**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I promised over a week ago to post pictures, and then life got busy! So much for my Christmas countdown posts . . . oh well, at least I wasn't trying to post every day, anyway. :) We put up the tree on Dec. 2. Every year the kids get better at helping! We didn't even break any ornaments (so far!) this year. We worked on it together, but the kids did the bulk of the decorating!
Josiah wanted to help me move furniture around and vacuum. Don't you love the earmuffs? ;)
Time to decorate!
They enjoy finding the ornaments that I've had since I was a kid--and I enjoy telling them the stories behind a few of them. I don't remember for sure about this little Fievel mouse, but it seems like maybe it was a happy meal prize? So cute, though!
Love their looks of concentration! :)
And the silly, not-ready-for-the-camera looks, too . . .
We also dug up a tiny real tree for the boys' room.
They were excited to put COLORED lights on this one . . . unfortunately they stopped working after a few days (it was an old string) so we need to buy some new ones.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Mollie Knox’s 57th Illinois Watch Company makes the finest watches in the United States. Started by her father, Silas Knox, and named after his Civil War regiment, the company is legendary for their exquisite watches that only the wealthy can afford. It also employs a number of veterans of the 57th Illinois Regiment, and Mollie loves being able to provide jobs for these men, honoring her father’s memory and wishes at the same time.
When Zack Kazmarek, lawyer for Hartman’s, one of Chicago’s finest department stores, comes to Mollie with an offer from Hartman’s to buy out her company, Mollie is unsure what to do. Her good business sense tells her that the smartest move would be to accept this offer, but a niggling feeling of doubt makes her pause. Just as she is on the verge of accepting, she comes upon an old deed that casts doubt on the real motives behind Hartman’s proposal. Angry, Mollie confronts Zack, but the same night the Great Chicago Fire sweeps through the city and changes everything, including Mollie’s feelings for Zack. But as both the 57th Illinois Watch Company and Hartman’s store work to rebuild their businesses, the love that is growing between Mollie and Zack is in danger of crumbling.
Elizabeth Camden’s novels have become some of my favorites over the past few years, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review her latest offering, Into the Whirlwind. As I’ve come to expect with Camden’s work, the book was expertly researched and very well-written. Although I was familiar with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about it, and as is usual with a Camden book, I was drawn into the story so much that I felt like I was there. Mollie Knox was one of my favorite of Camden’s female characters thus far--I admired her pluck and determination to rebuild her company and continue providing jobs for her father’s fellow veterans. I could also relate to her desire for an orderly and predictable life, and her trepidation about “riding the whirlwind” with Zack, although I also got frustrated with her for not seeing how "right" Zack was for her! I also really liked Zack--he was so confident and bold on the outside, but actually quite vulnerable where his love for Mollie was concerned. I enjoyed watching both of them grow in different ways throughout the book.
I only have a couple of small complaints about Into the Whirlwind . . . first, it did seem to be a little slower at grabbing my interest compared to Camden’s earlier books. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but once the fire was over, it seemed to drag a little bit. I think this may have been purposeful, though--to kind of show how Mollie liked her life to move along slowly, compared to Zack’s attempts to keep shaking things up. I also would have liked to see more spiritual depth to the story . . . something that is one of my concerns about a lot of the Christian fiction I review. There was definitely a spiritual element, but a little more would have been nice.
As I mentioned earlier, one thing I really like about Elizabeth Camden’s books is how she draws the reader into the time period and the setting. Her last book, Against the Tide, was mostly set in Boston, while this one was set in Chicago . . . both large cities, but both completely different in the 1800s, as well as today. Living in New England, I could relate a bit more to the Boston setting, but reading Into the Whirlwind gave me a taste of what life would have been like just before and after the Chicago Fire, and also a great admiration for the courage and tenacity it took to rebuild the city. I would highly recommend any of Camden’s novels, and I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.
**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I have been working hard this week on getting up early, at least an hour or more before the kids do, so I can savor that quiet time in the morning with a cup of coffee (can you believe I actually like coffee now??!) and my Bible study. I am loving doing the GMG Advent study again, as well as reading the short devotionals in Good News of Great Joy by John Piper. (This ebook is available for free as a PDF or for Kindle and other e-readers.) Now that we have the Christmas tree up, I love having my quiet time by the lights of the tree. (I will hopefully be sharing more pics from our decorating tomorrow!)
We try to keep our Christmas season fairly simple and unhurried, but I do have a short list of traditions that we usually do each year--things like baking sugar cookies with the kids, setting up the manger scene, doing a Jesse tree, etc. We are also thinking about going to a Christmas parade, driving around to look at lights, and of course watching our favorite movies like "It's a Wonderful Life." Doing all these things over the course of the month instead of trying to cram them all into the week before Christmas helps me slow down the season and keep the anticipation going. Hopefully one day our kids will grasp that for themselves. For now, I just try to gently remind them that we can enjoy the whole month and that will make Christmas seem to last longer. :)
Monday, December 02, 2013
Sam and Josiah share a room and they are good buddies despite the 4 year age difference. Every night we have this "tradition" (started by them) that after we close their door, they holler "Love you, Mommy, night night!" twice, and then I'm supposed to holler it back twice ("loud enough so we can hear!!"). This has been going on for quite some time, but more recently as I stand outside their door and listen, after we say our usual goodnights I hear two little voices saying, "Good night, Sam!" "Good night, Siah!" (Reminds me of the Waltons. ;)) And if I get up early enough (i.e. before they do) I will then hear, "Good morning, Sam!" "Good morning, Siah!" If Sam happens to get up before Josiah and sneaks out of their room quietly, Josiah will wake up and lie there hollering, "GOOD MORNING, SAM!!" until I finally go in and tell him that Sam is already up and out of the room. :) It's so cute and makes me smile every time . . . and helps me remember during the times they are arguing, that they really love each other deep down. :) Love my little men so much!!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
As I mentioned in my last post, I love the Christmas season and I don't want it to pass by too quickly! Just the fact that it is already December 1st seems super crazy. I think it's because Thanksgiving was so late this year. Anyway, with that in mind, I realized that I really need to plan for this month--for special things we want to do, make, decorate, etc. Today was busy and I didn't get the chance to sit down and make a list, but I'm hoping to do that tomorrow! Usually I use my trusty spiral notebook for such planning, but this year I might just have to use this freebie that I discovered today, thanks to Money Saving Mom!
You can find the free planner here at Frugal Homeschool Family!
Another freebie that has been really helpful to me already is Dave Ramsey's free My Christmas Budget. This is a simple online tool where you can set budget amounts for the different people on your list (and I also used it for extra stuff like cards, stamps, Operation Christmas Child shipping, etc.). As you buy gifts you record what/how much, and the site keeps track of how much you have left for each person or category. It's very easy to use!
One more thing on my plan for this month is using the Advent study from Good Morning Girls! The Thanksgiving study was such a huge blessing, and even though I already did the Advent study last year, I'm excited to dig into it again this year! All the materials are available as free downloads for their blog subscribers, so check it out if you're interested in joining in!
What are your plans for this month? Are you a list-maker too, or do your prefer to keep this season more spontaneous?
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Here we are at the end of our 30 days of thankfulness . . . at least on the blog, hopefully not the end of thankfulness in the day-to-day! :) Even though I forgot to post on several days, I'm happy that I was able to blog a lot more than usual, and for the daily reminder to focus on things I'm thankful for.
Today I'm thankful that I got a lot crossed off my list for the day! It's been a while since I've been consistent with keeping and following a daily list, but I'm trying to get back into the habit. Today I got about 80% of the things crossed off, including some mundane jobs that had been nagging at me. And I even got a little start on some Christmas decorating!! :) Hopefully within the next few days we will get a lot more of it done . . . Christmas is sneaking up on me this year and I want to have time to enjoy the whole season!
I'm not sure if I will try to post daily in December or not. I've done that other years and loved it, but not sure if I want to put that pressure on myself this year! I guess we'll see what happens. :)