Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway Info: Chasing Mona Lisa

I am having a little trouble getting back into blogging, mostly due to family life, but I am trying.  I have been migraine free the past few days and all 4 kids are no healthy (I hope it stays that way), so I am hoping to get back on regularly soon.  Here is a book review and giveaway information to hold you over until I return.

About the Book
It is August 1944 and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?

With nonstop action, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get readers' adrenaline pumping as they join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh country chateau, the race is on--and the runners are playing for keeps.

My thoughts
This book was unlike any other I have ever reviewed.  I do have to warn my readers that some of the violence in the book does get a bit graphic.  However, please do not let that stop you from reading this.  I was riveted from the beginning.  The setting covers a part of World War II that is seldom covered, the Nazi occupation of Paris and the underground movement that took place there.  In this book, it particularly covers the artwork, mainly the Mona Lisa, and how the employees of the Louvre protected it from theft by the Nazi's who had already stolen many of their masterpieces.  While I am very familiar with the Mona Lisa, I am not an art student by any means.  As I read, I kept my iPod nearby so I could look up the paintings that were mentioned.  I love learning new things when I am reading fiction, and this is probably why I particularly enjoy historical fiction. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story.  It will be of particular interest to those who enjoy reading about France, World War II, art, and/or romance stories (though the romances are a minor part of the story).

About the authors
Tricia Goyer is the coauthor of The Swiss Courier as well as the author of many other books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Arkansas.
Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including The Swiss Courier and the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

About the giveaway
Chasing Mona Lisa is the continuing tale of Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler (first introduced in The Swiss Courier). This time the duo are on a relentless quest to save the most famous painting in the world  - the Mona Lisa. You can help Gabi and Eric with your very own spy pack when you enter The Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway!

One passionate protector will receive:
  • iTouch (The must-have device for any spy. Camera, Maps & Music.)
  • Starbucks Gift Card (For all those late nights.)
  • Moleskin Notebook (For those important notes.)
  • Invisible Ink Pen (Don’t want anyone reading those important notes.)
  • Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey (Great handbook and intriguing tale for any spy-in-training!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on January 31st. Winner will be announced at Chasing Mona Lisa Facebook Party on 1/31. Tricia and Mike will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from Tricia's website) and giving away copies of their books and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Tricia and Mike.)
So grab your copy of Chasing Mona Lisa and join Tricia and Mike on the evening of the 31st for an author chat, spy training (How much do you know about WWII?) and lots of giveaways.

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!



Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and the authors for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes. My opinion is my own and was not influenced by anyone else.



Monday, January 9, 2012

Make It Monday: Coffee filter snowflakes, Homemade liquid fabric softener, and homemade dishwasher detergent

So, I did not get caught up yesterday, but in an attempt to not fall behind, I am going to jump in with the first Make It Monday.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures...yet, but I am hoping to get some up in the next few days.  Here are the craft and projects I have worked on this past week:

- Coffee filter snowflakes: These are similar to paper snowflakes and just as fun, but I like them more because of their more rounded shape.  We folded ours into quarters and then just snipped away.  If you want a hole in the center of the snowflake, be sure to trim of the point at the top.  After trimming them, open them up and lay them flat under a heavy book so that they will hang flat.  It took about 24 hours for ours to stay flat.  We then taped ours to the plastic covering we have on our big picture window, but you could hang them with fishing line, string, or yarn from anywhere.  I also thought about letting the kids paint them with some watered down glue and sprinkling glitter on them, but then decided against it...maybe in a few years.

- Homemade liquid fabric softener: I found this recipe on The Frugal Girls blog (which, if you do not already read, is a phenomenal source of money saving ideas).  It was super easy to make and it works BETTER than any other liquid fabric softener I have ever used.  In fact, I really disliked liquid fabric softener because my clothes were still always had static cling afterwards, but we have found that not to be the case with this.  Due to the fact that we did not buy liquid fabric softener previously, I did not have any old bottles, but if you have one, I recommend rinsing it out and using it to mix up some of this.  Otherwise, you can do what I did and rinse out an empty gallon container (I used a milk jug), but be sure to label it clearly.  This is certain to save you quite a bit of money each time you make it.

6 cups hot water
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups hair conditioner (I used Alberto VO5, strawberry moisturizing milk)

Mix conditioner and hot water until well blended.  I put them in both in the jug and shook it well until it was done, just a minute or 2.  Then add the vinegar and mix again.  That's it!  When you are ready to use it, add 2 Tablespoons to the fabric softener dispenser on your washing machine.  I put an old measuring "cup" from a bottle of cough syrup with the milk jug so I could easily measure it.

- Homemade Dishwasher Detergent: I originally found this as a pin on Pinterest, but after I wrote down the instructions, I never hit re-pin, so I cannot give credit where it is due, but I can tell you that this is NOT my recipe. (If anyone recognizes it, please let me know and if it is the site I used, I will link to it.)  I was hesitant to try this for a few reasons.  First- I typically dislike powdered dishwasher detergent because it sever seems to dissolve completely.  Second- I researched homemade dishwasher detergent before and the reviews were always mixed, often with people saying they left behind a film.  This recipe was a bit different than the others I had seen and I decided to give it a try as the reviews were good.  The results?  We LOVE it.  My kids love the smell and fight over who gets to do the dishes, because they want to fill the soap dispenser.  I love that it cleans my dishes, dissolves completely, and does not leave a film.  According to the review, it says to use vinegar for the rinse agent (think Jet Dry), but we have not found that to be necessary.  I still have some Jet Dry in my rinse agent dispenser and a couple more bottles under the sink so it makes financial sense for me to use that up first.  I have used vinegar in the past though and will use it again in the future when I do not have bottles of rinse agent I received for free.  The homemade dishwasher detergent is much less expensive than even the store brand powdered detergent.

1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda, look for it in the laundry aisle)
1/2 cup Borax (also found in the laundry aisle)
1/4 cup Kosher salt
4 packets of unsweetened lemonade flavor drink mix (I used the Great Value/Wal-Mart brand of Kool-Aid @12 cents per packet)

Put into a container and mix well.  We used a gallon size (though a quart bag would have been big enough) Ziploc bag for our first batch, but now that we know how much we like it.  I will multiply the ingredients and make a larger batch in the future which I will store in a Tupperware container.  Add 1 Tablespoon per wash.

I would love to hear your feedback if you try any of these.  I know water hardness may also play a role in the effectiveness of the fabric softener and dishwasher detergent, so I am curious if the rest of you have different experiences than I did.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A new beginning

When I started this blog a little over 3 years ago, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to go with it.  I started out doing well and writing often.  Then life happened.  We moved several times, sometimes living in difficult situations, and I had some health issues to deal with.  In April of 2009, we purchased our home and the frequent moves became a thing of the past.  The health issues were still an issue and as a result of all the stressors in our lives, my marriage began to suffer terribly, to the point that we briefly separated.  Needless to say, I was not feeling like The Happy Wife and felt like a liar any time I tried to post, even if it was not marriage related.  I am not one that likes to complain, nor am I one who will get in details about issues within my personal relationships on a public forum.  Therefore, it became much easier to focus on reviews and writing less, than it was to actually write real content.  I can tell you that our marriage has improved tremendously, and has been for quite some time, though like any marriage, we do still have stress and disagreements.  We have just discovered ways to communicate better and to deal with the stresses we face in life.  The past few months have brought their own issues with the pregnancy and how I have been feeling.  Add in the holidays and my other obligations, such as homeschooling and just daily care of the family and it left me little time to write.  Now, I am beginning to have more days where I feel better and less on my plate and I am finding myself with more room to write, really write, not just reviews and giveaways (though do not worry, I will still have plenty of both).  I have set up a new schedule for my blog so that I may better focus my daily writing, but I will still not promise I will be able to post every day and there will be days I post more than once, or even twice.  I have not scheduled a review or giveaway day, so they will be posted in addition to what will be the regular post for the day.  Here is the new schedule: 
Spiritual Sunday (post will be based on a scripture or other religious writing)
Making It Monday (will be a craft I have been working on)
Teach Me Tuesday (what we are doing in our homeschool and/or a lesson plan)
Wellness Wednesday (just like ones in the past, about something wellness related)
Top 10 Thursday (will include my goals for the following week, blog posts and giveaways I find)
Feed Me Friday (I will share a recipe I made this week)
See It Saturday (I will feature a shop I have found online that I particularly enjoy)

I do still have a few things to catch up on from December which I am going to try and get done tomorrow, but hopefully, I will be back to "schedule" within this week.  I will still be light on pictures for a bit, and those I do share will not be the best, as I have misplaced my memory card for my camera, but I do plan on having many more pictures as well.

Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me over the past few years.  I truly appreciate all the support you all have given me and I look forward to reconnecting once again with my blog and each of you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway Info: The Keeper

I will be back tomorrow with some new information regarding the direction of this blog, but tonight I want to share a book review with you.

About the book
Julia Lapp has planned on marrying Paul Fisher since she was a girl. Now twenty-one, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation. When Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding--again--she knows who is to blame.

Perpetual bachelor and spreader of cold feet, Roman Troyer, the Bee Man. Roamin' Roman travels through the Amish communities of Ohio and Pennsylvania with his hives full of bees, renting them out to farmers in need of pollinators. He relishes his nomadic life, which keeps him from thinking about all he has lost. He especially enjoys bringing his bees to Stoney Ridge each year. But with Julia on a mission to punish him for inspiring Paul's cold feet, the Lapp farm is looking decidedly less pleasant.
Can Julia secure the future she's always dreamed of? Or does God have something else in mind?

My thoughts
This is one of my favorite books in the Amish fiction genre.  The reader is quickly and easily transported to a beautifully simple life in Pennsylvania.  The plot draws you in quickly and keeps you engaged until the end.  I had a very difficult time putting the book down and read it in 2 days.  There are things that you will be able to figure out on your own, but there are also surprises along the way.  The book deals with topics I have not encountered in other Amish literature and I was very intrigued.  The topics of true, mental incompetence (as opposed to someone who is just foolish),  and organ donations are strong elements throughout the book.  I have never stopped to think about the Amish and their beliefs regarding organ donations, so it was neat to see that they are very similar to my own beliefs.  Another theme throughout the book is forgiveness, but not in the way that one normally sees forgiveness in a book.  The Amish are well known for being quick to forgive, but it was interesting to see how the characters dealt with the forgetting part.  They do not hold grudges toward the person, yet they still need to deal with the consequences of whatever happened. 

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, romance stories, and stories with characters who are trying to figure out who they are after experiencing a tragedy in their life.  Honestly, this is a great book for anyone who enjoys a good story.

About the author
Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don't have to "go Amish" to incorporate many of their principles--simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily-- into your life.
When Suzanne isn't writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you just can't take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth. Suzanne can be found on-line at:

About the giveaway
  It’s a “Honey of a Giveaway” from Suzanne Woods Fisher! Suzanne is hosting a "honey of a giveaway"during the blog tour for The Keeper! During 1/3-1/17 you can enter to win an iPad2 from Suzanne and connect with her on January 17th at The Keeper Facebook Party!

During the giveaway one Grand Prize winner will receive a Prize Pack valued at $600:
  • A brand new 16 KB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • A $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of The Keeper
But wait there's more! Just click one of the icons below to enter, then on 1/17 join Suzanne for The Keeper Facebook Party! During the party Suzanne will announce the winner of the "Honey" of an iPad Giveaway and host a fun book chat and give away some fun "honey" inspired prizes - It'll be 'sweet"!

RSVP early and tell your friends!
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!



Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes. My opinion is my own and was not influenced by anyone else.