A New Christian, Easter Book for Children

I know it’s still Lent but I just ordered and received this new Easter book for Nathan. I want to share it with you now in case you are interested in ordering a copy for your child’s Easter basket!

You see, I’ve always wanted to write a book. It’s on my “someday” dream list. Even though I haven’t written a book yet, I’m always delighted when someone I know writes and publishes a book. Jamie, an acquaintance of mine from college years at Concordia, Seward, just published a delightful new children’s book!

Jamie is trained as a DCE (Director of Christian Education) and has served at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Alaska (yes, Alaska!) since our graduation in 2004. As all of those in church work know, it is important to teach theologically correct, Bible based truths, to our littlest ones. Jamie did that with a unique twist in this new Easter book called Wiggles’s Easter Journey.

Wiggles’s Easter Journey is told through the eyes of an Easter Bunny (named Wiggles) who follows Jesus through Holy Week. It starts with the Palm Sunday procession, then Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Most importantly, it ends with Jesus resurrection on Easter morning, and the Biblical mandate to go tell others, “Jesus is not here! He is risen!” The book with one more page tying in the colors of the Easter eggs as a way to remember Jesus life, death and resurrection.

One of the other things I really liked about this book is that each page ends with a question from Wiggles. “Where do you think Jesus went?” and “What do you think the angel told me?” are two of the questions posed for the children to answer. I love interactive books the encourage participation like this.

Whether you “do” the Easter bunny or not in your home, Wiggles’s Easter Journey would be a great book to add to your collection. It can be hard to find quality, Bible based, Easter literature, outside of what CPH publishes. I look forward to reading this book to Nathan this Easter – and for many Easters to come.

The Perfect Egg

The Perfect Egg

After being disappointed by the last cookbook I reviewed, I was glad this was the follow up cookbook. Last time, I was disappointed by a cookbook that didn’t apply to everyone and used uncommon ingredients. This time, the entire cookbook featured an ingredient we all have in our refrigerator – eggs. This cookbook also had the right amount of introduction and better pictures – for every recipe!

The Perfect Egg is dedicated to one of the most overlooked common ingredients – eggs. It started with a bit of background information on eggs. I didn’t know there were 2 ounces in a large egg and 2.5 in a jumbo egg. Did you? Then, there are instructions for how to make the perfect hard boiled / scrambled / poached / fried egg. They are simple directions but perfectly clear. All good information to know!

Then, we get to the heart of the cookbook. The cookbook is divided into sections for morning, afternoon and night, but also includes sections on snacks and sweets. I enjoyed how they took basic egg recipes and provided variations. For instance, their were a dozen variations of quiches, deviled eggs, egg salad, and even egg based pancakes. It is good to think outside the box (or egg!).

The Perfect Egg featured recipes that every family could prepare and use. I liked some of the ordinary recipes (with variations) the most. That said, I’m putting their recipe for frozen custard – and all the variations – on the top of my to make list. After reading this cookbook, I’m going to be making frugal eggs much more often!

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

Nathan @ 11 Months

It seems that the busy-ness of life has kept me from sharing Nathan’s monthly updates. My apologies! I’ve shared some pictures from our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations so we’ll consider those the glimpses into our life. Still, since Nathan will be turning 1 next month (I can scarcely believe it!), here’s an official 11 month update for you – and for me, as I look back over the past month.

Nathan continues to be a curious and good natured little boy. He’s discovered the pots and pans in our kitchen and loves to “help” me while I cook. It keeps him busy so I don’t mind. He has figured out how to pull out our one low cereal drawer and likes to play with the granola bars and the other empty containers I now keep in there for him.

Nathan helping in the kitchen

In addition to playing with the pans, Nathan likes to unpack everything he can. Our play time consists of him emptying the diaper bag multiple times a day as well as trying to unpack my school bag. I no longer get the toys out for him but simply pull the bin off the shelf and let him take the toys out himself. He has as much fun standing there and taking things out as he does actually playing!

Nathan unpacking the diaper bag

He is a mobile little guy now – constantly on the move. He stands and walks along things but doesn’t yet walk on his own. I think it’s coming sooner than we realize. He also likes to climb up on things and does so regularly to reach whatever he thinks he wants. He is determined and becoming more independent by the day. He’s reached the point where he would rather feed himself than have us feed him. Pumpkin bread is a new favorite! His fine motor skills continue to improve so he can even pick up slippery bananas now. He still only has 2 teeth on the bottom but that doesn’t hold him back from trying anything we are eating!

Nathan loves his pumpkin bread!

It’s been a cold month. Not as much snow as we’ve had in previous years and what snow we do have all seems to come on weekends. We’d like another snow day so Daddy can stay home with us! With negative wind chills many days this month, we’ve had to bundle up to go outside. Nathan does NOT like all the layers! He is fine once we’re out and moving but putting all the warm clothes on? Not a fan.

Cold Weather Tears from Nathan

One of the biggest events of the month is that Nathan got his first hair cut this month. I was sad to see his little curls go but his hair was getting in his eyes already. His morning bedhead was quite the site to behold! Nathan was a trooper for his first hair cut with our friend and hairdresser, Michele. He sat in the chair all by himself and didn’t need me to hold him at all! What a big boy!

Nathan's first haircut

The unfortunate event of the month was that Nathan caught his first stomach virus this month and spent 12 hours one Sunday throwing up every hour or so. No pictures here! Thankfully, it was a short lived bug with nothing more serious. It took a bit for his appetite to come back so we ate lots of applesauce and graham crackers that week. Nathan will always eat graham crackers!

We had a nice and simple Valentine’s Day at home. Nathan enjoyed getting Valentines in the mail from both sets of his grandparents. He especially liked the little ones that Grandpa Barz had sent for him. They are in his toy box now and he still likes to get them out and turn them over and over in his hands.

Nathan looking at his Valentines

Nathan has started having some seperation anxiety. There are days when he wants me to hold him and days when he doesn’t want me to leave his sight. Once I’m gone, he’s fine. I’ve started leaving him in the nursery during MOPS and the ladies say he is quite the charmer and Mr. Social Butterfly. He wants to see what all the other babies are doing. That’s my friendly little guy!

Nathan likes to laugh and copies us. He waves and claps his hands anytime we say, “Yay!” He likes to read nursery rhyme books and lift the flaps in flap books. He says “Mama” and “Dada”. Mama definitely is directed to me so we’re counting that as his first official word. Dada still means a lot of things, but he does say it when he sees Andy come through the door. When we tell him to wave, Nathan promptly waves at whomever he can. He knows what “Bye Bye” means and doesn’t like to see me leave. Thankfully, I don’t have to leave him most days! 11 months old and he continues to grow so quickly.

My handsome little Nathan at 11 months after his haircut

Lighten Up, Y’all Review

Lighten Up, Y'all

I’ve been fortunate to read some great books – and cookbooks – recently. Unfortunately, the streak was bound to come to an end as it did with this new cookbook.

Lighten Up, Y’all promised to be a cookbook that lightened up Southern comfort food. The premise was good and the title very cute. While it did provide many lighten up recipes, I found this cookbook to be much too cumbersome. There were very few of these recipes that I wanted to make. Maybe it means I’m not truly a Southern girl but these recipes didn’t catch my fancy. I will give her recipe for apple hand pies a try because she uses unsweetened applesauce as the filling. Clever!

The main problem with this cookbook? There were too many words and stories and explanations with not enough pictures. When I get a new cookbook, I love to see the pictures of all the recipes. Often times, the pictures are how I decide to make a recipe. (Tell me you do that too!) In this cookbook, there was only a recipe picture every third recipe or so. I did not like that aspect of Lighten Up, Y’all at all.

For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this cookbook to many people. If you are a true Southern from Georgia and looking to lose weight while cooking traditional foods, check it out. Otherwise, find another cookbook for inspiration.

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

Mothering from Scratch – My Desire

This seems to be my year for finding inspirational non-fiction books that speak exactly to where I am in life and can do the same for so many. Fringe Hours changed how I’m pursuing my passions and this new book, Mothering from Scratch, is changing how I view this important task of being a Mom.

Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family instantly captured me with the title. What Mom doesn’t long for that? This book is written by two Moms and friends, Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo. They are two different Christian Moms with different backgrounds and different mothering styles yet they are united in their desire to encourage all Moms.

The premise of the book is simple. All Moms can – and should – mother differently. We have been blessed by God with many unique gifts. We have been given children that are uniquely ours. We have learned from our Mothers and those around us, and now it is time to focus on developing our own mothering style. We need to embrace our personality, utilize our strengths and be aware of our weaknesses so we can determine what works for us as Mom. This book truly does speak to every Mom.

Each chapter in Mothering from Scratch is written with insights and anecdotes from both ladies. Sprinkled throughout are sections called “Lovin’ Spoonful”. They are brief doses of encouragement. At the end of each chapter, “Stirring Your Thoughts” gives you further questions to ponder. I especially enjoyed the final section of each chapter, “Let’s Get Cookin'”. There were several brief bullet points summarize the chapter and giving us specific tasks to ponder and pursue.

Also, it is worth noting that this book is Biblical based. As a Christian, I find that very important in parenting books. From a conservative Lutheran view, I was pleasantly surprised that I agreed with most of the theology shared.

As a new Mom, I found Mothering from Scratch to be a breath of fresh air. I’ve been reading parenting books for years – long before I became and parent. This book ranks among the top of all parenting ones I’ve read because it is truly applicable and speaks with grace to our task as Moms. If you are a Mom looking to rediscover the joy of parenting, read this book for encouragement to be the unique Mom that God created you to be.

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 Fringe Hours – Finding Yours!

At the beginning of the year, I was honored – and thrilled – to be selected as part of Jessica Turner’s blogging team for her new book, The Fringe Hours. While I received this book for free, all of the opinions expressed are my own. This book was at the top of my “to read” list for the year anyway and the fact that I got to read it before it was released was extra exciting. The book officially (and finally) releases today, and I want to tell you about this incredible book.

It’s life changing. It’s encouraging. It’s the book every woman needs to read. 

The Fringe Hours is a book about finding and reclaiming time for yourself. Why is this important? When we doing something we love, we are more energized for life in general. It’s a struggle for many women today – me included – because we are constantly going and doing. As Jessica says on page 43, “The reason so many women today struggle to make themselves a priority is because they are trying to be everything for everyone!” True!

The Fringe Hours talks about why you should make time for yourself and then it shows you how to make time for yourself. Jessica is very honest in this book and reminds us that, “What works for someone else might not work for you.” I need that reminder to make my life and time work for me. Besides, “You are never too busy to make time for what you love.”

You are never too busy to make time for what you love. Jessica Turner - Fringe Hours

We all have different things that we enjoy doing. For some of us, it may be reading or scrapbooking. For others, it may be baking or sewing. For still others, it may be taking pictures or doing home projects. Whatever it is, Jessica encourages us to go ahead and do it. Stop saying there isn’t time – and make time to do what you love! Yes, this means the dishes may wait for a bit but do something for yourself every day.

Jessica had so many brilliant quotes in this book. My book is underlined and starred throughout as I read and took notes of all the things I wanted to remember. One of my favorite quotes is below about nights. With Nathan crawling (and almost walking), my days are becoming even busier as I keep up with my little boy. When he goes to bed, it’s so tempting to hurry and accomplish all the chores that didn’t get done during the day. After reading The Fringe Hours, I’ve made a shift in how I approach my nights. Some nights still have to be a chore or project completing night but I am trying to use my nights to do more of what I want to do instead of only what I have to do. 

Nights are a gift to use to refuel and invest in yourself. Jessica Turner. The Fringe Hours

The gist of  The Fringe Hours is that we need to really evaluate our life and our time. Are we using it in the best way we can? If we are energized and renewed, then we can care for everyone around us with more joy and passion. After reading this book, I started making more time to bake from scratch. I am also making my writing and blogging more of a priority. Finally, I’m making sure that I have time to work on my digital scrapbooks and of course, read. This book reminded me that we always have a choice about what to do with our time. I’m working at being more productive with my working hours so that I can still have fringe hours for myself daily.

This is Your Time for a New Beginning. Jessica Turner. The Fringe Hours

I truly believe that every woman – single or married, with children or without, stay-at-home Mom or working professional, young or old(er) – needs to read The Fringe Hours. Let’s start making ourselves a priority! Are you ready to do so? Go read this book and tell me how you’re going to use your fringe hours. What excites and energizes you? What do you want to do just for you?

Finally, I’ll leave you with one last quote from Jessica and her wonderful book that I loved. “Life is not perfect. You are not perfect. But you are a glorious creation, and your life is meant to be lived with joy. Some days you aren’t going to get your makeup on, you will burn the cookies for the school bake sale, and you will spill wine on the rug. In our mess, God makes us strong. In your glorious imperfections, you can still shine beautifully bright. Embrace that truth. Stop trying to be everything for everyone and start investing in who and what really matter.”

The Two People I Love Most

On this Valentine’s Day, it’s only fitting that I share a couple pictures of two people I love. I love a lot of people but these two are the ones I love the most. I am thankful that God has blessed me with Andy – and now Nathan. My life is so much richer with them at my side. Here’s a couple things I love about these two.

I love bath time with Nathan. He loves his bath! Smiles abound and so do the splashes. I love his smiles, too.

Bathtime Smiles

I’ve always loved books and I love reading books with my baby. I love seeing how much he loves books, too!

Book time with Daddy

I love seeing Nathan light up for his Grandparents – whether on Skype or in person.

Skyping with Barz Grandparents

I love seeing how Nathan adores his Daddy. From the moment we wave goodbye to Daddy to the moment Andy walks in the door again, it is clear that Nathan loves his Daddy. And Andy loves Nathan just as much!

Nathan Sledding with Daddy

I love hugs and kisses from my sweet baby. There are days I still can’t believe I’m a Mom to this precious boy.

Hugs from Nathan

Valentine’s Day is just one day, but we can say “I love you” each and every day to the people in our lives. Show them how much you love them. May we all live a life of love! Happy Valentine’s Day to you – and all that you love!

Happy Valentines Day from Nathan!

Becoming a SAHM: Plan ahead.

Becoming a SAHM: Plan ahead. Part of the How to Become a Stay at Home Mom series.

It’s time to continue with my SAHM series. Being a SAHM has kept me busy, so busy, that it’s taken me awhile to write about these experiences. I am learning so much that I don’t want to forget – and that I want to share with others.

After you’ve made the decision to be a stay at home Mom, you need to plan ahead. For some, this planning takes place over a number of years. While for others, it is a matter of months or only weeks. As much as you are able, plan ahead to be a SAHM.

My husband and I made the decision early on that I was going to stay at home with our children. We had almost 5 years together as a married couple before our son was born. During that time, we lived frugally, paid off our debt and saved for retirement. We are two responsible individuals. Still, I occasionally find myself wondering if we could have done more.

We had cable for a time. We took vacations. We went out to eat. We did a couple of major house projects (although spending several thousand dollars as a result of flooding to our newly finished basement wasn’t the most fun of those projects). We paid off my husband’s college loans but still have part of one last loan remaining on our Tahoe. We were more frugal than some but not as frugal as others. Could we have done more? Yes. Did we still do a lot? Yes. Do I regret our choices during that time before our son was born? No.

We bought our house knowing that it was a house we could afford on one salary. This was one of the most important aspects of our planning ahead. We worked hard at paying down our debt, and our remaining car debt should be gone within the year. This was also important in our planning ahead journey. We saved for retirement, knowing that this would be much harder to do once I stayed home. Right now, I’m not contributing to my Roth but I can let it sit there and accumulate interest. These were personal financial decisions that we made as we planned ahead.

It is important to plan ahead financially so when you transition to one salary, you have less financial burdens that constrict you. Pay down as much debt as you possibly can and start living on one salary, if you are able. We didn’t do this to a full extent but partially as we used my salary to do home projects, invest in retirement and pay down debt. While finances are one of the most important areas in which to plan ahead, I also believe you should plan ahead in other aspects of your life.

Start now learning how to be a good homemaker. Spend time with children and gain experience for the day when you have a child of your own. I was a teacher (and an early childhood one at that) so spent lots of time with young children. I am very grateful for those years of experience! Most importantly, pray for God’s guidance and wisdom as you plan to be a stay at home mom.

In what other ways did you plan ahead? Any advice to share with those Moms who are just starting to plan ahead?

The Soup Club Cookbook

The Soup Club

It’s winter time and time for soup. I’ve already made two different soups this week. Do you crave soup as much as I do in the winter? For that reason, I was highly intrigued by a new book called  The Soup Club Cookbook by four friends – Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow and Julie Peacock.

The Soup Club Cookbook is part memoir, part cookbook and part instruction manual. It’s the story of four friends in New York City who, in 2011, began a soup club. The premise was simple – and wonderful. Every week, one woman would cook a soup for all of the other ladies and their families. The maker of the soup then delivered it (with the fixings) to the other homes for their families to enjoy. So, once a month they cooked and then the other three weeks, they enjoyed a soup made for them. I love this idea!

The cookbook includes many of the soup recipes the ladies cooked. Some of them were more exotic than what I would cook (I’ll pass on Red Lentil Curry or Senegelese Peanut Soup) but others look delicious (like Beck Chicken Chili or Chicken Tortilla Soup – yum!). That was the only negative for me – the many exotic soups that weren’t to my liking. Each recipe begins with a paragraph of introduction from the cook with the history of the soup or a story about the making of it. I liked that personal aspect.

I liked the style of this cookbook. It was written as if you were sitting down with a good friend, chatting about soups. They even included pencil style drawings which added to the informal – but helpful – style of this cookbook. The recipes were easy to follow and most of them had regular ingredients.

The Soup Club Cookbook also includes practical instructions for you to begin a soup club of your own. This was the part that made me think the most. They suggest 4 members so you have a turn monthly. They tell you how to pick a big stockpot and tips for cooking in bulk. They even tell you little things like to deliver your soup containers to the next cook at least a day before the next soup delivery. I love this concept! The trick is in finding friends to make this work. If you are sharing the meals, you don’t have to worry much about cost because it will balance out as you cook once every couple of weeks. You should establish ground rules and this cookbook helps with that too.

The Soup Club Cookbook is an innovative cookbook! You don’t have to be a soup lover to appreciate the uniqueness of this cookbook (although that will certainly help). Whether you want to set up your own soup club or are just looking for new soup recipes, you’ll enjoy this cookbook. If you want to set up a freezer club or crock-pot club, this cookbook can be a good resource for you, too! If you’re interested in any of the topics I mentioned here, take a look at this cookbook!

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

Steadfast Heart Review

Steadfast Heart

I recently received Traceie Peterson’s newest book to read and review. I’ve always enjoyed Tracie Peterson’s books. Her “Heirs of Montana” series was one of my favorites of all hers. So when I received this first book in her new series, the “Brides of Seattle,” I was eager to read it.

Steadfast Heart is the story of wealthy, only child 20 year old Lenore Fulcher. Her parents are insistent that she marry a man of equal standing and try to set her up with various proper gentleman. Lenore, however, resists all of those and searches for true love. When she sees Kolbein Booth, a young lawyer from Chicago, she falls instantly for him. Kolbein is searching for his runaway sister and Lenore is not sure how he feels about her. Steadfast Heart supposedly tells the story of Kolbein and Lenore, but what I found disconcerting is that Lenore isn’t even mentioned for a good portion of the book.

I enjoyed the story of Steadfast Heart but it was not one of my favorites. I felt there were too many other little stories going on, which I’m sure was intentional, since this was the first book of a series. Most times that doesn’t bother me, but this time, I found it distracting and was actually glad when the book finished. I’m not giving up on Tracie Peterson but I probably won’t finish this series. I’d rather reread some of her other ones.

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.