in our lives during traumatic events, but what about the every day events.  With a family of 7, peace is not something that just exists in our home, but it is something that is desperately needed on a daily basis.  I am going to share some of the ways that I try to bring that peace into both my home and my life on a daily basis.  The first thing is to have peace in my heart.  That comes from reading the scriptures, church attendance, and prayer, lots and lots of prayer.  If my heart is not at peace, I find it very difficult to get through the day without completely losing my cool.  The next step is to eliminate distractions, such as video games, music and tv, particularly when they are not uplifting.  The extra noise creates stress and can draw attention away from where it needs to be.  There are times when wholesome entertainment is appropriate, but if it is causing stress in the home, that is not the time.  Once I have that quiet and the internal peace, I am then able to better choose my battles, something that is key to maintaining peace in my relationships.    So how do I deal with those?  When I find myself faced with a child, or my spouse, making a decision I do not like, I ask myself A) do have any right to say anything about their choice, B) why is it THAT important to me and C) what would I rather they choose.  Often, I am stopped at A, but if I decided that I do have the right to say something and that it is very important to me, I will approach them with why it bothers me and whatever it is I would rather they choose, rather than just tell them I do not want them to do whatever it is that was bothering me.  It lessens the contention when they understand why it upsets you and when there is already a solution.   Of course, this goes both ways, and I have to be willing to listen to them when they don’t like something I am planning to do.  When I am choosing which battles to engage in, I try to keep a perspective of the bigger picture, as well.  This extends to not just my family, but strangers as well.  If someone cuts me off in traffic, I tend to let it go because I am pretty sure it was not personal (I am really not that important that people go out of their way to annoy me) and what harm did it really cause to me, except maybe to make me a second or two later than I might have been otherwise?  I also apply compassion when faced with these stressors.  Maybe the guy that just cut across 3 lanes of traffic is trying desperately to get to the hospital to comfort his child or maybe he was distracted by some terrible news he just received.  When it is my kids, I try to remember what it was like to be a child, and how different their priorities are.  Losing a favorite toy is to a child, close to what losing a child in the store is like to us, even if it is 5 minutes until church starts and they are not even dressed yet.  It is also important to remember that we cannot change other people or their priorities, even if we would do things differently and life is much more peaceful if we learn to accept others as they are and love them anyway.
So what is peace?  The best way I can describe it, is that peace is that calm you feel in your heart, even when the events in your home or in the world, are a bit crazy.  The feeling you know that you are a child of God, that He loves you, and that He has overcome all of this so that we may live with Him again.