Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Hatmaker's Heart" by Carla Stewar

With this novel, Carla Stewart has taken a step back farther in time than she usually writes about and has created a story set in the Roaring 20's.  The heroine, Nell Marchwold, dreams of designing and making hats.  It is sheer joy to her to have a woman try on a hat she designed and witness that woman see herself as beautiful and poised, whether the woman is outwardly beautiful or not.  For Nell it is not about fame.  As an apprentice hatmaker at Oscar Fields Millinery in New York she works hard for her employer even though he is a hard taskmaster and can be quite belittling.  When she is called upon to design hats for a valued customer and her daughters, Nell's world is changed as she is thrown into the spotlight from the rave reviews on her designs.  Though thrilled with the business it brings, her boss is not too happy to not have the credit himself and is very skeptical when a up and coming fashion designer wants Nell to design the hats to go with his new collection.   With that success opportunity comes knocking to expand the business to England and he quickly has Nell on the ship with two assistants to design hats for a prominent family there who will be attending the wedding of the queen.  Thrilled to be going home, Nell hopes to visit her aging grandmother and her long time friend Quentin but her boss is quite adamant about controlling every moment of her time.   As Nell faces her feelings for Quentin, she has to decide what it is she really wants out of life.

I have enjoyed every Carla Stewart book that I have read and this was no exception.  For me, this author has a real gift at transporting the reader into another era.  The setting was quite different than her usual backgrounds being set in the 1920's rather than the 1960's.  It was interesting reading about the New York lifestyle during that time period.  Nell was an endearing character who drew you into her quiet world with her great attitude and her passion for hat making and seeing the blossoming of women as they wore her creations.  She is a character of high standards in her work and personal life.  I liked the glimpse we got into the life of a woman of that time, one with dreams of entering a field dominated and run by men, and especially a woman with a speech impediment and how she was treated because of it.    As family secrets are revealed and the pressure of the fashion business closes in on her, I really liked how Nell grew throughout the story and came into her own at the end.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #307

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  A place to stop and pause life so that we can actually stop and notice the blessings in that life.  Finding five from the last week and recording them and sharing them helps me to keep perspective and promotes gratefulness in my life.  Please join me in this.  Guidelines are here if you've never participated before.

Updated with correct link in #3

1.  This post on time management and focus for Christian women.  I found this post very timely for me.  This time of year is super busy for me with a double whammy of obligations at church and sometimes I take on way too much.  This post helped me to see that as a Christian my time management must start with time with God to find out what should be on my plate and what shouldn't. I'm a  person who has a hard time saying no and if I'm putting things on there that God is not calling me too no wonder I'm feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  Maybe some of you too can relate?

2.  Operation Christmas Child boxes from church delivered to the collection center.   Yipee!  All done and one step closer to getting to the kids.  And a blessing within the blessing was my son driving them to the collection center and unloading them all for me.  It's something that I like to do but I was pressed for time and he had a couple of days off this week.  So I stepped aside, note #1 above, took it off my plate and gratefully gave the task over to him.

3.  A special gift from my hubby.  It was such a simple gift but boy did it tell me he loved me.  There was a new worship song that I was really liking.  I emailed the youtube link to him because I knew he'd like it too and to ask him to add it to my list.  When I collect up enough songs he purchases them on itunes and makes me a CD filled with my favorite songs.  When I got in the car the next morning and turned it on, out of my speakers come the sound of that song!  He had taken the time to get that for me the very next day and had it right on mark in the car so that when I got in I'd be hearing it.  What a great guy!  If you're super curious and just have to know it's this song.

4.  Trying a new recipe and having it work!!  It was delicious!!  I didn't go through all the steps with the potatoes.   I just halved baby potatoes and threw them in the roasting pan for the last half hour of cover off roasting.  (That meant I didn't use the second half of the oil).  Yum, yum.

5.  Laughter.  There is nothing like sharing in some good belly laughter with others that makes the soul feel wonderful!

Bonus:  Happy Birthday today to my wonderful hubby!

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Don't Go" by Lisa Scottoline ~ Book Review

Dr. Mike Scanlon is a doctor serving in Afghanistan.  On his second tour his thoughts are frequently at home with his wife, Chloe, and their new baby.  Chloe was not happy for Mike to be going back on a second tour and so he deals with guilt while in Afgahanistan.  When news comes that Chloe has died at home in a freak home accident Mike is devastated.   Coming home on leave to make funeral arrangements, Mike is hit with the oddness of her death and is blindsided with a secret that she had been keeping.  Now he has a precious baby girl, that doesn't know him at all and is terrified of him, a medical practice that is changing without his input and the knowledge that he still has to go back to Afghanistan.  Leaving his baby girl in the hands of Chloe's sister and husband, Mike goes back to finish his deployment.  But there, too, things start to fall apart.  The medical compound is hit with an attack and 2 doctors lose their lives.  Now with a doctor shortage he is under pressure to stay and serve another year.  But his choice brings life long consequences and he must gather up everything within himself to fight for what is most important.

I really enjoyed this book from one of my favorite authors.  In it she explores what it means to be a father, a man and a hero.  It's a departure from her other books whose main character has always been women.  As Mike faces his world falling apart around him, he must figure out how to deal with what he doesn't want to admit to anyone, let alone himself.  The action goes back and forth from fast paced to very emotional and I was not bored in the story at all.   I was very moved in the descriptions of his very small daughter's reactions to him and how totally lost he was in trying to make it better.  I'm sure that is very true of  some of our service men and women who come home to find their little ones not even knowing who they are.  Virtual strangers trying to love on their children.  It must be quite the patient process to try to get to know one another.  The mystery in the story was revealed slowly and I have to admit I didn't guess it until the reveal.  I was a little surprised at the time line of the story.  Once Mike was back, it seemed to me that it was quite a while as layers of the mystery were revealed and everything was swirling around him but in fact it was only about a week.  That seemed a shock to me as some of the events that unfolded, in my mind, would take longer.  But that said, I love a story that draws out lots of emotions and this one did that for me.  I also really liked the questions at the back for book clubs.  They were thought provoking and are the kind that would make for great discussions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #306

Welcome everyone to Friday's Fave Five.  It's been a frosty chilly week here in Southern Alberta but there is still good things to find.  What about you?  Will you join us in looking for blessings throughout your week?  If you need guidelines they are linked in the sidebar.

1.  An extra day off.  Remembrance Day here in Alberta is a holiday for most people (except retail).  I usually take it off but this year I said I would stay open because I had taken a couple days off for a conference last month.  But no one took advantage of the offer and I ended up with the day off anyway.  It was really nice to sleep in a bit and sit and have a coffee or three while reading my book without being in a rush.  

2.  Hard working Hubby.  He's been filling holes and ridges, sanding, and painting.  Our room with the couch and tv in the basement (what do they call those nowadays?  they used to call them rumpus rooms once upon a time) has needed a reno for some time.  The walls were definitely showing use and abuse.  Being paneling that had been painted over, it needed work.  He skim coated dry wall, filled all the ridges, sanded it smooth and painted.  Now they look like regular walls and I'm loving the fresh colors.    Revere Pewter from Benjamin Moore on three walls and a light fresh blue on one wall.  I'm not usually a fan of grey on the walls but mixed with the light blue it looks fresh, clean and new.  I took my color inspiration from this minus all the white.  Just our ceiling is white.

3.  Encouraging words.  Nothing like a few words of sincere encouragement that gives the soul a boost!  I'm very thankful for those who share words like that.

4.  Big fluffy duvets.  I finally broke down and put the big quilt on the bed and now I'm wondering what on earth took me so long.  Maybe I was hoping for more warmth in our fall but let's just call a spade a spade.  It is darn cold this week.  I mean, yesterday morning was -24*C (-11*F).  What was I waiting for?  

5.  More clutter out the door.  Another box to Thrift Village.  I love the feeling I get when I made some hard decisions about stuff.  Amazing how freeing it is when it is actually gone out the door.  I wonder what on the earth the struggle was to let it go?

What are your favorite blessings this week?  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible NKJV ~ book tour & review

Edited by Phil and Al Robertson

Publisher's Description:
The stars of the hit TV show Duck Dynasty are committed to upholding five core values both on and off the screen: faith, family, fellowship, forgiveness, and freedom. The Duck Commander® Faith and Family Bible features new stories and testimonials by Phil, the Robertson family patriarch, and his son Al, a pastor with more than 22 years of experience. Together they offer fresh wisdom on biblical values and how everyday people can apply them to their lives. Powered by relentless dedication to sharing the gospel and celebrating Christ’s kingdom, the Robertson family has become influential to contemporary evangelism and discipleship. The Duck Commander® Faith and Family Bible unleashes the power of their practical insight into critical faith issues, founded on God’s Word.

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to say yes to review this bible, not because I am a huge fan of the show, I really have not watched it, but because people I know have mentioned their strong stand as family for God.  The only real thing I know about the Robertson family is the couple of visual clips my pastor has shown in church or by some quotes and by the media storm that surrounded Phil in the last year.  And it is from those clips that were shown in church, one about giving and another about putting God first in your life, that I was totally drawn to order this for review.  Their strong stand for the things of God and their passion to share the gospel as a family was so appealing.

Having no preconceived ideas from watching their show, I was really pleasantly surprised by their bible.  It's New King James Version, which I don't mind.  There's a nice welcome page written by Phil and Al that let's you know why they wrote it.   There are a set of 30 devotionals called "LifeChangers" which are true stories that came about when they have shared the gospel and the transformation of lives that followed.  Then throughout the bible are biblical guidance essays, called Set Your Sights,  that tackle topics and subjects that they get asked about consistently.  These are filed under 5 catagories that are central to the Robertson family:  Faith, Family, Fellowship, Forgiveness, and Freedom.  Each essay is accompanied by a scripture pertaining to the topic and then they give added scripture, under an "on the hunt" title so that the reader can really hunt and search the Word of God for more of what He has to say on the topic.   I loved the everyday language they used in the lessons.   I have to say it is one of the few devotional type bibles where I really wanted to read each and every one of the devotionals, and I think it is because of the conversational style of writing that they had.

What I also really liked was that these lessons are also categorized for the reader in the beginning by topic and writer so that you can do one a week if you want.   In the back the Set Your Sights Categories are also listed by even more specific categories so it makes so that it makes it super simple to look any area up.  Also included in the indexes at the back are The ABC's of salvation, 30 Days with Jesus, Ministry of Jesus, Parables of Jesus, Miracles of Jesus, and Miracles of the Apostles all of which lead you to the corresponding scripture.   This bible is set up to make it really easy to get you into the Word of God digging around for yourself rather than just taking their word for it which is an aspect that really appealed to me.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for giving me a free copy for review.  I was not required to have a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Duck Commander Bible can be purchased here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Taking a moment to remember all those who served and have died and those who serve today.  Thank  you for your sacrifice!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #305

Hi everyone?  It's nice to see another Friday roll around.  Time to look back over our blessings from the week and choose 5 favorites.  

1.  Quote:

  "Often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us"      -Helen Keller

This quote really spoke to me.  And when I saw it I immediately copied it down to a couple of places including here.  But what really added to this quote for me was about 1/2 an hour after copying it down I was given notice by a long time family in my dayhome.  It totally blindsided me.  Did not see it coming at all.  I was incredibly sad, they were like family.  And I was a little hurt that they blindsided me with it.  My wonderful husband stepped in a whisked me off to Calgary for the day Saturday to cheer me up and I made a deal with him that I would forget about and not talk about it for at least that day.  It. was. so. hard.  I tend to really rehash things.  But about halfway to Calgary this quote flashed before my eyes, and I realized I was staring at that closed door.  And I also started to laugh because I felt the Lord had totally been speaking when I saw that quote.  He knew what was coming and I feel He was trying to prepare my heart.  But in my humanness as soon as a door unexpectedly shut the quote flew right out that slamming door and I forgot about it until he gently reminded me the next day.   So I am not going to stand staring at that closed door.  I say I am very grateful for having served this family for the past 7 years and I'm going to spend this last month with the child enjoying him as much as I can.  And then I'm purposefully going to look for the open door I know is coming.

2.  A good true story.  I always enjoy reading a good biography or autobiography.  I love to read how people go through the things life brings them, good and bad.  They don't have to be famous for me to enjoy it.  And so I was really pleased this last week to be able read and enjoy this wonderful book reviewed here.  It was well written, interesting and left me feeling uplifted.  

3.  Yummy spices.  One of the things we did in Calgary was go to the Farmer's market and at that Farmer's market is a little spice booth called The Silk Road Spice Merchant.  Last time I was there I had picked up a jar of basil to try and when I got home and compared it to the regular grocery bottle I had been buying.  I couldn't believe the difference buying a quality spice makes.  Hubby gave me some money and let me go have fun.  Oh how to choose!  They have so many to choose from.   I ended up with about 5 bottles of fragrant, yummy spices including Garam Masala, roasted garlic powder, oregano, dried jalapenos, and Chai Masala.  I've had fun this week cooking with them and have used them all except the Chai Masala.  Will be doing that this Saturday.

4.  Browsing Pinterest for Christmas.  Love looking at all the recipes and decorating ideas for Christmas.  I'm so not a crafty person but it's still fun to look.

5.  Haircut.  It seems my hair goes from good to can't stand it overnight.  The haircut this week was very welcome to get it back to shape once again.

What were you favorite blessings this week?