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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Grandma's Guest Review: Miracle in a Dry Season

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Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas takes place in 1954 during the time of a drought in Wise, West Virginia. Perla Long is hiding something from her past after she arrives in town, and Casewell Phillips senses that something is wrong. Perla's gift causes the town to split as some offer her support, while others condemn her.

See what Grandma has to say about this book <<spoilers>>:

This was a wonderful, fast-paced read beginning in 1954 when Casewell, a 35-year-old bachelor and a carpenter by trade, meets Perla, an unwed mother with a little girl, Sadie.

Casewell becomes enchanted with Sadie and thinks Perla is the most beautiful woman he has ever met. His parents also become very fond of Sadie, and John especially enjoys his time with her. John learns he has a terminal illness, and his time with Sadie becomes very special to him. The town frowns on Perla being an unwed mother and makes it difficult for Perla, but Casewell keeps her friendship.

Shortly after Perla's arrival the area suffers from a drought that destroys crops, dries up wells and hurts the animals. Perla, a talented cook, is able to take small supplies of available food items and create enough soups and stews to feed the town. Her faith keeps her cooking and the town eating, but the town folk questions her ability to do this. The local preacher decides she is exhibiting witchcraft and goes on a a campaign to stop her. Casewell steps in to try to remedy the situation and win the town.

There is much judging of each other throughout the book. It caused me to do some soul-searching about judging others and showed how easily we all "jump to conclusions" instead of having facts first.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a sweet love story and a lesson in tolerance of each other.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kitchen Confidence

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Kelsey Nixon’s Kitchen Confidence cookbook features recipes and tips for anyone, but it is especially helpful for new cooks. Kelsey’s down-to-earth style of cooking and instructing is reassuring, and she breaks everything down to make it understandable for kitchen novices. Similar in style to her Cooking Channel show, Kitchen Confidence showcases Kelsey’s recipes and cooking techniques in a clear, readable style, with beautiful graphics and fonts accompanied by full page photographs of many of the dishes.

Kitchen Confidence includes lists of essential supplies and staples for burgeoning chefs to have on hand to make the process of getting delicious meals on the table as streamlined and simple as possible. Any cook will benefit from her reminders of basic pantry items to have stocked and tips for organizing both the pantry and the entire kitchen. Having everything on hand and ready to use is a vital first step in the process. Interspersed throughout the book, Kelsey explains cooking techniques in detail, such as roasting, stir-frying, searing, and even frosting a cake.

Once everything in the kitchen is in order, it’s time to dive in to the modern takes on familiar cuisine, like Essential Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Piccata, and Lasagna with Sausage and Butternut Squash. Each recipe is clearly laid out with step-by-step numbered instructions, and the ingredients lists are set off with brightly-colored text so they are easy to find when making out your shopping list.

One of my favorite features of Kitchen Confidence is the ability to plan out a week of meals easily with everything in one place. I can find out what ingredients I need, what tools to have on hand, and which entrees to pair with which side dishes. Even desserts, like Banana Split Ice Box Cake and All American Apple Pie are included. Kelsey also specifically addresses the importance of planning ahead by mapping out a menu plan and creating a master shopping list:

“Don’t let yourself burn out in the kitchen by striving all the time. Some recipes in this book are made for last-minute, easy, or one-pot meals (p. 112).”

Kitchen Confidence is an inspiring companion to have in my cookbook collection and make it easier to get good meals ready for my hungry family.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bible Study for Busy Mamas: Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13

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Bible Study for Busy Mamas: Thirty Days in 1 Corinthians 13 by Pam Forster of Doorposts is written with the busy homeschool mom in mind. This book especially addresses things homeschool moms will identify with, and it breaks down Bible study in increments that complement the homeschool lifestyle. That is just one of the things that make this book special. 

This volume of Bible Study for Busy Mamas is an in-depth study of just one chapter of the Bible. In five minutes a day, this study takes about one month to complete. With a little time each day, This book helps you understand God's Word better and prepares you to put these lessons into practice in your homes. Mrs. Forster points out that a small amount of time devoted to Bible study will make us better mothers and is essential to equipping us to nurture our children.

Bible Study for Busy Mamas is divided into thirty short readings with assignments for digging deeper into the thirteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Corinthians. Along with this book, moms will need a Bible, a pen, and paper or a notebook, preferably gathered together in a place where they can study. If everything is ready, it will be easier to steal away five minutes of time.  

Each of the thirty lessons in Bible Study for Busy Mamas includes a section for kids. This special feature provides ideas for hands-on activities that not only teaches kids more about the Bible, but also inspires enthusiasm through fun lessons like acting out a scene with Nabal and David or "grocery shopping" from your pantry

Some of the assignments covered in this study are:
  • Context
  • Different Translations
  • Boasting and Arrogance
  • What Love Rejoices Over
  • Real Love
  • Why and When?
My favorite thing about Bible Study for Busy Mamas is that it is not overwhelming, and it is a great starting point for women who are new to Bible study. This book helps moms develop a habit of spending quiet time in God’s Word, and after completing the study of 1 Corinthians 13, they will be able to move on to further Bible study on their own. Mrs. Forster provides guidelines for further studies in the appendix as well as on her website (

I like how Mrs. Forster breaks everything down and makes it achievable, and she even includes “catch up” days. With the exception of a couple of assignments, the daily assignments really can be done in the five minute time allotment. However, if moms are able to set aside more time, the study becomes even more enriching. 

Click here to check out my review of another Doorposts Bible study: Thirty Days of Bible Study for Busy Mamas: Colossians 3

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Berenstain Bears God Shows the Way

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The Berenstain Bears God Shows the Way by Stan & Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain is three books in one hardback volume for "I Can Read!" level 1 readers. The titles included in this collection include: 
  • Faith Gets Us Through
  • No Not Fear, God is Near
  • Piggy Bank Business

Each story features the familiar Berenstain Bears characters as they learn about serving and caring for others. The colorful pages feature edge to edge illustrations and large font text, with short sentences and short passages on each page. The lines are broken down into about 5-7 words, making the reading manageable for emerging readers. Each story opens with a Bible verse. The messages of each story are grounded in faith, and they are told from a biblical worldview:

"When Sister got bigger
she understood that trust in God
takes away our fears.
As the Bible says:
'When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise --
in God I trust and am not afraid.'" (Do Not Fear, God is Near)

In Faith Gets Us Through, the Bear Scouts go on a hike with Papa to explore a spooky cave. They are afraid, but they pray and keep strong in their faith as they adventure through some surprises along the way.

Sister Bear must confront her fears in Do Not Fear, God is Here. Though she has outgrown most of her fears, there is one that she hasn't been able to overcome. She must learn to trust God to help her and trust that He is watching over her when she is in situations that make her afraid.

Piggy Bank Blessings shows the cubs learning about money as Mama explains that they "cannot have all the things." They learn to work to earn money and save some of it. They must also learn to spend wisely, and readers are in for a sweet surprise.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Your Family in Pictures

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Your Family in Pictures: The Parent's Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life by Me Ra Koh is a guidebook of 40 "recipes" for taking your photos to the next level. 

Me Ra Koh takes readers step-by-step through the basics of getting started, from the right equipment to use to getting your family to cooperate. She also delves into "developing a photographer's eye" with helpful tips for looking differently at shapes, colors, and textures, and for looking at your subject in a unique way. The suggestions and instruction Koh provides result in capturing moments with feeling and creating timeless memories:

"Capturing your family in pictures is about creating a legacy to leave behind -- a legacy that comes from a place of love and has the power to change the world" (p. xiv).

I love that Koh says that you don't have to spend money on special equipment, and that even your phone is okay to use. She reinforces the idea that recording the memory is most important, and that "the best camera is the one you have with you" (p. 31). She suggests keeping a camera out and handy all the time so you can grab those spur of the moment opportunities.

After walking readers through the basics, Koh offers tips for photographing your family with her "photo recipes" for holidays, family portraits, tweens and teens, and family vacations and travel. For each recipe, she gives specifics for both point and shoot and DSLR cameras, as well as telling readers what specific settings were used on her camera for the example photo. She really takes the guesswork out of photography for anyone, no matter their photography experience level.

I would have love to have this book when my kids were babies, but the book isn't geared toward baby photos, and there is a nice mix of ages and subjects to make Your Family in Pictures a valuable resource for anyone.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Blessings of Friendship Treasury

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I'm already a Mary Engelbriet fan, and this newest picture book has reinforced my feelings in a big way. Her artwork is so much fun, and The Blessings of Friendship Treasury not only showcases it, but it also features a collection of "timeless sayings, poems, and Bible verses that teach the true meaning of friendship."

This treasury is presented beautifully in a large slipcovered hardback format. Every detail of The Blessings of Friendship adds to its keepsake quality, from the colorfully decorated inside cover pages to the marvelously "Mary" content inside. There are a few boy characters featured, but most of the pictures feature girls, and overall, this book will appeal to girls (and their moms.) 

Some of the illustrations are full pages, suitable for framing if you could bear to remove them. All of the pages of text feature fun fonts and more illustrations, making this book a perfect real aloud choice with plenty of visual interest for young listeners.

Selections include inspirational quotes and Scripture verses, along with full poems from authors like Shel Silverstein. The Blessings of Friendship is the type of book that you can read from cover to cover or flip through from time to time for inspiration. It's pretty enough to leave out on the coffee table for all to enjoy.

This celebration of friendship is sure to become a treasured keepsake. 

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}