Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga

And then at thirteen, when I was dying on the hospital bed and the nurses said I was a miracle, I finally saw him.

I saw God for who he was – a Savior who wasn’t a minister with a wrinkled forehead stuck in his office [her dad], who wasn’t a mother who had never been affirmed growing up, who wasn’t the church with all of its rules.

He grace.  And I began to believe with more than my mind, because I wanted to live. 

Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look page 48 by Emily T. Wierenga

 About the Book
Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.

Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts

I have followed Emily’s blog for many years now, so I was thrilled to get her book to review.  And, I was not disappointed. This memoir brings about all emotions . . . those of compassion and understanding, to gripping your heart for the unknown that Emily writes of.  I really like how Emily’s book brings you through her childhood – to heart commitment of never returning home – and then God changes that, and with it brings so much healing.  I find this so true in life – when we say “I will never do such and such” God often has other plans.

I found this book to be like I am  reading through someone’s journal – skipping around, and then coming back to fill in the gaps.  Her words are raw and real – writing things that we wish we could say at times, giving hope, truly found in Jesus.  I highly recommend reading Atlas Girl.


 Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look was provided courtesy of Baker Books,
in exchange for my written, honest review of this Book.

Posted in Books

Book Review: Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray


his past week has been a humbling and healing time, which, in time, I will write about, but is part of my delay in writing this review for the blog tour (this was due last week). I was reading this book throughout some major home renovations and heart renovations, making this an especially wonderful God-ordained time to read, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray.  I’d like to encourage you to click that link and not even read any further.  Order the book now!  It’s that good. There’s hardly a page in my book without a marking on it.  And, I can see it as one for anyone, where ever you may be with God. It was written from a broken heart in such a personal way that can touch a heart very personally, like it did mine. 

whitespace-coverI felt many times I was sitting at a coffee shoppe with Bonnie, saying, “oh yes, I have/am there too . . . yes, I struggle with panic attacks and dreams and struggles from the past…things I want to shove aside, forget“, and Bonnie would respond,

Perfect peace from God isn’t found by forgetting. Peace is ours if we dare to remember our pain and our sorrow, and experience our fears fully with Jesus.  Shalom peace from God is a putting back together.

Shalom is the movement to recover pieces of ourselves that have been abandoned, a putting back together of what we’ve left behind, to find Jesus with us in our memories.

….Shalom peace is now my place of faith.  My journey to find rest is now a journey toward wholeness.  A putting back together that includes broken pieces.

The journey of rest is leading me to recover all of my soul.  This peace makes no detours around reality.

Finding Spiritual Whitespace page 76, 77

Bonnie and I could easily understand together how “[b]ehind every pain lies a lost dream” and how we need to allow Jesus to repair the nets of  our dreams we’ve left behind and allow God to fill them full, and overflowing.  I imagine there will always be the knots in nets that have torn, but we can find the beauty even from those snarls and snags in our lives.

I can go on and on about Finding Spiritual Whitespace.  Her words are so much better than mine here, so I invite you to read her book.  I believe you will be greatly encouraged!I


 Finding Spiritual Whitespace was provided courtesy of Baker Books,
in exchange for my written, honest review of this Book.

Posted in Books

Celebrating World Book Day


very April 23 since 1995, people all over the world gather to promote and celebrate the joys of reading and writing literature. This is World Book Day, a yearly event organized and promoted by UNESCO to encourage reading for pleasure around the world. Though people of all ages are encouraged to participate, World Book Day is geared especially towards children and young people, encouraging them to develop a good relationship with books and good reading habits that they will then carry into adulthood.

Significance of the Date

April 23 is WORLD BOOK DAY! What are you reading? What's your favorite childhood book?

The date of April 23 was chosen because it coincides with several important dates in literary history. William Shakespeare was born on April 23 in 1564, and he died on the same date half a century later in 1616. April 23 is also the anniversary of the Miguel de Cervantes and Garcilaso de la Vega, a 17th century Spanish writer who also served as a chronicler of Spanish presence in Peru. The French novelist Maurice Duron, Colombian short story author Manuel Mejía Vallejo, and the Icelandic poet and novelist Halldór Laxness were also all born on April 23. This makes the day uniquely suited to represent writers from all over the world.

History of World Book Day

World Book Day was established in 1995. It is not an official holiday in any of the many countries in which it is celebrated, but it was conceived as a global initiative to be celebrated all around the world at the same time. UNESCO, the education and cultural outreach branch of the United Nations organized World Book Day. Each year, UNESCO chooses a city around the globe to serve as the World Book Capital City for that year. Madrid, Alexandria, New Deli, Montreal, Bagota, and Amsterdam are some of the cities chosen as past capitals. Capital Cities receive backing from UNESCO so they can put on more ambitious events.

Events Around the World

World Book Day events are generally left open for libraries, schools, and community organizations to put together themselves. Book fairs are common, as are costume contests where children dress as their favorite literary characters. A few cities host more ambitious annual events to celebrate their own literary traditions. In Spain, many cities organize public  “readathons” of the full text of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This is an ambitious undertaking, as the full text of the novel takes around two days of continual reading to complete. The Don Quixote Prize for Spanish literature is also awarded on this day. Similarly, pubs and other public spots in Ireland hold readings of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and people organize Ulysses tours, where participants visit all the locations around Dublin that are mentioned in the novel. In the United Kingdom, World Book Day is celebrated with the publication of a series of £1 books for children. These inexpensive books include many of the most popular titles for kids and make booksets for classrooms more easily accessible for schoolchildren in the country.

With so many distractions in modern life, it is easy to forget the pleasure of immersing yourself in a good book. World Book Day serves as an important reminder of the joy of reading.

Presented By Book Pal

Posted in Books, Information Article

Why Read to a Baby?


arents are excited and proud when their baby learns to say a few words.  From infancy onward, of course, the baby has been listening and learning language.  The skill of saying the words aloud is just the tip of the iceberg. Inside their developing brains, babies are ripe for knowledge. They soak up everything that they see and hear.  Reading books to them can enrich their knowledge and lay the foundation for a richer vocabulary at an early age.

BookReading to an infant may seem silly, but they love the sound of your voice and they are learning the nuances of language. By reading to them from all sorts of sources, parents can create an atmosphere of learning.  As they get old enough to see pictures, then the real interaction between language and visual cues really begins. Personalized baby books can deliver a one-two punch of learning. One of the first words that a baby recognizes is the baby’s own name. After all, it is usually said again and again by the parents. If it is said in a book, then the baby becomes more alert to the text that the parent or grandparent is reading. This provides both enjoyment and education at the same time.

An enriched vocabulary helps babies to understand the world faster. Reading books aloud is an important and loving aspect of good parenting.

Posted in Book Reviews 2013, Books, REVIEW

Book Review: The Promise by Dan Walsh & Gary Smalley


few months ago I shared a book review for  The Dance, by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley which was the first book of “The Restoration Series, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  So I was quite delighted when I was given the opportunity to read the second book in the series, The Promise, also by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley.  I certainly was not disappointed!  

bookIn this story, Tom Anderson loses his job, and does not tell his wife . . . for five months!  He continues with his normal schedule by leaving for work each day and coming home at the same time each evening.  His wife, Jean, senses something is going on.  She cannot figure out why her  husband is so concerned about finances, when he has a good job.  He even wants her to clip coupons!  But she has a secret of her own, and does not know how to tell him.  Their communication is definitely broken.   I imagine many readers will be able to relate to this couple.

Tom’s parents,  Marilyn and Jim (the couple whom the book, The Dance is about) are on their second honeymoon in Italy.  I especially appreciated their new communications skills and how they learned to love each other in a new way and how later in the story, Jim takes responsibility for some of the things he taught his son in the wrong way.    

The Promise is definitely a heart-felt, realistic story that encompasses real family and marriage trials that can lead to healing, forgiveness, restoration within a marriage and family,  all coming  from God.  I am looking forward to the next book in the series!


 The Promise  is available at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.

A free copy of this book was provided to me for my personal, truthful and unaltered review.

Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: A Farmer’s Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Dawn Stoltzfus


ith finally getting into more of a routine after our daughter’s wedding,  I am looking forward to making more homemade warm comfort foods. I was given the book,  A Farmer’s Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen by Dawn Stoltzfus to review, and it certainly is one I will be using a lot, especially through the fall and winter months.  I love making bread and the recipes look wonderful, even for Thanksgiving, such as, Fresh Apple Walnut Bread with Maple Drizzle or Honey Corn Bread.  There’s numerous breakfast recipes that would be great for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning and many yummy soup recipes, one my married daughter even wants to try.   

But tonight, after a cold windy day,  meatloaf just seemed like one of those warm, comfort foods for tonight. So I tried Mini Cheddar Meatloaves and it was an absolute hit!  The recipe said to shape it into 8 mini loaves.  Instead, I made it into little balls and put into a muffin tin.  It was so easy to serve up.  I also doubled the recipe to freeze some for another meal and sent some with our son when he was going to a friend’s house.  Here is how the recipe is written, in A Farmer’s Daughter:

Mini Cheddar Meatloaves

  • 1 lbs ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard

Preheat oven to 35o°F.  Mix together ground beef, egg, cheese, milk, onion, and salt.  Shape into 8 mini loaves, place in greased 9 x 13 pan.   In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard; spoon evenly over loaves.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.  Serves 4-5.

This will definitely be a recipe I will be using.  What I like about meatloaf, is you can add additional things to it.  If you have leftover rice . . . add it in!  This was so easy to double and made 30 muffin sized loaves.  I love it when the kids ask for more, and they certainly did!

I look forward to trying out more recipes in A Farmer’s Daughter.  If you are looking for a Christmas present, this would be an ideal one!

I received a copy of  A Farmer’s Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen at no cost for the purpose of review.  All opinions are my own and were not otherwise compensated. This book is now available from your favorite bookseller of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: At the Feet of Jesus by Joanna Weaver


have read and both enjoyed and been encouraged by Joanna Weaver’s books,  so when I was given the opportunity to read and review  At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart I was thrilled and I am not at all disappointed!  

This is a devotional book for a full year.  Each day includes the author’s devotional on a topic that affects many women and many of them are excerpts from her books, and at the end of each devotional is a reference to Scripture to read and a short sentence afterwards on a thought to “reflect” on.  Throughout the book there’s are pages called “Going Deeper” which encourages for more intimate time with God and how to do so.  At the Feet of Jesus is a great book to pick up each day and just be encouraged where we are at.  I have always liked Joanna Weaver’s  realness as she relates to everyday, stretching, and growing women who have pains and deal with life in general.  This book is no exception.  Even if you have read her other books, I found reading through some of the devotionals it being reminder of things that pricked my heart previously and know God wants me to remember!

I really like this At the Feet of Jesus and think it would be a great Christmas or Birthday gift to give to a special friend, daughter and/or mom.  It’s definitely a book I will be continuing to read!

I received a copy of At the Feet of Jesus at no cost for the purpose of review.  All opinions are my own and were not otherwise compensated. The information below was provided by Litfuse Publicity to share with my review.

About At the Feet of Jesus  – You were made for more than serving God; you were made to “know” Him. 

Intimacy with God–to know Him and be known by Him. It is what our hearts desperately need, but somehow life conspires to keep us busy and distracted.

For anyone who struggles when it comes to daily devotions, “At the Feet of Jesus” extends an irresistible invitation to set aside your duties and find the amazing peace and incredible joy that come from time alone with Him. Drawn from Joanna Weaver’s beloved Bethany trilogy, each reading in this 365-day devotional includes a Bible reading passage and reflection question. All-new material and “Going Deeper” sidebars are also woven throughout.

Discover for yourself the riches that come from spending a portion of each day alone with God. At the feet of Jesus–where true life begins

Includes a unique One-Year Bible Reading Guide.

About Joanna Weaver – With more than one million books in print, Joanna Weaver is the best-selling author of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit, Lazarus Awakening, and the award-winning gift book With This Ring. Her books have been translated into several languages around the world. 

Weaver’s articles have appeared in such publications as Focus on the Family, Guideposts, and In Touch. She has also appeared on a number of national TV and radio broadcasts such as The Harvest Show, Midday Connection, HomeWord and others.

She is also a highly sought-after speaker and shares her message at intimate gatherings and several high-profile events each year.

As much as she loves writing and speaking, her greatest joy is found in being a pastor’s wife and a mother. The parents of three, Joanna and her pastor husband, John, live in Montana.

Learn more about Joanna Weaver and her books at Readers can also keep up with her via Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: As We Forgive by June Foster


oo often we put people in ministry on a pedestal, with the idea they do not have struggles, can fail or even sin. I am thankful the pastor of my church is very open that he does have struggles.   Yet, my family was in a situation at one time, where we were told to never question a pastor, and to do so, could even cause serious health issues!  

So, in reading, As We Forgive, the author, June Foster, tells a realistic story of a young youth pastor, Tim, who struggles with anger and losing his temper, a result of how he was taught from his father, growing up.  Tim wants to do right before God, and with his youth group, and not only does it seem he fails, the kids in the youth group also take advantage of him, and people in the church run with it, seemingly trying to destroy him.

In the meantime, Tim falls in love with Roxanne, a gal who also has a past of struggles, including her father who abandoned her.  Her way of getting through the pain is shopping, and putting herself into deep debt, which she too, tries to hide.

This story is of love, heartache and redemption, in a unique way.  It is an easy read, yet, very realistic and something each of us can learn from.  Rarely can we find families without some type of dysfunction  and this definitely shows it, yet, how God can be the Healer and make life changes in individuals who seek Him.  I highly recommend putting As We Forgive on your to-read list.

I received a free e-book of As We Forgive from LovenGod Promotions in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Books, Grief, REVIEW

Book Review: Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief by Margaret McSweeney

Loss is a four-letter word that grips our hearts and gridlocks our lives. Grief can hold us captive until we surrender it to God. How do we find the necessary grace to journey through the mourning process? Juxtaposed to the outpouring of her mother’s words about grief, the author shares her parallel journey from the emotional abyss of grief after becoming an adult orphan. With candor, the author shares her own emotions experienced along the spectrum of loss after her parents’ deaths: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—adding interactive options for readers. Five sections cover these common emotions and provide:
  • comfort Scripture lists
  • counsel sections from grief experts
  • chronicling sections with detailed helps
  • tangible handles on dealing with grief during holidays, capturing loved ones’ legacy, and more.
Above provided by New Hope Publishers


or someone who may have just gone through the earthly loss of someone close, it can be hard reading deep books. Their mind can be in such a fog and it’s so hard to comprehend.  I believe this can be a book to give to someone who has either had a close loss or to a friend or family member who wants to understand another’s loss.  Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief by Margaret McSweeney is like reading someone’s personal journal and various conversations of reply throughout this easy reading, tender book.  
Carolyn Rhea first wrote the book, When Grief Is Your Constant Companion: God’s Grace for a Woman’s Heartache after the death of her husband, which consisted of 52 devotionals for women walking the same grief journey.  After Mrs. Rhea passed away, her daughter, Margaret McSweeney was asked to expand her mother’s book.  Aftermath includes some of her mom’s poetry and writings, and Margaret’s walk of grief after the death of her mom.  It’s a very personal book, one of sharing so many raw emotions, the ups and downs and the ultimate security in Jesus.  It also showed to me, how important our little notes we leave behind, being in our Bibles, notebooks or letters to family is so important.  These are treasures that are passed on and show our hearts.
I highly recommend Aftermath for anyone to read . . . and would even be good for a family anticipating the death of a loved one, in things to prepare for and memories that can be made.

 This review was written in exchange for a copy of the book, and expresses my honest opinion of the book. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Margaret McSweeney is a well-published author often writing online articles for Make It Better (the former North Shore Magazine) and freelance articles for the Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. In addition, she has authored and compiled several books including A Mother’s Heart Knows; Go Back and Be Happy; Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace and most recently, Mother of Pearl.

Margaret has a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in international business. As is the founder of Pearl Girls, Margaret collaborates with other writers on projects to help fund a safe house for WINGS, an organization that helps women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, and to build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda through Hands of Hope. For the past 10 years she has served on the board of directors and leadership advisory board for WINGS. Margaret lives with her husband and 2 daughters in the Chicago suburbs. Learn more about Margaret and the work of Pearl Girls at

Posted in Books, Faith, Grief, Matthew, REVIEW

Book Review: Desperate for Hope by Bruce W. Martin

Things are going just fine,
and then the call comes.

There’s been an accident.
There’s a mass in your breast.
The company’s downsizing.
Your husband is leaving.
Your daughter was raped.
And all of a sudden your life
is spinning out of control.
By Bruce W. Martin,


ave you had a call or life changing experience, like the author mentioned above?

We have . . .  from our daughter having serious heart defects and three open heart surgeries, a stillborn daughter and the death of our son. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it all, and where God is in it all, but indeed, we have seen and found Him, many times through the deepest valleys more evident than the brightest of days.  I appreciated that Bruce Martin, did not sugar-coat the life trials by sharing his heart and experiences, including friendships that were shattered because of it.  

His writings were encouraging, such as, to worship God even when things are bad, which is not our normal default, and how praising God can even change our attitude and help us endure through the situation.

“We move from thinking Woe is me to Great is our God.  The more we reflect on the greatness of God, the more our perspective on the situation changes.  We’re reminded that God is with us and He’s always up to something.  We just can’t see it yet.”  (p. 73)

Throughout Desperate for Hope, Mr. Martin relates to the story of Job and others from Scripture, along with the author of the song, It is Well With My Soul.  Part Three of the book is titled, “The New Normal“.  I’ve often referred to this myself, especially after the death of our 16 year old son.  Things would never be the same, but joy does come again, and there is a new normal.

I really appreciated the honesty of life experiences and reactions and looking for God in it all.  Each chapter is ended with with questions that are great for the individual reading it or for a book group going through this together, such as a grief group.

I highly recommend reading Desperate for Hope for anyone, and it would also make a caring gift for someone going through the valleys of life.

You can read many more quotes on the Desperate for Hope Facebook page and the author’s twitters.

Desperate for Hope is available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  This review was written in exchange for a copy of the book, and expresses my honest opinion of the book. 

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Books, Recipe, REVIEW

Book Review: Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy & Delicious Meals for Your Family


 very much enjoy trying out new recipes.   So when I was given the privilege to review Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family, in exchange for an honest review, I was quick to say yes!  I am thankful I did!  I have enjoyed looking at this book and trying out several recipes.  This recipe book has normal every day recipes in it, that many times, I have most of the ingredients, or at least know of them and can pronounce them!  It is also very easy to understand and follow.   

One of my favorite sections in the book is the “Crockpot Collection” with over two dozen recipes.  I am looking forward to trying some of these when we start school.  My crockpot becomes my maid so I don’t have to cook for dinner!  There’s also some wonderful “Easy Baked Oven Dishes” such as an Apricot Chicken I want to try soon!  With numerous recipes it shows how to triple the recipe for freezing the extra meals.  There’s some great ideas in the “Breakfast, Breads, and Brunch” section, which would be great to bring for a bridal shower for my daughter next month!

This past weekend was my twin’s 21st birthday and we finally all got together.  Of course, what girl does not like chocolate, especially since they take after their mother!  🙂   Because the recipe yield is for 8 servings, I doubled it and baked it in a large glass pan.  It turned out WONDERFULLY!  It was so moist and chocolaty!  I did put a light cream cheese frosting on it.  I wanted it a little more decorated for their birthdays!

Crazy Good Chocolate Cake

Recipe Yield: 8 servings;   Prep Time: 15 minutes;
Total time: 45 minutes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place first five ingredients in an 8x8x2 nonstick metal pan.  Using handle of a wooden spoon, poke 3 holes in dry ingredients.  Combine cold water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup.  Pour liquid ingredients into three holes in dry ingredients (there will be some overflow). Using a fork, stir gently until batter is smooth. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve . . . no frosting needed on this delicious snack!

Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 271.8; Total Fat 9.7g; Cholesterol Omg; Sodium 304.5mg; Total Carbohydrates 44.9g; (Dietary Fiber 1.8g); Protein 3.1g

From Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family, page 225

I have certainly enjoyed trying out various recipes and plan to try some more!

Don’t Panic–Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family
Available August  2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: Mindful of Him by Hollis Hughes

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Mindful of Him is a tale of heartbreak and triumph set in the 1950s. Separated from  his young wife, and with both of his parents recently deceased, Rob McLain sets off on an adventure for which he has longed since childhood. Travel with Rob as his journey not only takes him to beautiful places, but also crosses his path with influential men who help him through his loneliness. Five months into the trip, Rob has a moonlight encounter that changes his life forever and overwhelmingly convinces this young skeptic that God is indeed mindful of him!

Through it all, he receives answers to life’s deepest questions. What does he learn? What happens to his wife? Do they get back together? Does he make it back safely?

Find the answers to these questions and others dealing with faith, creation, nature, and more in Mindful of Him, which will keep you reading long after you had planned to turn out the lights. Mindful of Him  was inspired by the writings of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, the giant of 20th Century Christian philosophers.


y thoughts on Mindful of Him.

Rarely have I read a novel from a man’s perspective, and found it interesting hearing his voice and thoughts throughout the story.  We don’t always understand the way a man grieves, which he encounters first with his parents, then his firstborn child, and then a major estrangement with his wife and in-laws.  I imagine if this was written in today’s language, we’d say he went out to “find himself”.  He met numerous people during the next five months of his canoe travels that encouraged him spiritually  and to see things from a different perspective.  There was sweetness in the story when he realized what he was missing out with his wife and yearning for 

As far as rating Mindful of Him, I’d rate it a 3 out of 5.  I found it got a little long with his canoe travels and was disappointed with some of the language in the book, though realistic, it was not necessary.   I do not want to give the ending away, but I was mainly disappointed with the shortness of it.  From my perspective, had some of the canoe travels been shortened and I could have read more depth into the ending, it would have been more enticing to me.  I felt like I finally got to a good part, and it was over!

I also found the information about the author, which I share below, very interesting and would enjoy reading more about his life and his caring for his wife.  🙂

I received a copy of Mindful of Him from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. To see what others are saying about Mindful of Him , visit the Litfuse Blog Tour or visit Wine Press Publishing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, HOLLIS HUGHES:  On a cold February day in 1928, Hollis Hughes was born in a ramshackle house  with no insulation, plumbing, or electricity. Growing up on a farm during the Great Depression, Hollis spent his youth chopping wood, tending the family farm, milking cows, and tending to livestock. Following college graduation, Hollis worked as a high school teacher and counselor for 38 years, and operated a successful rhododendron nursery.When Hollis’ wife developed Alzheimer’s disease in 1988, he spent the next twelve years taking care of her. Today, Hollis is retired from education. He is a fly fisherman, hiker, and gardener. He is a member of the American Camellia Society,  and a lifetime member of the Birmingham Botanical Society. Hollis and his wife, Lera, make their home in Alabama.

Learn more about Hollis by visiting

Posted in Books, Education, REVIEW

Homeschooling: Beginning with MATH


couple of weeks ago I began writing on what our family uses for beginning the elementary grades of homeschooling.   This fall will be our 20th year of homeschooling, and beginning our last year of starting our youngest child with his first year of “formal” education.  If you missed my first post, it was on what we have used for teaching reading and phonics.

Today I’d like to share what we have used for math.  Again, I highly recommend the book, How to Tutor by Samuel L. Blumenfeld which is divided into three main sections:  (1) how to teach systematic, intensive PHONICS and READING  (2)  CURSIVE HANDWRITING  (3) ARITHMETIC PROGRAM.   You really can start out with JUST this book, doing the basics with your child and a piece of paper.  It gives great guidance in not overwhelming yourself and teaching the basics.

Going along with the simple basics, I’ve also liked Ray’s Arithmetic . . . and now called Classic Curriculum.  Each year is broken into four series, so for first year, first quarter I use Classic Curriculum Arithmetic Workbook Series 1 – Book 1.  This is VERY basic teaching writing numbers, counting, combining sets, comparing numbers to 20.  Though this is listed for first grade, I’ve used it more as Kindergarten.  For the following quarters, you’d get Series 1 – Book 2; Series 1 – Book 3 and Series 1 Book 4.  The next year you’d need Classic Curriculum Arithmetic Workbook Series 2 – Book1.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

As I previously wrote as well, is a great place to find these books, but be sure to add these to your “wish” list a good year before you need them, because there’s many times a long waiting time.

In the past years, I’ve found I’ve only used the first year of the Classic Curriculum and then switched to A Beka books for Math for first through third grades.  I like the bright colors and the way the concepts build upon each other.  HOWEVER, there is times when it can move too fast, and if your child has not memorized the basics for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, they can get lost and overwhelmed.  It’s SO SO SO important for them to grasp this.  There’s been times we’ve just set the book aside and worked on memorizing these. I may make-up worksheets or have the kids play games with it.  It’s worth “getting behind” to get ahead!

A Beka Books can only be purchased directly from A Beka or “used” books on eBay.  

After third grade we have gone to Saxon Math, which are hard covered textbooks, that we can pass down to the younger children.  We have started out with Math 54 which is for the average fifth grader, though we have usually started it for forth grade.  It covers basic math functions, estimating, 2- and 3-digit computation, and decimals.   You will want to make sure to get the KITS at least for the first child, which will give you the textbook, tests, and answer key.  We then have continued on with the following Saxon math kits, next being Math 6/5: Home School Kit, then Saxon Math Homeschool: 7/6; Saxon Math 8/7 with Prealgebra (Kit: Text, Test/Worksheets, Solutions Manual); and then several algebra courses and geometry follow.

So, this is a brief overview of what we have found to work for our family.
Posted in Books, REVIEW

Book Review: Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You by Brian Hardin


wonder, how many of us have the New Year’s resolution to read through the Bible, this year, start out with a bang, and slowly slipping away. We get so far behind, we totally give up, and the days in God’s word becomes more and more apart.  Ugh . . . and then we feel defeated . . . and we try again the next year . . . and the story repeats.  For me, I easily get distracted . . . not that it’s all bad, but I start doing Bible studies, and stay more in one area, and I don’t stick with the schedule.

I was very intrigued to read  Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You and I’m thankful to have read the author, Brian Hardin’s, personal story.

My friendship with the Bible has taken me the scenic route from who I was to who I was created to be.  My path began with an act of obedience to read the Bible every day, and it wound it’s way almost backward to the beginning, forcing me to deal with the stresses and compulsions of trying to carve out an identity that was mine alone with God relegated to a back-up plan.  It took me back to the wounds that life can bring and invited me to compare what they were saying about me with what God was declaring over me.  The Bible isn’t hocus pocus and reading it doesn’t give you magical powers, but it does reveal to you who you really are and illumines a path that you were created to walk.  (p.26)

I appreciated the author’s personalness throughout the book, giving a variety of ideas to keep going through the Bible, including the daily audio version he began in 2006, Daily Audio Bible podcast and now has 1.5 million downloads a month.

Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You would be a wonderful book for a new Believer or one who is struggling for daily Bible time.

This book was provided to me by Litfuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Books, Education, Family

Homeschooling: Beginning with Phonics & Reading


am often asked what homeschool curriculum I use, so since I a working on planning for the new school year,  I thought I’d write a series of what we have found to work for our family. We have been homeschooling for over 19 years now, with five of our children having graduated from homeschooling!  We still have the other half to go!  However, this year begins an ending . . .  my youngest is starting school!  So, this first post is on phonics and reading.
Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.I am not endorsing any specific place to get them from, though I do have links below where I have purchased some of them and as I have done research, the cheapest places.  I still ALWAYS check eBay for books and have gotten many FREE school books through  I list my “wish books” at least a year ahead of time, so I can be on some long waiting lists and hope to get them in time.
If you are just starting out with homeschooling . . .  not sure what you are going to do or where to even being, I recommend getting just one book and gleaning a lot from it and then going from there.  Actually, for just starting out, this is ALL YOU NEED . . . the additional books listed below is added help and just helps with boredom!  But the book I recommend is How to Tutor by Samuel L. Blumenfeld.  It’s broken down into three main sections:  (1) how to teach systematic, intensive PHONICS and READING  (2)  CURSIVE HANDWRITING  (3) ARITHMETIC PROGRAM. The first book listed below is actually in the back of How to Tutor.  This book explains so much and really helps to lighten a mom’s load of doing the basics and developing from there.

Teaching Reading & Phonics ~ Alpha-Phonics: A Primer For Beginning Readers
For our family, this has hands down been the best program for teaching reading and learning phonics.  I’ve tried several others along the way, and we always come back to this.  It’s simple to use.  With our older children, we used just the Alpha-Phonics Workbook (plastic comb binding) sitting on the couch, going page by page.. It’s a workbook, but not actually writing in it – it’s mainly for reading through It builds on itself and within just a couple of pages, the child is reading.  There is no preparation, no lessons to plan . . . just the dedicated time of 15-30 minutes a day.
With our third child, we started using a computer program, PhonicsTutor, that corresponds with the workbook.  This child just was not grasping the ideas, and when we got the computer program, it clicked and he learned very quickly.  He was able to have more hands on, and it is very repetitive and keeps going over the same lesson until the child has gotten everything right. There are no graphics or games so my child could not get distracted as easily.  There’s also  I LOVE THIS PROGRAM! So the rest of my children have used a combination of both the workbook and the computer program, though you really only need one or the other.  Read here on all the details of this CD program rather than me typing it all out!  And with the way we have worn through this workbook several times, I have been blessed to find it for free on!!

So, there’s the option of using one or the other . . . OR,  you can download the workbook on your e-reader – Alpha-Phonics: e-version which is great for on the run homeschool families, especially for in doctor waiting rooms or long trips.

Along with the above teaching reading and phonics, we have also liked the hands on supplements with Explode the Code, which is a phonics reading and writing program that can be used from Kindergarten to approximately 8th grade.  For our family, we found that the girls loved to do workbooks (writing and coloring) while the boys wanted more of the computer stuff and just to get school over with.  Our girls loved Explode the Code workbooks which consist of matching, reading, spelling, writing, copying, and more!   For our youngest, since he likes “doing school” with his older siblings, I will be getting some of these for him, starting out with Get Ready for the Code – Book A which teaches consonant sounds b, f, k, m, r and t.  And then next is Get Set for the Code – Book B which teaches consonant sounds d, h, j, n, p and s.  After this is Go for The Code – Book C which teaches consonant sounds c, g, l, q,  v, w, y and z.
When these first three books are completed or if your child already knows the basics, you can begin with Explode the Code Book 1 which teaches short vowel sounds while, skip ahead to Explode the Code Book 3 teaches open syllables, silent-e, digraphs (sh, th, wh, ch, -ng, -ck, -tch), simple diphthongs (ee, ea, ai, ay, oa, ow).
Explode the Code work great along with the Alpha-Phonics.  And definitely watch for these books on  
Join me next week as I share about what we have liked for penmanship and math.