Category Archives: Book Recommendations

Separate Campfires

I recently read Tamera Alexander’s Revealed, a historical fiction and the second in her Fountain Creek Chronicles series. What a great series, btw.

This one is about a reformed prostitute, Annabelle Grayson, who by marriage was rescued from the lifestyle, only to lose her new husband early on in their marriage. Long story short: she needs a driver/trail guide to take her west to her deceased husband’s ranch and the man volunteering for the job is her husband’s estranged brother. He also happens to be a self-righteous Christian who can’t see past her sordid past to the new creature in Christ that she’s become.

I cried in the book when I came to their first night on the trail. Annabelle trys valiantly to start a fire to fix their evening meal, but she’s never gotten the hang of striking a spark with flint. On her 70th or so strike, she finally succeeds only to glance behind at her brother-in-law (who incidentally wasn’t offering to help her–he can’t stand her) to see that he’s already got a huge fire blazing on the other side of the wagon, and has already bedded down for the night.

For someone who already felt “unworthy” because of her past…can you imagine the defeat, the sorrow, the hopelessness?

After this scene, Tamera Alexander wrote:

“For too long she’d been untouchable, like the leper she’d read about the other night, the one Jesus so willingly placed His hands on when all others shunned him and ran the other way. Then one morning, Kathryn Jennings had appeared in her life and that sense of isolation had begun to ebb. Kathryn had touched her life first. Followed by [other Christians]…” (my paraphrasing)

Never underestimate the power of Christ in you to change someone’s life. There are so many lost people out there being swallowed up by emptiness, haunted by the lies of the evil one. Feeling they could never live up to or be good enough for God’s “standards”.

And no wonder, with us, God’s people, being too busy *in* the church to ever look out around the church for these hurting ones. We may be the only lights in their darkness yet we miss opportunity after opportunity, lost in complacency or our own troubles…how our self-absorbedness must grieve our Heavenly Father.

Take a moment and ask God who in your life needs the kindling you can offer…and while you’re at it, don’t discount the unlovely people He may bring to mind.

I don’t want to let poverty or wealth (my own or someone else’s), beauty or ugliness (again, my own or someone else’s), abrasive people or needy ones–any of these things, come between me and God’s plan for growth in our lives.

Being willing is the first step. Wanting more of Him and less of me, is the second step. Praying for Him to open the eyes of our hearts and make us extra-sensitive to the needs of those around us is a good third.

Then it’s all about stepping out in faith, even if it means leaving our campfires in favor of helping others build theirs.

My Life, Unscripted

mylifeunscripted.JPG You pick up a book, scan the back cover and it either grabs you or it doesn’t. When my influencer copy of My Life, Unscripted from Tricia Goyer arrived, the back cover copy jumped out at me and seconds later I was sinking into my couch, stealing enough time to confirm that this book is a definite keeper! Wait! Scratch that, it was SO good I made it a huge priority to finish before my niece’s 18th birthday party that weekend. I knew I had to pass it along. And as I read, I kept thinking of different teenage girls–nieces and friends–that would benefit with this warm and personal, yet hip, mentoring of Tricia’s in their hands.

Drawing on Biblical principles, My Life, Unscripted guides girls through the tumultuous teen years by teaching them to have a plan of attack before temptation or hardship come.

Tricia’s Script:

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder … What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn’t. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted … and, well, it didn’t go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who’s Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME … with the guidance of God, My Director.

Mary here: It’s my pleasure to be able to honestly share my excitement over My Life, Unscripted with you. This is exactly the kind of book the teenage girls of our culture need, as inundated as they are with the standards raging through their peers and in the public school system. It’s hard being adrift in a boat full of holes. My hopes are that every girl reading this book will come away smarter and more reliant on God, not this culture, to patch up the holes that can be filled in no other way.

The book’s format is inviting and fun, while the topics are serious and eye-opening. I especially enjoyed the “My Scripts” featured in the margins in which teenage girls across the country weighed in on the issues they all face day to day. Tricia’s heart for teens is evident, she’s welcome to mentor my daughters anyday!

Thanks, Tricia, for being brave and willing to share from your heart how your own difficult teen years affected the rest of your life.

Places you can find Tricia on the net:

Tricia’s Blog: It’s Real Life

Tricia’s Website: www.triciagoyer.com

She also has two new books that will be available soon:

  • A Shadow of Treason (Moody Publishing) 2007
  • Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah) January, 2008

And don’t forget to order your own copy of My Life, Unscripted or look for it at your local Barnes and Nobles, it’s part of their back-to-school endcap promotion!

Also, on Saturday, September 22, 2007, I’ll be doing a drawing for a copy of this book! To participate, simply leave a comment on this post!

Celebrating Fall with Apple Cider Tea

One of my favorite homemaking encouragers is author and speaker Emilie Barnes. I have her small flip-calendar, If Teacups Could Talk, on a corner shelf above and to the left of my kitchen sink. I simply love the thing, having referred to it now for almost ten years!

Inside it, I found this gem of a recipe. If my current book ever gets into print, you may recognize this “apple cider tea” as a specialty of my heroine’s pastor’s wife. I think it’s a great fall tradition. And I know that August isn’t technically fall, but with school about to start, it feels like fall to me. And this year the orchard we usually visit lost all their fruit to the late spring frost. So we’ll have to celebrate fall differently.

I’m thinking this will be a good start.

Apple Cider Tea

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (2-in. pieces)
  • 2 tea bags
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • thin lemon slices (optional)

Put cider, cloves, and cinnamon in a medium-sized, stainless-steel pot. Cover and heat on medium. When the mixture is hot and steaming, add the tea bags and infuse until the apple cider takes on a light tea taste (approximately 5 minutes). Remove the tea bags and dissolve the sugar in the mixture. Strain the liquid into glass cups or mugs. A transparent slice of lemon may be floated on the top of each cup. Serves 5-6.

Homemade Salsa and Canning Tips

It’s canning time again! A good friend from church passed along two big bags of tomatoes, so this morning I lugged my canning supplies down from attic storage and like a kid on Christmas morning, I dug into it. Exciting to find extra boxes of canning flats (lids) which means I can swing that many more pints or quarts than I originally thought!

The only disappointment I experience is slight regret that we haven’t been able to replace the dishwasher that quit on me…however long ago that was (last summer?). Dishwashers are so good for disinfecting jars and rings and keeping your jars on the hot side, which is a requirement when filling with hot salsa. But then, I’m always bragging about how much I love the simple, old-fashioned life, so here’s my chance to put my words into practice!

Nothing like canning to heat up a kitchen! Every burner is busy on my stove…one canner full of cold water and clean jars that can heat up together (ta-da: hot jars ready to fill)…one saucepan with lids and rings keeping hot…one kettle with boiling water to dip tomatoes in before their plunge into chilled water (skin just slips off)…and another kettle handy into which I’ll pour the hot water from the canning jars once I’m ready to exchange their H2O for salsa!

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration. Ever want to make Kiwi Jam? Pickled Okra? Peach Butter? This book is a homemaker’s dream. I’d think every woman should have a copy, not knowing what the future holds for our country. I’m not going Y2K on you, just advocating preparedness.

Never canned before? Find a Farm and Ranch Supply store and browse that aisle. You’ll see many tools of the trade. Besides canners, there are jar lifters (a must), wide-mouthed funnels (another must) and magnetic lid/ring lifters (not so necessary, I use a fork and quick fingers to lift mine from the hot saucepan). If you’d rather, just browse canning tools and supplies online…you’ll get hooked, I promise!

The following salsa recipe was one of my top hits last year, though it doesn’t have the hundreds of comments that the Amish Friendship Bread has to show for its popularity. I thought I’d repost it here today. My dh and I think it tastes a lot like the salsa at Carlos O’ Kelly’s, a popular Mexican restaurant here in the midwest.

Mary’s Mild Salsa–makes 10 pints

22 tomatoes (I put in twice as many if they’re on the small-to-medium side)
4 bell peppers, chopped fine
3 onions, chopped fine
1 cup vinegar
3/4-1 cup jalepeno peppers, chopped fine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 cup (12 oz) tomato paste (I omit this)
Cilantro to taste
3 cloves garlic minced

After getting skin off tomatoes (dip in boiling water 20 seconds, then into cold–skin falls off), put 2/3 of them in blender and blend. Chop the rest of them (if you have a good blender you can blend all veggies together, we like it chunky) and put all ingredients into pot, bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes. Use a ladle and funnel to fill hot jars with salsa, leaving 1 inch headspace. Slip a plastic knife or other non-metal straight object along sides of jar to release any bubbles. Wipe jar rim with clean washcloth for a good seal. Apply lid and ring and put jar into canner. It will be fine as you continue filling pints/quarts till canner is full. Water bathe pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20.

Some people like to buy salsa “mix” at Wal Mart. I did this one year, and though the label said “mild” it wasn’t! That was a huge waste of my time and tomatoes, not nearly as good as homemade with all the fresh veggie additions and I was the only one who could handle the “heat”. So be warned.

If you want pictures and another recipe, this site has great pictures.

Well, I’m off…

Just two things:

Don’t forget that the Carnival of Modesty deadline is this Friday, August 3rd! Follow this link to submit and join the fun!

Be on the look-out this week, I have a wonderful author interview to post from friend and fellow homeschooler, Amy Wallace. She graciously shared how she schedules everything in, and her favorite curriculums, all in all it’s a very encouraging and uplifting read! As is her book Ransomed Dreams. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Enzyme Therapy

An hour at the health food store is always time well spent,  and recently I enjoyed an uninterrupted Q&A session with the store manager.

Health is such a fascinating topic, unless you’re face to face with an M.D. who believes drugs are the only answer. I’m thinking in terms of autism, or ADHD, and the epidemic we have in this country of children on Ritalin, and other controlling substances.

Anyway, while there, I found this book on enzyme therapy–a  resource telling what enzyme deficiencies different problems are derived from. The author, Karen L. DeFelice, has a website www.enzymestuff.com and her book is Enzymes: Go With Your Gut–More Practical Guidelines For Digestive Enzymes.

She also wrote: Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurological Conditions. Her website has a most helpful forum.

First and foremost, this author was a mom raising two autistic sons. She was desperate for answers, and the medical community wasn’t helping. One of her sons banged his head on the wall all day long every day. The other had several different autistic issues. Today, with enzyme therapy, they’re completely normal young men. Amazing story.

I guess this mother/author did a book signing at our health food store and she told the owner that she always replied to emails from people searching for answers. It might take her a week, but she would reply in person. I really want to encourage you to get this book, read it and form your own conclusions. I’ve since ordered my own copy, and read it from cover to cover. It makes perfect sense.

I fully believe that we shortchange God by subscribing to the drug theory all the time as the cure-all when He’s provided so many natural resources for us to use instead.

At any rate, I wanted to share this find here in the hopes that it might help someone. Enzyme deficiencies can cause many problems and aggravate many more.

This is a great step in taking charge of your own family’s health.

Smart Medicine, plus Tips on Treating Poison Ivy

Back when my family had the influenza, I went to “stock up” at our local health food store. In the process, I bought a book that I’ve been meaning to blog about ever since. Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child: A practical A-to-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Infants & Children by Janet Zand, N.D., L.Ac., Robert Rountree, M.D., and Rachel Walton, MSN, CRNP. (Mine is the 2nd Edition)

It really is an A-Z reference…it begins with a brief history/intro of each of the following: Conventional Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Bach Flower Remedies, Acupressure, Homeopathy. It then segues into diet and nutrition, pregnancy and newborns, and home safety…

But what I really appreciate is that every possible ailment your child may encounter in life is alphabetically listed from acne to whooping cough, and all the bases are covered with treatments from the methods I mentioned above. There’s even a nifty section that explains the common Acupressure points so you know how to maximize results with this form of healing.

Let’s say your child has poison ivy/oak/sumac. The section for this ailment will tell you what it is, what the rash looks like, what causes it, there will be a detailed picture of the three different kinds of leaves. There will be a list of symptoms to watch for and when to call the doctor. The conventional method will list several options from available over-the-counter meds/ointments–basically what your M.D. would tell you…then the next section will focus on herbal treatment which, for poison ivy, would be to apply aloe vera gel to the rash, and apply calendula tincture to relieve itching and help the skin heal more quickly…the homeopathy section says to give your child one dose of Rhus toxicodendron 12x or 6cm three to four times daily, until symptoms lessen. If there’s a Back Flower Remedy, it will be listed, and a specific Acupressure treatment will be recommended. And finally, at the very end of the section about poison ivy, under “General Recommendations”, many practical suggestions follow (taken straight from the book):

  • Give your child homeopathic Rhus toxicodendron
  • Prepare an old folk remedy by making a paste of 2 TB of sea salt and 1 cup buttermilk. Apply it to the affected area to reduce itching and promote healing.
  • Soak a clean cotton cloth in a blend of 1 TB sea salt dissolved in one pint of spring water. To relieve itching, apply the compress to the affected area for fifteen to thirty minutes several times daily.
  • Cold cucumber slices applied to the affected area can help dry out an oozing rash.
  • Clothing that has come in contact with the oil should be washed in a strong detergent with chlorine bleach added.

I’m keeping this 556 page tome handy, and am in fact currently following its instructions for my toddler who seems to be having recurrent UTI problems (not medically diagnosed)…I’d much rather feed her blueberries, cranberry juice, and odorless garlic softgels than give her antibiotics, and so far so good…

Fascinating subject, and so important: preserving and promoting the good health of our children. Do you have a favorite resource to recommend?

Ransomed Dreams

If you had driven by my country lane last week you would’ve raised your eyebrows. Three little girls–all enjoying mud puddles, mind you–and a mom standing with her nose in a book. That would be, erm, me.

It all began by email. Amy Wallace and I are both members of American Christian Fiction Writers, and when she queried the main loop asking if anyone wanted to help her market her first book by sending postcards and handing out bookmarks, I thought, why not?

Little did I know then, how much she and I have in common…both homeschooling three daughters for starters. The more I got to know Amy, the more I wanted to readrandsomeddreams9final2.JPG this book of hers! Finally, when it released in April, I ordered a copy.

Aren’t new books just the best? My six-year-old nabbed it from our mailbox and rushed it back to me (yes, I was still a fourth of a mile behind my speedy-Gonzales’s who run everywhere we go). She waited long enough for me to rip open the package, admired the cover with me and was off to hop over and into all the puddles. I thumbed through the book and thought, I’ll just read the first page…

Ha. I kept reading, eyebrows drawn together, at each page-flip glancing up to make sure my three yahoos were accounted for and not completely covered in mud (they weren’t). So I kept reading. Ho-humming at every car that passed (very few did, thankfully) and then getting right back into the book! I’m so lame, aren’t I?

Sadly, it was close to six o’clock P.M Friday. Hubby arrived home from work, we slaved on the deck…the weekend throbbed by taking us to an out-of-town cowdog trial that lasted all day Saturday (yes, I took the book, no, I couldn’t escape everything and enjoy it), had a bit of reading time Sunday but not nearly enough what with finishing the deck floor!

I finally finished the book earlier this week and hastily emailed Amy asking for a copy of the cover pic because…those of you that received post cards or bookmarks from me have the right to know that this book is one you don’t want to miss. Please buy it, hassle your library to stock it and also your Barnes and Noble, tell your friends about it…

And since you want to know the book’s name, and a little bit about it (smile) : Ransomed Dreams, Defenders of Hope Series #1. This romantic suspense is going to wrap itself and its characters around your world. Amy Wallace has what it takes to keep you hoping, smiling, and tearing up till the very last page.

Gracie Lang’s heart is aching-full at how good she’s got it. Married for seven years to the love of her life, mother of two beautiful children…it’s New Year’s Eve. But minutes later, when her dreams crash on a snowy night, how will she ever pick up all the pieces? She tries, on her own. She starts a new life, trying to fill the holes only God can heal. She meets FBI agent Steven Kessler, Crimes Against Children unit coordinator. He has an adorable son, is an endearing hero…but has maybe one too many demons of his own to deal with. And that’s only the beginning.

I loved Amy’s use of scripture in this novel. Many times I was on my knees in my mind, weeping with Gracie, to arrive at the relief of hope offered in that wonderful way of fiction that makes truth come alive off the pages and into our hearts.

Just as Gracie Lang and Steven Kessler will live on in yours.

Buy the book.

And be sure to visit Amy Wallace at her website and blog, which I’ve linked here below for you:

Amy’s website: Heart Chocolate

Amy’s blog: Peek-A-Boo ICU

And stay tuned, I plan on posting an interview with her here sometime soon…

Post, Movie, Book Recommendations

Today is my day for posting at Writer…Interrupted. My post is titled, Writers and Parents. It’s mostly a parenting post, with connections writers will identify with.

On the home front, dh and I have been working every evening on our deck. We finally got the undergirding finished and have been laying the floor–16′ 2×6 boards. We go till dark then put all the tools away…the rain last night interrupted the process, so we and the girls watched Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution III instead. Awesome series, available at Wal-Mart!

I’ve added Amy Wallace’s blog to my blogroll. She’s the homeschooling mom of three girls that writes FBI fiction. Her first book, Ransomed Dreams, Defenders of Hope Series #1 was just released. I’ve ordered it, and hope you do too. If you order it through my link here, my Christian Book Distributor Affiliation gives me a percentage of the sale.

In fact, anytime you want to order from CBD, if you use their nifty drop down search menu (on my sidebar under the survey) to get to their site, your total order gives my account a bit of credit. And it doesn’t cost you a thing extra.

Have a great day!

A Valley Of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer

Ever hear of the Spanish Civil War? Journey to Spain in this richly painted war story that you won’t want to put down… Author Tricia Goyer kept me guessing (and reading!) with a rich cast of characters and heartbreaking peeks into humanity at all levels. There is something for everyone to identify with in this tale. I also have to say, that when hero met heroine my pulse was jumping so fast I could have been in the action! (We’re talking fox holes and flying bullets–irresistable!) I can’t wait till its sequel, A Shadow of Treason comes out this fall.

Here’s what Tricia has to say about the Spanish Civil War, fought in the late 1930’s, pre-WW2:

“Nazi tanks rolled across the hillsides and German bombers roared overhead, dropping bombs on helpless citizens. Italian troops fought alongside the Germans, and their opponents attempted to stand strong—Americans, British, Irishmen, and others—in unison with other volunteers from many countries. And their battleground? The beautiful Spanish countryside.

From July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939, well before America was involved in World War II, another battle was fought on the hillsides of Spain. On one side were the Spanish Republicans, joined by the Soviet Union and The International Brigade—men and women from all over the world who have volunteered to fight Fascism. Opposing them, Franco and his Fascist military leaders, supported with troops, machinery, and weapons from Hitler and Mussolini. The Spanish Civil War, considered the “training ground” for the war to come, boasted of thousands of American volunteers who joined to fight on the Republican side, half of which never returned home.

Unlike World War II, there is no clear line between white and black, good and evil. Both sides committed atrocities. Both sides had deep convictions they felt worth fighting and dying for.”

If you’re a fan of factual historic fiction, such as Brock and Bodie Thoene’s, then you’re going to love Tricia Goyer’s books. Be sure to read A Valley of Betrayal and spread the word to all your friends…that it’s a page-turner!

Available at Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and your local bookstore.

Tricia’s website: www.triciagoyer.com

Tricia’s blog: www.triciagoyer.blogspot.com

Fresh Strawberry Bread

StrawberriesThis one’s for you, Bethanie! (Here’s her recipe fyi, she and I are comparing notes…)

My mom says this is the best ever book on bread baking: Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads: Revised and Expanded. She doesn’t have this newest edition, but our strawberry bread recipe is in both. Want to get inspired? There’s nothing like baking…and Bernard Clayton covers it all in 752 pages…check it out at your library if nothing else. It’s really reasonably priced if you follow the link above. I’m not sure if sharing the recipe here is ethical? My reasoning is, I have no idea what cookbooks most of my recipes come out of (friends share them, etc) and I may unknowingly post here something without giving credit where credit is due. I’d be interested on other’s thoughts concerning this. For now, I’m posting it.

Fresh Strawberry Bread

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 3/4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or other shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (this is optional, I usually substitute pecans–family preference)
  • Cream cheese, softened (optional–this is for spreading on the finished product)

Baking pan: 1 medium (8 1/2 x 4 1/2) loaf pan, greased or Teflon, long sides and bottom lined with buttered wax paper.

Preheat oven: 350 degrees F.

Prep (5 minutes): Crush enough of the strawberries to fill 1 cup. Pour into small saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool. Slice remaining strawberries and chill.

By hand (8 minutes): In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients except sugar. In large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and shortening; then add the eggs and water mixing until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, mixing well to blend. Stir in crushed strawberries and walnuts. Pour or spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven. When loaf has cooled in pan for 10 minutes, turn onto a rack to cool. Slice thin and spread with softened cream cheese and top with chilled strawberries.

Yum. Sometimes I just buy the cartons of strawberry cream cheese and use that instead…what a treat!