Another Saturday Another Series

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The last Monday of the first month of this new year is already behind us. I have mixed feelings about how quickly this year is already flying by. "At Home in Last Chance" by Cathleen Armstrong is another thing that I have mixed feelings about. I've really enjoyed Armstrong's writing in the past, but this book took some getting into. 

"At Home in Last Chance" is the third book in the "A Place to Call Home" series. It's set in present day New Mexico in the tiny town of Last Chance. I've grown to love Last Chance and the people that live there, but this book centers on a couple of new comers. If I'm honest, I care for these new characters about as much as the rest of Last Chance, which is not much at all! Maybe that's exactly what Armstrong was aiming at.

This novel revolves around Kaitlyn, a young woman who has reached the end of herself and is ready to get a fresh start. Only, she's not quite as ready as she thought. Characters like that tend to get very little sympathy from me, but I really did want to see Kaitlyn work things out! I grew to like her as the book continued, but those first few chapters were a real test of my endurance! With every leading lady there comes a guy trying to get her attention. That's where Steven comes in...Steven thinks he is all that and then some. Thankfully, Steven's Gran is more than ready to set him straight! In fact, she happens to be my favorite character. She is always ready to lend a hand, even when it came to helping Kaitlyn with her seven year old daughter Olivia.

Armstrong has a way of setting the scene that is unique. I happen to love the role that food and family play in this series. This book in particular is good for people like me to read! There comes a time when we all need a little help. It's up to us to be willing to take the help when we need it and lend help when the opportunity comes up too.

If you can make it through the first few chapters, it does pick up. You get to follow the characters that you became attached to in the first two books and you come to see other sides of both Kaitlyn and Steven. Overall, I give this book 3 stars. It's not a book that I loved, but I did keep reading it!

If it sounds like a book to keep you reading this winter, get your copy HERE.

* I was provided a review copy of this book by Revell. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

What I'm Into: January 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 4, 2015

After spending new years with friends in Georgia and then Epiphany with my Aunt Linda, the rest of January had a hard time competing! I'm thankful that winter hasn't been too harsh, because that probably would have done me in.

I have sooo much to tell you....I haven't been able to figure out where to begin, but let's start here with something familiar!

What I'm Watching

The House of Anubis obsession continues.

Downton Abbey provides a nice break on Monday nights.

We watched Glory Road the other night and laughed at the the spots we always laugh at. That movie never gets old! 

I'm looking forward to watching Brigadoon and finding a new show too! I mean, we're almost to the end of House of Anubis. Any suggestions?

In the Kitchen

We hosted two birthdays, multiple dinner "parties" (that just means we have friends join us), and made a ham dinner just because I was in the mood for one.

Two of the new things that happened in my kitchen were:

This cake.

These muffins.

All of that cooking got me right back into the swing of things. I love working in the kitchen! What's the latest recipe you've tried and loved?

What I'm Reading

You can always check out my goodreads!

I'm currently reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, "A Severed Wasp", and "At Home in Last Chance". 

Next up is "All the Light We Cannot See" with Read It. In case you're wondering, Read It is a goodreads book club and you should definitely join us! Click HERE to learn more.

On the Blog

I shared my word three words for 2015. Who knew a trip to the south could teach me so much?

We played another round of Ask & Answer! You can always e-mail your questions or leave them as a comment (even in this post!!!).

Mondays and Downton Abbey and Martin Luther King Jr.  made for a good chat. 

We're never done talking about books around here! This is what my Bible reading plan looks like and this is a reading challenge I'm tackling this year.

And now...I've got a big redesign scheduled to be launched in just a few days. Consider yourselves warned! I hope I love it and more importantly, I hope that you love it! My goal is to make this space more enjoyable to read and easier to navigate.

What are you into? 

I'm linking up with Leigh

Reading Challenge

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Good Reads is pretty much my favorite way to keep track of what I'm reading. My list for 2015 is coming together and Anne's reading challenge seems like a fun way to branch out a bit. Here are just a few of the books I'm looking forward to reading this year!

"The Maze Runner" by James Dashner // We watched the movie over Christmas vacation with the Walkers. It fits the "a book I've been meaning to read" category and the movie made me pretty sure that I'll love it.

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins // I hope this one is clean! I'll read it for "a book published this year" or maybe "a book you chose because of the cover" instead. 

"The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak // This book has been on my list since last summer. Every time I bring it up, somebody is sure to encourage me that I MUST read it. Obviously, it's the perfect book for the "a book 'everyone' has read but you" category!

"A Severed Wasp" by Madeleine L'Engle // This one seems like the perfect book for the "a book by a favorite author" category. I read the first book in this little mini series last fall and loved it. Needless to say, I've been looking forward to this one ever since.

"The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath // I've read a lot of assigned books, but this one has never been assigned to me. When I read it I'll be checking off the square for the "a book you should have read in high school" category.

What are three books that you are looking forward to reading this year?

You can learn more about Anne's Reading Challenge HERE.

Let's Bake Breakfast Muffins

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When I read books, I tend to mark them up. I underline things, write notes in the margins, and use the blank pages at the front of books to make indexes of my notes. Sometimes I even mark up the introduction and the footnotes.

Tyler Florence's new cookbook, "Inside the Test Kitchen", taught me that cookbooks even call for this kind of interaction! His unique style really came through with this book that is bound like a moleskine journal and features pictures that were only taken with an iPad.

The book begins with a brief summary of Tyler's kitchen history as well as an introduction that featured some words that took me right back to the wisdom my Mom shared with me all the way through elementary school.

I have another habit...Whenever I eat food that I didn't make, I immediately start trying to figure out what flavors I'm tasting. If I love the food, I start making mental notes about what it will take to recreate it in my own kitchen.

Tyler's recipe for "5-in-1 Baking Mix" was the push that I needed to finally give my friend Julie's breakfast muffins a try. I'm excited to be able to tell you that the muffins were a complete success!

"Inside the Test Kitchen" is loaded with pictures that are super helpful. Before I started messing with things, I poured over the whole section related to the "5-in-1 Baking Mix" recipe. Tyler explained why it works and added extra notes in the margin, which happen to be written with a sharpie. Grab a copy for your kitchen HERE.

I combined my adaption of Tyler's "5-in-1 Baking Mix" with grated cheddar cheese, breakfast sausage, butter, milk, and egg. I gave it a stir and spooned it into muffin tins...20 minutes later, I had 20 of these gorgeous muffins! I have to mention that it also happened to be January 20th. I'm so tempted to call these things "20-20-20 Muffins" or "20 in 20 on 20 Muffins".

Enough about me and my strange habits...Here's the muffin recipe!

Breakfast Muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 lb. breakfast sausage, browned and cooled
8 ounces medium cheddar cheese, grated

After you've got your sausage browned and cooled and your cheese grated, make sure your oven rack is in the middle of your oven. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your muffin tins.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter, egg, and milk.

Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, and stir until combined.

Mix in your cooled sausage and grated cheddar cheese. If the mixture is especially difficult to stir, feel free to add a touch more milk.

Spoon batter into muffin tins. Fill any empty slots with some water (about halfway will do).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tins and let rest on a rack until ready to serve or until completely cool. Store in the refrigerator in a ziplock bag. Makes 20 muffins.

I should mention that these muffins started flying off the cooling rack as soon as I removed them from the muffin tins! I have a feeling that I'll be making quite a lot of these in the years to come and I hope you will too.

Do you mark up your books?

Do you try to recreate recipes?

What was your latest kitchen success?

* I was provided with a review copy of this book by Blogging for Books. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

I Like Remembering...

Monday, January 26, 2015

I went to visit Alice last Wednesday afternoon. We spent some time talking and pretty soon our conversation took the turn that it doesn't always take. Alice started remembering things that she hadn't thought about for years. On this particular afternoon, she remembered a colt and his mother...

Alice was the first to ride him. She chose to take him out to a field that had recently been plowed so that if she fell off, the ground wouldn't be so hard. He didn't like it, but she rode him and she didn't fall off. She recalled loving that horse. She couldn't help remembering his mother, an ornery horse that everyone but Alice found very difficult to ride. Alice rode her and made her obey and they had good times together.

I don't know either horses' name - Alice didn't mention those. I don't know what colors they were or how long they lived. I don't know if they liked apples or carrots.

I do know one thing. Remembering is sweet.

Alice finished her stories with these words, "I like remembering...I remembered! And it was good."

Yes, Alice, I like it when you remember too. It is good.

Another Great Saturday

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 has brought with it some pretty great Saturdays! On January 3, we got an extra day with friends in GA. On January 10th, I had just gotten home and was feeling pretty rotten about it. Jay's birthday and Joe's shopping trip served as perfect distractions. And then there was last Saturday...

Last Saturday was PERFECTION. I had the day to myself (half the house went to play laser tag and my Mom was working). I'm not a person that generally enjoys a day to myself, but I made the best of it. I started the day trying to finish up Rex Stout's "The Doorbell Rang", which happens to be a great mystery, if you're in the market for one of those. When that got old, I fixed myself some macaroni and cheese and left over chicken nuggets and turned on Pride and Prejudice (the Matthew Macfadyen version). From there, I switched things up with "Roman Holiday" (Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn). And then I went back to my reading.

I needed that day. I said "No" to a lot of things to make it mine, but it was so great to recharge and refresh.

This Saturday could turn out very similar. It just so happens that today is National Readathon Day. Since I've got several books going, I'm planning on doing at least some reading. It helps that I'm working on the third book in a series that has really had me interested! "Hidden Agenda" by Lisa Harris is just as good (if not BETTER?!?) than the other two books that came before it in her Southern Crimes series.

This particular book is set off the coast of Georgia as well as in Georgia. A side plot that has been present in the other two books is finally taking center stage. I've been trying to figure out this part of the mystery since I first found out about the series. "Hidden Agenda" obviously shares characters with the other books, but Harris also brought in some characters that we've never met before.

The plot is thick. We've got a police department with unknown moles, a drug cartel with a brutal and uncatchable leader, two people who find out that their Dad is not who they thought he was, and a carload of people on the run. The characters themselves are developed very well. Character development is easy to skip in suspense stories, but Harris doesn't skip anything.

It's not often that I tell you about a book BEFORE I finish it, but I'm confident that this one will end with at least 4 stars to it's name! Grab  your copy HERE.

So...I've got another great Saturday waiting for me and I hope you do too!

What does your perfect Saturday look like? 

Do days to yourself excite you?

* I was provided a review copy of this book by Revell. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

A Watch Story

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You may not know it, but I hang onto things forever. There's that one t-shirt in my closet that my brother got on a trip to Virginia in 1999. I still wear it. There are two signs that my Mom and my best friend made for me for my 13th Birthday that have sat behind my dresser ever since I finally took them off my wall all those years ago. And then, there's my watch...

It's nothing overly fancy, but it's special to me. I got it for Christmas when I was 17 and I have worn it pretty much every day ever since. If you're looking for a watch, be sure to check out Invaluable! I recently found out about them and they have a great selection of watches for men and women just waiting for you to bid on them. Invaluable will help you find a watch that you love as much as I love the one my Mom had waiting under the tree for me that Christmas.

It has survived so many disasters. The first week I got it, I banged it on the door of the dryer when I was pulling out clothes one day. I examined it to see exactly one scratch on the face and got really sad over that little scratch. The next summer, I dropped it on the floor at the Ranch and broke one of the numbers off. As soon as I got home, I sent it to Fossil to have it fixed. Those two weeks of waiting for it to be returned to me seemed to drag on and on.

This watch has been with me through some of the toughest and most exciting years of my life. It came with me to Massachusetts, to Mount Vernon, and to New York City. It kept time for me when I struggled to find my joy in God. It came with me while I helped my friend Alice get back on her feet and when I got to join my friend Heidi while she cared for her daughter and her brand new son.

Whenever I check the time, my watch tells me more than the current time, it reminds me of all the moments that have already happened. I plan to hang onto it.

Does your watch have a story?

This post is brought to you in partnership with Invaluable.

2015 In God's Word

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Last week I mentioned "The Glory of God in the Good Resolves of His People" by John Piper, if you haven't listened to it yet, I really think you should!

One of the points that Piper brought up was the importance of regular Bible reading. We are really good at letting Bible reading become an item on our to do list. We are even better at letting Bible reading become an item on our I really need to work on this list....May 2015 be a year of resolving to guard against that!

When Stephanie decided to read through the Bible this year, she also decided to invite others to join her. I'm excited to join her and several others in reading the Bible and chatting about it too!

I've decided to continue working my way through the Bible chronologically. My goal is to read about an hour a day at least four times each week. This reading time will be in addition to my regular time of study.

I'm writing today to invite you to join us. Ligonier has all kinds of great plans complete with printables that you can choose from.

Choose a plan, write a post, and come join us over at Stephanie's blog!

On Monday I...

Monday, January 19, 2015

December 19, 2014

I should be ready to start sharing actual posts about our trip south...but I'm not. It's Monday and it feels like Monday. On Monday I wash all the towels. On Monday I try to pull myself together for the week ahead. On every Monday in January, I watch the latest Downton Abbey episode.

On this particular Monday I'm supposed to take Joe to town and I have TWO google hangout sessions planned. Oh, and I'm making beef stew for dinner.

So, I'm off to tackle this Monday. It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I can't help thinking about him and the generations that have spanned between us. He wasn't perfect, but I've always admired him very much. He stood up for something and got others to stand with him.

That's really something. 

What do you do on Monday?

I'd love to hear your favorite MLK quote! 

And...Let's talk Downton!!! What are your thoughts this season? I have SOOO many!

Ask & Answer pt. 2

Friday, January 16, 2015

December 19, 2014 @ Biltmore House in Asheville, NC

Last month, I started something called Ask & Answer. I had a great response and I'm excited to keep it going!

Here are my answers to this round of questions.
Why did you start your blog?

I started blogging almost ten years ago! In the beginning, my goal was to use blogging as an online journal. Over the last few years it has become so much more than that. I love looking through old posts, but now blogging is more about connecting with other bloggers.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I can't choose just one! The Bible is my most treasured book. "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper is the book that has influenced me most. "Stepping On the Cracks" by Mary Downing Hahn is the novel that has stayed with me the longest.

Who has had the biggest impact on you? 

My Mom's parents! My Ghiddu died when I was 8 and my Grandma died when I was 12, but the things that they taught me, the memories we made together, and the love that they shared with me are things that I hope I never forget. I've lived my life without them longer than I ever got to live it with them, but I am always thinking about them. That makes their impact pretty obvious!

Which chore around the house is your least favorite?

Cleaning the microwave. This chore may have the biggest pay off, but it is the one chore that I always put off.

Now it's your turn! I would love it if you would answer all of the questions down in the comments. If you have more questions for next time, be sure to leave those too!

Book Talk

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's been a while since we've talked about what we're reading! I look forward to winter reading pretty much all year long. I haven't done very much reading so far this winter, but here in the PNW we are pretty much guaranteed to have at least two more months of winter (and maybe even more).

Today I'm linking up with Anne and we'll be talking about two light reads, one mystery, and a book that will get you thinking! 

"Lizzy and Jane" by Katherine Reay // This was the book club pick for the month of January. I finished it on my flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City after reading in short spurts during my vacation. It's an easy, light read, but it didn't really suck me in like I thought it would. It's probably not one I'd recommend, but I am going to give Reay another chance! 

"Think" by John Piper // This is a book that will definitely get you thinking. If you're not familiar with John Piper, you should definitely look him up! This book centers around the idea that as Christians we are to be serious about both thinking and feeling as we seek to love God and one another. I'm taking my time with this book and I think you'll love it! 

"The Doorbell Rang" by Rex Stout // My Mom is really great about going to the library and finding some obscure author that has been forgotten. Last winter she came across this book and introduced us both to the excellence that is a Rex Stout mystery! Since then, she has picked up a handful of his books at used book sales and flew through each one of them. My friend Shauna and I are currently reading this book together (well, she actually finished her copy already). I'll definitely be back for more! 

"While We Were Watching Downton Abbey" by Wendy Wax // This was on the recently added list on my mail order library. It sounded interesting, so I picked it up. It is sort of interesting, but it's got too much drama for me. I can't recommend this book and I won't be picking up any more of Wax's books in the future. 

Before you sign off, I'd like to invite you to join my Good Reads book club! We read and discuss one book each month. Click HERE to sign up. Voting for February's book is scheduled to begin tomorrow!

What have you been reading? 


The Circle: Never Have I Ever...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

December 21, 2014

This month's theme for The Circle is "Never Have I Ever..."! Leave it to Kiki and Amanda to come up with a theme this awesome. :) Seriously...When Kiki announced it, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites! I can't wait to read all of your posts.

It took me a little while to come up with my list. I tried to think of things that wouldn't be on yours...We'll see how I did!

Never Have I Ever...

Been to Panera Bread - I really want to, there just aren't any near where I live or shop. Someday.

Made potato salad - It's sort of intimidating. I do want to give it a go though!

Worn heels any higher than 2 inches - At 5' 7", I don't need any more help in the height department.

Done an actual cartwheel - I have tried and tried and tried, broken a toe, and been shown up by my Mom and Aunt Claudia in the process. It's just not meant to be.

Painted my fingernails bright red - When I was 4 or 5 my Aunt Claudia refused to paint them that color and told me that it wasn't good. 20 years later, I still can't bring myself to do it. 

Fallen off of a horse - I've ridden horses a fair amount throughout most of my life and I'm hoping this stays a never have I ever FOREVER.

Managed to get to the bottom of who God is - This is by far my favorite thing on the list because it's what I get to spend eternity basking in!

So...Do we have any of these things in common?

What never have YOU ever? Link up with Kiki and Amanda or comment below!

PS - The picture I included is one from our recent trip! On the 21st, we had a big family get together at my Aunt Alice's house. SOME of the cousins gathered around to take a "we're rolling grape leaves" picture. I'll just be sneaking pictures into posts for a while! :)

A Contagious Passion

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 10, 2015

Today marks our fifth day of being back home...It seems like life has been going NON stop for each of these days! Let me tell you about it.

On Friday, my friend Heidi came down with her family for a visit. I made up a batch of baked alfredo, garlic bread, sweet tea, and a giant ceasar salad. We caught up on the last few weeks, played with blocks and puzzles and stuffed animals, and enjoyed an afternoon together!

Jay's birthday was Saturday. I made THIS Yellow Butter Cake and topped it with some frosting straight from the store. (My thanks go to the decorating committee!) You can't always do EVERYTHING from scratch...Although, I just remembered that I do know of an awesome chocolate frosting recipe. Oops! Joe and I also made a trip to town that afternoon.

I started Sunday in the kitchen with my favorite biscuit recipe and the latest John Piper sermon (which he gave in Atlanta on January 4th while I was just an hour away!). I also decided to bundle up and head out for a walk. Later that afternoon, my editing hobby was called into action. Jay and I spent a few hours going over something he has been working on.

Monday was filled with laundry, cleaning, organizing, helping my Mom at the office for a bit, and exactly one hour of quiet while my brother and sister were at play practice.

* * * * * 

So...That's what I've been up to. It's amazing how quickly real life forces you to get with it!

For some reason, I felt like recording all of that, but the real reason I am writing today is to tell you about the sermon that I listened to on Sunday. It was the perfect sermon to start off the new year!

Piper has a passion for the glory of God that is contagious. His sermons are a great way to feed that same passion in my soul.

In this particular sermon, Piper explains the what and why and how of seeking God's power to fulfill our good resolves. These verses serve as the focus:

"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12

It was a real wake up call for me to consider the difference between Godless and Godly morality. I've got to confess, a lot of my morality is completely Godless.

 Give this sermon a listen HERE and let's talk about it!

How long does it take for you to get back to real life after vacation?

Have you been challenged by God's Word lately? 

Currently pt. 9

Thursday, January 08, 2015

I wrote this post on Wednesday morning, and I just want to leave it the way that it was when I wrote it even though I didn't get it published on time! 

July 10, 2014

Today marks the last day of our vacation in the south! EARLY tomorrow morning we'll be boarding a plane. I'm having all kinds of thoughts about all of these goodbyes.

Our trip has been nothing short of AMAZING. It was the first time in nearly 20 years that I got to see almost all of my Mom's family at Christmas. I'm hoping it's not the last of its kind! With 17 cousins, it's hard to know where we'll all end up, but it'd be great if the get togethers continue.

Once I get my pictures downloaded, I'll be sure to share at least some of the details with you all! In the meantime, let's talk about what's CURRENTLY going on.

* * * * *

planning - My brother will be 15 in exactly one week!!! I'm grateful for such a big occasion because getting back into the swing of things might just take me a little while.

hoping - That 2015 is a great year and that big things happen before too much longer. This trip has really shown me how much I miss the South and all of my PEOPLE down here. In a lot of ways, I feel like I missed out on a lot over the years, but I'm also realizing that I'd really like to jump back in.

baking - Since December 15, I made exactly one pot of chili, one batch of cornbread, and four batches of sausage gravy...I helped other people make things, but mostly I've been on KP. My first task will be whatever dessert my brother chooses for his birthday. I'm also going to make sugar cookies since I didn't get to do Christmas ones this year. :)

wearing - This trip has been all kinds of relaxing. I've been wearing my favorite black house pants paired with long sleeve shirts. WA is in the depths of winter so I'm expecting to have to add a few more layers!

resolving - To dream and plan. The last few years have been all about trusting and waiting and resting...That will continue to a degree, but I think it's time to start going after things. Things won't be changing for a while, but I'm giving myself permission to think and to move along a bit.

I'm linking up with Jenna and Anne!

One Word 2015

Monday, January 05, 2015

Jan. 1, 2015 - Photo Credit: My Brother

Reflecting on the year behind has looked a lot different this year. I spent the last bit of 2014 and the first bit of 2015 on the other side of the country...Even though the West Coast has been my home since shortly after my 5th birthday, the East Coast has always felt like "home". It has been really great to be surrounded by my aunts and uncles and cousins over the last few weeks.

I've kept wanting to pinch myself because the happiness has almost been overwhelming at times. Looking around and seeing all of the familiar faces has forced me to pause just to take it all in. These last few weeks have had me looking back on 2014 and WAY beyond.

These people know my story...They know where I come from, because they came from the same place! Reflecting on familiar things with other people is one of my favorite things to do.

I've been kicking around a lot of words for 2015 and I haven't decided on one yet. Here's the list so far:

* Dream - This trip made me realize how important it is to me to get back down here. I think it was the moment I totally lost it as I was standing on my Uncle George's front porch for the first time in 13 years...

* Reach - A move might not happen for a few few years, but I really do want to start figuring out what it will take to make it work and more importantly, how I can get the rest of my family to move too!

* Breathe - I'm really good at holding my breath in hesitation. I want 2015 to be a year of less hesitating.

There have been a few other words, but I can't think of them this morning...

The point is, I want to continue trusting in God and looking to Him for direction. We may not be here long, but there is a lot to take in while we are. May 2015 be a year of being sure in God and not being paralyzed by fear or anxiety.

What's your word for 2015?