Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Time to Save & a Time to Chuck It

Well, the big news is out! We're moving! YAAAAY!

My dad got a job working for a guy he's been doing freelance landscape designs for in the past, only now he'll be working full-time. He starts in January and will ease into working a regular 40 hours a week by March.

All of us are very excited, as this is an answer to our prayers!

Daddy's new job is an hour north of here, and we've decided we need to relocate - to be closer to his job, and to find a house that fits our changing needs a little better. We'd like to find something all on one floor, without stairs, so that Mama can easily access the whole house... and a yard with some flat, rich land for gardening, chicken coops, and a greenhouse. :)

And I wouldn't particularly hate it if we found one with a pool! *gigantic wink*

But anyways. This means a lot of work is ahead of us... so much to do! To show our gorgeous log home off to its full potential, we're going to be de-personalizing it and packing up most of our 'stuff'... and tossing the things we don't feel like hauling an hour north. :)

So today I've tackled my bedroom. More specifically, the beading table... it's going to be put away for now and my furniture rearranged so the room looks even bigger than it already is. That table is never organized, ever, so it's a huge job.

And then there's my walk-in closet. O_O (*shocked face*) - but that's a story for another blog post. :)

I'm just so thankful and overjoyed. For so long we've been hearing "Wait. Wait. Wait for now." And at last we've gotten a green-lighted "GO!" I feel like someone's fired the starting gun for a running-race.

So here I go!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Beautiful Beach Wedding

Our trip to Florida was wonderful, and we had such a fabulous time... but of course, the highlight of the trip was my cousin's wedding.

Denise is probably the cousin I spent the most time with. She is only one year younger than I am and we played together at every family gathering and Thanksgiving dinner when we still lived in Florida.

I remember when my cousins lost their house in hurricane Charlie, and Denise came up to Naples to stay with us for ten days while they were without power. It was almost like having a sister for a week-and-a-half. :)

I couldn't have been happier for her on her wedding day. I hadn't seen her for years and years, and my first sight of her was when she came down the aisle on her father's arm, her strawberry-blonde hair glowing copper in the bright sunlight... but her smile was even brighter! :D

Denise and Lewis are a very special couple with a unique story. When we heard it, we were all for their union, but it wasn't until I saw them together, standing underneath the bamboo trellis draped with a delicate chiffon cloth and a flower garland, looking so very much in love, that I knew how truly wonderful this match was.
God was smiling that day.
I felt tears brimming in my eyes when Lewis and Denise bowed their heads and Lewis began to pray, quietly, so that only Denise could hear him. 

The reception afterwards at my Aunt and Uncle's house was a sweet time of fellowship and celebration. Giant tissue-paper pom-poms hung from the branches of the palms outside and from the ceiling inside, and the table on the porch groaned under the trays of delightfully delicious snacks... plus there was a chocolate fountain with fruit-and-marshmallow-kebobs for dipping. Yum!

The beautiful cake was not only tasty, it was also symbolic. Chocolate and Vanilla, half-and-half... but one cake. :D

I hope you enjoyed that little peek at the special day! I have more pictures to share soon, so stay tuned. ;)

Waterfall - A Review

This book was free for my Kindle a few days ago, and I have heard that several of my good friends really enjoyed it, so I decided to read it for the purpose of reviewing it for my blog.

Ordinarily I would not have read something that involved mystical (non-scientific) time-travel, and I was expecting to have to wade through a lot of mystic spookiness - which, to my surprise, didn't happen. There literally isn't any magic in the book besides the short sentences that describe Gabi and her sister Lia placing their hands on some handprints in a tomb, the room spins, and then they're in 14th-century Italy. So that was a small plus.

The prologue and first chapter almost had me putting down the book. The story is told from the perspective of Gabi Betarrini, a 17-year-old 'average teen girl'. In these parts of the book, Gabi was rolling her eyes and sighing in annoyance at having to accompany her mother and sister to an archaeological site "Where the nearest unattached boy happened to be 70 years old".
She was annoyed because her mother was an enthusiastic archaeologist and missed their deceased father so much she didn't pay enough attention to the girls. Those are the actual reasons given for Gabi being "irritated" "a bit grumpy" and "a bit put out". "Since Dad died... well, it was like Mom wasn't even in our galaxy at all."

Novels with a plot line like this that have a girl being annoyed with her mom are SO bad for me to read. It tempts me to feel annoyed and unhappy with my own mother. This may not sound like a big deal, but I believe it's important not to cultivate feelings of negativity towards our parents (mothers, especially), and books like this do not help.

In chapter one, we also hear about Gabi being unsatisfied with their "lame apartment furnished in orange and avacado green", and the town that was "not a happenin' place, lemme tell ya", having to rise at 5:00, "Basically, I was sick of it. I felt ignored. Used."

Reading stuff like this makes us start comparing our own lives to what they could be. We begin to feel unsatisfied with our 'lame' bedrooms, houses, places we live... family. We feel "Ignored. Used."

In chapter one, Gabi decides to drag her sister Lia along as she explores a tomb their mother has been excavating. Even though she knows she is not supposed to touch anything... "Mom will ground you for weeks for touching that" Gabi disregards it and on a whim, places her hand against another handprint on the wall. Lia, after coaxing, puts her hand in the print alongside, and then they're whisked off to another time.

Gabi lands in the tomb alone, Lia nowhere to be seen. Gabi makes her way outside, and discovers a very gory battle going on between two bands of men. She also happens to behold "the most handsome guy I'd ever seen, with a model's physique and a face to match. A serious hottie."

Excuse me while I gag.

I don't read many teen "YA" books, so this probably is tame compared to what's out there. But I didn't enjoy the way Gabi describes this young man.

Books that have 'perfect', 'adorable', 'sweet' "guys" in them make the feminine reader long to meet one of her own, if they don't have a significant other. And they encourage discontent with the real, living, breathing men in our lives. Real men with flaws. Real men who don't have perfect faces and forms... but who have been created by a living God who knew what he was doing.

We forget that we are flawed girls too, with not-perfect faces and forms, yet we desire perfection.

Once the scene moves into Medieval Italia, the plot takes off. To the author's credit, the tale is very interesting. The reader becomes engrossed with the happenings surrounding Gabi.

Gabi is a 'modern girl', so her view of the medieval world is easy to relate to for the modern reader. The way she is unfamiliar with her surroundings makes it simple for the reader to take in everything through Gabi's perspective and figure things out along with her. It's an ingenious idea for a character in an unfamiliar territory to the modern-day girl.

Early on in chapter one, we learn that Gabi knows how to fence, having been instructed in that mode of self-defense by her father. I braced myself for the inevitable warrior-woman action ahead. The book didn't disappoint. Or perhaps I should say it did.

Gabi fights with sword and dagger in a completely man-like way, and miraculously happens to save the lives of several of the 'perfect hotties' in the book. She is wounded and cut up and nearly taken advantage of by some unsavory men and somehow manages to escape every single time.

Girls, hear this: when we read books like this it makes us want to take over in our own lives. We want to be the 'man of action', not content anymore with merely washing the dishes and cleaning up after everybody else. We live vicarious adventure through the fictional heroine, fighting our own battles and winning all the glory, with the handsome knights there for show and to kiss us in gratitude at the end. This is so, so wrong. Men are the ones created by God to be the fighters, protectors, and leaders. And they don't fight their own battles all on their own, either - God is our strength and our refuge, and no victory comes without his help.

The 'plan' near the end of the book (supposedly thought up by the brilliant invalid older-brother character) to help win the day over the enemy castle, is laughable. It centered around one star player - Gabi. I happen to have brothers who love history and warfare, and while I don't know as much as they do about strategy and battles, I do know that you don't just open the front gates of your castle and let the badguys pour in, planning to attack them once they get inside. This part of the tale, contrasting with the rest of the action, was very weak.

One thing that bothered me especially was the fact that Gabi feels this 'deep, strong pull' towards, and feels 'incredibly understood and valued and known' by, Marcello... a prince who happens to already be betrothed to another lady.

Maybe this is a trend out there too? Falling in love with a guy who is engaged to somebody else? This is the second book I have read recently that had this story idea in it. I found it disgusting.

(**this review will come to a screeching halt while I defend Sense and Sensibility - Elinor Dashwood, a very reserved girl with good sense about her, had no idea that Edward Ferrars was engaged already, so the blame should fall on him for the confusion in that story. Thank you. **)

What effect would reading this story possibly have on a girl who 'kind of liked' somebody who already had a significant other? "Oh, well look how wonderfully everything turned out for Gabi and Marcello! I guess it doesn't matter that So-and-So has a girlfriend/fiancee/spouse, I can fall in love with him anyway!" Dear me.

Gabi is supposed to be an 'average, ordinary, modern girl', right? Well, every single 'guy' in the book found her wildly attractive and amazing. She was "so different" from what they were used to that she seemed 'irresistible'.
This makes the 'average' reader feel wonderful. "I'm just like Gabi", she thinks, and is thrilled to live a vicarious celebrity-level popularity through her.

In the end of this story, the girls are renowned throughout the country - called "She-wolfs" and "She-Warriors" and a huge crowd of people bows down in front of them at a festival in their honor and processes down a line to bestow beautiful roses and other blooms on them. Heady stuff, this. Also a tad blasphemous, in my opinion.

All of this I have to say about the book is hard to notice among all the gripping action, romance, and suspense. If you're not careful you would be swept along in the current of the great writing style and intriguing storytelling.

I hope this review is helpful to you in deciding whether or not you want to read the book. I felt like I should share my own thoughts on the story, and so I have.

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blog Design Projects...

Hi All!

Well! I made it back from Florida safe and soundly, and I have tons of pictures to share with you once they're edited and re-sized so that it doesn't take forever and an age to upload them. ;)

After I got back from our trip, I dived headlong into some intense blog design projects... and the thought struck me that I would love to show you the fruit of my labors! ;)

Project 1: Meditations of His Love
If you have never visited this amazing website before, you really should. :) These gals are some of the sweetest, most genuine, godly young women I have ever known. You can even sign up to get the posts delivered right to your email inbox! (-that was a hint-) :D They're gearing up for the "LIVE IT" challenge that's starting in January. It all looks so exciting! I was delighted to be a small part of it by helping their blog look pretty. :D

Project Two: The Destiny of One
Sarah H. is an inspiring girl. Her new blog theme, "Faith, Adventure, Destiny" is so thrilling! It was easy coming up with a look to fit her dynamic-ness. (I know that's not a word, but oh well, it's almost 9:00PM after a really busy weekend.) ;) Head on over there to see it full-size, and leave Sarah a comment while you're at it. :)

Speaking of comments... *cough*, *cough* - I've missed you guys! Did you miss me? :D

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Heart's Cry! "Words".

Please take a second to listen to this upbeat, totally amazing song my sweet friend Rachel P. told me about.

It is my heart's cry for this blog, and for my everyday life.

Hawk Nelson - Words (Feat. Bart Millard of MercyMe) Official Lyric Video from hawk-nelson on GodTube.

The Fairest Beauty - A Review

First, a little about the book and the author...
Christy Award finalist Melanie Dickerson (The Merchant’s Daughter) ventures back to the world of make-believe with another enchanting take on a fairy tale classic in THE FAIREST BEAUTY (Zondervan; $9.99; January 2013).

fairest beauty 
Inspired by the story of Snow White, Dickerson introduces readers to Sophie, a belabored seventeen-year-old trapped in the clutches of the evil Duchess Ermengard. Doomed to spend all of eternity locked away in the Hohendorf castle cooking and cleaning, Sophie is unexpectedly swept off her feet by Gabehart, a mysterious noble
who intends to rescue her.

But when Sophie learns that Gabehart is already betrothed to someone else, her heart sinks. In yet another twist, Gabehart informs Sophie that she is actually the daughter of Duke Baldewin and is also betrothed—to Gabehart's brother.
With barely a moment to digest all the new information, Sophie finds herself on the run with Gabehart, narrowly escaping the duchess and her crafty guards. The two seek refuge at the Cottage of the Seven (the home of seven hospitable dwarfs) where their romance continues.
Once Duke Baldewin and Sophie's “intended” arrive, the duo’s love is put to the ultimate test.

Should Sophie defy her destiny and marry Gabehart, hurting those to whom they’re engaged? Or should she open up her heart to a complete stranger for the sake of tradition?

Dickerson caps off another alluring spin on a classic that matches the romantic flare and elegance of her previous books, The Merchant’s Daughter and The Healer’s Apprentice. She transports her captive readers back to the medieval era with distinct language and scene design with appeal that spans the centuries.
And, keeping in step with the current big screen adaptations, Dickerson modernizes the popular heroine as a courageous, warm-spirited young woman who is not a simple damsel in distress.

Filled with adventure, romance and suspense, THE FAIREST BEAUTY grips readers until its dramatic ending, leaving them anticipating the next Dickerson reincarnation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Dickerson’s 2010 debut novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, was named the Best First Book by the National Readers’ Choice Awards and was both a Christy and Carol Award finalist. The book also earned the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit and was a Maggie Award finalist. Dickerson’s follow-up book, 2011’s The Merchant’s Daughter, was also a Christy Award finalist. She lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband and two daughters.

What I thought:
In a word? This book was disappointing. Very. I didn't find it as good as I expected it would be, and the flowery description up there ^ seems like it belongs to a different story. Gabe wasn't 'mysterious', there was no 'ultimate test' of their infatuation (not love), and it was very apparent that Sophie wasn't going to marry Gabe's brother Valten, she was just wondering how to break the news that she was marrying Gabe. And to be honest, I did not find her 'courageous'.

Throughout a lot of the book, it seemed the main conflict or struggle was Sophie and Gabe's angst over the fact that they loved each other even though they shouldn't because both of them were 'betrothed' to other people. This was agonized over and went on for a long time, meanwhile they were traveling through the woods together, for the greater part of the time all alone until a kindly guard showed up to be a convenient chaperone. (The guards were not much of a threat, by the way, as most of them 'adored' Sophie so were unloyal to the duchess)

We were told over, and over, and over again how "handsome" Gabe was, how drop-dead-gorgeous Sophie was, and Sophie cried multiple times about wishing she could marry Gabe and feeling not good enough to be his bride.

I could have forgiven a lot of the annoyance if the writing style had been good. Unfortunately, it was boring. There were many moments that I would have just put the book down and never opened it again if I hadn't promised to review it on my blog. It was full of weak sentences like "Sophie looked worried."and the language was not medieval or old-fashioned in the least. When the author did throw in an old-fashioned term or German word "guten morgen", (good morning) for example, it was actually jarring and didn't fit the rest of the words. I was told that the book was in olden-day Bavaria, but I didn't 'see' anything to convince me of that culture.

Also - it was insinuated that some of the characters... a brooding huntsman and a flirtatious maid in the duchess's employ... had gone for a walk at night and did a lot more than walking, which was totally unnecessary and gross. The duchess herself was evil for no reason.

The book finally got mildly interesting near the end when some of the characters traveled to the 'cottage of the seven' where Sophie was staying and then she went to Gabe's home, but the ending wrapped up much too conveniently. (I.e. Gabe got a letter from Brittola's (his intended) father that Brittola had married someone else.... whereupon he proceeded to dip Sophie backwards and kiss her passionately in front of all their family members...twice.)

So... I'm very sorry to say that I did not enjoy this book. Friends of mine have said they liked the first two books by Melanie Dickerson, so I was thinking that this would be a good one too... maybe the others were much better.

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When the Ocean Calls

Hey friends!

I have returned to the land of my youth, a space of sea and sky, where even in December one can merely throw on a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and feel perfectly comfortable in the salt-caressed air. :D

Zounds. Get me to the beach and I wax lyrical. ;)

We're in Venice, Florida, visiting my grandma... and we'll be attending my cousin's wedding on Saturday! I'm so excited for her and her fiance.

The drive down was relaxing for everybody but Daddy, who did the driving. (Such a good man!) I cuddled with my microplush-encased body pillow and read a book on my Kindle with music streaming into my ears through my iPod earbuds.

It's crazy how different childhood car trips are to our car trips now. Now, we might take like, 3 bathroom breaks all day. And during one of those we throw together some sandwiches, then eat them on the road. It's super-streamlined. Also... my 'toy bag' now consists of a tote stuffed with my Kindle, my iPod, my journal, my camera, and a couple extra notebooks & pens... and my laptop sitting next to it in its sweet matching sleeve. Gone are the coloring books and stuffed animals! :D

Today we got up kind of early... 7:30 for me. I always seem to wake up early here - I think it's all the sunlight pouring into Grandma's house. :D But anyway, it's nice to be up and about sooner than later. I scrambled some eggs and made toast for breakfast, then we headed out to do some shopping!

First we stopped by the Goodwill, which is the best Goodwill in the world. We always find amazing stuff there. This time I found a skirt that looks like a peacock... exact same shade of blue with an intricate pattern, though not actual peacock-eyes. I'll have to snap a photo of it for you. :)

Then we hit Target, hoping to pick up some blankets to replace the ones that fell off the van roof (How that happened, we have NO idea, Daddy is the king of strapping-stuff-safely)... but the boys decided they could make do with the blankets Grandma is lending them for now. :) However... I managed to snag some sweet shoes and a clutch wallet-purse that will go perfectly with what I'm wearing to the wedding! Observe:

The copper shoes and purse will go so nicely with my orange dress! :D
The jewelry I made for the occasion is yet to be revealed. ;)

After finding those gems, we popped into Publix to pick up a chicken for dinner. We also grabbed some of Mark's favorite maple-glazed honey ham lunch meat. :) And sundried tomato hummus. Yum!

We enjoyed an extremely tasty lunch at home, then Daddy and Grandma went to go pick up some new plants for her front yard and I took the boys to the beach for an hour and a half. I took pictures, and half walked, half ran up and down the beach -for a stretch about as long as our driveway- eight times. It felt so nice to get some exercise and work up a healthy glow, especially after sitting in the car doing nothing yesterday. :)

Now you see 'em...

Now you don't! Guess who's who! ;)

Miss Austen was right - walking does improve the complexion!  :D

Once home, we rested for a little and then Mama and I whipped up some dinner... crockpot chicken, Julia-mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans were on the menu. Now we plan to watch the football game between the Broncos and the Raiders - I'm rooting for Peyton Manning. ;)

I don't know if I'll be able to do a blog post every day while we're gone, but I'll check in with you now and then to let you know how we're doing! :)

Till then, a few pictures...
Cute little sand pipers danced down the water's edge. 

The sky was feathered with clouds. 

The ferry dock. :)

Here's the boardwalk over from the ferry dock. :) We ride the ferry across a strip of water to get to the beach.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday, Get Out of My Way!


Attitude is everything.

When I wake up in the mornings and dilly-dally around, not bothering to pull out my Bible, cuddling under the cozy warmth of my unbelievably soft blankets until I fall back asleep again... then the whole day feels off-kilter. It's much harder to accomplish my goals.

This week, we're going to Florida for my cousin's wedding. I can hardly wait, but before our van hits the highway, there's a lot to be done. And I don't plan on letting my healthy lifestyle slide one centimeter, either. No skipping exercise or munching extra snacks. Nuh-uh.

I'm resolved to set my face like flint and whirl through the chores and cooking and packing that await me. With the help of God, the ultimate time-multiplier, and upbeat music in my ears. :)

So move over, Monday morning! I'm not scared of you. In fact, I'm gonna win. My to-do list will be conquered. Just you watch and see! :)