Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: Silenced

I read this book months ago now, and keep forgetting to post a review!  Oops.  Anyway, here we go!

Synopsis:
Kayden McKenna had always been wary of Jake Westin, never quite trusting him because he seemed to have so many secrets hidden in his past.  But ever since discovering more about who Jake really is, and the pain he's gone through, Kayden has learned to trust him and even feels herself drawn to him more and more.  So when Kayden comes upon a dead body while rock climbing (which turns out to be something more than a tragic accident), she and Jake team up to look for clues.  With Jake's past experience as a police detective, and Kayden's dogged determination to solve the mystery, they make a good team.  But as Jake and Kayden become closer to each other, they also become closer to a killer . . . and is there another sinister figure lurking in the background?

My thoughts:
Silenced is the fourth book in Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series, and it was a fun read.  I've had the opportunity to read three of the four now (just lacking the first one) and I enjoyed continuing the McKenna saga!  This book had plenty of suspense, although I will say that I felt some of the story was a bit more far-fetched than the previous books, and the suspense aspect didn't seem as scary as some of the others.  On the plus side, though, Kayden and Jake are two of my favorite characters thus far.  One thing I really like about Pettrey's characters is that she makes them feel real--plenty of flaws and issues that they're working through.  Kayden (at least in my opinion) is one of the most "real" . . . and although she puts up a tough front, in this book we find out that she's got a softer side underneath.  I enjoyed watching her take down the walls she'd built up against Jake (and her feelings for him) over the years, as their relationship developed.  As always, I really enjoyed the Alaskan setting of the story, and I hope to have the chance to review the next book in the Alaskan Courage series when it's published in a couple months!

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.**

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Back to blogging!

I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted anything in this little space!  I had these big dreams of posting daily in December . . . well, as you can obviously see, that was a little bit of a far-fetched dream. ;)  But, I've missed sharing our lives, and I NEED to get back to this place where I can have a bit of a creative outlet and a place to record the ordinary moments of our lives.  And of course, share pictures of our sweet Ari!!  So, I'm determined to get back to blogging, hopefully posting at least once a week.  For this week though, I have a big goal of posting one book review each day till I am caught up.  I have (I think) 4 books that I need to post reviews for.  Just finished writing the first one, so I will put that up after I post this.

Can you believe our baby girl is FIVE weeks old now?!!!  Unbelievable.  She is soooo sweet.  The picture above was taken at 4 weeks old.  I have lots more pictures to share, even have a whole post full of them started, but I want to add some chatter to that one too, so I will wait a bit to publish it.  But I thought you all might like to see at least one pic!  She is growing and changing so much already, and I can't wait till she starts smiling (I think it will be soon :)).  I am going to keep this post short, but just wanted to let everyone know that we are all still alive and doing great!  Just so busy, and when I'm at the computer I usually have my hands full of baby. :)  I'm hoping that this will be the first of many catch-up posts and lots of chatter.  Stay tuned for book reviews and hopefully some more random posts soon!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Last day of October

Hey, can you believe it . . . if I finish this post tonight, that will make TWO posts on here this month!! ;)

I woke up this morning--at 9 am, I might add--to find my husband making brownies "for breakfast."  (The breakfast part was a joke. :))  What with me having to rest more these days, we had run out of sweets in the house, and that is a problem for my sweets-loving man!  So he took matters into his own hands and made a pan of brownies while I slept in.  (And I was super thankful for the extra sleep, since I had a really rough night with little sleep on Weds.)

Unless something surprising happens, it looks like I will not get my wish of an October baby . . . but that is okay. :)  All in good time!  I know it is good for this little one to "bake" as long as possible, although I have to say I am still hoping he/she comes a *little* early . . . like ANY TIME NOW, BABY!! ;)

As of today, we are officially done with our first quarter of the school year!  We do a lot of school on the couch these days, like this recent picture shows.  Josiah is making great strides with his reading!
I am amazed by how fast the first 9 weeks have gone.  It's exciting too that we got through the first quarter before the baby comes.  We are way behind on our Sonlight reading, but right on track, maybe even a little ahead, with our other subjects.  I figure we will have plenty of reading time after Baby comes, since I will probably be tied to the couch, nursing, for a while!  So hopefully we can catch up then.

The kids' neighborhood soccer season finished up this past Monday.  With the time change this weekend, it'll be too dark to play in the evenings anymore.  They sure had fun, though, and I think their skills are improving, too!
We are thankful for our neighbors organizing it, and for the fun outlet it is for our kiddos.

We have enjoyed fall storytimes at the library over the past couple months, and this week's was a special dress-up version for Halloween.  It was fun to see everyone's different costumes!  We absolutely love our small-town library and the sweet ladies who work there and put so much time and thought into planning storytime.
(In case the picture isn't too clear, Sam was a superhero, Julia was a cowgirl, and Josiah was a Transformer--the one with the mask on the bottom row.  Sometimes we buy costumes on clearance at Walmart after Halloween so they have a nice little stash of dress-up clothes, but this year Josiah was the only one who used a store-bought costume.  The other two had fun coming up with their own ideas, using dress-up clothes made by Grammy, or stuff we had on hand.

While I don't love the time change and the darker afternoons/evenings, one thing I do love about this time of year is that life seems to slow down a bit and we spend more time snuggled up at home.  We have enjoyed some nice family time lately, movie or game nights, etc., and it's just those simple, normal times that make life special, you know?  I'm also trying to soak up these last days with just three kids . . . while we are all excited about the new baby, it's been just the five of us for so long that I know we will have some adjustments to make!  I'm trying to give each of the kids a little extra one-on-one time because they seem to need it right now.

Speaking of the new baby (because of course that is kinda at the top of my mind right now), here is the cute little Thanksgiving onesie we got for him or her:

Yesterday I saw this adorable turkey hat pattern on Pinterest, so I might just have to buy it and have already asked my mom if she'd be willing to make a hat for our "little turkey" ;) if I do!  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and although I'm not yet totally sure what we will be doing about dinner this year (because I might not have a ton of energy right then!), I am excited about having a close-to-Thanksgiving baby and an extra special reason to be thankful!

Another thing I am extra thankful for right now is the way Jim and the kids have been pitching in to help me with things around the house.  Especially recently, since I have orders to do lots of resting, I haven't been able to do as much cleaning, cooking, etc. as I would like.  They have all pitched in to help with dishes, laundry, even some cooking . . . and mostly they have done it so willingly.  I'm also thankful for my mom, who has generously stocked our freezer with breakfast foods, and that I've been able to get a little more than a week's worth of supper meals in there, as well.

Well, hope you enjoyed this little bit of chatter. :)  I think I'll stop for now, so I can actually post this in October!  Hopefully November will be a little better month for blogging . . . we will see!  Oh, and I also posted a new update at Eating for Two, for those who are interested. :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time for some chatter :)

Oh  my, sometimes it is just so hard to jump back in when there is so much to say!  I really want to do a recap of our summer/fall, since I really didn't blog much about our life over the past few months.  I also have 3 book reviews I need to post.  I am hoping that I can get to some of these things during the downtime I will have after the baby arrives . . . or even before.  Today, for example, I stayed home from church to keep my feet up since I have been having some swelling.  So I planned to hopefully do a little blogging, but I had some other things on my "must-do" list first (things I could do while sitting down, of course :)), and somehow blogging didn't happen till now, and Jim and the kids should be home any minute.

*********************************************************************************
Yep, I wrote just one paragraph yesterday and worked a little on a pregnancy post, and then they came home.  So now it's Monday and I'm hoping to have enough time to write a whole post before the kids wake up (they are late sleepers!). :)

We have had the most gorgeous fall here and I wish I had taken more pictures.  It was really the nicest fall I can remember in several years.  We haven't had a ton of cold weather yet, which helped.  Lots of warm days, not much frost yet, and the leaves were so beautiful.  We thoroughly enjoyed the color all around us!  Here is a collage of iPod pics from back near the end of September--it doesn't showcase the color so well because this was from an evening walk around the bog, but still pretty.

This past Saturday the younger kids and I were on our own while Jim and Sam went hunting for youth day.  (They saw a couple of deer, but not close enough to get a shot at, unfortunately.  They had a fun hike, though!)  We were blessed with a beautiful day after a week of rain, so after doing some errands in the morning, I sent Julia and Siah outside for a while in the afternoon.  Then later I had to go out and get a few pics of them as they played by the pond. :)  (It was nice to finally have the pond looking good again, and some water running into it for a change!  The past couple months have been so dry, that the stream had dried up and the pond was pretty stagnant.  Not anymore!)



 This one is my favorite...I love how they each added a hat and scarf to their outfit. :)  These two are often like two peas in a pod!  (And Julia really IS taller than Josiah--they just look the same size here because of how they're standing.  She only outweighs him by about 5 lbs, though!)

I know this just gives you the tiniest peek into our lives, but I am going to stop here for now, since it's time to jump into school.  We are starting week 9 already!!!  Hopefully later this week I may have time to post a summer/fall recap with more pics.  Thanks for being patient since I have been a terrible blogger lately!! :)

Oh, and there is a new update at Eating for Two, for those who are interested. :)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Brothers in the garden

 This evening I asked the boys to go pick some green beans and cucumbers from our little garden.  Honestly, I've pretty much neglected it this summer, but we've still ended up with a nice little crop of zucchini, beans, and now a few little cukes . . . oh, and quite a few tomatoes!  They were happy to show off their harvest. :)

Josiah has the hardest time giving a *real* smile for pictures.  Oh well, he is cute and funny anyway!

Sam, on the other hand, has no trouble giving a real smile!  He likes to ham it up for the camera. :) 

I'm thankful for what a good help our kids are becoming, not just with the garden, but around the house too.  They are a blessing for sure!  Oh, and I made a yummy recipe with the green beans for supper.  Two out of three kids really liked it, and I did too!  (Jim ate it and said it was good, but he's not a big fan of green beans. :))  Here's the link: Lemon Garlic Green Beans.  Easy peasy, and tasty too!

Edited to add: I also put up a new post at Eating for Two! :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jumping back in

Apparently I am now a once-a-month blogger!  Oh dear.  You know how sometimes you have so many things to write about, you don't know where to start?  Time goes by, more things happen, then I have MORE to write about . . . and so, since I'm already "behind," I end up not writing about anything, because I've already missed so much. :(  Anyway, as of today I am attempting to jump back into the blogging world, and we'll see how it goes.  Fall is right around the corner, and with it comes school and a new routine, and hopefully I'll be organized enough to actually fit blogging somewhere into my schedule.  Life is zipping by so fast, and I really want to record the moments!!

It's hard to believe we are already in the last month of summer! :(  We have enjoyed having less structure to our days, getting to sleep in (pregnant mommas need lots of sleep, right? :)), and doing some fun family activities.  Last summer I instituted "Friday Adventures" as a regular part of our week.  Every Friday we would do something fun, usually away from home . . . whether it was just a walk on the local nature trail, or a trip to the beach, or the science center.  Twice we got to do BIG adventures, going to Battleship Cove and Plimoth Plantation, as part of the "Free Fun Fridays" that a lot of museums in MA take part in.  I had hoped to do the same thing (adventures) this summer, but I've found that being pregnant makes it a little more difficult.  We have gone to the science center twice (before Ohio), and we're planning to go a few more times.  We haven't accomplished a beach trip yet, but hopefully soon!  The weather actually hasn't been super hot, so we haven't been itching to swim as much as some summers!

Today I am working on making a big batch of spaghetti sauce to can.  
Our tomatoes haven't done too great this year, but we did have a few pounds of them, plus I knew I had some in the freezer from last year.  Um, well, I had more in the freezer than I thought.  I think I had two summers' worth in there!  The kids hauled up gallon bag after gallon bag for me yesterday afternoon, and I thawed them on the counter overnight.  Now they are simmering on the stove along with onions, peppers, garlic, spices, etc. (I use this recipe but leave out the oil.)  I think we had around 30ish lbs. of tomatoes total, which should make for quite a bit of sauce.  We will enjoy it this winter on pizza, spaghetti, and anything else we need sauce for!

I've been doing some thrifting lately, and that's always fun!  One of my happiest finds was this set of dishes which go perfectly in our home.  I got everything on the table for $25!
 The dinner plates have bears and trees; the salad plates have canoes and trees.  The beige mugs and cookie jar/canister coordinate, but have moose/trees (the cookie jar has a bear on one side and moose on the other).  The brown bowls/plates are not part of the same set (they're Fiestaware), but they were all being sold together in spite of that.  The red/beige set has 6 dinner plates, 6 salad plates, 8 mugs, the moose plate, the cookie jar, and bear and moose salt and pepper shakers.
Whoohoo, what a deal!!  My other super great deal was this pair of Bogs boots for $2.

 My friend Patty saw them at the thrift store and mentioned them to me at church Thursday night; she thought they might fit Josiah.  I went in the next day and they were still there!  Yippee!!  They are a little big for him, but they are in great shape, and will probably fit him this winter or next.  Bogs retail for around $78, so you can imagine my excitement over this find. :)  Sam had a pair that we got several years ago for around $20 at another thrift store, and I thought THAT was a good deal.  He wore them pretty much all the time for 2 years, till the outer fabric started to get holes.  I'm hopeful that these will last Josiah just as long (and he probably won't wear them quite as much as Sam did), and maybe we will still have them for the new baby to wear eventually, or to pass on to a friend.  We also hit an unexpected dollar day at one of the thrift stores on Weds. of this week; we ended up with 7 pieces of clothing and 3 beanie babies for the kids (a quarter each).

I've been working on organizing and planning for school a little bit.  We will be starting either on Labor Day or the day after.  I have all my curriculum now, and last week I printed off some free planners from The Old Schoolhouse, and had them spiral bound at a local print shop.  They are pretty simple, but I hope they will help keep us a little more organized this year!
 The Sonlight box arrived . . . we are continuing last year's core, so this box wasn't as big or exciting as most years.  Still fun to check out the new stuff, though!
 The planners . . . Julia already claimed hers, as you can see. :)
 A little bit of the inside.
I'm hoping to incorporate some more Charlotte Mason-type stuff into school this year.  Specifically notebooking . . . IF we can fit it in, and IF the kids seem to enjoy it.  I'm not sure on either count.  :)  I absolutely love this blog that has so many great freebies for notebooking and other extras, that fit in with the Sonlight cores.  This lady has done a fabulous job and she makes all her resources available for free!!  I also found this great series of blog posts at Intoxicated on Life about planning for a new homeschool year: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  I will be taking the time to read through them this week; they look really good!!

In other (important!) news, Jim and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on Aug. 7.  Can't believe we have been married that long!!  We went out for supper to celebrate, having had our "big" celebration with our getaway back in March.  Here is a collage of pics from our supper out, that I took with my iPod:
Jim ordered what was called the "Death by Burger."  Well, the waitress accidentally put in an order for the "Double Death by Burger."  It contained 36 oz. of beef (YIKES!).  In spite of a valiant effort, Jim was only able to eat 1/4 of it--we brought the rest home!  The best part was that because of the waitress's error, the manager deducted the entire cost of the burger, so it was FREE.  Gotta love restaurants with stellar customer service!  We had such a nice time and it was good to get away for a little while.

I've made this post long enough, and have barely put a dent in my list of things to blog about . . . but I'll wrap it up for now.  I also put up a new post (finally!) at my pregnancy blog.  Thanks so much for reading!!  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Long time no write . . . and a trip adventure to share!

Whew!  I can't believe I let more than a month go by between posts.  It's not like my life has been THAT crazy/busy . . . but the time just got away from me.  And we were gone for a little over a week on our annual Ohio trip (more about that later).  We got home late Sunday night, but this week has been full with trying to catch up on things, reporting for jury duty (thankful I didn't end up getting selected!), grocery shopping and library, and a midwife appt.  The summer is flying by at breakneck speed and I am trying hard not to think about school, yet at the same time knowing I need to at least START thinking about it . . . oh yeah, and buying the things we will need for it, too. :)  We are continuing last year's Sonlight core, so we don't have to make a huge purchase right now, but the kids will need math, language arts, etc. and I need to get all that figured out and ordered.

Jim is super busy with work, too (a GOOD thing!), so I'm really glad we got that week away to just relax.  Although we kept pretty busy out there, and there's never quite enough time to fit in all the things we might like to do . . . but at least it's a change of pace!  I'm hoping we might be able to fit in a short camping trip sometime in August, but we will see.  I feel like we could use some "just us" family time before the baby arrives and we get even busier! :)

Before our vacation, we were having one of THOSE months.  You know the kind--where almost everything that can go wrong, does go wrong?  In our house, things don't seem to happen in threes . . . it's more like sixes. :)  Our dishwasher was only working about half the time.  Our water stopped working a couple of times, too (we think there is something wrong with the pump in the well).  Jim was doing a bunch of work on his truck, and kept running into more and more issues he needed to fix.  My big stand mixer broke for the third time--there goes making 4 loaves of bread at once, twice a week!  A bear got into our chicken coop 2 nights before our trip, breaking a window and leaving Jim with yet another thing he had to fix before we left!  (Thankfully all the bear took was one of the feeders--no chickens.)  Oh yeah, and it was super hot and muggy that week, which made it not-so-fun trying to get packed and ready for our trip!

 The window the bear broke
Boarded up hole where the window used to be

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining. :)  It was actually almost funny, how so many things went wrong all at once.  At one point I commented to Jim that I wondered if we were even supposed to go to Ohio this year, with all these things happening!  Well, we finally got on the road, very early Saturday morning, July 5.  Ahhhh . . . we could relax now.  We were in Jim's truck with working A/C, so the ride was comfy.  We had gotten a nice start around 4 am, and everything was going smoothly.
 Happy travelers somewhere along the way

Sleepy traveler!

We were on track to get to my in-laws' around 6 pm, so we were pretty happy about that!  THEN, we had just crossed into Ohio, and suddenly the truck started bouncing around all over the road (keep in mind we were going around 70-75 mph) and Jim was having a hard time controlling it.  It wanted to pull to the left, and there was nothing he could do but hang on.  We went flying into the grassy median between the north and southbound lanes and finally came to a stop.  It was pretty scary, but we really saw God's protection as we didn't hit anyone, we were in a place where there was grass instead of concrete barriers, Jim was able to keep calm and get us slowed down and stopped, and the kids didn't even realize we had a problem until we got stopped (they were watching a DVD at the time and just thought the road had gotten really bumpy).  Jim checked to see what was wrong and discovered a bolt had fallen out of the track bar, which centers the axle (technical terms which I don't fully understand, but let's just say it was a necessary little bolt and now it was gone!).

To keep a long story a bit shorter . . . we were able to call highway patrol, and a trooper came by and called for a tow truck for us.  He made sure to request one that had a big enough cab for all of us to fit in.  It seemed to take forever for the guy to come, but everything seems longer when you are stuck!  It was probably about an hour, and we found out later that the driver was called in to work because both the other trucks and drivers were already out on calls, and he lived about 20 min. from the shop, then the shop was another 20 min. or so from where we broke down . . . Anyway, let's just say we were very thankful to see him when he finally got there!  He assured us there was a mechanic coming into the shop also, who would be able to get us fixed up and on the road again.  Well, he did . . . but it took another hour and a half or so because he didn't have the exact right parts and he had a lot of trouble getting the nut into the place where it needed to go on the bolt (it was a very tight/hard to reach area to work on).  Jim wandered around the garage and talked with the mechanic a little bit, while the kids and I hung out in the truck and watched DVDs.  VERY thankful for our portable DVD player, as it definitely helped pass the time!  We had broken down around 2 pm, and finally got back on the road just before 6 pm.  The rest of the trip went fine, and we arrived at the farm just before 10 pm--4 hours later than planned, but very thankful to have arrived in one piece! :)
 The truck getting loaded on the flatbed
 First ride in a tow truck!  Still happy travelers. :)
Jim's and my second ever ride in a tow truck--the first was about 15 years ago in his old red Ford that left us beside the highway in Michigan!

So that was our big trip adventure, and hopefully we won't have a story like that to tell ever again. :)  We saw God's provision and protection in so many ways, though; I just wanted to share some of them.
While Jim was out of the truck when we first broke down, the kids and I took a minute to pray.  We prayed for a few specific things and it was really neat to see God answer.

  • We prayed that God would give Daddy wisdom in what to do: He realized the best option was to call 911 and they took care of us from there!
  • We prayed that the tow truck driver and the mechanic would be nice people to deal with: They were both very nice, very kind, and helpful.  We couldn't have asked for better guys to deal with.
  • We prayed that the mechanic would be able to fix the truck the same day (this was iffy, being a Saturday--we didn't know if the shop would even be open!): He came in specially to take care of it and had us fixed in less than 2 hours.  Even though it seemed like a long wait to us, it was sure better than waiting till Monday, or Jim trying to find the parts and tools to fix it himself, which would have been kind of difficult without a working vehicle!
  • We prayed that the tow and repair wouldn't be too expensive: We were floored when they only charged us $145 for both.  I was seriously expecting it to be more in the $400-500 range, especially considering that both guys had to be called into work on a Saturday.  Huge answer to prayer!
It was really neat to be able to see these specific requests answered and to share that with the kids.  I hope it was a bit of a faith-building experience for them.  And they did wonderfully through the whole thing!  That was a huge blessing, too.  Nobody whined or complained; they took it in stride and we were so proud of them.

Sorry this was such a long post, but hopefully soon I will get back to writing shorter updates, a little more regularly. :)  I did update my pregnancy blog today as well, if anyone is interested!  Hope you all have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aprons, Yogurt, and Other Randomness

Before I forget, I need to answer a couple of questions that have been asked!  First, Nikki asked what pattern I had used for the aprons I made last month, and I forgot to reply.  I figured it would be good to mention it in an actual post rather than a comment, since others might be interested too.  I just checked, and unfortunately that pattern appears to be out of print now. :(  However, I bet you could find it online somewhere, maybe Etsy or Ebay?  Here is a picture of it--the number is McCall's 5643.  And FYI, I adapt it a bit every time I make it--I basically make View A, but without the flap thingy on the top, and with the pocket for View B instead (except this time I changed up the pocket a little).  I also make it reversible.  So I buy two coordinating fabrics (2 yards of each) and use the second fabric for the main part of the lining.  It's kinda hard to explain, but basically everything is double sided--if the two fabrics are polka dots and checks, you'll have a polka dot and check fabric on each side.  If you end up sewing one of these, you can look back to my original pics if you need it to make more sense. :)

Also, Joey had mentioned that I should post a yogurt tutorial since I've been making it a lot lately!  Instead of that, I'll do the quicker and easier thing--point you to the original blog post with its own great tutorial!  It's found here on Trina Holden's blog.  I have made yogurt three times now (most recently with whole milk instead of 2%) and it has turned out great every time!  The kids love it and Jim eats it with granola nearly every day.  I think it is yummy as well, and I love to put it in smoothies.  

I updated Eating for Two last week and forgot to post about it here--I know some of you discovered it anyway, but just thought I would mention it for those who hadn't!  

Another link I wanted to mention . . . some of you may be familiar with the Fresh Modesty blog.  I stumbled upon it a while back and while the girl who writes it is a whole lot younger than me, I love her style and I especially love her denim skirts!  I think they are really flattering, and I have been eyeing her ebook with 2 skirt tutorials for quite a while now.  I still hope to get it eventually and make myself a skirt or two, plus it would be a handy resource for sewing for Julia as well!  Anyway, she has recently embarked on a new business venture called Fresh Apparel, where she will be offering her "Errand #17" skirt for sale (a limited number will be available at first).  She currently has a Kickstarter campaign going to raise the money for the first batch of skirts.  Now, these will not be cheap--but they WILL be made in USA, and well-made by the sounds of it!  So I wanted to throw out the info in case anyone would like to donate to her business.  (You can donate any amount of a dollar or more--but there are incentives for donating higher amounts.)  You can go here to read all about it!  The campaign is fully funded for the first round of skirts, but she would love to read her "stretch" goal for a second style, and there are three days left to do it.  

We are getting a lovely soaking rain tonight; we haven't had a good rain since we planted the garden over a week ago, so I am thankful!  We have a few small shoots coming up and our tomato plants all look pretty good, but hopefully the rain will help encourage things along a bit.  Everyone but me is in bed; Julia was singing along to the lullabies on the iPod a few minutes ago, and I am headed for dreamland soon myself.  Hope you are all having a great week!