Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding Joy In The Parking Lot

Sometimes it’s possible to have a good time even when you’re in a very mundane place – like a Big Box Superstore parking lot.

Have you noticed that so many of the people shopping have somewhat of a grimace on their face? I’m not here to throw stones at them, because goodness knows we all have things going on in our lives. But what I AM here to say is that it’s possible to bring joy to others in the most ordinary of places.

We had finished our Big Box Superstore shopping trip and were high stepping it out to the car to load our goods before the rain started. Our normal routine is to load, then I take the cart to the corral while Keith starts the car and gets the a/c going.

Since we had just finished having a great laughing conversation with the checkout clerk that mood carried us on to the parking lot. As I turned around from corralling my cart I noticed a woman heading my way, though with a bit of a frown on her face, about 4 car lengths away.

My sillies took over – I crouched down, patted the top of my thighs, held out my hands and hollered “Let ‘er rip!”

She stopped and looked stunned for a minute, then grinned and said “Seriously?”

“Yep,” I said, with a bit of a wiggle in my fingers.

She said “OK!” with a big grin, then yelled “WHOA!” and gave it a shove.

We both threw our heads back laughing, I caught the cart and put it away and started walking back. She had started walking towards me, still laughing, and said “Thank you for such a wonderful laugh.”

I got in the car with Keith, who had seen the whole thing and was laughing. As we passed her parked car we could see her on the phone laughing and talking.

Joy in the Parking Lot – it can be a beautiful thing.

* photo credit Robert Couse-Baker on Flickr

Review–Bridge to a Distant Star by Carolyn Williford








Bridge to a Distant Star
by Carolyn Williford
David C Cook Publishing
371 pages


It All Comes Tumbling Down

As a storm rages in the night, unwary drivers venture onto Tampa Bay’s most renowned bridge. No one sees the danger ahead. No one notices the jagged gap hidden by the darkness and rain. Yet when the bridge collapses vehicles careen into the churning waters of the bay below.

In that one catastrophic moment, three powerful stories converge: a family ravaged by their child’s heartbreaking news, a marriage threatened by its own facade, and a college student burdened by self doubt. As each story unfolds, the characters move steadily closer to that fateful moment on the bridge. And while each character searches for grace, the storms in their lives loom as large as the storm that awaits them above the bay.

When these characters intersect in Carolyn Williford’s gripping and moving volume of three novellas, they also collide with the transforming truth of Christ: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Bridge to a Distant Star, go HERE.

MY REVIEW:  “It was a dark and stormy night….” - a simple phrase that we’ve heard so many times and it sets the stage well for this book. From the prologue to the end this book had me caring deeply for the characters. It’s written almost like distinct short stories until they all become intertwined at the end. And each time we transition from one story to the next there’s almost a bit of let down as we’ve become so attached to the characters. However, in short order we are entrenched in the next story and once again not able to put down this book.

From the woman whose best friend’s marriage has fallen apart and makes her question her own circumstance, to the young soccer player who receives devastating news, to the missionary kid who is finding her way – each is a unique story in itself.

Truly this author has written a book that is not only one that you can’t put down, despite knowing the disaster at the end. And along the way there are so many “life-isms” and pearls of wisdom about faith. I cannot recommend this book enough – I enjoyed it that much.

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34   I’ll not look at this verse the same again…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Williford has authored seven books, including Jordan's Bend, Devotions for Families That Can't Sit Still, and Faith Tango, as well as numerous articles. She and her husband, Craig, live in Deerfield, Illinois, where he serves as president of Trinity International University. They have two children and four grandchildren.


* My thanks to CFBA for furnishing this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Muffins on Monday–Sour Cream Raisin Muffins

Oh alliterations, how I do love you! When I thought of Muffins on Monday I was so tickled. then I Google’d it and found I wasn’t the first. *sob*  Not only that, this morning on Twitter I got a tweet from bakerstreet29 about her [Muffin Monday] post. ~ sigh ~  (but do click through and look at the fantastic sounding Almond Muffins)!

So even if I’m not as amazingly clever as I first thought I’m still going forward with this. Because not many things start a week off as good as a muffin!   Smile

Sour Cream Raisin Muffins

The original recipe for these muffins was Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Muffins.  Right now I’m very much in a raisin place, so I decided to use them in place of the chocolate chips. And it was wonderful! So many times we only think of raisins when used with a spice or pumpkin cake. But they were so good in this muffin.

Sour Cream Raisin Muffins
adapted from The Curvy Carrot

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 T unsalted butter, melted
1 t vanilla
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl combine the egg, sour cream, melted butter and vanilla, mixing well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with a spatula and stir until just combined. Add the raisins and gently combine with the batter.

Using an ice cream scoop fill each cupcake liner with one level scoop (makes 12 muffins).

Bake about 15-17 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.


** Linking to: Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review–She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen

She Makes It Look Easy
by Marybeth Whalen
David C Cook Publisher
309 pages
ABOUT THE BOOK:  Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood play dates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.
Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.
If you would like to read an excerpt of She Makes It Look Easy, go HERE.
MY REVIEW:  One of the words that can cause a person more discontent than any other is “comparison.”  Especially in women we see this so often as we compare children’s behavior, organization skills, exercise routines – even Bible study habits.  But this book points out that “the grass is NOT always greener on the other side of the fence” and that “what you see isn’t always what it appears.”
When Ariel moves into a  new neighborhood she is flattered and thrilled when the her neighbor, the woman who is so together, befriends her.  Justine invites Ariel to her church to listen to a talk she’s giving on organization skills and Ariel thinks she is on the right path for what her family needs.
She soon suspects that “all that glitters is not gold” in the life of Justine and the story goes on from there.
This is easily one of my favorite books of the year as Mary Beth Whalen’s writing style is superb.  I found myself doing the typical reader “just one more chapter” each time I was reading.
This book does a great job of showing women’s friendships, even the side that isn’t so desirable, and how easily we allow ourselves to be led.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel,The Mailbox was released in June 2010. Her next novel, She Makes It Look Easy, will be released in June 2011. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division.
* My thanks to CFBA for furnishing this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Card #8–Wedding Card

During the school years one of the easiest ways to find friends with common interests is through the elective classes.  My daughter played the viola, so was in the orchestra all through school. The fun thing is that many of the friends she made she still sees today.

As a Booster Club parent, I got to know the kids very well.  Our orchestra went on a trip each year for a competition.  We rotated back and forth between in state and out of state trips.

The best trip of all was when we went to New York City. Obviously it wasn’t cheap, so the entire school year we worked for tips on Saturdays as carhops at our local Sonic. What a fantastic fundraiser that was! The bonus was that spending so much time with the kids made it even more fun when the trip rolled around and my mom and I went along as chaperones.

This Saturday one of those girls is getting married.  She also was one of my daughter’s very first roommates when she first moved out.  I truly cannot wait to go to her wedding and I know visions of the young girl will be going through my head as I see her in her wedding dress.  Smile



Naturally I had to make a card for her.  This card also proves that you are never too old to text a picture of a card you’ve made to your mom, then call her and ask her opinion.  Smile

My original plan was to put the sentiment on another piece of cardstock and mount it on the lower right of the card. But when I got to this point I just loved the way it looked and kind of hated to add to it.  My mom agreed and loved the card the way it is, so I stamped the sentiment on the inside, which reads”happiness always.”

Supplies used for card:  Cuttlebug Embossing Folder; Offray 1 1/8” Antique White Satin Ribbon; sentiment stamp by Stampin’ Up

* Linked to:  Strut Your Stuff, I’m Lovin’ It, Inspire Me Fridays

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mosquito Repellant Planter

When I list the many things in my life that I consider blessings I rarely never list the fact that I attract mosquitos – and their bites – like moths to a flame.  I’ve always been a bit envious of those ladies that can stroll along in the evening during summer without a bite…and also without a drop of sweat (but that’s another story).

So when I came upon an Anti-Mosquito Planter online I was all ears – er, eyes.  And seriously, what did I have to lose?  If it worked I would be able to enjoy my morning coffee on the patio again and if it didn’t I still would be able to enjoy a pretty planter from my kitchen window.

I’m not one to completely take the word of people online, so I did spend some time with Google on this subject.  What I found though was about a 50/50 split as far as whether or not a planter like this would work to repel mosquitos.  And that was good enough for me.



The biggest plant, the one in the back, came in a pot that said Citronella Mosquito Plant, which convinced even my skeptical husband that this might just work.  In small print it said the plant was a Scented Geranium and that the fresh lemon fragrance will repel mosquitos.  There’s also a marigold in the planter as I found it mentioned several times online, in addition to being an all-around anti-bug plant.  And the little bitty plant at the front right is a variegated oregano plant, which some say also works against mosquitos.  There’s another of these on the other side of the marigold.

I’m really happy with how it looks, so even if it doesn’t do the job it’s intended for I’m still happy.  And the Scented Geranium smells magnificent when it gets wet.  Smile

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review–Branded by Tim Sinclair

branded cover

by Tim Sinclair
Kregel Publications
121 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:  The church spends $1.5 million for every one new follower of Jesus. Apple sells 26 iPads every minute.

What is it that makes Apple so exciting and Jesus so boring? What is it that compels someone to bring their iPod everywhere and their Bible nowhere? In a word: marketing. Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy salespeople-people who are intimidated and embarrassed by the word "evangelism" and who show more enthusiasm for their gadgets than their God.

What would life look like if we stopped mass-marketing Jesus and started marketing our faith like Nike and Apple market their products--sharing relationally, from person to person? Using examples from these and other successful companies, author Tim Sinclair challenges Christians to throw out their casual attitudes toward faith and sign on for a marketing campaign for the Savior.

Written with the wit and wisdom of an experienced marketer, Branded peels away the feelings of fear and encourages readers how to share their faith in ways that are honest, authentic, and, most importantly, effective.

Link to buy the book:


MY REVIEW:  Our church has been talking a lot lately about how the “tried and true” evangelical methods no longer work in today’s society. So when I saw this book I eagerly delved in to see what thoughts the author might have.

It was really quite interesting and had many comparisons to some of the popular brand names that are being marketed today.  While it’s definitely not an evangelical how-to book, it does give you quite a bit to ponder and consider.

“The hardest part for Christians to grasp is that, even though we might not “get”a specific culture or worldview, our inability to understand it is completely irrelevant. A persons’ lens is that person’s reality, and it’s a reality that we must be prepared to speak to (and through) if we hope to effectively share Christ.”

Umm….wow!  When reading such clear honesty it can sometimes cause a person to squirm in their seat.  But perhaps it’s time for us to do some squirming and actually look at the way we talk to and act around others rather than trying to bop them on the head with a Bible.

I definitely recommend reading Branded, Sharing Jesus With A Consumer Culture as it gives some out of the box ideas to a centuries old Christian task.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Sinclair is a radio personality on one of the top Christian morning shows in the country, Mornings with Tim and Pam. For over a decade, he has been helping radio stations and various other businesses creatively and effectively market themselves. His award-winning productions have been heard on more than 2,000 radio stations worldwide and recent clients include McDonald's, Word Records, Moody Press, and the country's most-listened to Christian nonprofit radio station KSBJ/Houston. Tim has written for CCM Magazine and the Huntsville Times. For more about Tim, please visit his website,

Kregel Publications is sponsoring a $50 giveaway open to all!

About the Giveaway:

To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using #litfuse) about Branded or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know ( Easy.

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here's an idea.

TWEET THIS:  Branded by @timjsinclair - Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy sales-people! @litfuse

FACEBOOK THIS: Branded by Tim Sinclair is a compelling look at what Christians can learn from companies like Apple & Starbucks about sharing their faith! Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy sales-people!

My thanks to Litfuse for furnishing this book for my honest review.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Card #7–Clean and Simple FTL144

This week’s card sketch at Clean & Simple Stamping apparently struck a chord in me because I actually finished a card on the same day the sketch came out!  I’m not sure how clean & simple my card is since I added a few things, but it was a fairly fast card to make.  And again, I just happen to have need for a Thank You card, so hopefully this will go in the mail pronto.



For the longest time I was a “pink place” and everything I made or wanted was pink.  I still adore it, but turquoise/teal is sure giving pink a run for its money here lately!

One note – if you decided to use Stickles as a flower center as I did, I *highly* recommend affixing the flower to the card first and then applying the Stickles.  A blob like this takes a very long time to dry.  Smile

Supplies used for card:  Stamp – Curly Greetings set from CTMH; Cuttlebug Embossing Folder; Prima Flowers; Waterfall Stickles; SU Cardstock

Linking to:  Clean&Simple Stamping, Inspire Me Fridays

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Candy Dipped Ladybug Pretzels

Last weekend we went up to the in-law’s house for some pool fun!  My sister-in-law and her crew from Atlanta come up every summer and we love to get up there and see them.


Plate of Ladybugs

I saw these ladybugs somewhere online and decided I MUST make them for this gathering for several reasons – 1) I LOVE novelty desserts/foods like this, 2) my mother-in-law is nuts about ladybugs, and 3) my granddaughter would be there…and that alone is reason enough!


Ladybug Closeup

They were quite a hit, especially with my granddaughter!  Luckily she’s still young enough that she'll ask before getting one each time or I really think she might have sprouted a few spots of her own!


And just in case you might want to make some of your own, here’s how I did it:

Candy Melts

The only thing you’ll need is a bag of pretzels, a teeny bit of powdered sugar and the Candy Melts shown above.  I bought mine at Walmart.


Pretzels in Red

Melt some of the red candy melts in the microwave using the instructions on the bag.  Dip the pretzels about 2/3 of the way in the candy, then place on wax paper to cool and dry.


Ladybugs Without Spots

(Pretend like I remembered to take a picture before the chocolate looked yucky….)  After the red candy has cooled and dried, melt some of the dark cocoa candy melts the same way.  Hold the pretzel by the red side and dip into the chocolate, then place on the wax paper to cool and dry.


Ladybugs With Spots

While I had the dark cocoa candy melts ready to go I went ahead and did the spots.  I tried several methods – a toothpick was too tiny and a straw was too big.  Finally grabbed one of the beaters from my mixer and that was perfect!


Candy Dipped Ladybug Pretzel

For the eyes I just mixed a very small amount of powdered sugar with an even smaller amount of milk until I got the consistency I wanted.


And that’s all there is to it!  When I do these again I’ll set up at the dining room table instead of the kitchen cabinet.  They were very easy and actually pretty fast to make, but leaning over the cabinet got to be a little tiring.

“Lovely little ladybug
sent from heaven above
please watch over my garden
and fill it up with love.”
  Author Unknown


* Linked to We Did It Wednesday, Show and Tell, What I Made Wednesday, Inspired By You Wednesdays, Hoo’s Got Talent?, Look What I Made, Strut Your Stuff, Transformation Thursday, Hookin Up With HOH

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Review–My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren

myfoolishheart cover sm

My Foolish Heart
by Susan May Warren
Tyndale Fiction
354 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?

Read an excerpt here:

MY REVIEW:  Any time I pick up a book by Susan May Warren I know that I’m in for a good read – and this book was no exception.  Ms. Warren’s characters always have depth and are more often than not people that I’d like to meet and get to know. But even more than that – they are FUN!

In this story the two main characters both struggle with their “disability” – she has PTSD and he is back stateside from Iraq. I knew very little about PTSD prior to reading this book and Ms. Warren dealt with this in a manner that made me not only understand it, but I really felt for Issy.  And Caleb’s desire to prove himself without relying on a sympathy vote was both commendable and frustrating.

As they both get to know each other better without really knowing the other I found myself smiling and wondering when they would catch on.  It really is a fun book (did I already mention that???) and one that I almost hated to see come to an end.

A 4 out of 5 rating. Smile

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:    Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found

Win a Romantic Night on the Town from Miss Foolish Heart!

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart! Read what the reviewers are saying here. To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!

The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)
* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel
* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

My thanks to Litfuse for furnishing this book for my honest review.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Card #6–Hoppy Birthday Loni!

Let me start off by saying how enormously blessed I am to have a daughter-in-law who is also a friend.  It certainly makes getting together with them something I treasure all the more!

Today is her birthday and really she’s one of my biggest crafting fans.  Each year as she opens the envelope with her card she always looks up, smiles and asks if it’s an “Elizabeth original.”  Now with somebody like that how can you NOT make a card?  Smile


Hoppy Birthday Card

Another thing about Loni is that she LOVES puns!  Seriously, she is one Punny girl! (Hoho – did you see what I did there?  Snuck in a pun!)  So for this card I first came up with the sentiment and went searching through my stamps looking for a cutesy frog.  Apparently I don’t have one so I searched online for an image, but just didn’t find anything I liked.  So what else hops?  TIGGER!  (OK, I realize he bounces, but he’s cute and a bounce really is like a hop!)


Hoppy Birthday Package

I kept the color theme for wrapping her gift and I really think I’m on to something here.  I went to the “big box store” to buy a roll of Kraft paper, but they didn’t have any.  They DID have many solid colors and I figured white would be pretty.  Instead of curly ribbon I went back to the craft section and bought a roll of 7/8” grosgrain ribbon.  Actually the nice grosgrain was no more expensive than the curly ribbon and it can be reused in so many ways.  And doesn’t it make a pretty bow?  I think this might be my “go to” wrapping now – frugal and I think it looks oh so pretty!

Supplies used for card:  Image found online; striped ribbon and orange scallop behind Tigger – Stampin’ Up Pumpkin Pie

Linking to:  Motivate Me Monday, Blog Hop, Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, Craft-O-Maniac Monday Link Party, Mad Skills Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Sharing Monday, Made With Love

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

SSMT Week 11


“You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.”  Psalm 119:57 NIV

I don’t know why I still get amazed by how the Lord works, particularly when it comes to the Bible.  This week I wasn’t sure what verse to use for my memorization, but I was pretty sure I would find something if I would just listen.

The start of my journey was reading Beth Moore’s blog and lo and behold this verse was there and it struck a chord deep within me.  Not because I am good at obeying His words, but because I so deeply want to be better.

When my kids were very young we always told them that whatever they had done they could tell us, but if they lied that was something I had a hard time getting passed.  Lying has always been such a terrible thing to me, so maybe that’s why this verse hit me.  If I have promised to obey His words, if I blatantly go against that promise is that the same as lying? And don’t I find lying to be despicable?



This is my Verse #11 for Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team.