Tide and Tempest Book Review

I love reading new books. Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig is the third book in the Edge of Freedom series. I have not read the other books in this series and still greatly enjoyed the story.

Tide and Tempest is the story of a young Irish immigrant, Tillie McGrath. On her voyage to America, her fiance dies, so she begins building her new life on her own. Two years later, the ship captain Keondric Morgan discovers that the death of Tillie’s fiance was not an accident as previously believed. Keondric feels duty bond to seek out Tillie and tell her the unfortunate news of her fiance’s murder.

Keondric finds Tillie, and in the process, discovers that someone is now trailing Tillie, convinced that she has information given to her by her deceased fiance. Keondric (and his younger brother, Cass) stay on to protect Tillie and try to investigate this mysterious circumstance.

Tide and Tempest was an interesting story that was easy to read. If you are looking for a historical fiction book with just a touch of suspense and a good helping of romance, you will enjoy this latest book by Elizabeth Ludwig.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Do Not Worry About Tomorrow…Especially in Pregnancy

Do not worry about tomorrow...especially in pregnancy!

Matthew 6:34 has long been a verse that I need to hear – over and over again. I am learning this still holds true (maybe even more so) in pregnancy. I should know better – and this is probably part of being a Mom – but I’m already learning how easy it is to worry, especially about your baby.

You see, my baby appointments have been going fine until just a couple weeks ago when two minor concerns arose. It was then that we learned the baby was breech. My doctor wasn’t concerned and told me there was plenty of time for the baby to flip yet. Still, at my last two appointments, the baby hadn’t flipped head down yet. My doctor kept telling me not to worry, but it’s easier said than done – even as a Christian.

In addition to that, for as big as I look and feel, the baby was measuring small. My weight has fluctuated up and down throughout the last two months of pregnancy, even though my eating habits haven’t changed. My doctor took the first small measurement without any concern, but when it happened again, I saw him pause for the first time this pregnancy. That made me worry a bit. He ordered a growth ultrasound which we had on Friday at my 36 week appointment.

I worried while waiting for that ultrasound until I realized that the outcome wouldn’t change anything. God already knows what is going on and He is bigger than all my worries. At the ultrasound, we were pleased to discover that the baby had flipped head down and was measuring a solid 7 pounds already. I cried a couple tears of quiet joy and said thank you to God, even as the ultrasound technician continued her measurements.

Once again, God reminded me that my worries don’t change anything – only He does! God loves this baby even more than I do and our lives are in His hands. Our baby will arrive in God’s timing and in God’s way and in God’s size. Now…what are you worrying about right now and how can I pray for you?

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke

One of the first adult Christian fiction authors I remember reading is Janette Oke. My Mom had several of her series (Love Comes Softly and the Canadian West) on her bookshelves which is how I came to read them. There was something quaint about the way this Canadian author wrote and over the years, I read all of her books that I could track down. I was delighted to discover that Janette Oke and her daughter are writing together in a continuation, of sorts, upon the Canadian West series. When I was given the opportunity to review this new book of hers, I was eager for the opportunity.

 Where Courage Calls is the story of Beth Thatcher, a determined young woman, who lives her safe and wealthy home to teach in a small town in western Canada. (If you’ve read the previous Canadian West series, Beth is the niece of Elizabeth from those books.) Once Beth arrives, she quickly realizes that the living conditions are worse than she’d imagined. She is teach in a mining town that has recently lost most of the men in town to a terrible accident. Beth faces a lot of challenges, but is determined to give this position her all.

I always like reading historical fiction stories about teachers because I am a teacher. Even though I am, it’s hard for me to imagine teaching so many different children of different abilities in a one room school house. Perhaps that is why books like this one fascinate me.

Where Courage Calls is proof that Janette Oke is still a wonderful story teller. I hope that she (and her daughter) continue on with this series because I’m really curious to know what Beth will decide once her initial year contract is up!

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Power of a Half Hour

I saw this book being spoken about on one of the morning shows during our January snow days and was intrigued. I was delighted to see it available for review soon after and promptly requested it from Waterbrook Multnomah.

The Power of a Half Hour is written by Pastor Tommy Barnett. It is filled with ideas for how to take back your life in 30 minutes at a time. We’ve all thought this – saying we only have a couple minutes, so won’t start a new project right now. Pastor Barnett shows us that we can truly change and revitalize our life with only 30 minutes.

He has come up with 30 specific principles on which to focus during this 30 minutes. Here are a couple of my favorite principles.

  • Thirty minutes can wreck or redeem a life.
  • Small time investments produce huge returns.
  • Make being thankful a habit.
  • Preparation includes ample perspiration.
  • Be creative…like your heavenly Dad.
  • Good friendships require time…over time.
  • Thirty-minute encounters benefit every marriage.
  • Build character in children by showing them theirs.
  • Follow God into His amazing adventure for you.

As a conservative Lutheran, there were times when Pastor Barnett’s Assembly of God preaching style overwhelmed me slightly. However, there were also good challenges in here, too. There is much to implement in this book, all focusing on the half-hour concept.

What I liked most about The Power of a Half Hour is the reminder that we don’t have to spend all day changing our lives – and the lives of those around us. When we focus on making the most of our time, we can accomplish great things in small amounts of time.

Each chapter of this book is filled with quotes and personal stories, resulting in an easy to read book. At the end of the book, Pastor Barnett includes action plans (1 page) for each of his half hour principles. If there are areas you want to really focus on, there are many helpful suggestions found in these action plans.

I was not disappointed in The Power of a Half Hour. It has challenged me to look at my life – and the time I am given – in a different way. Whether you are a busy professional or a stay-at-home Mom, we can all use the reminder to make good use of our time.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Couponing for the Rest of Us Review

I stumbled across this new couponing book on the library shelves and I’m so glad I did! Couponing for the Rest of Us by Kasey Knight Trenum was an informative couponing read – from a solid Christian perspective.

Couponing for the Rest of Us was recently published in May of 2013 so the book is current with relevant couponing information. If you are looking for a good guide book to learn the basics of couponing, this is a great book for you!

Kasey starts by walking you through the basics of how and why coupons came into existence. Then, you are encouraged to change your mind to change your cart – and the savings. This was one of my favorite chapters because it was an excellent reminder that if you change your thinking (stocking up early and watching for sales), you can substantially change your savings!

Finally, Couponing for the Rest of Us gets into the nitty-gritty details of how to coupon. Kasey goes into specific steps of how to clip your coupons, organize them, plan your shopping trip and go shopping. My only critique of this section was that she continually promoted her website (Time 2 Save) but I guess that is to be expected.

My favorite chapter of the book was the one on Sensible Stockpiling. This is where you will see the long-term benefits and savings accumulate for your sale shopping. It is also a good reminder that you can stockpile on a limited budget ($5 to $10 a week) and see the results. I liked seeing Kasey’s list for items she stockpiles, as it compares quite closely to my stockpile list.

The book ends with a section on drugstore shopping as well as general rules of coupon etiquette. Some of these included be kind to other shoppers, use store coupons correctly, keep calm & carry on, and have realistic expectations. Not all of our couponing trips go as planned, but any source of savings is still a good source of savings!

Ultimately, this point was the best take-away from Couponing for the Rest of Us. Whether you save 10% or 70%, you are still saving money! This is very important to remember. As I said in the beginning, I also appreciated that this book was written from a clear Christian perspective with reminders to share the blessings we gain from our couponing.

Without a doubt, I can highly recommend Couponing for the Rest of Us, particularly for those beginning to coupon or needing a refresher in the basics. It is a well-written book that is sure to inspire you that this is your time 2 save!

To read my reviews of the other couponing and frugal living books I’ve read, take a look at all my other Frugal Book Reviews here

My Before-Baby Checklist

My Before Baby Checklist - Projects to Accomplish in the Final Weeks of Pregnancy

It’s hard to believe I’m in the final weeks of pregnancy already. This pregnancy continues to pass so quickly. Every day is drawing us closer to the day when we hold our baby in our arms!

My doctor told me at my last appointment that once I reach the 34 week mark (which comes in 2 more days), if my labor starts, they won’t stop it. Of course, we obviously want the baby to stay put until the full-term 39 week mark but that comment from the doctor made Andy and I both think. We have quite a bit to get done yet!

For a little bit of extra motivation, I thought I’d share my ongoing “Before Baby” checklist. I am hoping that the nesting urge helps me accomplish everything on my list. I know the baby will arrive whether we are ready or not…ready being a relative term, of course! Planner that I am, I am still doing what I can to make sure we are as ready as can be.

1. Buy and install a new dishwasher. (DONE)

Our dishwasher stopped working last summer. Well, it worked but left my dishes so spotty that I was rewashing almost everything. For the last six months, I’ve been washing our dishes by hand as we set aside money for a replacement. We took advantage of our last snow day to venture out and purchase a new dishwasher. My handy father-in-law installed it later that week. Yay! It’s nice to have this household project accomplished before the baby.

2. Set up the baby’s room. 

I’ve already washed and sorted all the hand-me-down baby clothes we were given, and organized all the diapers and wipes. We still need to get the baby’s crib put together and hang some things on the walls. We are borrowing a bassinet from a friend for the first few weeks and have a Pack ‘n Play ready to go but the baby’s actual room needs finishing touches.

3. Finish my preschool plans through March and plan for maternity subs. 

I already know all my themes for the rest of the year and have my religion plans finished through March. I still need to fill in books and activities. I plan to spend the next couple of nap times at school finishing up my plans for February and March. This way, if the baby comes early, my plans will still be finished.

I also need to plan for and meet with my maternity subs. I have three different subs covering my various roles at school. One teacher (Christa) is teaching my four-year-old class, while another teacher (Jeni) is teaching my three-year-old class. The former music teacher (Elaine) is coming back to teach my music class. They will do most of the planning necessary but I still need to meet with all of them in preparation. I also need to go through my library and lay out picture pictures for the rest of my preschool themes this year.

4. Prepare for and direct the school musical. 

This is a key one for me! We moved our music date up two weeks (to March 14th) with the hopes that I can direct the musical before the baby is born. If not, I have capable fellow teachers who will step in for me – and the show will go on. Until then, I am busy teaching all the songs from “Rescue in the Night” to the Kindergarteners through 8th grade. With so many snow days in January, we’ve already lost quite a bit of practice time so we are staying quite busy in music class!

5. Cook freezer meals and organize the freezer. 

My mom is flying up after the baby is born, and my mother-in-law is minutes away in town. I know the two of them will help me keep the house running smoothly in my first weeks home with the baby. Still, I want to have some freezer meals ready so Andy can help me cook dinner. I plan to cook baked oatmeal, poppy seed chicken, and a couple other freezer recipes to be determined. I already have sloppy joes, chili and cooked hamburger meat in the freezer, so that’s a nice start. Any suggestions on what else I should cook? In addition to cooking freezer meals, I need to clean out and organize my upright freezer.

6. Buy the baby’s car seat and install it in my car. 

Obviously, we can’t leave the hospital without a car seat so this is certainly high on our list in importance. The local hospital where I will be delivering has car seat checks so I need to stop by and get the car seat checked by them, after we install it. We are planning on getting an extra base for Andy’s car so we can easily switch the baby between our cars depending where we are going.

7. Make website plans for during my maternity leave. 

I haven’t quite decided what to do on this one yet. I’m debating whether I schedule some advance posts or whether I take the time completely off from blogging. I know you, my faithful readers, will be supportive either way. Still, do you want to weigh in on this topic?

8. Attend baby showers and write thank you’s. 

Two teacher friends from school, Allison and Tonya, graciously threw me a baby shower last Saturday. The gifts are lovely, but it is even more lovely to know that everyone shares our excitement for this baby! My sister-in-law, Kara, is hosting a family baby shower for us at the beginning of March. I am a firm believer in the importance of promptly written thank you notes, so I will endeavor to stay on top of this task.

9. Pack for the hospital and keep the camera charged. 

I know there is still plenty of time but I am the type who would rather pack sooner than later. Of course, I don’t quite know all of what I should truly pack since everyone seems to have so many different opinions on this. The easier task is to keep our camera charged. I also have a back-up battery but I am committed to recharging the camera battery every other week because I don’t want to miss any of those new baby moments!

10. Update my pregnancy photo book and start our 2014 family album. 

Speaking of pictures, I have decided to continue with my online photo albums. I’ve been creating a pregnancy journal at Shutterfly with my weekly bump pictures and journaling about this pregnancy. I want to keep that updated by adding pictures every other week or so.

I’ve also decided to create one large yearly photo album for our family. I still plan to create smaller vacation albums since those free codes abound. However, I’d like to create one large 12 by 12 album for all our family pictures in the year. I have January’s snow pictures in the album and plan to add to the album monthly.

Because a baby is only a baby once, I decided to create a smaller 8 by 8 album with one large monthly picture and a page of journaling about the baby’s monthly growth. I spent some time creating the entire format for this album already so now I just have to add the picture and journal each month. I hope this will make it easier to complete this book for the baby.

There you have it. That is my to-do list that I want to accomplish before the baby is born. I’m sure there will be lots of other tasks that keep me busy in the evenings when I’m not teaching preschool or piano. I’m trying to get what sleep I can but this active baby of ours makes it a challenge some nights. I guess it really is true that this final trimester of sleeplessness eases you into getting up to feed the baby? Are there any other pre-baby projects that you found helpful to accomplish? I’ll keep you updated with my progress!

Red & Pink Themed Food Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Red and Pink Themed Foods for Valentine's Day - A list of themed ideas for Valentine's Day!

I have found memories of Valentine’s Days when my Mom would pull out her metal jello molds and make us individual heart shaped red jello. We didn’t eat jello much, but having it in a heart shaped mold made it even more special. I look forward to planning heart themed and colored Valentine’s meals for my children someday!

As I was planning my preschool party for school, I started thinking of what foods I wanted to serve my preschoolers. I decided to follow a red and pink theme with heart shaped foods thrown in for good measure. After pondering this for over a week, here is a list of themed possibilities for Valentine’s Day. I’m sharing the list with you so you don’t have to think as hard as I did!

  • Cherries
  • Cranberries (or Craisins)
  • Radishes
  • Red Apples
  • Red Peppers
  • Red Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Watermelon
  • Salsa
  • Cherry or Strawberry Yogurt
  • Strawberry Cream Cheese on Heart Shaped Toast
  • Spaghetti with Red Marinara Sauce
  • Ravioli with Red Marinara Sauce
  • Mini Heart Shaped Pizzas with Heart Shaped Pepperoni
  • Red Jello (Strawberry, Cherry or Mixed Berry)
  • Pink Marshmallows (Strawberry Flavored)
  • Hi-C or Red Kool-Aid
  • Strawberry Milk
  • Strawberry Smoothie
  • Shirley Temples
  • Cherry Limeade
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Pink Wafer Cookies

You can make lots of foods into Valentine themed foods just by using cookie cutters of various sizes. You could make heart shaped toast or heart shaped pancakes for breakfast. You could even fry an egg in that heart shaped hole in your toast. You can cut sandwiches into hearts for lunch and cut cheese into mini hearts for a snack. You can make heart shaped cookies for dessert. You can frost the cookies with red or pink icing and add red or pink sprinkles to really fit your color theme.

Remember that for young children, it doesn’t need to be elaborate! You can easily add red (or pink) food coloring to a variety of foods. You can stir in Valentine colored M&Ms to different desserts. You can cut raw fruits and vegetables into heart shapes. Mix and match from the list above to create a themed meal (or day of meals!) for Valentine’s Day that is sure to delight. Do you have any other red foods that I missed in my list?

Planning for Baby & Learning How God Provides

Preparing for Baby & Learning How God Provides

March – and the due date of our baby – is quickly approaching. Each passing day and each passing week brings us closer to meeting our baby. This is a baby for whom we have waited and prayed. There have been times when the planner in me is overwhelmed because we are venturing into uncharted territory. Thankful, my husband and I are both teachers (with 22 years of combined teaching experience) so we are well acquainted with children. Plus, I’m an early childhood teacher and he’s a junior high teacher – and we both have taught elementary school. That helps us cover the full spectrum!

Still, there are baby car seats to purchase and insurance companies to call. There are lesson plans to write and meals to be made. There are classes to be taught and doctors appointments to attend. We are having a baby in a matter of weeks, and not only that, but I am transitioning from being a full-time teacher to a stay-at-home Mom. I’m preparing my students for maternity subs and preparing our home for one income.

It can be overwhelming at times, but I mostly feel joy. I feel joy because our life is changing with the birth of this baby. I also feel joy because I am seeing clearly how God is providing for us. God is providing for us in so many ways! Our income is soon going to be cut dramatically but God is already providing for us and this baby. I want to share how God is working – not to brag – but to encourage. I want to remind us all that even when we don’t know what is around the corner, God knows. And God provides. Here are some examples from our life to share with you.

  • Our hairdresser gave us a gently used crib and a crib mattress. It’s a Jenny Lind style wood crib that fits perfectly in the baby’s room.
  • A preschool Mom gave us four large diaper boxes full of adorable clothes for the baby’s first 12 months. Her son was born in March so the sizes and seasons match up perfectly.
  • A school Mom gave us a set of baby monitors that she had scarcely used with her children. I don’t care that they don’t have the video option because I just want to hear the baby.
  • My Mom brought up a like-new baby carrier and sun shield for the car that someone had discarded after a rummage sale at their church.
  • A fellow teacher friend passed on three dozen newborn diapers that her daughter outgrew before they were used. Diapers are diapers and I’m always thankful for those! She’s also loaning us her baby bassinet for the first couple weeks when we need one.
  • Both our families gave us cute baby clothes for Christmas. In addition to providing us with more outfits for the baby, the clothes were also in larger sizes that the baby has plenty of time to grow into.
  • My principal gave us a pack-n-play as well as an infant car seat that she used for her granddaughter. My in-laws are keeping these thoughtful gifts at their house for when they watch the baby.

We didn’t seek any of these gifts out. These families asked and blessed us with their generosity. God has provided for us so much already – and I know He will continue to provide. Even on the days when pennies seem tight (and I know they will feel tighter yet when I am at home), I know God is providing. God is in control. I know God is God – and I am not.

I encourage you to take a look at your own life today. How is God providing for you? How has God blessed you recently? Large or small, blessings are blessings. Rejoice in His provision!

A Single Serving Recipe for Wassail

A while ago, I shared my recipe for wassail. While I love the taste of this delicious warm drink, I don’t often prepare a big batch of wassail. When I was getting ready for school the other morning, I wanted a glass of wassail – and decided to adjust the recipe for an individual cup of wassail.

It’s very simple and retains the full flavor of wassail – without lots of leftovers. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner! Sometimes, I simmer two servings on the stove and pour it into two mugs for two days. Other times, I mix it all together quickly in the microwave and drink my wassail on the go. I like having the flexibility now for a big batch or single serving of wassail. It has made my winter quite cozy!

Single Serving Recipe for Wassail - Joyfully Thriving

Here’s how I prepare a single serving of wassail. I’ve gotten to where I squirt in a bit of lemon juice and sprinkle on the cinnamon – without measuring. I have included measurements for your convenience. Feel free to adjust if you want more or less sweetness with the sugar and lemon juice proportions. Enjoy a glass of wassail today!

Ingredients:

1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Mix apple juice, orange juice and a squirt of lemon juice in a mug. Stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Heat in the microwave for a minute and a half or until warm. Stir again before drinking.

Snow Cherry Limeade

Snow Cherry Limeade - A perfect snow day recipe for a copycat Sonic drink.

The snow was blowing outside and the temperatures were bitterly cold but suddenly, I wanted a Cherry Limeade from Sonic. Some would say it was a pregnancy craving. Perhaps it was because I was 28 weeks pregnant at the time. So I decided to get creative and make my own version of the drink at home. It was delicious – and tasted just like Sonic’s classic drink. It was so good that I want to share it with you so you can make yourself a cherry limeade, too!

Now, to be fair, you could make this recipe without snow. Simply use ice in place of the snow. I like using snow because it reminds me of the little ice cubes that Sonic uses in their drinks. You could also crush some ice in the blender if you are so inclined and / or live down South without snow to flavor your drinks! I’ll be using this method in the summer.

4 Ingredient Cherry Limeade - An Easy and Delicious Recipe!

This recipe is very simple and requires only four ingredients. You need snow (or ice), the juice from maraschino cherries, lime juice (or lemon, if you are snowed in) and 7-up (or Sprite).

Fill a glass with snow. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice over the snow. I started with 2 but liked it stronger with 3 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice. Pour 1 cup of 7-up over the snow. Stir with a spoon. Top with a cherry and enjoy your delicious snow cherry limeade!

I think it’s the perfect treat for a snow day. I hope you (and your kids) agree!

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