Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Fun and Colorful Summer Refreshment!

Summer is here, and now is a great time to celebrate the season with some cool, colorful drinks! I follow a blog called Sugar Bean Bakers, and a recent post there included a super-easy, super-fun recipe for making something like this:

Yep, I tried it out, and it really worked! My mom, my sister, and I all loved it!

Aren't they lovely?? So pretty!

So check out the directions for making "Layered Drinks" (from Sugar Bean Bakers blog) - I think you might just love them, too!

P.S. I used Sobe (Cranberry Grapefruit), Gatorade Perform Low-Cal (Glacier Freeze), and VitaminWater Zero (Orange) to get the multi-colored drinks you see above. They tasted kind of like tropical-flavored cotton candy. =)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Review of The Secret Keeper

Here's a description of the book from Simon & Schuster:

"What she sees in secret, she may not tell.

Mistress Juliana St. John is the lovely, forthright daughter of a prosperous knight’s family. Though all expect her to marry the son of her late father’s business partner, time and chance interrupt, sending her to the sumptuous but deceptive court of Henry VIII. Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, returns to Wiltshire to conclude his affairs with Juliana’s father’s estate and chances upon her reading as lector in the local church. He sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves and wants most to please, Kateryn Parr. Juliana’s mother agrees to have her placed with Parr for a season and Juliana goes, though reluctantly. For she keeps a secret.

As Juliana accompanies Kateryn Parr to court, Henry’s devout sixth queen raises the stakes for all reformers. Support of firebrand Anne Askew puts the queen and her ladies in life-threatening jeopardy, as does the queen’s desire to influence her husband’s—and the realm’s—direction and beliefs. Later, without Henry’s strong arm, the court devolves to competition, duplicity, and betrayal. The risks could not be higher as Juliana must choose between love and honor, personal fulfillment and sacrifice. Ultimately, her course is driven by a final kept secret, one that undoes everything she thought she knew."

My Rating


My Review

The Secret Keeper is the story of Juliana St. John - a woman who holds her own and keeps the faith during the days of Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI. Through this fictional perspective the reader is treated to a grand tour through history that is rich in texture and personal in nature. From the relative safety of a wealthy home to the colorful but dangerous world of the court, Juliana's story is an interesting one.

Sandra Byrd is a talented author. The Secret Keeper is well-written, although it involves a lot of shuffling. With lots of travel and lots of time passing, the characters keep moving from one scene to the next, or from one year to the next, without a completely satisfying fluidity. There's a lot of ground covered - from the history being conveyed to the emotional journeys of the characters.

I would have liked to see some more scenes involving both the hero and the heroine - some more romance - but that's a personal preference. This is a book where history takes precedence and romance, while a part of things, is in more of a secondary position. The ending takes an intriguing turn and is a gratifying, albeit slightly sudden, conclusion. If you're looking for historical fiction that borders on historical romance, and if you enjoy a story that brings the past to life without shying away from the more unseemly and painful  aspects, then The Secret Keeper has a lot to offer!

*With thanks to author Sandra Byrd and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Booker Award

Huge thanks to Faye (labor not in vain), Cathy (Thoughts on Books), and Carissa (Carissa's bookshelf) for passing The Booker Award on to me!

Ah, yes - I think I do spent quite a bit of time in fictional worlds, LOL!

Here are the rules for this award: 

"1. This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blogger's blog must be 50% about books (this includes writing blogs or reader blogs).

2. When you accept this award you must also share what your top five all time favorite books are. Going over five is encouraged.

3. You must pass this award on to five to ten other book blogs that you adore :)"

Now, I have a really hard time narrowing down my favorites when it comes to books... There are so many books that have moved me or inspired me or swept me away! But here are some of the books that I've marked as "Favorites" on Shelfari:
  • A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  • Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  • Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz
  • The Redemption by MaryLu Tyndall
  • Surrender the Night by MaryLu Tyndall
  • Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West
  • Undercurrent by Michelle Griep
  • Chateau of Echoes by Siri Mitchell
  • The Messenger by Siri Mitchell
  • There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
  • The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden
  • Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke 
  • The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
  • Love in Disguise by Carol Cox
  • The "Phantom Island" series by Krissi Dallas (Windchaser, Windfall, and Watercrossing - with more to come!!)
Some other Christian fiction favorites:
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  • Snow Angel by Jamie Carie
  • A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman
And some favorites from books I had to read for college classes (class underlined in parentheses):
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (17th-19th Century British Literature)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (19th-20th Century British Literature)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (19th-20th Century British Literature)
  • The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman (Literature of the American West)
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (19th Century American Literature)
  • Into Africa by Martin Dugard (History of Modern Africa)
  • Cavalier in Buckskin by Robert Utley (American Military History I)
  • The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James (Ruth & Esther)
Like I said before, there are so many books that have blessed me or challenged me. As a college graduate with a degree in English, I'm sure you can imagine that I am very grateful for books!

I'm passing this award on to:
 What are some of your favorite books?

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Review of Garden of Madness

Here's a description of the book:

"The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Daughter.

For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.

Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.

In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelite’s one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all – to save the kingdom, and to save herself."

My Rating


My Review

The "Seven Wonders" series continues with an intriguing story centered around the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This is a depiction of a fascinating and yet dark time in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar - as seen through the eyes of an independent and intelligent daughter who never stops loving him.

Tiamat is a strong and determined heroine who exercises as an outlet for her anxiety and stops at nothing to discover the truth. The secrets of the palace are numerous and prove to be quite painful, and yet this "Nancy Drew" of ancient Babylon keeps asking her questions and putting herself at risk. Tracy Higley does a wonderful job of writing historical suspense, as she keeps the tension - and the stakes - high. The descriptions of the palace and the city, combined with the escalating drama unfolding around Tia, make this an enthralling read.

The romance gets off to a great start (in terms of romantic tension), too, with Pedaiah and Tia constantly assessing their priorities and battling their feelings. But I confess that the ending - while engaging and generally satisfying - didn't quite live up to all I hoped it to be. Everything turned out too neat without finally endearing me to the hero.

So Garden of Madness isn't my favorite of Higley's books (I'm still partial to City of the Dead and Guardian of the Flame), but it is definitely a great read. The journey of the heroine and the theme of humility really stand out in this captivating story!

*With thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing through the Booksneeze program and the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: Angel Eyes

Here's a description of the book:

"Once you've seen, you can't unsee. Everything changes when you've looked at the world through . . . Angel Eyes

Brielle went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She's come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can't seem to shake.

Jake's the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what's going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons-and Brielle-can perceive."

My Rating


My Review

Angel Eyes is a heartfelt YA novel that draws attention to important issues - from the power of fear to the cruelty of human trafficking. As a creative story full of emotion and tension, this book delivers. It's an engrossing read that offers enough romance and real-life heartache to carry the reader through to the last page.

But the writing itself is kind of hit and miss. Sometimes the symbolic and lyrical language shines. And other times it's a bit too much - along with some of the content. Not to say that the content is too edgy to handle, but rather the romantic and angelic content is a little too fanciful at times, even for the genre. Jake is sweet as all get-out - don't get me wrong! I'm just not sure where his utter romantic devotion comes from.

And I think the depiction of the angels and demons has to be taken with a grain of salt, as well. God is mentioned and revered in the story, but He seems so distant in comparison to the bold interference of the angels in the lives of the human characters. The author certainly gives an interesting fictional look at the supernatural as it affects, is affected by, and interacts with the natural world - a perspective that can have merit in the questions it raises and the discussion/thought it might prompt.

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity Blog tour.* 

About the Author

"Shannon is a wife and mother. A sister. A daughter. A friend. She was raised in Northern California by her parents-pastors of their local church and constant figures of inspiration.

As a youth, Shannon traveled with an award-winning performing arts team, excelling on stage and in the classroom. As a young adult, she attended Portland Bible College, continued acting, and worked with an outreach team targeting inner-city kids in the Portland-Metropolitan area.

It was in Portland that she met her husband, Matt. They were married in 2002. Soon after, they took the reins of the youth ministry at Living Way Community Church in Roseville, California where they continue to serve in that capacity. In October of 2004, their son Justus was born, followed by their daughter Jazlyn, born in 2008.

Find out more at www.shannondittemore.com."

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other reviews scheduled by clicking HERE.


Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

One "angelic" winner will receive:
  • A Brand New Nook Color
  • A copy of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Angel Eyes" Author Chat Facebook Party on 6/26. Shannon will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Angel Eyes and join Shannon on the evening of the June 26th for a chance to meet Shannon and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Review of Short-Straw Bride (CFBA Blog Tour)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Short-Straw Bride
Bethany House Publishers (June 1, 2012)
Karen Witemeyer


Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

After growing up in California, Karen moved to Texas to attend Abilene Christian University where she earned bachelor and master's degrees in Psychology. It was also there that she met and married her own Texas hero. He roped her in good, for she has lived in Texas ever since. In fact, she fell so in love with this rugged land of sweeping sunsets and enduring pioneer spirit, that she incorporates it into the pages of her novels, setting her stories in the small towns of a state that burgeoned into greatness in the mid- to late1800s.

Karen is living her dream by writing Christian historical romance novels for Bethany House.


No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Short-Straw Bride, go HERE.




I saved the reading of this book for my birthday, and what a treat it was! Karen Witemeyer's books are delicious - from the absolutely delightful covers to the meaningful romance stories between them. This particular book, with a few character and plot elements that resemble those of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (a movie a dear friend got me hooked on), is really quite endearing!

This story starts out with a lot of naivete and misunderstandings. Travis, while doing his best to appear tough, is really a sweet man who will do anything to protect the people he loves. And Meredith is a thoughtful young woman who challenges him at every turn - starting at their first meeting as children when she unknowingly challenges him to do what is right no matter what the consequences, and then later on when she finds herself at Travis' ranch again, challenging his authority and his long-held customs. What is Travis to do when a female with a heart as big as Texas is suddenly thrown into his all-male, isolated life?

Witemeyer knows how to write a satisfying and inspiring historical romance story. The ending of Short-Straw Bride is a bit far-fetched, but the story overall is wonderful - from the adorable prologue that introduces a young Travis and Meredith, to their continued interactions throughout the story that offer a look at an admirable and caring heroine, along with a sacrificing and loving hero. Paranoid brothers, a short-straw bride, and some valuable lessons in humility...yep, this book has it all!

*With thanks to Bethany House through CFBA for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Review of Love In Disguise (CFBA Blog Tour)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love in Disguise
Bethany House Publishers (June 1, 2012)
Carol Cox 


Native Arizonan Carol Cox has an abiding love for history, mystery, and romance. The author of more than 25 books, she believes in the power of story to convey spiritual truths. Carol lives with her husband and daughter in northern Arizona, where deer and antelope really do play--within view of the family's front porch.

A word from Carol:

As a native of Arizona, I have a longtime interest in the Southwest and its history. My family shares my love of the Old West, as evidenced by this photo taken back in the halcyon days before my son turned to a life of crime and started robbing trains for a living...


When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona.

Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is about to lose his business after the theft of several bullion shipments–until hope arrives in the unlikely form of Lavinia Stewart, who offers to invest in Steven’s mine. In his wildest dreams, Steven never expected to be rescued by an inquisitive gray-haired widow… or to fall head over heels for Lavinia’s captivating niece, Jessie.

But then the thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn’t safe no matter which character she plays! Will she be forced to reveal her true identity before the criminals are caught? What will Steven do when he discovers the woman he loves doesn’t exist?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love in Disguise, go HERE.



If you're looking for an absolutely fun Western romance - this is it! What starts out as a sort of "costume party" on a grand scale, with the spirited Ellie taking on whatever role necessary to avoid destitution and to play detective, turns into a complicated twist on reality with some serious ramifications if Ellie can't keep her various identities in line.

After losing out on what seemed like the chance of a lifetime to travel across Europe, Ellie overhears a conversation that might just lead her on another adventure in the opposite direction - into wild Arizona territory. Sure, she's never been a detective before... But how hard can it be to use her skills with makeup and costumes, along with all her observations of acting in the theater, to discover information and put all the clues together while undercover? Well, Ellie learns that it can be very hard, indeed, when one girl has to play two very different roles and still keep her sanity intact, her safety secure, and her heart independent!

I loved this book full of intriguing twists and humorous turns! The plot is just plain fun, and yet there is an important reminder disguised within: when we divide our lives into various "roles" that we take on, it can be too easy to forget who we are fundamentally beneath the facades. Knowing who you really are and living in that knowledge requires humility - and discovering love in that state of authenticity is beautifully powerful.

Love in Disguise has it all - sweet community, a wonderful and unique love story, and some dastardly villains that need to be brought to justice. I'll admit that the climax has its cheesy moments, but the resolution is too happy to judge. And with great romance and cleverness, this book is just all-around awesome!

*With thanks to Bethany House through CFBA for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: Glamorous Illusions

Here's a description of the book:

"It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father's health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her.

Cora is invited to take the 'Grand Tour' of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person's education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she's never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.

Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal."

My Rating


My Review

Lisa Bergren has a talent for drawing the reader into the past! Glamorous Illusions starts out rather bleak - Cora comes home from school for the summer, full of hope and satisfaction, only to be met by one bad turn after another. Her father is ill; the farm is falling apart; the family's financial situation is dire. And then in waltzes the man who claims to be her "real" father. He starts giving orders and taking charge, thoroughly mixing up Cora's thoughts and threatening her independence.

From there Cora begins a new phase of her life. Coping with half-siblings, dipping her toes into the life of luxury, trying hard to learn how the past and the future should affect the present... It's a topsy-turvy journey, for sure! And did I mention the men who attempt to win her affections? Oh, yes - this is one exotic, exciting trip that isn't to be missed!

Glamorous Illusions is a unique historical romance story that is utterly charming. As a book all on its own, it doesn't completely satisfy - for hopefully there is more to come in this "Grand Tour" series: much more to see and to learn. But as a book that challenges its characters and offers a grand trip, it delivers! And yes, the romance is really quite captivating. From Will the bear (not the animal kind, though!) to Richelieu the flirtatious Frenchman and Hugh the potentially dangerous... Let's just say the romantic tension held my interest and made me want to see what will come of all of these possibilities. Once again Bergren swept me away on an historical adventure that I quite enjoyed!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity Blog tour.*

Book Trailer

About the Author

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 30 books, with more than 1.5 million copies sold. She has written a Colorado historical trilogy (the first book, Breathe, Sing and Claim), and has recently been immersed in writing a teen series called River of Time.

Lisa's time is split between managing home base, writing (including a fair amount of travel writing), consulting and freelance editing (with a little speaking here and there). She's married to Tim, a liturgical sculptor, graphic designer and musician. They have three kids-Olivia, Emma and Jack.

All five of the Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For more information on Lisa and to view other books written, please visit her website: http://lisatawnbergren.com/

To Buy the Book: click HERE

*NOTE: This book is currently FREE on Kindle!! But this offer ends tomorrow, so grab your copy today! (The Kindle version will then be $2.99 until June 15th, and then $4.99 after that until June 22nd. Great deals!)*

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other reviews scheduled by clicking HERE.


Win a $350 “Glam” Visa Card Prize Pack from @LisaTBegren & RSVP for 6/27 Facebook party!

What is our "true" identity? Join the conversation at Lisa Tawn Begren's Glamorous Illusions Author Chat Facebook Event Page. On the evening of 6/27 we'll gather to talk about our spiritual journey, share our stories and a few laughs.

In the meantime, celebrate with Lisa by entering her Glamorous Illusions Giveaway!

One "glamorous" winner will receive a "Glam Prize Pack":
  • A $350 Visa Cash Card (Oh ... think of what you could do: treat yourself to a mani/pedi, a fabulous new dress, dinner for two, or even a two-night escape in a lovely hotel - you're only limited by your imagination!)
  • Glamorous Illusions (by Lisa Tawn Begren)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 6/26/12. Winner will be announced at Lisa's "Glamorous Illusions" Facebook Party on  6/27 {Fun begins at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT}. Lisa will be hosting an evening of meaningful chat, fun trivia, laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Lisa via video or phone.)

So grab a few of your friends and your copy of Glamorous Illusions and join Lisa on the evening of June 27th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Now We're Cooking! - Creamy Chicken and Pasta

I've made it three times so far - and it hasn't let me down yet! Of course, my mom has helped by getting the chicken started (or boiling it for me...or buying an already-cooked chicken). But still, I'm making steps toward becoming more knowledgeable in the kitchen.

So do you want to know what's turned my household upside down? (OK, I'm being over-dramatic, but it is really good!)

From the Taste of Home Best of Simple & Delicious Cookbook, which a college friend and her sweet family gave to me for graduation, comes "Creamy Chicken and Pasta" (p. 15):


2 cups uncooked penne pasta

1 cup sliced green onions
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups cubed cooked chicken

Salt and pepper
Shredded Parmesan cheese

[The recipe in the book adds 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms to be sauteed with the green onions, 2 tbsp drained capers to be added with the chicken, and notes that white wine can be used instead of chicken broth. I'm not a mushroom fan, I don't really care about the capers, and I think chicken broth works well - so I omitted those things. The recipe also gives set amounts for the salt and pepper - 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper - but I've learned you kind of have to experiment with the seasonings. These are just my personal changes, but we all have different taste!]


"Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute mushrooms and onions [or just the onions] in butter for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add wine or broth and garlic. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Combine the flour and water until smooth; gradually add to the mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; simmer, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes or until heated through.

Drain pasta. Add the past, chicken, capers [or not], salt and pepper to cream sauce. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yield: 5 servings."

That's it! Here are some notes to remember, though:
  • Unless you're fantastic at mincing - like Tiana in The Princess and the Frog - it might take a while to chop up all those green onions and cut up the chicken. So you can do those things ahead of time if it helps!
  • There are a lot of steps to making the sauce, but it doesn't take too long - you just have to be able to devote your attention to it.
  • Be sure to use a big skillet, because even though when you start out it seems like too much room, you'll be adding the pasta and chicken directly to the sauce.
  • You might end up with a lot of dishes... But I think it's worth it! My parents and grandparents seem to enjoy this dish, and it's kind of fun to make!

(Pictures are mine from my birthday dinner last Sunday - I just made the pasta; my mom did the rest! I doubled the recipe so there would be enough for my grandparents, parents, and me. And my grandma made a delicious birthday cake for me! The recipe is from the Taste of Home Best of Simple & Delicious Cookbook.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Review of Submerged

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"A sabotaged flight. Two murdered divers. A single clue—a grainy image of sunken treasure.
Dive Rescue Captain Cole McKenna has never worked a case like this, but who he’s working with may prove more dangerous than the assignment. It’s been a lifetime since Bailey mangled his heart. Now she’s back in town and he needs her expertise to track down the illusive treasure.

Professor of Russian Studies Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again, but when her beloved aunt dies, she has no choice. Her plan of attack is simple: return for Agnes’s funeral, get the family business ready for a quick sale, and then put Yancey and all the heartbreaking memories wrapped up in it behind her for good.

Cole walking through her door, asking for her help on a murder investigation, wasn’t part of her plan, neither are the feelings he’s resurrecting—feelings best left dead.

Bailey agrees to help for the sake of the victims, and travels with Cole across Alaska’s rugged terrain and deep beneath its coastal waters. As the case escalates, so do their feelings for one another. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to let go of the past and just when Bailey thinks she can’t take it any longer, the case shifts in a new and extremely personal direction, fastening her in for its duration.

Racing against the clock and a rising body count, Cole and Bailey fight to find the treasure and uncover the hidden history at the root of it all. But will they be too late?"

My Rating


My Review

With a unique and majestic setting, Submerged offers an engaging reading experience! The characters who play their parts against such a great backdrop are wonderful - especially their interactions as a community, whether just the McKenna family community or the community of the townsfolk of Yancey. The McKenna family certainly won me over, including those members who were "adopted" into the family. What a fun, welcoming bunch!

In this Romantic Suspense, the romance takes precedence - not in thrills (although there are some!) so much as in slowly learning to open one's heart and allow healing to take place. The suspense is more subtle until closer to the end of the book. It's there on the sidelines, intermittently reminding the reader of its presence, but it doesn't seem to be the main focus. Instead, the suspense serves to propel the romance along and to allow the reader a glimpse into how all of the relationships in the story actually work.

And those relationships really are interesting to read about! It's sad to see how easily miscommunication can occur and how easily people can be hurt by the words and judgments of others. But this story also shows how wonderful it can be when people choose to love others and offer the hand of friendship.

Submerged has a gentle pacing as it dives deeper into the feelings of the characters - but it still has its suspenseful moments, especially at the ending. Unfortunately, the ending - in comparison with the rest of the book - felt a bit rushed, without as much explanation as I would have preferred for what exactly went down at the climax (and why it happened the way it happened). But overall this is a unique story (with a unique, lovely cover!) that introduces the reader to some unique characters - especially some secondary characters whose budding romance really caught my attention!

*With thanks to the author and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion*

You can buy the book now on Amazon.com. And don't forget to enter the Get Submerged Giveaway!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Campfire: Farewell to Camp Humility 2012 (+ Winners!)

Another week at Camp Humility has come and gone - time really does go by so fast! I hope you've enjoyed your time here, from our hike this morning to our fishing excursion and our evenings around the campfire. My wish is that this week was uplifting and inspiring and maybe even a little challenging for you!

And - *insert drum roll* - we have winners! With the help of Random.org's List Randomizer (including the initial entries as well as the extra entries), the winners are:

The Secret Keeper - Aizess!

Garden of Madness - Julie!

Wildflowers from Winter - Michelle T (scraphappy71)! 

Thank you once again to the authors and publishers for providing the books for the giveaway! (And winners, I'll be sending you an e-mail soon to get your mailing addresses!)

(I have to post this button one more time for posterity - I had fun making it, and I was happy with how it turned out! *Grin* Thanks, mybannermaker.com!)

And thank you very much to each and every one of you who stopped by and made this week meaningful and so much fun! Your comments and your enthusiasm - as well as your willingness to go along with this whole virtual camp idea... - really have blessed me. I'm so grateful to call you friends! 

So help yourself to one last s'more before you go!!

P.S. When you're checking out of the cabins, don't forget to check the bathrooms and all around your bunk beds to be sure you didn't forget anything! ;)

In Other News...
  • The last couple of years I've hosted a birthday bash here... But since this post-intensive week included a multiple-book giveaway, and since it's close enough to my birthday (this Sunday), I think I'm going to pass this year. But I'll see you again on Monday on the other side of 21! ;) And I might be sharing a recipe with ya'll soon - yes, I'm branching out!
  • I think I will be going to Disneyland again this summer (in a couple of weeks), so I'm sure you'll be seeing some posts about that soon, too!
  • Also, since my permit expired this last month, I had to re-take the written test and all of that jazz at the DMV... But I got 100% again, so *maybe* there will be more entries to my "driving diary" again - we'll see! ;)
Have a great weekend!

Let's Go Hiking!

Every year at Camp Humility (at least so far), we have to go on a hike! God's creation is so beautiful, and there's so much to see and appreciate. Today I'm going to take you to the Trees of Mystery, where we'll go on a walk through the redwoods. But first, we have to take a detour through the lupines on the Bald Hills Scenic Drive...

Oh, just look at that view! The sky is so blue, the clouds are so light and wispy, and the lupines are so lovely.

Let's get in close to admire the color - and snap a picture in this great setting!

We've got to zoom out again to see the grand picture - certainly quite grand! My friend Elena pointed out the distinct line between the different types of trees on that far hill - almost looks like a shadow on one side!

Don't you just want to frolic through the flowers??

Nothing like a sunny summer day spent with family and friends. =) Such a gift!

Aww, look at my beautiful mom among the lupines!

Anybody up for a game of hide-and-seek? ;)

Take in one last whiff of that sun-drenched-lupine smell. There's nothing like it!

Now, on to the Trees of Mystery! Up there is the "lightning tree" - see how jagged it is, just like a bolt of lightning?

And there's the Cathedral Tree. It's the site of many a wedding. That's my "the-only-thing-I-need-is-a-man-to-complete-this-picture" pose. ;)

You can see that the redwoods are amazing just by looking at their huge trunks. But let's tilt our heads back and gaze up at the sky - I think we'll get a whole new perspective.

Want another perspective? Let's take the Skytrail (riding in the gondolas) up to the top!

What a view from up here!

And...back down we go!

Before we leave the redwoods, let's take a quick stop at the Forest Cafe across the street. Isn't it so cute?? (And the food's not bad either! The pulled pork sandwich and the sweet potato fries that were the lunch special yesterday? - Mmm!)

Wait!! Oh no!! The bear got me! (I guess that's my frozen-stupid-in-fear look, LOL!)

Oh, no worries! We were just playin'. ;) (But seriously, I look as white as a vampire!)

Be sure to wave good-bye to Paul Bunyan - he might just wave back! 

I hope everyone enjoyed the hike (and more)! Remember, the giveaway closes this evening when I put together the last post of Camp Humility 2012. See you at the campfire!

(Pictures were taken yesterday by my mom and me on an actual outing with my dear friend, Elena. We had a fabulous time, and I'm so grateful to my mom for taking us!)