Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection {Bethany House}

There's a Secret Matchmaker at Work in Frontier Texas!

In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love.
Ok!  So, I have reviewed many, many, many Mary Connealy books in the past and I have always loved everything of hers that I have read, so, I was pretty excited to see her name mixed in this novella collection with several other writers that I have not had an opportunity to read.  My hopes were high in anticipation that these three other authors would have a similar style as Mary Connealy and I was NOT disappointed!  All 4 short stories were fabulous, told with a separate flair that sets each author apart while simultaneously bringing them all together.
Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings and Carol Cox each tell us a story of a young lady living in Dry Gulch, Texas.  Their lives course is suddenly altered by a mysterious matchmaker who arranges for these ladies to cross paths with a man who is just perfect for them.  All three stories are neatly tied together in the final segment by Mary Connealy...
A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemyer
Neill isn't sure who hired him to repair Clara's roof--he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?

An Unforeseen Match by Regina Jennings
Hoping to earn an honest wage on his way to the land rush, Clayton ends up on Grace's doorstep, lured by a classified ad. He may have signed on for more than he expected though--and he may have found the one woman who can keep him from moving on. 

No Match for Love by Carol Cox
Andrew can't fathom how refined Lucy ended up as the caretaker to his dotty aunt, and somehow her arrival has prompted even more bizarre occurrences around the ranch. When they join forces to unearth the truth, will the attraction between Andrew and Lucy develop into more?

Meeting Her Match by Mary Connealy
When the tables are turned and a tenderhearted meddler becomes the beneficiary of a matchmaking scheme, her world is turned upside down. As her entire life changes, will she finally be able to tell the banker's son how much she cares for him?
So, each story is pretty darn romantic and makes me want to ride off into the sunset with a swoon worthy cowboy.  It is a quick read and totally worth your time.  I love how all the stories build on each other and flows effortlessly from one author to the next.  Mary Connealy has always been one of my favorite authors and now I have added 3 more wonderful story writers to my list of favorites!

Disclaimer:  I received Home for My Heart free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed herein are my very own.  Thank you Bethany House!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Painted Desert and Walnut Canyon Nat'l Monuments, Arizona

On our way home from California we also stopped at Painted Deseret and Walnut Canyon National Monuments in Arizona.  It was nice to get a break from riding in the car and it was very beautiful.  It was also very windy and a bit chilly but we had a great time seeing the sights and enjoying some of the hands on activities.  Of course we had to get those stamps in our passport books!  
Here are a few pictures.

(Are you loving Maggie's pose?)

The kids earned their Junior Ranger Badge at Walnut Canyon
 That is always super fun and every National Park has this program unique to your visit.  It is time-consuming but really educational.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Albuquerque Aquarium

On our way back home we also stopped and played around for a little bit in Albuquerque, NM.  We opted for a visit to an aquarium, since that is something we don't have at home.  The ABQ BioPark Aquarium was small but really nice!  It was quiet and clean.  The displays were educational (yay homeschool!) and entertaining.  The girls thought it was really amazing.  Thanks to our reciprocity program thought Dickerson Park Zoo we were able to get in for 1/2 price which made our visit a great deal!  

It was cold and windy that day and we had hoped to go ride the Sandia Peak Tramway but had to nix that plan.  Too windy and the tram wasn't running.  Bummer, because that looks really fun! Luckily we stumbled across a Deseret Book (that was sadly going out of business but hey, everything was 25% off!), we ran across the Albuquerque Temple (it was closed but still neat to see) and a Trader Joe's (where we stocked up on chocolate covered everything).

The Dawn of Christmas by Cindy Woodsmall {Book Review}

I know I know!  I'm so very sorry that this post is coming a month after Christmas.  With all the winter weather this arrived just days before the holiday, then with Maggie's birthday and the unexpected trip to California this is the first week that I've been able to start getting caught up on life.  But, seriously!  Isn't a Christmas book a wonderful read ANY time of the year?  I love Christmas, even in January!  :)

In this novella by Cindy Woodsmall, Sadie is overjoyed when the handsome Daniel asks to marry her.  She has always been so quiet and shy that many had been afraid that she would never find love…  As Sadie and Daniel prepare for their wedding she is shocked to stumble upon Daniel and her cousin in a loving embrace in the shed.  Devastated she calls off the wedding and escapes her hurt by leaving her Amish society and living with a couple of other girls, working at a Mennonite store in another area and serving as a missionary in Peru.  Four years later, as Sadie is working to save up enough money to serve another mission she is summoned back to her community where her father tells her that she has grieved long enough, it is time for her to return home and find another suitable man to marry…  Sadie has enjoyed her newfound freedom and isn't interested in trading that for marriage.  Upon meeting Levi she discovers that he is nursing a broken heart as well.  Together they work out an arrangement to demonstrate a faux courtship to satisfy their families, knowing that their deal with never actually lead to love or marriage…  Or will it?

I have to admit that I am 50/50 on Amish romance.  Some I have really loved, some I have put down without finishing.  Cindy Woodsmall has never disappointed me (When the Soul Mends was another awesome read!) and I read this one from start to finish. Follow Sadie and Levi as they both learn to overcome hurt and find love again.  I loved this book.  Again, it is a novella so it is a short read but a wonderful full story.

Read Chapter 1 here!

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review from WaterBrook Press Blogging For Books program.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yosemite National Park

On our way back from California we spent an extra day to visit Yosemite National Park!  We stayed at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls which, far from fancy, was still pretty neat and a lot of fun!  They had rustic bunk beds that the girls were pretty excited to sleep on, the room was a decent size (freezing cold, it didn't have a temp control unit that we could find at all!  We heated our room with those totally dangerous space heaters.  Between the space heater and the extension cords plugged into ancient power sockets I'm surprised the place hasn't burned to the ground…but I digress).

The Lodge was right under the falls…which were not really falling much because it was dry last year and freezing while we were there.

The Lodge had a food court where they offered "hot items" as well as "grill items."  I had fun explaining to my girls how it was pretty much just like the "chow hall" when I was in the military.  The food was good and the guys at the grill were great with the kids…  He made both girls a bear pancake.

While there, we had to get stamps in our Passport to National parks books.  I finally took the plunge and decided that since mine was so gross (on left) that I'd buy a new one…  so I did!  

We explored the museum learning a little about the early people of Yosemite Valley...

Eventually Maggie got tired and opted for the piggy back ride.  James and I shared plenty of opportunities carrying Maggie up the hill.  I'm pretty good at multi-tasking…I'm trying to snap a picture of Kayley with my phone without dropping Maggie flat on the sidewalk...

 Silly girls.

At Yosemite you can also visit a grove of ancient Sequoia trees.  This was really exciting because we just finished learning about them in science a couple weeks ago!

A toppled sequoia…  

Yosemite was really a lot of fun and I'm so glad we spent the extra day to just see the sights before driving home!

Friday, January 17, 2014

An Unexpected Detour….

Our lives took a detour last week when James' father, Jim passed away without warning.  It was completely unexpected.  We drove out early last Sunday morning, in a blizzard, and traveled intensely all the way to California to unite with family.  We are all saddened by the loss and I think many haven't fully processed the enormity of what has occurred.  The funeral was a lovely celebration of his life and we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people who came to pay their respects and offer support.  While this was a sad reason that we went California it was also a wonderful opportunity to see so many loved ones we haven't visited in a long while.  I personally met many extended family members for the first time and was blessed with an opportunity to spend more time with those that I had met before years earlier.  It is not coincidental I think that funerals become family reunions.  There were tears, yes, but also much laughter and rejoicing as we gathered together and counted our many blessings.  
We will miss Gramdaddy but are confident that we will meet again in eternity.

Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat {Deseret Book Review}

• Why do clothing stores hang fun-house mirrors in their dressing rooms?

• The laundry doesn’t cry when it’s not folded, so why should I?
• Can I be confident even if an elevator calls me fat? 
Michelle Wilson’s humorous yet poignant insights help women examine the limitations we place on ourselves out of insecurity and self-doubt. We have faith in God, but do we know that He has faith in us? 
When we see ourselves with God’s eternal perspective, we can feel confident and whole—even in our imperfection. Just think what we might accomplish if we truly believe that we are more important than we know, stronger than we realize, and extraordinary in every way.
Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?
This book is coming out at a perfect time of year.  Isn't this the time of year where we focus on new beginnings?  The time of year where we try to make changes that encourage us to become better.  For me, this book was in the right place, at the right time.  I feel like I am full of insecurities, one of which, is always that I need to lose weight.

In this book, author Michelle Wilson focuses on how we can get ourselves out of the rut of insecurity and discover that we are beautiful creations of our Heavenly Father.  Right up front she tells readers that this book is an "extended pep talk" that will give you motivation and the ability to overcome the depressing thoughts that drag us down.  She also shares that it is much more than that though when she emphasizes the profound and simple message of the book, that we can "find joy, peace, and confidence when we learn to see ourselves…and life through God's eyes.

This is a pretty short read (only 176 pages) but it is BIG on wisdom.  Using real life experiences and personal stories, this is a book that will give you courage to face the mirror everyday and see a lovely child of God.  I really enjoyed it!

Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat currently retails at for $15.99 in paperback and as a Bookshelf eBook for  $11.99.

Don't forget, you can download the Bookshelf eBook apps for FREE and when you do you get several free books!  it is available for both Android and iPhone devices.

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.
Thank you so much to Deseret Book!   ;)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy 4th Birthday Maggie!

Its hard to believe that this funny little girl has turned 4 today!  We celebrated yesterday by throwing a little party for her with a handful of her friends.  She wanted a "Frozen" themed party and with the movie being so new we had fun finding as many "frozen" type things as we could.  How handy was it that her birthday is right after Christmas and we could buy fun snowflake decorations on SALE?    

We enjoyed red velvet cupcakes, fudge, yogurt dipped pretzels and for lunch we had a DIY sandwich bar which worked out good I think!

We love our Maggie!  Happy 4th Birthday Big Girl!

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