Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gift card offer from Sam's Club and P&G and $25 Sam's Club gift card giveaway

Don’t miss out on precious moments by wasting hours at the grocery store and fussing over budgets. Discover an easy way to save on baby essentials from P&G by buying them in bulk at Sam’s Club® this February! Purchase all the basics for baby at your local Sam’s Club store to save time and money with this limited-time $10 Gift Card offer.

Stock up on P&G products at Sam’s Club in February so you can afford to give your baby quality products and a little more mommy time.
Pick up any two of the following baby products between Feb 1st and Feb 29th:
-Pampers® Swaddlers® or Pampers Cruisers® Diapers Pampers
-SoftCare™ Scented Baby Wipes
-Similac® Advance® Powder or Similac Sensitive® Powder
-Dreft® Liquid Laundry Detergent

Then, register for your Gift Card at www.SamsClub.com/giftcardoffer by March 14, 2012 to receive a $10 Sam’s Club Gift Card.

Sam's Club and P&G want to award one of my reader's with $25 in gift cards to Sam's Club (also good at Wal-Mart).  See details on the Rafflecopter form.

Book Review and Giveaway Info: Blue Moon Promise

About the book
Book Number One in the Under Texas Stars series

A love like Lucy and Nate’s only comes along once in a blue moon . . .

Lucy Marsh's worldly resources are running out, but she's fiercely determined to care for her younger brother and sister. When she discovers that their father's recent death was no accident, Lucy is eager to leave town. She accepts a proxy marriage she believes will provide safe refuge. But trouble follows her to Texas where her new husband is surprised to suddenly have a wife and children to care for.

Nate Stanton always hoped he'd marry someday, but running the family ranch meant he had no time for romance. When his father deposits Lucy Marsh—a city girl—on his doorstep, with two siblings in the bargain, he expects ranch life will send her running on the first train out of town. But Lucy is made of tougher stuff than Nate imagined. When danger moves in, Nate finds he'd give anything to protect Lucy and the children he's grown to love. Even if it means giving up his ranch.

My thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in 1 day.  I loved watching Lucy and Nate's relationship grow from one of disdain to one of a sweet and tender love.  The idea of a proxy marriage, which were not uncommon during the late 1800's, is fascinating to me.  I imagine that those who participated, whether knowingly or not, had relationships similar to those who engage in arranged marriages.  The marriages were/are performed under the belief that they were/are doing what is best for their family and divorce was.is not usually an acceptable option.  They have no choice but to figure out a way to make it work and from my observations, both from people I know and those I have read about, it is very common for the couple to fall in love with each other.  I also enjoyed the secondary story of solving the murder of Lucy's father.  I am anxiously awaiting future books in this series.

I recommend this book to anyone  who enjoys romance literature based in the 1870-1880's, particularly in Texas, where this story is based.   Those who enjoy crime stories will like this, however, this is definitely not a major part of the book.  If you have an interest in proxy marriages, or how a relationship in an arranged marriage can grow,  you will also enjoy this book.

About the author
Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.
For more about Colleen and her other books visit www.colleencoble.com 
About the giveaway
Blue Moon Promise is a story of hope, romance, and suspense . . . immersing the reader in a rich historical tale set under Texas stars.

To celebrate Colleen is teaming up with her publisher Thomas Nelson for a "Blue Moon Promise" Facebook Chat party where she will giveaway a KINDLE Fire and a Texas-sized gift basket (fabulous Texas treats and fun Lucy-inspired housekeeping products)!

Click the banner, RSVP today for the Facebook Party and mark the date on your calendar!

Invite your friends and don't miss Colleen's evening of chat, trivia, prizes, and more.

Kindle Giveaway and More! Save the Date - 3/13!
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.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway Info: Sweeter Than Birdsong

About the book
Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles . . . but real freedom is sweeter.

In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter’s dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she’ll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance—and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College’s musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing—and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.

A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage—and her voice—if she is to sing a new song for their future.

My thoughts
I love, love, love historical fiction and knowing that this story is based on some real people made it a much more enjoyable story.  It has also intrigued me to learn more about the Hanby family and their lives.  The story is a love story, but it is more than that.  The reader experiences life in high society, where appearances are so important.  You also get a glimpse into a high society family that may look good on the outside, but is actually dealing with serious issues.  The father is an alcoholic and abusive (at least on one occasion).  The mother is estranged from her own family and is desperate for her daughters to live a perfect life in her eyes, regardless of whether or not they are happy.  The deeper story, and the one I enjoyed the most, was the work that Ben Hanby and his family did to help with the Underground Railroad.

If you enjoy historical fiction, romance novels, or learning about the inner workings of the Underground Railroad, you will love this book.  However, I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys a good story.

About the author
Rosslyn Elliott is the award-winning author of Fairer than Morning, the first in the Saddler's Legacy series. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in English from Emory University. Her study of American literature and history inspired her to pursue writing fiction. Elliott lives in Albuquerque, where she homeschools her daughter and works in children's ministry.
For more about Rosslyn, visit her website: http://rosslynelliott.com

About the giveaway
In this second in the award-winning Saddler's Legacy series, Rosslyn Elliott has written a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events. With Ben Hanby, a genius composer, Kate Winter, one of the first female college graduates in America, and John Parker, an ex-slave who risked his life time and again to help fugitive slaves, Sweeter than Birdsong is full of real heroes to inspire us. "I hope readers will find a renewed sense of strength in their own lives," says Elliott, "knowing that change is possible, and our efforts matter. I want them to remember these unique, brave people in history who left us a shining example of what it means to live out one's beliefs with passion and commitment."

So to celebrate the music in all of us, Rosslyn and Thomas Nelson are hosting this "sweet giveaway".

One fortunate winner will receive:

  • A Brand new iPod Nano (Winner's choice of color!)

  • Fairer than Morning by Rosslyn Elliott

  • Sweeter than Birdsong by Rosslyn Elliott

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 28th. Winner will be announced at Sweeter than Birdsong Author Chat Facebook Party on 2/28. Rosslyn will be chatting with guests, sharing a sneak peek of the next book in the series, hosting a trivia contest, and more! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, season 1 of DowntownAbbey, 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 Rosslyn.)

So grab your copy of Sweeter than Birdsong and join Rosslyn and friends on the evening of the 28th for an evening of fun.

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 28th!


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.


Book Review: Beyond Molasses Creek

About the book
Three lives are bound by a single book . . . and the cleansing waters of Molasses Creek.

Having traveled to the ends of the earth as a flight attendant, Ally Green has finally returned to the Lowcountry to bury her father as well as the past. But Vesey Washington is still living across the creek, and theirs is a complicated relationship—he was once her best friend . . . and also part of the reason she’s stayed away so long. When Ally discovers a message her father left behind asking her to quit running, it seems her past isn’t through with her yet.
As Ally’s wandering spirit wrestles with a deep longing to flee again, a young woman on the other side of the world escapes her life of slavery in the rock quarries of Nepal. A mysterious sketchbook leads Sunila Kunari to believe there’s more to her story than she’s ever been told, and she’s determined to follow the truth wherever it leads her.
A deep current intertwines the lives of these three souls, and a destiny of freedom, faith, and friendship awaits them all on the banks of Molasses Creek.

My thoughts
This book touches on so many different themes, and draws them all together, in a way that made for a very pleasant read.  One of the major themes throughout the book was accepting the past and using it to move forward.  Two of the major characters, Ally and Vesey, had grown up together as children during the Civil Rights era.  Their friendship alone was taboo, but add to that the fact that Ally always wanted it to be more than it could be, and it created problems.  As an adult, Ally traveled extensively and avoided coming home to Molasses Creek.  After her father passed away, she returned home and quickly re-ignited her friendship with Vesey.  Although race was no longer an issue, Ally still had feelings she needed to rein in and lots to learn about how differently people live when their income, and their level of faith, is not the same as yours. There is also a parallel story throughout the book that unites with Ally's story in the later chapters.  That is the story of Sunila, a woman who was raised as a slave in Nepal, yet always had the feeling there was something more out there for her.  The scenes in Nepal, transport the reader to a world unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. 

Beyond Molasses Creek is not a great love story in the romantic sense, but it is a love story regarding true friendship and familial love.  If you like stories that can take you on a bit of a ride, both across time and across the world, you will enjoy this book.  Although classified as Christian fiction, it was not preachy at all, more like a story you would find in the world today, with people of faith interacting and influencing those who may not have as much. I do many book reviews, but only keep a handful of the books after I finish reading them.  This is one that is staying on my bookshelf.  Not only would I re-read it, but I plan to have my children read it as well, once they reach high school age.  The book does deal with some "touchy" topics, including teen pregnancy, sexual relationships between unmarried people, inter-racial relationships and the prejudice they faced during the Civil Rights era,  separation of class, modern-day slavery, and even a reference to sexual slavery.  All of the topics are handled well, but may be a bit too much for younger readers.

About the author
Nicole Seitz is the author of several critically acclaimed novels - The Inheritance of Beauty , Saving Cicadas , A Hundred Years of Happiness , Trouble the Water , and The Spirit of Sweetgrass . She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, and also has a degree in Illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design.
Her paintings are featured on the covers of her books. Visit her at @NicoleSeitz, Facebook and www.nicoleseitz.com for more information. 


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.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Make It Monday: Gender Reveal Cake

I have never done anything special for the reveal of a baby-to-be's gender.  We usually just told people after the ultrasound and that was it.  Then a friend of ours had a special get together for her family when they announced the gender of their soon-to-be (they have now arrived) twins.  She had 2 cakes made with the filling in the middle tinted to match each baby's gender.  I immediately fell in love with the idea, but was unsure how my family would feel about me having a special get together just for the reveal.  Our ultrasound ended up being a few weeks before my eldest daughter's birthday and she liked the idea of us using her birthday cake to reveal our baby-to-be's gender.  Originally, I was going to just go ahead and make a cake with the filling tinted like our friend did, but then came across a fun cake on Pinterest, from the Unique Party Food To Go blog, and it inspired me to do something similar.  My daughter had the option of slicing the first piece and being the one to make the reveal, but she decided to pass the honor on to my mom, who passed the honor to my grandmother.  Here are some pictures of that first slice:

We are having a boy!

I made the cake using my daughter's Babycakes Cake Pop Maker.  We took a box of white cake mix and made it according to the directions on the box, except we split the prepared batter into 2 bowls and tinted one blue and one green (a girl would have been pink and purple).  We then baked them in the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker, for 3-4 minutes, but some of the balls were still brown on the outside.  In the future, we might reduce the baking side to closer to 3 minutes.  As the cake balls were baking, we then mixed up a box of lemon cake mix (you can use whatever flavor you choose, this was my daughter's choice).  I sprayed my bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and then put about 1/3 of the lemon batter into the cake pan.  I topped that with the cake balls (I only used about 1/2 of the ones we made, the kids snacked on the rest).  I did not want any of the cake balls to peek through the outside of the cake, so I only did about 2 layers of cake balls.  Some of the cake balls were overfilled before baking, so we broke off the "wings" in order to ensure they looked round.  I then poured the rest of the lemon batter on top and baked at 350 for 35 minutes (or whatever your box/recipe says for a bundt cake).  We had originally planned to glaze the cake, but despite my efforts, some of the cake balls were peeking through the cake, so we decided to whip up some cream cheese frosting so that no one would get a sneak peek ahead of time.  I then decorated it for my daughter's birthday.  If I were to make this for a party that was exclusively a gender reveal, I would decorate with a mixture of pastel sprinkles and baby-themed decorations.  This would also be fun for a baby shower, or even a bridal shower, using the colors that the guest-of-honor has chosen for the nursery, or wedding.

Have any of you done something fun to reveal the gender of a baby-to-be?  Please share with a comment.

PS- A special thank you to my sister, Jessica, for the photos.  I still cannot find my missing memory card and may have to resort to buying a new one.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feed Them Fridays: Clam Sauce with spinach over pasta

I am not claiming this is authentic clam sauce, but this is a version I came up with for my family.  I was a little concerned about the kids all liking it, but all 4 of them begged for more.  Here is my recipe.

12-16 oz of uncooked dried pasta (we used Wacky Mac in an assortment of shapes, but fettuccine is tradition)
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (can adjust to liking, but this was perfect for us)
1/4 cup (or so, I did not measure) white cooking wine
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (again, I did not measure)
2 cups spinach, washed and chopped (can be adjusted to taste; also, if your children dislike spinach, you can chop it really fine and pretend it is just seasoning)
2 cans of clams, liquid reserved

1) Boil water for pasta in a large pot.
2) As water gets close to boiling, put oil and butter in a separate saucepan over medium heat, until butter is melted.

3) Saute garlic in butter and oil until lightly browned.
4)  Add pasta to boiling water.  Add cooking wine, parsley, spinach, and juice from clams to garlic/butter/oil mixture and cook until pasta is almost done   (about 7 minutes).
4) Add clams during final 3 minutes, or just until heated.  If you cook the clams for too long, they get chewy. 
5) Drain pasta and toss with sauce.

I had wanted to add grated Parmesan to the sauce, but forgot about it, maybe next time.  I might also add additional herbs (oregano, basil) in the future, though this was very good as is.  This dish was pretty easy and quick to put together and it tasted great.  If you try this, please let me know what you think.