Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Wrap-Up

As near as I can tell, I read and reviewed 74 books in 2014. Of those, 2 were DNF. That's the least amount of books read since I've been reviewing. Even the year I had major surgery I read more. I had quite a few gaps in reading for different reasons.  It will be interesting to see what 2015 brings.

Some of my favorites this year:

These two are my top books for the year.

Tim Crachit's Christmas Carol

A Beauty So Rare
Singing to a Bulldog

Where Treetops Glisten
Simple Faith

Lost Lake

A Bouquet of Love
The Nightingale Girls

Some not so favorites. The list is short this year!:

Beyond Coincidence
The Imaginary Life

What about you?  Any favorites?  No so favorites?

Thanks for stopping by this past year. Thanks for your comments and suggestions. Here's to a fantastic 2015 and many more good book discoveries!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He is the Gift

The first gift of Christmas was a simple gift given by a father to all his children, to us. He gave us His son, the Christ. He is the gift.

Merry Christmas!

Have a joyful and blessed holiday.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekend Reflections 12/20

Looking outside....it's rainy and gray.

Listening...it's quiet. The Doctor is at work, The Artist is on the computer and The Boy has gone to the hospital to turn in the 24 hour heart monitor he finished wearing.

Loving...my boys. They aren't perfect, but they are amazing. They're patient with their little cousins most of the time, they love their Mom and they show it. I am blessed. 

Thinking...that it's been an incredibly challenging week.  I am emotionally and physically spent. 

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and I have no idea about dinner tonight. That takes too much effort to think about right now.

Wearing...red penguin pajamas and a black turtleneck.

Needing...to clean out my pantry. I thought I smelled a rotten potato last night, but when I went looking, I found a flattened, dead mouse. I have no idea how or when he arrived and I have seen no signs anywhere else in the house. 
Not the greatest end to a difficult and challenging week.

Reading...No idea. I haven't picked up a book for three weeks.

some much needed family time.

Hoping...for for a quiet weekend where we can all recoup and be ready to enjoy Christmas next week.

Planning...I still need to get gifts wrapped and pick up some stocking stuffers. 

Gratitude...for medical professionals. For a nurse 16 years ago, who noticed my newborn son's color wasn't good and suspected a heart problem; an observation that ultimately saved his life. For pediatric cardiologists who look after his health and who care and support and encourage. For a doctor husband, who can understand a situation and reassure me. For that strong, handsome son who is such a joy to me.

From my world... 


What about you? What are you reflecting on? How has your week gone?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Angels We Have Heard on High

This is beautiful. Please take a moment to listen to it. I love The Piano Guys and this version of Angels We Have Heard on High is gorgeous. I absolutely adored the live nativity, too!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mailbox Monday 12/15

It's time for another Mailbox Monday which was created by Marcia at To Be Continued.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish list

My mailbox has been kind of sporadic over the last couple of weeks, but here is what has shown up.

Love Gently Falling by Melody Carlson, for review from Hatchette Book Group
A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor, for review from TLC Book Tours

Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund, for review from Bethany House
God Doesn't Write with a Pen by Christi Pauline, for review from the author

The Wealth of Jamestown by Barbara N. McLennan, via Netgalley
Saving Jimani: Life and Death in the Haiti Earthquake by Rene Steinhauer, RN, for review via Netgalley

What about you?

What new books did you receive?  Check out more Mailbox Monday posts here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Reflections 12/13

Looking outside....it's sunny, but cold. But, when the sun is shining, I don't care how cold it is!

Listening...it's quiet. The Doctor is at work and the boys are just getting up.

Loving...that my Christmas shopping is done. I just need it all to arrive so it can be wrapped.

Thinking...that the new bifocals aren't working and will need to be returned. When I wear them, I get angry and swear, I have headaches and get nauseous. I do like the bifocal contacts though.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and my early family birthday dinner at my Mom's tonight.

Wearing...red penguin pajamas, a black turtleneck and red and white striped fuzzy socks.

Needing...to do a load of laundry and take some time with The Brother to get his room cleaned.

Reading...No idea. I need to start a new one. It's been a slow couple of weeks for reading.

Today...odds and ends and family time.

Hoping...the Doctor won't have to work long this morning. 

Planning...to attend a live nativity with all the family after my early birthday dinner. We did that a couple of years ago and my boys loved walking through the replica of Bethlehem, the inn, the stable. It was such a great way to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas and it was all at the level of children. I think my nieces will really enjoy it this year. 

Gratitude...for a teenage boy who decided he wanted to learn to play the violin, has diligently worked and practiced and who performed amazingly well at his first recital after only 2 1/2 months of lessons.

From my world... 

Shiny! The newest addition to our Christmas tree this year. 

This post was shared at 2 Kids and Tired Cooks

Friday, December 12, 2014

A boy reading

Niño Leyendo by Lucie Geffré born 1976 in Bordeaux, France living in Madrid, Spain


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little Things Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day...Review

About the book:
What it is your fondest childhood memory?

​As digital devices take over family life in subtle and seductive ways, what will happen to child development and childhood memories?

You may remember taking adventurous bike rides, playing Monopoly, or building a birdhouse with a parent. Today’s children, however, are more likely to have stronger recollections of their iPads and cellphones. They spend more time with screens than they do at school or with their parents.

Susan Newman, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of 15 books in the family relationships field, just released an updated edition of her 1993 bestseller, Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day. She asks your audience to take a trip down memory lane to understand the developmental risks of “screens” and why most families need a “digital detox.”

Think it adorable when a 4-year-old masters a tablet before she can dress herself? Think again. “In some families, technology has become a parenting tool,” she says and notes, “Devices, not necessarily siblings, are competition for parents’ time. But, there is no substitute for parental time and attention in terms of a child’s development whatever a child’s age.”

Newman’s “little things” can be incorporated into family life without busy parents feeling as if they need to constantly entertain or occupy their children, or spend money they do not have. Divided into convenient time​ f​rames, the activities in Little Things Long Remembered range from simple gestures, to a minute or two, a half hour, over the weekend, and every holiday—big and small; from Valentine’s Day through New Year’s. Each is designed to feed a child’s memory bank and encourage a basic appreciation for interacting and learning outside of the mesmerizing glitz of electronic screens.

The ideas underscore findings from a recent Harvard study: Don’t underestimate the impact of the mundane things you do with your children, especially things that seem commonplace or unexciting. Over time, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

While I am not one who feels the need to manufacture memories or experiences for my children, I did like this little gem of a book. It made me reflect on the things I already do with my children more than anything else. The book is full of little suggested activities or gestures that you can do to make a memory and strengthen a parent/child relationship. Ideas like, "attend the same fair or carnival every year" or  "pitch a tent in your own backyard" and "write a short letter to your children each year on their birthday". There are sections with suggestions for things you can do when you're away from each other, or when you have 5 minutes or less.

Much of the book is really just common sense and you'll probably find that you already do or have done many of these suggestions. However, it's always nice to be reassured that you're doing a great job as a parent.

The book is short and would be a great little gift or stocking stuffer for someone.

Thanks to Laura with iRead Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Susan Newman here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 12/14

* * * **
5/5 Stars

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Christmas Train...Review

About the book:
Anna Spano is on the train to meet her father while she befriends Eva Stephens, an older woman who occasionally thinks she’s traveling to her home village in pre–World War II for the holidays. Recognizing Miss Eva’s disorientation as the same dementia her late grandmother experienced, Anna isn’t sure who is actually taking care of whom on the journey.

At the far end of the journey, Tom Thurston is anxious about what to expect when his daughter arrives. So he’s doubly shocked when a teary old woman embraces him, convinced that he is her long-lost brother.

At Anna’s insistence, he reluctantly agrees to bring the woman home with them and try to locate her family. And as Anna clings loyally to her new friend, and Tom struggles to be who Miss Eva needs him to be, both father and daughter begin to understand one another. And through Miss Eva, they learn the true meaning of family, and of love.

Anna Spano's neglectful, slacker mom has decided that it's too much to care for her anymore and loads Anna on a train to meet the father she doesn't know. Because a 10 year old can't travel alone, Anna's mom asks Eva Stephens, an elderly woman traveling on the same train, to look after Anna. As the journey begins, it's Anna who ends up caring for Miss Eva who struggles with dementia and keeps believing herself to be back during World War 2, rather than the present. As Miss Eva struggles with her memories, Anna looks ahead with some fear and trepidation.

Tom, Anna's father, waits at the end of the line for the daughter he has never met. When Anna and Miss Eva finally arrive, Miss Eva mistakes him for her long-lost brother. Anna refuses to leave Miss Eva at the station when it becomes apparent that there is no one to meet her. Tom reluctantly concedes to Anna's wishes that Miss Eva come home with them.

As father and daughter negotiate their new relationship, they must also find a way to help Miss Eva.

Anna is such a sharp, precocious child, wise beyond her years. Her care and tenderness towards Eva is lovely. Tom isn't sure what parenthood will bring to him, but he's determined to be a good father to Anna and their interactions are sweet.

A tender, sweet Christmas novella that will tug at your heartstrings while it brings a tear to your eye and a smile to your face.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

1: the act of giving thanks 
2: a prayer expressing gratitude 
3: a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness 

 "To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven." --Thomas S. Monson

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Perfect Gift...Review

About the book:
’Tis the night before Christmas… and businessman and single father Jason is scrambling to find the dollhouse of the season for his seven-year-old daughter Emily. But when he finally strikes gold at an obscure toy store, he’s met with resistance—literally, as a beautiful woman named Leah is grabbing onto the dollhouse box from the other side of the aisle, determined to get the same Christmas present for her own daughter.

Desperate not to let the other win, Jason and Leah forge a pact: stay together until they find the same dollhouse at a different toy store. It sounds simple, but ten stores and many hours later, they still come up empty. They might not be finding another dollhouse, but they sure are finding a lot to talk about and, as their mutual attraction grows, the unlikely pair finds the greatest holiday gift of all—love.

Single parents Jason and Leah are each on a mission to find the elusive Little People Dollhouse for their daughters. It's the most highly sought after Christmas gift of the season and when they each grab the last box in the store, neither one wants to compromise and let go. Attracted to Leah from the moment he laid eyes on her, Jason suggests that they each pay half for the current dollhouse and together try and find a second.

This little novella takes place over the course of two days as Jason and Leah search the city for another gift for one of their daughters. As they traverse from store to store and situation to situation, they talk and share and get to know each other.

While everything about the story is perfect, it's often a little too perfect. Jason and Leah are awesome parents, their daughters are perfect and involved in dance and sports and activities, well-behaved and sweet. This has all the makings of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It's light and romantic with a sweet tug on your heartstrings.

A light, sweet Christmas novella. One you can read in just one or two sittings.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dani-Lyn Alexander here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sam's Christmas Wish...Review

About the book:
Sam Edwards isn’t looking forward to Christmas, at least not this year. Since losing his job a few weeks before, he hasn’t had any luck in finding a new one. He isn’t sure how he can give his family a merry Christmas, and the last thing he wants is charity from his neighbors. But when he falls asleep in his living room—with his shotgun across his lap just to make sure no one attempts to visit him—he wakes up to find his front porch laden with Christmas goodies. But when he tries to find out who left the presents, the freshly fallen snow reveals no footprints.

Years later, Sam’s wife has passed away and his children are grown. Old and sick, Sam remembers the kindness of the anonymous stranger from long ago and wishes for an opportunity to bless another’s life. So on Christmas Eve, when he sees his neighbor’s house on fire, he hopes that he can be the means for another anonymous miracle.

Sam Edwards lost his job and money is tight. He doesn't want charity and is pretty outspoken about it. He falls asleep on Christmas Eve, with a shotgun across his lap to ensure that no one comes by or brings anything. Awakening on Christmas morning however, his house is full of Christmas gifts. But no footprints or anything to indicate how they arrived.

As he's storming around, trying to find a reason for the gifts, he watches his children's joy at receiving them and his heart softens. That Christmas spirit enters his heart and he realizes that it's about service and giving, not receiving.

As years go by, many in the community benefit from Sam's kindness, but he has always wanted the opportunity to serve anonymously. When that opportunity comes, Sam blesses another and finds true joy in Christmas service.

The story is not long, but is poignant. I did think that the ending, while expected, was a little abrupt. But this is a sweet Christmas story with gorgeous illustrations and a lovely message that Christmas isn't just an event, it's a feeling of love and a spirit of giving.

Thanks to Shadow Mountain for the opportunity to review this book. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol...Review

About the book:
In A Christmas Carol, evil Scrooge was shown the error of his ways by three helpful ghosts and vowed to become a better person. Bob Cratchit and his family benefited most from Scrooge’s change of tune—but what happened after the goose was given, and Scrooge resolved to turn over a new leaf?

Tim Cratchit's Christmas Carol shows us Tiny Tim as an adult. Having recovered from his childhood ailment, he began his career helping the poor but has since taken up practice as a doctor to London’s wealthy elite. Though Tim leads a very successful life, he comes home at night to an empty house. But this holiday season, he’s determined to fill his house with holiday cheer—and maybe even a wife.

When a single, determined young mother lands on Tim’s doorstep with her ailing son, Tim is faced with a choice: stay ensconced in his comfortable life and secure doctor’s practice, or take a leap of faith and reignite the fire lit under him by his mentor, Scrooge, that fateful Christmas so many years ago.

I think one must be very brave to write a sequel to a celebrated classic, especially when that celebrated classic is a Dicken's story. Jim Piecuch does a fantastic job of taking us back to the Cratchit family. Tim is all grown up and now a successful doctor. As Christmas approaches, he begins to realize that his life is rather empty. It's become all about work and even then, he's not helping the poor in need. Instead, his practice is wrapped up in wealthy, gluttonous hypochondriacs and his partner is selfish and money oriented rather than patient oriented.

Tim knows he wants more from his life. When a young woman with a dying son comes to him one evening, Tim knows he can't turn her away. As he begins to research her son's condition and possible cures, he remembers how much he loved truly helping those in need. As Tim goes about helping others, there is one person who still has an influence on his life, even from beyond the grave.

I loved that this author doesn't try to be Charles Dickens. He doesn't recreate the setting or story of A Christmas Carol. Rather, he takes these wonderful characters and gives them new life. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are not here, but the influence and presence of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit are, and it's beautiful.

The Cratchit family makes a reappearance and new people come into Tim's life and others leave it. The story is at once poignant and engaging with characters you love. There is a sweetness and tenderness, but humor and at the end a smile because of the magic that is Christmas.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jim Piecuch here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/14

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Red Book of Primrose House...Review

About the book:
In Marty Wingate’s charming new Potting Shed Mystery, Texas transplant Pru Parke’s restoration of a historic landscape in England is uprooted by an ax murderer.

Pru Parke has her dream job: head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.

But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.

Having just read 
The Garden Plot, I was thrilled to jump right back into Pru's life. She has been offered her dream job as the head gardener for an old English estate, whose garden was designed by a renowned landscape designer. Pru is ecstastic at the prospect of restoring the gardens to their former greatness and seeing Detective Inspector Pearse on the weekends.

But Pru can't simply have a normal life. As she works on the gardens, vandals destroy her efforts, her assistants bicker and she walks into the garden one day to find one of them murdered. Pru once again finds herself thrust into a murder investigation, this time with a crotchety detective who resents her involvement. However, Pru is curious and clever and discovers answers and clues on her own, even as her life is once again in danger.

I loved this one more than the first one. Pru and Christopher are terrific together. I love the subplots of Christopher's son and Pru's discovery of family. Pru's new friends are terrific and the story enthralling. I didn't want to put it down and while I had my suspicions of the culprit, I was still left guessing until the end.

Sequel to The Garden Plot, the story can stand on its own, but the character development is richer for having read the first book.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Marty Wingate here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars