Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Reviews

I love a big colorful cookbook filled with yummy recipes to try. The Homesick Texan's Family Table by Lisa Fain had this pregnant mom's mouth watering just while looking at the cover. Filled with recipes to create feasts from Texas, this book already has several pages marked of recipes that I will be trying out soon (starting with Buttermilk, Bacon-Fat Flour Tortillas...yum!)

I was initially afraid this book would just include your average Tex-Mex recipes - but that is not the case. It is filled with foods that feel southern as well. The book includes Breakfast and Breads, Starters and Snacks, Salads and Sides, Chilis, Soups and Stews, The Main Event, Sweets, and Accompaniments. There appears to be something for every pallet and every occasion.

I love the connection the author makes between food and family. Seeing her stories and photos throughout the book make me feel like I have family in Texas. I am sure any former Texas-dweller would find this book comforting. Each recipe starts with a little descriptive paragraph. Usually, the author is telling of her memory with the treat.

The glossy pages and photographed food in this hardcover book left me wanting to plan our dinner menu for the next month. I do wish there were photos of every recipe mentioned, but you will find plenty of foods that are shown in vivid, yummy detail. The serving size, ingredients and directions are clear and easy to follow.

I am so glad that this book was on my doorstep, awaiting my review. If you are interested in these yummy recipes, you can find more info here.
I received this book from Blogging For Books for review.

I was equally excited to receive a copy of Get to Know Mary (A Full-Color Biography for Kids) by Nancy I. Sanders from BookLook Bloggers for review. This glossy paged small book for kids is the perfect layout for understanding Mary and the times she lived in. Filled with maps, pictures (of food, animals, houses, money, etc.) left me feeling that I learned things about her life that I didn't know before. It will be the perfect type book for my kids to study and gain a better understanding for "Bible Times." The little definitions of Bible words throughout the book are also helpful. The words used in the definition are easy to understand. I hope to get more of these books for other Bible characters.

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering, once again, was an entertaining read. When I read her first book in this series, I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining her writing was. For some reason, the cover art on her books always makes me think that I am going to be bored with the storyline. Yet, every time, I thoroughly enjoy it.

I love following the same characters in this series as well. They feel like friends, at this point. The element of romance woven into each mystery is great. I love when a book is mostly mystery with a hint of romance.

I received this book for review from Bethany House. I am always grateful, because I know that I can read their books without a fear of inappropriate behavior being mentioned or bad language being used.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Key to Decorating a Split Foyer Entry

While house hunting three years ago, I had a few things on my list that I did not of those items was a split level foyer. Apparently, there are endless amounts of split level foyers (and very little else) in our price range. It wasn't a deal breaker - we bought the house. Slowly but surely, I find myself adding items to this little area, making it feel more like "me."

As we begin to clean up and purge our home in preparation for the new baby, I keep finding little projects that are almost complete. In this case, I've had this "key" to hang by the front door for over a year. It got placed up on a shelf...and I kept forgetting to ask Jeremiah to help me hang the needed nail.

After adding another "key" to our foyer, I thought back to how far this little area has come. And honestly, I've hardly spent any money on the items that are now decorating the space.

It started out looking pretty bare.

As the result of a Goodwill challenge, I added one teal, crocheted rug.

Next, I added one vintage curtain from my bff.
And I think she had received the curtains from someone else.

I simply added some orange fabric to the panel to lengthen it.

Next, I added a mirror from a Target clearance end cap and a spray painted vintage light switch cover.

A free frame from a thrift store (why don't all stores have "free" boxes?) made the big white door seem more fun.

Some yard sale wooden keys (spray painted white) and a few Target clearance frames were added to the opposite side of the door.

We hang spare keys on these little hooks.

The entry stayed looking this way for a long time... I loved the cheerful colors.

I knew that I wouldn't be changing anything drastically, but I did know that I would add to this area eventually. I mean, is any area in your home ever really completely "finished"?  It's not in my house!

I love to browse the clearance shelves at places like Ross or TJ Maxx. In my opinion, that's where the real deals are. Over a year ago, I happened up this large wooden key.

Since I already had the "key" theme going in our entryway, I knew that I could use this beauty. It was marked down to $2 because it was technically broken.

I knew it would get painted anyways and I probably would not have purchased this if it had cost any more than the $2. I actually used some left over kitchen paint to give the key new life. I wanted it to coordinate with the frame around the keyhole.

Two days ago, after stumbling upon this key, I asked Jeremiah if he would hang it for me. He was surprised that the item already had a picture hanger on the back (many times I ask him to hang things on the wall that aren't meant to be on the wall or are in need of some hardware before doing so.)

I am happy with my new addition. I think it was the "key" to making this area seem more balanced.

Someday, I might add something over the door. It's a tricky spot because it will need to coordinate with both the entry decor and the living room. But I like to have a problem to solve.

I love adding little elements to our decor - it's part of making this house feel like our home.

PS. Here's how I made the Pottery Barn knock-off numbered canvas pictured above. It's still one of my favorite DIYs. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chalkboards - the decor that keeps changing

I am now 31 weeks pregnant with this little girl. I've realized that I am less than two weeks from the point where I had Hudson. Even though, in most people's eyes, I am still about two months from delivering, I've recently found myself a little antsy to get things ready for Nora...just in case. And so, I've started putting her room together. Although I love to shop, I am not one to buy brand-new-everything for a room. Instead, I "shop my house" to find items that would go in the space I am decorating.

Her room is not quite finished yet - so, for now, you can see a "sneak peak" or two. This little chalk sign used to be a glass picture frame that I was not using. It had a saying painted onto the glass. Using some fingernail polish remover and a cotton ball, I was able to easily remove the words from the glass. Then, I simply applied two thin coats of chalkboard paint. It's holding up well!

And, I was able to use a frame that I already had on hand - the original frame (sorry I don't have a picture) didn't match any decor in my home (it was blue). With just a couple coats of paint, I am left with something usable and interchangeable.

I knew I wanted to use the curtains that I've always had in my guest room. Since they have lots of green, I began picking up little items on my thrift store runs. This little green chalkboard was only 25 cents.

At the time I purchased it, I was not sure if the green was the right shade. So, I only picked up one. Once I realized it was the perfect color for my curtains...the other chalkboards like this had been sold already.

Oh well. Thrifter's Remorse. (And yes, this little desk does need some TLC. I haven't done anything to it since I purchased it several years ago for just a few dollars.)

Adding these erasable items to her room reminded me how much I love decorating with chalkboards. It all started when I made a chalkboard for my kitchen from a regular picture frame from a thrift store.

You can see the simple DIY instructions here, and read tips of making your chalk writing darker here. Since I added this Julia Child quote to my chalkboard, I have not wanted to change it.

You can read about my little chalk wall here.

There's a guest post about a kid's chalkboard table here.

And see my chalkboard toy box here.

I am also always excited to find a reason to use my chalk cloth bunting that I first used at Hudson's first birthday party. I am not a seamstress - so, believe me when I say this project is simple! I bought one yard of the chalk cloth (like what is listed here). I really used about 1/3 of a yard.

I cut out my triangles, sewed the chalk cloth onto some black felt (for stability), and sewed the triangles to a piece of bias tape. I have lots of the fabric left - I might make a few sets for gifts. The number of triangles are perfect for lots of events (Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Welcome Baby, Welcome Home, Happy Wednesday, etc.)

I know that chalkboards are a trend right now, but they are a trend I don't mind embracing. After all, I love a decor item that I can easily change up! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Reviews

Although my day is often non-stop, toddler-chasing, house-cleaning busy, I have found that I must find a way to escape. Often, that escape comes from a good book or two. I am thankful for the opportunity to review these books. They often provide the mini-vacation this mom needs.

A good craft or decorating project always leaves me feeling accomplished, creative and renewed. I thoroughly enjoyed the projects presented in this book, Petit Collage: 25 Easy Craft and Decor Projects for a Playful Home. This hardcover book full of colorful images immediately made my creative juices start flowing again. I plan to implement a version of a few of these crafts into my baby girl's room.

I loved first looking at the projects and templates provided. Even someone who would not call themselves "crafty" would find success with this book. The easy-to-follow directions and provided templates are the perfect jump start many wanna-be crafters would need. The book is full of step by step pictures, as well, to guide in the execution of the projects.

The crafts are practical and useful. The supplies mentioned are easily obtainable. I found myself thinking how I could re-make a few of these projects myself. They are all presented in a way that allows the reader to either follow step by step or make it their own.

You may find these resources helpful.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for review.

Dee Henderson's work never leaves me disappointed. I actually had to make myself finish a few other books before I would allow myself to read her latest, Undetected. Referencing some of the characters from her recent best seller, Full Disclosure (a favorite of mine), it was fun to jump back into the lives of these fictional people I've grown to love.

Although this book didn't have the same sense of thrill as her last few books, I still enjoyed her character development and storytelling method. I did find the technical language used to describe a lot of the submarine's functions to be a bit boring. However, someone who knows more about the Navy's way-of-life might find that part of the book to be entertaining.

Just like all her other books, I found myself staying up way too late into the night finishing the book. I was left feeling satisfied. I am thankful that my favorite author is still developing great stories.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts and opinions are my own.

I enjoyed reviewing Serita Ann Jakes' (TD Jakes' wife) book, The Princess Within for Teens: Discovering your Royal Inheritance.  This book was written to direct teenage girls through the crazy issues that they are facing today. It encourages the girls to turn to God to be their "Secret Keeper" through prayer and journaling. 

Using the familiar story of Cinderella, many issues that teen girl's face are brought to light. I had never really considered the added peer pressure that girls today must feel with social media. Back when I was in high school, face-to-face peer pressure was hard enough. I can only image the struggle to "measure up" in a world where your every move is documented for all to see and comment on. The content is up-to-date, referencing instagram, snapchat, etc. as well.

This book would be great for a girl to read and study on her own, given that the author encourages a lot of personal reflection and journaling. I appreciated that Scripture was used to guide girls in the right direction. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sometimes, some books are just hard to keep reading. I felt that All for a Sister by Allison Pittman had a gripping idea, however, the story could have been told in a more compelling way. I forced myself to keep reading because I wanted to answer the questions mentioned in the synopsis on the back cover but not because the story was keeping me turning the pages.

The book seemed to jump from the story's timeline to a written confession penned years and years before. It was hard to keep the timeline straight and remain engaged in the story. I find it frustrating when the author is not able to develop the characters in a way that urges me to become involved in their "lives."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts and opinions are my own.

  I had heard my parents and sister talk about how great this book was many times. I'd even seen the "rules" hanging in a printed version in my sister's home. I was excited to be able to review the book The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times by Robert J. Morgan.  It's not a very large book - but I decided to take my time reading the chapters. 

The Christian life can be hard. Days can seem long and it can be easy to question God, His direction and His timing. This book is the perfect antidote for those difficult times. The author presents ten truths to cling to when life gets hard. 

I read one chapter a day for ten days, taking my time and reflecting on each rule presented. At the end of my little quest, I was encouraged, challenged and left wanting to revisit this book from time to time. The truths presented pushed me to continue on despite difficult times. 

I plan to hold onto this little hard back book and re-read it often. I also hope to print out the rules in a cute graphic way to frame. I hope that by reading them often, I will remember the ways I was challenged by this excellent classic. Reading through this version for the first time, I did not use the study questions in the back. I look forward to using them my next time through the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts and opinions are my own.

Since I have my list of favorite authors, I am often leery of reading from someone "new." My favorite time period is World War II and one of my favorite female Bible characters is Esther. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin promised to combine those two favorite elements.

Reading a fictionalized tale based on the story of Esther was both entertaining and enlightening. I have read other fiction works based on Biblical stories and have loved them. I was equally pleased with this book. The character development was gripping. The descriptions were vivid, and the story was moving. 

If you also love WWII and the story of Esther, this book would be an excellent tale for you to try. Stella, hiding her Jewish identity, is pulled from a concentration camp to live a "normal" life. It was compelling to read of her journey, her fears, her emotions and her outcome.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts and opinions are my own.