Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Little Lost Angel by Janet Field (Curtis) Heath

 A memory from my childhood!  Little Lost Angel is in fact a Christmas story from my girlhood that I shared with my daughter Olivia when she was small and now with her daughter Lizzie.  I wish I could say that I still had my original book and I've passed it on, but that's not true.  I don't have any of my childhood books and did not make the effort for to keep my kid's books, either.  Olivia took the initiative to find a copy to give four year old Lizzie this Christmas.  It seemed a flashback in years as I read the book to Lizzie on Monday evening.

The little angel becomes separated from the multitude of angels announcing Jesus's birth to the shepherds.  As she tries to make her way to rejoin them, she gives away her harp, her staff, and finally her wings to others in need.  These selfless gifts leave her alone, tired, and hungry when she comes upon the home of a couple who rejoice that their prayers for a child have been answered.
So the little angel lives her life as a child; we, the readers, learn the impact of her gifts given to the others.

I can't think of a better book to end this year of blogging.  What childhood book holds a special place in your heart?  Make a point to keep its impact alive and share it with someone else.  I'd love to hear what book or toy you're remembering right now.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Daily Bread Devotional Collection, Available at Family Christian Bookstores

Like millions of other readers, I have been reading the daily devotions of OUR DAILY BREAD for years, normally from those little magazines available at church. When I was given an opportunity to review the bound volume OUR DAILY BREAD DEVOTIONAL COLLECTION, I was eager to do so. I like the short devotions written by a multitude of authors with illustrative stories that give a modern day perspective to the daily scripture, and I really like the idea of one book for the whole year. I actually plan to take my volume to our family cabin. That way anyone who visits will have a devotion book to use, and I won't have to worry about packing the latest little magazine when I go. The leather-like cover of this volume makes it an attractive gift I'm thinking this would be a great gift -- birthday gift, appreciation gift, or especially a get well gift. His word applies to our everyday life and OUR DAILY BREAD helps make the connections.

I was given a copy of Our Daily Bread Devotional Collection by Family Christian Bookstores for review purposes.  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Way Forward by Paul Ryan

Image result for paul ryan's book

I will not commit to belonging to one political party or another.  I've always seen myself as an independent, but lately I totally dislike politics and politicians.  I know things are more complex than what I see, but if anything else in government is like what happens when "big guys" step into education, then I think Washington DC makes more messes than it fixes.

I try to stay informed and used to enjoy the lunch hour discussions at school; for awhile there was quite a mix of viewpoints there.  I miss that dialogue but I've found that now most people are just fed up with our government officials.  Often that makes people pick one side or another and stick too rigidly to it.  Can't seem to talk about ideas with people anymore.  Maybe that's why I occasionally grab a political book to read.  However, the main reason I requested Paul Ryan's new book is that he represents the congressional district that I was part of when I was first able to vote.  Ryan is from Janesville, Wisconsin, a mere twenty miles from my childhood farm.  I expected THE WAY FORWARD would give me a look at his Janesville life and it did, but not in the depth that I had expected.  The book really lives up to its title and focuses on Ryan's views to rescue the United States from its economic/social woes.  In doing so, he does often refer to Janesville and its own struggle to recover after the major employer GM closed up. He frequently points out how his Catholic faith has shaped his views and I found his book to be very genuine. He also does a good job explaining how the Republican image of being racially insensitive, big business focused, and hard nosed is a wrong image. Unfortunately what he says about how our government is currently functioning is NOT encouraging.

If this book is meant to be a lead-in to a presidential run, a testing of the waters, then it is very low key.  On the surface, his economic ideas seemed common sense to me
and I would hope they would get a chance.  Mostly I just liked hearing a Wisconsin guy speak out for our families, our cities, our farms, our state and our country



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans is perhaps best known for his holiday book THE CHRISTMAS BOX which has been followed with the movie version and several other Christmas books. Most recently I read his five book series THE WALK.  As I told an acquaintance at the library today, he is a master at creating stories that tug at that old heart string.  He is also a wonder at telling his stories in a few words.The narration always seems to flow bringing each short chapter to a quick conclusion.

For the past five or six years, I've always worked in some dedicated reading time for special Christmas books.  It's a relaxing contrast to the otherwise hectic schedules of the season, and it is less fattening that sampling the cookies.   Unfortunately this year, I had almost no time for reading, and my to-read stack of books was growing daily.  But I finally eeked out sometime last evening and settled in to read Evan's latest story THE MISTLETOE PROMISE.  Like each book in THE WALK series, each chapter is preceded by a quotation, supposedly taken from the main character's diary. These pithy statements either reveal what is going to happen in the next chapter or uncover more about Elise herself.

When Elise Dutton is approached by a stranger in the food court of the large office building where she works, she is apprehensive but interested.  She is quite sure he is a lawyer who works on the top floor, but beyond that she knows nothing.  When he suggests that they accompany each other to a series of holiday events, appearing as a couple, she wonders about his motives.  He assures her that everything will remain platonic, that he simply needs someone to accompany him to the endless holiday commitments that come with being a partner in a prestigious law firm. When he promises she can end the relationship at any time, Elise agrees to the contract which they call The Mistletoe Promise.  Of course as readers will expect, Elise finds the stranger (Nicholas) fascinating -- handsome, kind, and extremely attentive.  She never wants the fairytale contract to end and even begins to believe that he may feel the same,  but she also knows that if Nick knew the real Elise and her hidden past, he would abandon her.

I must say that when Elise's "dark past" is revealed, I was taken aback.  Evans has picked something that will make it hard to just accept Elise as Miss Wonderful who has been wronged.  But that is the point of his story, the whole point of Nick's Mistletoe Promise.  Wounded people, people who have messed up frequently deny themselves any chance to start again, instead staying trapped in a limited life devoid of joy.  Elise's past is one twist to the story, but there is also another -- one I figured out quite early, but that didn't detract from its impact later on.

If you like Nicholas Sparks or if you've read other Richard Paul Evans' titles, then I can recommend this one.  It is a fast read; grab a hot chocolate or a favorite tea and curl up.  And yes, you can have a cookie or two while you read!

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sewing machines packed up for the holidays!




I really felt I would sew more Christmas gifts once I retired, but this year my sewing/quilting efforts
weren't centered on Christmas.  In September, I worked on the quilt for granddaughter Lizzie's birthday.  During the summer, I made some baby quilts  and other small donation projects.  Then I made over 30 small fabric wallets and just as many refrigerator photo frames along with some potholders.  This time of year, I fill a big basket with little items like those and let our library sell them.  I get the fun of making the items, but don't have to pay booth fees or sit all day at craft fairs.
The library gets a little money and I use up some scraps.  Here's the pattern for the wallets





I had some ideas for some sewn gifts, but with our trip in early December, I fell short.  I did make four of these wall pocket letter holders, super easy pattern from Vanilla House.  One I am keeping, already have my mail and Christmas cards in it.  I also made some 5 pillowcases.  I really like the farm fabric I found for my dad's pillowcase.  I embroidered his name on it and  gave it to him when we went to the Christmas tea on Wednesday.  The field scenes, chickens, and cows on the fabric remind me of the farm where I grew up.  Also zipped up flannel sleep pants, but can't say who is getting them.

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I planned to make just one doll outfit, a butterfly costume for Lizzie's new 18 inch doll, but then the 9 year old and the 7 year old put clothes for their American girl dolls on their wish lists.  We purchased three special doll dresses for three granddaughters from the Wisconsin-Nicaragua project. Called Chica Nica dresses, these special outfits are sewn by women in Nicaragua as a way to help support their families.  The workmanship on the dresses is superb and each woman makes a certain designed dress. Though I can sew doll clothes myself, I wanted the girls to have Chica Nica dresses.  While I find most sewing relaxing, each time I make American Girl or Barbie clothes after a hiatus, I swear I will never make them again.  I truly believe I could make an adult outfit in the time it takes me to finish something for a doll.

Over the last three days, I managed to make three ballerina outfits each with tutu, leotard, and tights.  The purple one also has butterfly wings.  I am only posting a photo of the butterfly outfit.  I actually had to alter the pattern as the straps were not long enough.  My fabric was plenty stretchy so I don't know what McCalls was thinking when they designed the pattern!  My supposedly "best" sewing machine was giving me grief with the tiny seams and fabric pieces, so I had to switch to a different machine.  Today I finished up by making a skirt, t-shirt and reversible dress for Lizzie's doll.  It was with great joy that I packed up two sewing machines and cleaned up my sewing area.  I know I will look forward to wintery days with the machines humming, but right now I am sewed out!  I'll end with some photos of the doll clothes -- Have a Merry Christmas!  Please share your sewing and quilting projects with me.
Reversible Sundress

Back of butterfly ballerina

Front view

School girl 

Heart side of reversible sundress

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lost and Found by Collen Coble and Robin Caroll

Lost and Found FeaturedA while ago I won LOST AND FOUND, Colleen Coble's second Rock Harbor book for kids, from
Lana @ iLoveMy5Kids.com.  Having read Coble's adult series set in Rock Harbor, MI, I
was pleased that she (along with Robin Caroll) had tried the pre-teen market.   Mysterious disappearances that require use of search and rescue dogs are the kind of action that many young readers like.  Despite being only fourteen, Emily O'Reilly is in the thick of the searches as both she and her young dog Sherlock are training to be part of the rescue team.  As the story opens, Emily and her friend Olivia are searching for Olivia's parents' wedding photo for a surprise anniversary party.
What they find instead is a captioned baby photo indicating that Olivia was adopted.  Clearly Emily is a sleuth-in-making and she's determined to find out why Olivia has never been told about her adoption.  With the help of a friend newspaper reporter, the girls begin to learn more about the suspicious lawyer involved in the adoption.  Could their investigating have anything to do with
strange happenings in the town?

I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  It seemed that the search and rescue team was called out too many times to be realistic. As I read,  I just couldn't decide what age group was the targeted readers.   Before I read the book, I thought I would give it to my 9 year old granddaughter.  In one place, Amazon listed the book as being for 8-11 years, and certainly the lexile level (vocabulary, sentence structure, etc) fits that age group, but then I saw another listing that said the book was for 6th grade and up.  I totally understand that discrepancy.  The book is an easy read, but the characters, their actions (even the story of the birth mother) are skewed toward an older reader.  Here's my problem, I have another granddaughter who is in 7th grade.  For her, this book is probably a little simple.  She normally likes books that are challenging or just plain silly.  Having been a children's librarian, I can tell you that writing for pre-adolescents and and adolescents is challenging.  Creating characters and stories that match their interests, entertain them, and expand their understanding is a delicate mix.  While an adult book may interest people with an age range or 20 years or more, children's books may fit a range of only a year or two.  While I've read literally hundreds of Christian fiction titles over the
last few years, I've only read a few written specifically for kids.  I am afraid the kids are probably a more difficult audience to please than we adults.  Keep trying authors, but give it your best.

Thanks Lana for hosting the give away.  I will be passing this book on to grandchildren.  We'll see who likes it best.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Back from Branson -- great vacation

It's been 9 days since I last posted, probably the longest break since I started blogging.  Reading has been slower with this busy time of year, but I have managed to finish a few books and will be reviewing them over the next few days if I have time.  And I have completed a few sewing projects with more in the works, but I can't reveal them until after Christmas. The real reason I haven't been online much is that we took a trip to Branson with my brother and his wife.  What a great trip!

We were gone 6 nights - 7 days and saw 7 shows.  Also made a side trip on the way home, but I'll keep you in suspense about that for a bit.  Here's our itinerary.

Saturday, we drove to Whitewater where my brother lives.  From there we drove as far as Rolla, MO.
On the way we stopped at the St. James winery.  I never realized that Missouri had so many wineries.  St. James produces a lot of different wines and we sampled several kinds and brought two bottles home with us to share with friends.  On Sunday we drove to the College of the Ozarks (also known as Work U) where we ate a special brunch at Keeter Hall.  If you've never heard of this college, you should read about it.  This is the second time Russ and I have eaten here, and my brother goes there almost every time he visits Branson.  We had delightful servers and struck up some interesting conversations.  After checking into our condo (more about that in a minute), we saw our first show --
THE DUBLIN IRISH TENORS and THE CELTIC LADIES.  High energy show, but I was slightly disappointed that they did not perform more authentic Celtic music.  Monday morning we saw THE BRETT FAMILY's Christmas show. They are a real family - parents, daughter and two sons. I would have to rank this as one of my favorites.  Most all shows do some type of tribute to veterans, but their show's tribute is extremely emotional.  We had planned to see Billy Dean in the afternoon but his show was cancelled.  It seems that he had just returned from being on the road, and while he made it back to Branson, his instruments did not.  So we swam at the condo and relaxed in the hot tub.  At 5:00 we went to the main building for beer and salsa.

Our condo was the Marriott Willow Ridge.  Bob booked our accomodations; they had stayed here with friends recently.  After being there for a day or so, Russ and I realized that we had "endured" a timeshare sales pitch at this complex back 11 years ago when we first went to Branson.  Never did we realize that we would ever stay there.  Our other times in Branson we have stayed at a different condo complex.  We actually stayed in on Monday night so the guys could watch the Packers play.

Tuesday, we packed the day with  3 shows- CLAY COOPER in the morning, probably my favorite show; JONAH in the afternoon, a huge productionat the Sight and Sound Theater ; and THE HUGHES BROTHERS in the evening, five brothers, their wives, and all their kids (many, many kids!!)  Big day !!  We also squeezed in time to visit old Branson and the famous DICK'S FIVE AND DIME.  Thursday, we met friends of Bob and Joyce's at a burger joint, then we finished off our time in Branson by seeing the BILLY DEAN show we wanted to see on Monday, followed by the extravagent Shoji Tabuchi in the evening.  In between we had  wine and cheese with entertainment at the condo club house.

Thursday we left early for our trip back to Wisconsin, but traveled a different way to I could actually stop at the MISSOURI STAR QUILT COMPANY, the home of Jenny Doan and her Youtube quilting videos.  This is an amazing entrepreneurial success story and even Bob was interested in how the quilt shops have revitalized a small town.  Going this way home meant we traveled through Iowa rather than Illinois, so we stopped in Grinnell.  Grinnell College is a private college which is in the same conference as Ripon, St. Norbert's, Beloit, and Carroll.

One of our most enjoyable vacations - great company, top notch "digs", and superb music.  Can't wait to go again.