Friday, November 30, 2012 Product Review {My New Dress}

Recently I contacted about reviewing their products, which happen to be beautiful and affordable custom-fit clothing! They replied right away and told me to choose anything I wanted in the store. (Wow!) I looked for a long time through the pretty dresses and briefly thought about choosing one of the really cute jackets or coats... but I ended up settling on this dress - which was actually in the clearance section. I thought the color and style would be best for me, out of all the selection of dresses. Many of them were sleeveless, which is great unless you would rather have some sleeve on your dress, like I would. ;)

Yup. I love it. The dress was a bit more vibrant in person than it looked on the website, so instead of the light peachy orange I thought it was going to be... it was brighter and sunnier! :D But I still like it, and the color looks well with my complexion. :)
My sweet Dad and brother Mark took these shots of me one evening. :)

I'm not crazy about my pose in this picture but it's the best one I have of the back of the dress...

And here's a close-up for you.
I chose to go with the custom-fit option instead of choosing a regular size, and I was very happy with how the dress fit me!

I would HIGHLY reccomend to any of my blog followers. I was very impressed with the quality and service... the dress came earlier than they stated it would, thus I'll be able to wear it to my cousin's wedding in Florida! *Score!* (I was shocked that it came all the way from India in such a tiny little flat box... gracious!) :D

The next week looks like a busy one for us, but I'll try to throw some blog posts your way! :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Like Moonlight at Low Tide - A Review

Here I am, back again with another review of a new Zondervan title!
Like Moonlight at Low Tide, by Nicole Quigley.

Here's some information about the book:

In LIKE MOONLIGHT AT LOW TIDE, Missy returns to her hometown of Anna Maria Island, Florida, where she was once referred to as the ugliest girl in school. After spending three years in Pennsylvania, unbeknownst to herself, Missy has blossomed. It takes the romantic attention of her childhood crush for her to realize that she’s not the “Messy” Keiser who used to be greeted by barks in her middle school hallway.
Finally catching a glimpse into the alluring world of high school popularity and parties she never dreamed of attending, Missy becomes entangled with three boys who will change her life: handsome and confident jock Sam King; her elusive neighbor, Josh, who has a quiet confidence and unwavering faith; and her rebellious brother, Robby, who struggles between obtaining the life he wants and settling for the life others expect him to have.
With everyone noticing the new Missy, her skewed self-perception slowly begins to heal in a raw and honest story about what happens after the bullying stops.
Quigley reflects, “You can’t read the papers these days without seeing stories about school-age bullying, but not many people talk about what happens afterward. How do you ever feel right after being told you’re all wrong for so long?”
Set in her hometown, Quigley captures the ethereal essence of Anna Maria Island, a barrier island off the Gulf coast of Florida, where skim boarding and pool hopping are the activities of choice and the temperature hovers mostly around eighty degrees.
With magnetic prose that reads like poetry, LIKE MOONLIGHT AT LOW TIDE is an emotional page-turner that will be sure to hook lovers of YA fiction from page one through to the climactic close.
“I think this book will resonate with a wide range of readers,”Quigley adds, “because everyone has experienced some form of bullying and reacted to it for better or worse, whether they realized it or not.”


Overall consensus - it was a book with a powerful message, one I think needs to be heard by today's average teen. I was impressed with how the book brought everything around to the point where the main character, Missy, finally decided to trust her life to God and make the right choice. :) It was very real and believable.
 Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book to any of my blog readers younger than 16 because of some of the characters and situations portrayed in the book, and references to drugs and alcohol. :( I thought it was handled with great tact, and although I didn't enjoy reading those parts of the book, I think the rest of the story and writing voice made up for it.

What I loved:

I loved the setting, first off. I used to live in southern Florida, although it wasn't on an island like Anna Maria. The scenery and details and 'feel' of the book are SPOT ON... Which must come from the author having grown up there. (Write what you know, people, it works!) :D The way the author wrote this book was masterful, and something I appreciated as a fellow writer. The scents and sounds and expressions and colors all feel like you're watching a movie play in your head. I was completely immersed in the book while reading this story, which I do not often feel. Well done, Ms. Quigley!

I loved the characters. While some of the people in the book were not very 'savory' people, everyone in the book just jumped off the page and came to life. I felt like I knew them. I could picture the kid's faces and stances.

*slight spoiler alert* - I loved Josh Durham, the boy-next-door. He was so great. I loved the way he acted Christlike without being preachy or pushy in the least, and the way he cared for Missy in a selfless manner after a tragedy struck her life, and showed her a better way, and what faith means. Really, what's not to love about a guy who leaves a flower on your windowsill every day? ;)

Also... I could really relate to Missy in the area of the kids around her. I was looked down on and left out a lot when I was a young teen, although the kids I was 'friends' with were Christians, so it wasn't as mean and outright name-calling as the secular public-school kids in this book were. It was interesting to see what happened to Missy when she came back to her school after being gone for a few years and was suddenly treated better because she was 'cute' now and had grown up.

What I didn't like:
I did not like some of the scenes in this book involving the school kids - a third of the way through the book I was thinking "okay, if this gets any worse, I'm putting it down" - but it never quite got to that point, and while Missy was in some potentially 'dangerous' situations, it turned out all right.

I think this book would be a great outreach tool for the average secular teen, and help kids who have been struggling with rejection. I don't think it would be as good of a read for the average sheltered young homeschooler.
I am looking forward to Nicole Quigley's future books, because her writing was amazing. Though I didn't like some of her story's setting, I would be very interested in reading another book by her and savoring the crisp, immersing voice of her writing. :)

I hope you enjoyed this review!

I was provided a free review copy of this book by Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my own thoughts on the story.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Bright Side

I'm staring out at the sun glittering yellow through the woods as it dips below the hills on the horizon. Earlier, I went for a 2-mile hike and crunched the fallen leaves under my feet. (Then I painted my toenails aqua with sparkles.) ;) The trees are nearly bare. Autumn is on its way out... and Winter is peering around the corner.

You know, there is always going to be something "Not Perfect" in your life. Nothing will be just right until we cross beyond that last shore and find ourselves in the presence of God. But that's no reason to waste the moments you have right now.

Life is such a beautiful thing! There is always a bright side, always a silver lining, always a reason to smile, and sigh, and be thankful. Tiny blessings are all around me. All I have to do is look up and start to count them. And when they all add up... they're huge. I am so blessed. I have been given so much.

In the waiting times, the seasons of 'limbo', hold up your head. Good news is just around the corner. Past the bend in the road, something glorious awaits.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Julia's Journal Jumble

It's been a day full of mostly quiet reflection... kind of nice after the busy weekend we had. :)

Yesterday we went to a friend's house and danced the night away on a very cold evening... we started at 7:00 and by the time we'd finished at 9:08, it was 39 degrees! We went prepared, however, because Mama looked up the weather forecast and knew ahead of time that it would be cold. All of us brought our winter coats along... although I ended up not wearing mine! I was warm enough with just jeans, long-johns, (gents, pretend you didn't read that, if there are any of you) a thermal long-sleeve shirt and a hooded sweater... and a pair of incredibly soft fuzzy mitten-gloves. The mittens were the best idea ever... all the people I danced with who clasped my hands exclaimed "Your hands are so warm!" :D

Like this? There's more!
Today we rested at home and I posted some blog backgrounds... (I'm seriously thinking about using one of them on my blog, they're just too pretty)... then I went on a 2-mile hike, 8 times up and down our driveway, marching quickly in time to the music on my iPod. It was great! I've gotten to where I can do it almost without breaking a sweat. And I'm up to 11 pounds lost on my healthier eating regime, which gives me a warm feeling of satisfaction. ;) (Especially after all that food on Thanksgiving!)

In short - Life is Good. :D How was your weekend?

Friday, November 23, 2012

This Warmth

It's almost like I can reach out and touch it... I feel the light so near. The sun shining through the woods has been absolutely gorgeous the past few days. And yes, I took this picture. :)

My heart is filled to overflowing with thankfulness and joy. I wonder why it hasn't ended, but am delighted that this feeling lasts. :)

Entry from my prayer journal yesterday:

Dear Lord,
Thank you for this wonderful, heart-warming, soul-enriching day.
It was beautiful.
The food was delicious and there was a sweet spirit in the air.
Thank you for Daddy, Mama, Mark, and Steven.
Thank you for:
Love. Joy.
Golden light.
Autumn. Leaves. Camellias. Pies. Turkey. Fresh air.
My home. My life. My future. My past. My friends.
Dancing! :D Laughter. Singing. Music. Colors. Words.
Chocolate. Caramel. Strawberries.
Shoes on my feet and clothes on my body.
Down blankets. Warm fires. Hot chocolate with marsmallows. Tall fur-lined slipper boots.
Mittens. Tea. Books. Movies. Smiles. Happy hearts. Contented souls.
Your promises, protection, and provision. Health.
My camera. Memories. Loved ones and extended family.
Energy. Inspiration. Creativity. Ideas. Talents.
Gifts. Letters. Phone Calls. Chats.
My laptop. ;)
And all the days ahead of me in your perfect plan for my life.
I love you, Lord. Thank you for loving me too.

The glinting golden Autumn leaves of the Hickories, Maples, Chinquapin oaks, and Post oaks

This is the ravine we look down on from our back porch. The pictures really don't do it justice.

The bouquet I arranged for the Thanksgiving table. In a blue Ball Mason jar, of course.


I hope you had as lovely of a Thanksgiving as I did!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and Golden Rain

Today, there was a whole lotta bakin' goin' on. ;) We baked up three batches of homemade stuffing (eh... 'dressing' to some people - not us. We've always called it stuffing. Dressing is what you drizzle on your salad!) ... and we also baked FOUR pies. 2 apple pies, 1 pecan pie - from pecans I cracked by hand! - and 1 pumpkin pie. All from scratch with homemade crusts. Any minute now the oven timer will beep and I'll have to stop typing to go get the bubbling apple pies out of the oven.

I love this time of year. :)

We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving just-the-five-of-us this year. We'll be traveling in December to go to a cousin's wedding so it wasn't feasible to go anywhere for Thanksgiving... and all our family lives out-of-state. But we plan on having a grand time anyway, and the food is going to be absolutely delicious... :D

This afternoon I was looking out the window at the gorgeous, glimmering, golden light pouring down through the wooded ravine near our house, and then the wind began to blow and gently tugged free thousands of fluttering leaves that danced in the slanted sunlight. It literally took my breath away and I gasped from the sheer beauty. It looked like golden rain. Or perhaps snow, because the leaves floated like giant snowflakes.

When I notice things like that, it's almost like I can reach out and feel the presence of God, just waiting there for me to see Him. It makes my heart glow.

I hope you have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Don't Keep Calm Contest Entries

When I saw that Miss Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm was having a "Don't Keep Calm" poster-making contest, I thought about entering but didn't want to go to all the trouble of opening my graphic design program and doing all that work... but then she mentioned the Keep-Calm-O-Matic, which I decided to go look into... and boy, was it easy to use! I bookmarked that right away. :D

Here are my three entries for the contest. I wasn't feeling particularly witty today, but I am satisfied with them, I think. Especially #3. ;) LOL.

From the '95 Pride and Prejudice, of course... Mrs. Bennett...

Also from Pride and Prejudice... Elizabeth Bennett

From the BBC Emma! :D
Hope you enjoyed those... :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Close-up Bits of Pure Amazingness

I don't often post pictures of my photography... but every now and then I love taking my camera outside and searching for interesting little details to capture with my lens.

I took all of these photos on one stroll earlier this month, in different spots on our property.
A lone camellia blossom, teeny-tiny colorful weeds, golden maple leaves, puffy dried thistledown...

Crisp, feathery evergreen sprigs, delicate daisies, and bare wildflower stalks...

Take a minute today to stop and study the detail of the world around you. Tiny textures and little bits of beauty, fragments of wonder, are everywhere. You just have to look for them.

What beautiful thing did you notice today?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Apricot-Vanilla Day

Today was one of those days you just sit back and smile about.

The morning was spent peacefully... I made scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast and we did all our usual household chores. Mama helped Daddy process a few chickens.

I worked on my story and smoothed over some plot holes while listening to vibrant Owl City music. 

This afternoon, Steven and I played one of the most demanding games of Ultimate Frisbee I've ever witnessed, and had loads of fun. The best part - I walked away from the field feeling fresh, instead of bone-weary. My long walks up and down our gravel driveway are paying off, big time. :D

I drove us home after the game and we returned to find that while we were away, Mama and Daddy and Mark - who felt too ill to play Ultimate, poor soul - had prepared a delicious dinner of ground-venison tacos that were just. too. good.

I munched down my soft-shell taco and stepped into the shower, choosing one of my favorite scented shower gels. Apricot Vanilla.

I smiled to myself and thought - It's an Apricot-Vanilla kind of day.

Tangy, fun, with a hint of softness and home.

Then we watched Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which didn't really go with the mood, but it was wildly entertaining. ;) (I can't decide if I liked it or not. I did like Jack Sparrow, he was hilarious.)

What is your favorite kind of day?

Peachy-Minty Afghan

I posted on my wordpress blog about this afghan I crocheted recently, but for my blogger followers, here are some photos of it. :) I'm hoping it sells... I have it marked for $200 because so much time and effort went into it (not to mention beautiful soft yarn, which wasn't cheap). :D

What do you think of the color combination? Peach, mint, lime green, gray, ivory, and sandy-beige are the colors I used... I think it would be a beautiful baby blanket for either a girl or a boy. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Laundry Room Makeover

Okay... so it really wasn't a 'makeover', more like an overhaul, but 'makeover' is more fun to say.
I worked two whole mornings on this tiny room off our kitchen that serves as both laundry room and pantry, and I moved over a bunch of items from where we'd had them in Steven's closet - his bedroom is off the dining room - and cleared out junk and re-organized.

I think perhaps my favorite part of the whole makeover was hanging up a vintage laundry sack that my mother bought in London on her trip there in college, when she went touring with her chorus group. The sack looks great on the wall and partially hides the ugly electricity breaker box. :D (How did I hang it? Thumbtacks.) ;)

LOL - our pantry is a mix between healthy food... noodles, rice, beans, spices and wheat... and stuff like Jell-O and Swiss Miss hot chocolate and marshmallows. The boys love their sweets. :D
 I know it doesn't look all that amazing from the photos... but a lot of effort went into straightening and stacking and shifting of stuff. I double-stacked our empty mason jars and jam on some beadboard daddy cut up for me, doubling our space. We've been wanting to do that ever since we moved into this house and hadn't gotten around to it! Now we even have an empty shelf above the doorway.

Knowing the laundry room is clean and orderly makes the whole kitchen feel better! :D

We use our kitchen and pantry a lot, so it's really nice to have it clean and neat.

Just recently we made some apple pies, and they were "Mmm-mmm good". :D

We canned a double batch of grape jelly on Wednesday, because we had finally run out of the last jar from the batch we canned back in June! :D

Our chickens are still furiously laying eggs - we had so many piling up that we tried selling them, but couldn't seem to find any steady customers. Then, my clever mama figured out that we could freeze them. Who'd 'a thunk? ;) Now we have over 80 eggs frozen, to later thaw and use for baking or scrambling when the hens slow down this winter.
We've also been freezing lots of produce from our garden... beans and peppers, mostly. It's a wonderful feeling to grow your own food.

I hope you enjoyed that little peek into our homestead!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chasing Jupiter - A Book Review

First, a little about the book and authoress...

This young author displays the insight of a writing talent well beyond her years.”
USA Today
Following the success of her debut novel,Interrupted, 17-year-old Rachel Coker returns less than one year later with a coming-of-age tale set in late 1960s rural Georgia that revolves around a quirky (some might say dysfunctional) family. Sure to leave a lasting impression on readers young and old, Coker yet again crafts an intuitive story that displays maturity beyond her years.
In CHASING JUPITER (Zondervan; January 2013; $15.99), Coker brings to life the story of Scarlett Blaine, a 16-year-old growing up in a small southern town. As the middle child, Scarlett lives in the shadow of her older sister, Juli, dubbed a “hippie,” and her younger brother, Cliff, who is autistic.
Determined to be the perfect daughter, Scarlett recognizes the family’s stress and takes on household duties, looks after Cliff, and even keeps an eye on their peanut butter-obsessed grandfather, Grandpop Barley, who is showing signs of dementia.
Her routine changes when she and Cliff watch Neil Armstrong take his historic first steps on the moon during this summer of 1969. Young Cliff announces that he’d like to be an astronaut too. Specifically, he’d like to be the first person to fly to Jupiter.
To make her brother happy, Scarlett vows to spend the summer baking and selling peach pies to raise money for Cliff’s rocket, no matter how outrageous the idea seems. With the unexpected help of the local peach farmer’s son, Frank, whom Scarlett wishes was more than just her friend, the three begin plans to launch a rocket to Jupiter by summer’s end.
But what starts off as a bright, hopeful summer quickly spirals downward when a series of tragic events strike the Blaine family, forcing Scarlett to deal with painful realities about her world.
With her signature wistful style and elegant prose, Coker captures the cultural essence of the decade, weaving romance, southern charm, and historical events into an enthralling story that will touch the hearts of readers.
“[The year] 1969 was a very confusing time in America, spiritually speaking, and this story reflects a lot of the different movements going on,” Coker writes on her website.
Filled with humor and heartbreak, CHASING JUPITER is a must-read for fans of young adult, historical, and romantic fiction. Coker delivers yet another realistic portrait of a young American girl growing up in a decade filled with radical changes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She is the author of 2012’s Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words. Coker has a passion for great books and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore, signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach.

What I thought:

I enjoyed Chasing Jupiter much more than Rachel's first book, Interrupted. The characters were all so interesting and the story moved right along at a trot, keeping me interested the whole time. I ended up reading the book in one sitting, which I hadn't planned on. ;)

Scarlett's relationship with her family members showed she had a caring heart, which I loved, and the way she treated her younger autistic brother Cliff with such compassion and empathy was very touching.

I really liked Frank, the boy who befriends Scarlett and Cliff and helps them build their peach-pie stand. His animal menagerie kept in the old bomb shelter was fun to read about - almost hints of Doctor Dolittle there - :D. And I liked reading about the way he and Scarlett eventually came to understand each other... nothing flaming-romance at all, just a gentle friendship.

The Christian message tastefully woven through this story was wonderful. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that Rachel showed her characters going through real struggles and convincingly realizing their need for the peace that only God's presence in your life can give.

I was slightly disappointed in the book's setting - I'm told it was set in rural Georgia in 1969, and I was excited about reading that because I live in rural Georgia and wanted to get a 'glimpse' of how it was back then... but I didn't get much. You can't really tell it's Georgia, besides the fact that there was a peach orchard nearby Scarlett's house. The historical detail and setting could have been flushed out a good deal more. But I really think the author's writing has gotten even better since her last story, and I am looking forward to what she'll do next. :D

Overall, Rachel Coker has written a second pleasant, interesting book that I enjoyed quite a bit and would recommend to any of my blog readers!

I was provided a free copy of this book for review by Zondervan, and I was not required to write a positive review. These are my own thoughts on the book.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm Back! :D Julia's Journal is alive once more.

Hello, one and all!

I was delighted to find this new blog background on and designed myself a header to go along! :) What do you think of the new look? It's not quite finished yet, I have many finishing touches to make...

There's a new About page to check out if you'd like. :)

I've grown tired of not being able to customize my blog at all (besides a header and background image) and have made my peace with the new Blogger post-writing box. I've decided to write on this blog regularly for now, although I certainly enjoyed the Wordpress experiment and am grateful to have learned my way around there.

So, I thought I would share a few things that have been on my heart lately.

America has been in my prayers more than usual, due to the recent presidential election results. But I still have faith in my great big God and I trust in his perfect will, although we had several long conversations the day after November 6th. I'm so glad I don't have to worry about it all, because I could never handle it. HE can. And for that, I am beyond grateful.

Writing has taken up a good chunk of my free time lately, because I decided on October 31st to try NaNoWriMo for the first time (National Novel Writing Month) and am working on book 2 of my agents series! Here are a few excerpts for you...

The pizza parlor swarmed with agents and policemen working together, collecting evidence and screening the people who had been inside when the ruckus ensued. They’d hustled Merkochaz into a bulletproof ambulance and the body of the dead guard had been taken away.
“Bryce, I’m surprised at you.” Benny’s coffee-colored face gave nothing away. Not even a twitch of his moustache betrayed whatever he might be thinking.
“You did exactly the right thing, but I’m shocked that you had the guts.” Benny thumbed his nose. “Most newbies flinch at using their firepower during situations that aren’t going according to plan.”
Bryce blinked, eyes still stinging from the charcoal and ash specks. “I felt that it was what I had to do, Sir.”
“I have to say, I’m impressed. You ‘burned through the ashes’, so to speak, to see right to the heart of that scenario.” A smile creased Benny’s face. “Which brings me to your new code name.”
“My… new…” Code name?
“Ashburn.” Benny nodded. “Yep. That’s it. Ashburn.”
Bryce rolled the name around in his mind. Ashburn. He laughed. “I like it!” 
Benny grinned. “It’s yours. I’ll put it on file when I get back to IFP.” He slapped Bryce on the back and walked off to bark some orders at some of the agents collecting evidence in the kitchen.
Ashburn. It would be a reminder for the rest of his days of how he’d followed that inner voice. But he hadn’t done it perfectly. He’d gotten ashes thrown in his face because he had been caught off guard.
I will never let myself get caught off guard again.

Penny pressed the tissue to her eyes, which were swollen from crying all night long. The morning sunlight streamed through her bedroom window, highlighting tiny dust motes that danced in the air like a mist of fireflies over a meadow.
The piercing grief had dropped on her like a boulder last night, knocking her flat on her back. It came out of nowhere after leaving her in peace for months. She wondered when it would finally end for good, but at the same time, dreaded that day. Would she ever come to forget him?
She brushed a lock of russet-auburn hair from her forehead. Maybe the weeping had been triggered by her best friend’s news. Cara’s engagement was a wonderful event, but for Penny had been shadowed with reminders of what could have been… for her.

Anyway. :) I'm excited and I think this book might even be better than the first one, which still awaits editing. :D

I'd love to hear from you if you're reading this post, I'm curious to see if I still have any followers...