Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hiking Interstate State Park, Minnesota

My son and I went hiking last year at Minnehaha Falls on one of the weekends he was back from camp. I think we're going to be making this a tradition. It gets us out of whoever's house we're staying with and allows us to enjoy the beautiful state of Minnesota.



This year we decided to go to Taylors Falls. Now, I'll share a bit of my ignorance here. I thought Taylors Falls wasn't just a city. I thought it had a waterfall. You know, hence the name of the town. Turns out, nope, no waterfalls there. lol


We decided to do the hike regardless and I'm glad we did! It was an absolutely beautiful day. It took us about an hour to get there from the Cities. There are 2 sides to the Park, hence the "Interstate" part of the name. It's joined with Wisconsin. It was only $7 to park for the day. We probably could've parked on the street in Taylors Falls, but this worked out just fine.


You have several options when you visit Interstate State Park. You can rent canoes and kayaks, hike, or take a scenic boat tour. I didn't realize about the boat tour until it was too late, but that would've been fun. There are also a few trails you can explore. If we go back I'd like to check out the Glacial Potholes. We started our adventure off on the River Trail. That probably took us about an hour to hike? We stopped along the way to take photos and enjoy the scenery. It's only a mile and a quarter hike.


You walk along the road for a bit of the hike and then veer off into the woods. There were a decent amount of people hiking the day we went, but only so much that we'd pass someone occasionally. It was a very peaceful hike. The views of the St. Croix River were beautiful. The trails were pretty well maintained. I can see how on a rainy day some areas could be a bit slick.


After we finished with the River Trail, we crossed under the road to tackle the Railroad Trail which is 1.5 miles. We saw a couple of young gals who had just come from that direction so I asked them if we were headed the right way. Thankfully we were.


Now, when I was talking with the gal who I paid at the visitor center, she mentioned an extra piece to the Railroad Trail. She told me the Sandstone Bluffs Trail was 250 steps. I'm like, ok, so that's really nothing. Welllll, what she actually meant was there are 250 actual steps!! Stairs, people!! This is actually and added 1mi hike. Oh my goodness, I thought I was going to die. HAHAHAHA There was one point where we were completely confused and so was another lady who came upon us. About halfway through the hike it just dead ends.


Just before we reached the dead end. As in about 15 seconds before, this man scared the nonsense out of us as he was climbing down through the rock and he was sweating something awful. All of a sudden he was just there next to us. Turns out, that's where we had to climb up. I debated about turning around, but didn't. lol My son climbed up too fast for me to grab a shot of it. The arrow that points to the "steps" is rather deceiving. It looks like it's pointing to the dead end. Needless to say, I survived. My son basically ran up all of the steps. Show off.


We got back onto the Railroad Trail and it spits you out in what seems like a deserted parking lot. It was such an odd end to the hike. lol We walked out to the street which took us to the main part of Taylors Falls. Across the highway is another area to hike, but we just chilled out for a few minutes before we made our way back under the road to the visitor center. We grabbed our car and ate at a restaurant in town. Let me just say I would suggest eating anywhere other than Chisago House for your meal. I don't normally call out places that aren't great, but this place was probably one of the worst restaurants I've ever eaten or been served at.



All in all, this was an extremely beautiful place to visit. It's pet friendly so there were lots of people with their dogs. One gal actually had hiking boots on her dog so you know they explore a lot. It would be a fabulous place to camp as well. I definitely want to go back and possibly try kayaking, the boat tour, and the potholes.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Until The Mountains Fall By Connilyn Cossette

Until the Mountains Fall
by Connilyn Cossette
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764219887

I was so thrilled to be part of the launch team for Conni! Her Cities of Refuge series was the first I've read of hers and have fallen in love with her writing. She's one of those authors where you want to devour every book that comes out.

Summary:

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband's brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protection of her father, Kedesh's head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother's death would mean wedding her. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with war looming over Israel, Rivkah's father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from within and without Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

My Review:

Wow! Just...wow! Until the Mountains Fall was incredible. Do you ever read biblical fiction and you then want to dive into scripture? I've been reading through Joshua and Judges again, and reading Until the Mountains Fall has me hungering for more of the Old Testament. How often do you hear someone say that?!

Ok, so can I be honest with you about something? I have a 16 yr old son. Malakhi is 16 yrs old. Thinking of my son taking on the responsibility of marrying his brother's wife boggles my mind. Now, before you go crazy, here are a couple of things I know. 1) Things in Biblical times were obviously different. 2) Being 16 yrs old in different cultures makes a huge difference. It was just interesting reading about a character who's the same age as my son. HA!

Moving on... oh, Rivkah. You know when people are about to make a very, very bad decision and you can see it coming, but can't do anything about it? Yep, Rivkah! And the cost of her choice has an impact on everyone who has known her and love her.

Malakhi, being the boy that he is, makes choices that Rivkah just doesn't understand. That only leads to her solidifying her decision not to marry him. The ripple effect hits both of their families. I have to tell you, watching their lives fall apart is terribly difficult, which is due to the wonderful writing of the author.

With Connilyn's writing, you literally feel as though you've been transported to Biblical time Kedesh. Also, reading about this time in the Bible really brings it to life. You see in a fictional setting of what life might've been like with the Israelites disregarding God's Word. Not following the Law, marrying Canaanite women, and living willfully sinful lives causes those who are following the Law to struggle. The tribes who left the bondage of Egypt have given way to idols and are in a new bondage.

Until the Mountains Fall is also a reminder of the prodigal son. When we turn back to the Father, He rushes to us as though we never left Him. This is incredibly clear as you read the story. What a story that compels you to dive into the Word and to seeing how devastating the impact can be when we disobey God's covenant as well as legal agreements we've made with others.

I'm already sad having read through this book so quickly! I catch myself thinking of the characters and all that they went through. Thankfully there's another book in the series. I'm pretty sure I will never tire of Connilyn's gift with words. Run, don't walk to get your hands on a copy!

About the Author:

When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), bestselling author Connilyn Cossette is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure, out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Her novel Counted With the Starswon the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semifinalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Monday, July 8, 2019

27th Annual Giant National Barbecue Battle

This was our second year attending The Giant National Barbecue Battle in Washington D.C. thanks to Liquified Creative who gave us Media passes to attend the event. I have to tell you, this is one of the best events that we've attended in the area. We went 2 yrs ago and had a great time.


When we first got there we talked to a couple of the people running the Famous Dave's restaurant. Holy smokes there was so much good food there! We were so bummed we hadn't been there the day before because Dave had been on-site. And can I just say, it was awesome seeing a woman at one of the bigger grills! She looked like she was having a blast.


Part of the plan when we go down to this Battle is to go with an empty stomach. There's SO much to sample throughout the entire event. Giant has several tents (extremely long tents) that you can get in line for. Now, you have to be prepared. The Giant tents have long lines, but always worth it!


Fred was in barbecue heaven. He loves barbecued food more than most people. While I'm not a sauce fan, I am a rub fan. I'm always searching for a new rub for Fred to put on our ribs. This is a great place to try some out. This is also the perfect way to try foods that you typically wouldn't.


For example, while I like hummus, I've never seen Fred try it. We were able to sample the Sabra flatbread and he literally said to me, "I want to try this recipe at home." Jaw. Drop! I couldn't believe those words came out of his mouth. We grabbed the recipe card and I'm looking forward to him trying it out.


Also, if you're anything like me, don't you want to try a sample of something before you spend money on it? I mean, there are some products out there you might buy outright. Like trail mix. All you have to do is look at what's in it to know if you'd be interested. Then there are other foods and drinks that I'm not going to spend $5 on just to take a sip or a bite and realize it's going in the trash. lol Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way.


While I was in line for one of the Giant tents, he ditched me for a barbecue station. The first one he went to was out of most of their food. he went to the next station, which was Dyvine BBQ and he loved their food so much he couldn't stop talking about it. Meanwhile, through one tent, I probably sampled 20 different brands. SERIOUSLY, I love going to the Battle!


Not everything is food related at The Giant National Barbecue Battle. They also had people there from the health industry. You could talk to people about nutrition, dental health, as well as day to day living. They also have 3 band stages with different artists playing throughout the day. It was so great to sit back and listen to the bands.

We also made sure to take pictures with the Planters vehicle and the Oscar Meyer one. Those are classics to check out. There's also a food booth that can't be overlooked. They have deep fried Oreos, Twinkie, Cookie Dough, and Reese's! Fred went with the singular Twinkie and I had 3 Reese's. Just...wow! I saved 2 for the boys to enjoy when we got home.


On a side note, Sundays are a great day to go, especially being there in the afternoon because they companies are trying to offload all of the samples they brought with them. They'd literally grab handfuls of their products and dump them into our bags. Thank you very much!

The next time we go I'll be taking a small, soft cooler with us. It was sweltering down there and we grabbed quite a few samples that weren't going to be good by the time we made it home: yogurt, mayo sample, and a few other drinks/food samples.

Speaking of "next time" we'll be heading down again next year. They've already set the dates of June 27th & 28th.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Number Of Love By Roseanna M. White

The Number of Love
by Roseanna M. White
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764231810

This past year I've really loved having the opportunity to read books by Roseanna M. White. Her writing is EXACTLY what I love to read. When I saw The Number of Love come across my email as an option for review, I didn't even think twice about it and probably submitted to review it within 10 seconds. HA! Yes, I love this author that much! I'm really excited to share my review with you.

Summary:

The Toughest Puzzle She'll Have to Solve
Might Be the Wishes of Her Own Heart

Three years into the Great War, England's greatest asset is their intelligence network--field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack German telegrams for hints of the enemy's plans. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, she discovers for the first time in her life that numbers aren't enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won't give up. He's smitten quickly by the quick and brainy Margot, but soon the dangers of the war draw ever closer. Margot and Drake will have to team up to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

My Review:

WHAT a great book! I'm incredibly excited for this new series. The Codebreakers piggybacks off of the Shadows Over England series. I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Number of Love!

This story was compelling from start to finish. I'm absolutely fascinated by Margot's character. She reminds me of a combination of Spock from Star Trek and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. lol Margot is such a fascinating character. Clearly Drake thinks so too! One of the things I forget about her is her age. Her mind is so "old", it's hard to remember she's still a teenager.

In this book we also meet Drake and Dot. Siblings who come into Margot's life at a pivotal time. Drake is undercover and his family doesn't even realize it! The espionage he has to do is pretty harrowing! I would imagine anyone who works in that field has to keep all kinds of crazy secrets, even back in a time where there was no technology like we have today.

The act of getting their hands on the codebooks from the Germans and having people interpret them was fascinating to read, even from a fictional viewpoint. Oh to have been a fly on the wall of Room 40 with the way Roseanna M. White described it.

There are a couple different storylines going on in The Number of Love. The first being with the main characters of Drake and Margot, and a smaller one with Dot. Margot and Dot's relationship was a very interesting one. They understood each other in a way only people who deal with life differently could understand. I really enjoyed their relationship.

The writing was spot on and was gripping enough to make me want to keep turning the page and staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I was surprised at one spot in the book that was completely unexpected and I thought it was and interesting "twist." Another aspect I liked was how the author wrote an explanation of saying bad words through Margot's mind. I think some authors push the envelope too much or come too close to using foul language. The way she wrote it was one in which other authors could learn from.

I'm already looking forward to book 2 in this series. I'm digging the character whom it will center around. Roseanna certainly piqued my interest when she introduced him in book 1. You'll have just as much anticipation once you finish reading this one!

About the Author:

(www.roseannamwhite.com) is a bestselling, Christy Award-nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two kids, designing book covers, editing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books . . . to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

First Day Of Summer At Hersheypark

One of our favorite places to go is Hersheypark. It's such a great, family friendly place to spend a day, especially a 20th birthday. My oldest son turned 20 and we spent his birthday at Hersheypark thanks to tickets we were given by the Park!


It had been raining so much lately I was incredibly thankful that Saturday was a sun shiny day! Whew. We headed up to Hershey, PA which is a 3 hour drive. Listen, if you live more than an hour away, my suggestion is to get a hotel room and stay either at the Park or near the Park the night before. Unfortunately, because we're not morning people, we didn't get up to Hersheypark until 12:45! The guys were finally in their first ride line by 2:00. See why I say to get a hotel the night before?


While the boys headed off to the Sidewinder, I told Fred I wanted to grab a King Size Milkshake. And I didn't mean just any kind, but it was National Cookie Dough Day at the park so that's the one we ordered. Oh my word, it was incredible! It was so stinking hot, it started melting right away. hahaha We just had to down it and eat it as fast as possible, but it was a delicious choice.


This was the first time the guys made it to the Wildcat. That was a pretty decent line that they got through. I think it was probably the fastest line they went through. In this section of the Park they have benches under the trees so it's perfect for those of us waiting for the riders.


Turns out the first full day of summer combined with it being a Saturday means half of the United States is at Hersheypark! lol This was our first time going where the lines were an hour and a half to two hours long. This was also our first time making it back to the Laff Track section of the Park. I sat down to waited for the guys to ride it, and while I waited a family sat down next to me and I ended up talking to them for the next hour and a half.


I actually got on a roller coaster this time. My rides are typically the carnival type rides. I went on the Trailblazer and my amusing husband thought he'd record me screaming, but it was such an easy coaster I didn't do anything but smile. lol He was very disappointed. Another ride that was my speed was the Dry Gulch Railroad. Just a fun little train ride that lasted about 5 minutes.


Now, the ride I did close my eyes on was the Tidal Force. Not only did I close my eyes, I hid my face. As if THAT was going to help anything. hahahaha This bad boy ride will SOAK you. There will not be an inch of you that remains dry. My suggestion for The Boardwalk at Hersheypark is visit early in the day or afternoon so that you can be dry by the time the sun starts to set. We rode Tidal Force around 6:30pm and we were pretty chilly afterwards. Of course we brought a change of clothes so the rest of the evening we were dry.


We were looking for an affordable place to eat so while we were still between Midway America and The Boardwalk 2 of us grabbed sandwiches at Subway and 2 of us ate at Dispatch Pizzeria. Before we left we also grabbed ice cream treats again at Simply Chocolate. I mean, how could we not?



My goal for our next trip to Hersheypark is to visit ZooAmerica. In all of the times we've been there I haven't been able to get to that part of the Park. Shocking isn't it with how much I love wild animals? I'm hoping we can get back there in August. There's construction happening so when you first get to the Park it won't look at all how you remember it. Hershey Chocolatetown will be opening in a year so the front of the Park is a construction zone, but they have it set up so that you enter seamlessly once you get there. Looking forward to our next trip!


Friday, June 14, 2019

The Logic Of God By Ravi Zacharias & Giveaway

The Logic of God
by Ravi Zacharias
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 978-0310454038

I read Ravi Zacharias' biography last winter and it was wonderful. I'm not big on biographies, but Ravi is incredible and I was so thankful when a friend offered to loan me her book. When FrontGate asked me to review his newest book The Logic of God there was no way I was saying, "No," to them.

Summary:

We all have doubts that challenge our faith. We wonder whether the Bible still matters, or whether God is truly as loving and personal as we hope. In his first ever devotional, The Logic of God, apologist Ravi Zacharias offers 52 readings that explain how and why Christianity, the Bible, and God are still relevant, vital, and life-changing for us today. To all our dilemmas Ravi says, "I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds."

With a remarkable grasp of biblical facts and a deep understanding of the questions that trouble our hearts, Ravi tackles the most difficult topics with ease and understanding. But The Logic of God is more than intellectual; it is also personal, offering thoughtful wisdom on:

  • when Jesus draws especially near you.
  • the deep ray of hope found in God's Word.
  • how God transforms disappointments.
  • why prayer matters.
  • how genuine peace is possible.
  • making sense of suffering.

​Ravi makes profound biblical truth easy to understand. And if your life is busy, this book is designed for you! It addresses 52 topics that you can read over the course of one year or slowly digest at your own pace. Each entry includes a Scripture, questions for reflection, and some practical application steps.


When you're struggling with questions and doubts, confused, curious, or just want a clearer way to express your faith The Logic of God has answers that satisfy the heart and the mind.


My Review:

What an incredible book for Christians to have on hand. Ravi Zacharias is an incredible apologetic. He applies this gift in his book The Logic of God to help us grow deeper in our own faith as well as being able to share it with others.

He wrote this in a way that we read one chapter a week for 52 weeks. Ravi has us covered for an entire year. He broke it down into weekly readings because he doesn't want us to skim the topic for the day. He wants us to read it and mull it over throughout the week. He starts each chapter with a scripture and ends with 2 questions for reflection and 2 questions for application.

When I first started going through the book, I "ended" up in a conversation with an unbeliever. God knew exactly the timing of this book being in my life and this discussion starting! I knew Ravi would have answers for me because he's so incredible at apologetics. For myself it was important for me to read Chapter 11"Crossing Bridges" so I knew how to approach people who have a different worldview than I do. Chapter 3 "Point of Exclusion" was a significant one to share in the conversation with the unbeliever.

Taking Ravi's request to heart, I haven't made it through the entire book since I've only had it for a few weeks. For the review I skimmed the rest of the book and I'm looking forward to a full read of it. So far, the weeks have been poignant to reflect on throughout the week. The questions are certainly challenging ones for me because I'm not very cerebral. They have caused me to think deeply about my answers and my beliefs. I can answer some questions on an emotional level, but often times answering them with clear and concise answer.

I'm hoping that when I finish with 52 weeks I'll be channeling a bit of Ravi Zacharias through my brain! I think this would be a fantastic book to work through either individually or with a group of people. Having a discussion over each topic would be a wonderful way to build upon what we learn by hearing what God has shown others.

Now you have the opportunity to win The Logic of God as well! Ends 6/15/19.



About the Author:

RAVI ZACHARIAS is a speaker and an author of over 25 books. He is founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (www.rzim.org), headquartered in Atlanta with over a dozen offices worldwide. He has received many honors in recognition of his writings and global impact. He and his wife, Margie, have been married for almost 50 years and have three grown children. They reside in Atlanta.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

More Than Words Can Say By Karen Witemeyer

More Than Words Can Say
by Karen Witemeyer
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764232190

I was so honored to be chosen to be part of the release of Karen's 2nd book in her A Patchwork Family series. I received More Than Words Can Say from Karen and am thrilled to share my review with you below. You may have read my review of More Than Meets The Eye and this is the follow up following Zach's story.

Summary:

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free to live life on his own terms. No opportunities to disappoint those he cares about, just the quiet bachelor existence he's always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away once again when the baker of his favorite breakfast treat is railroaded by the city council. As hard as he tries to avoid getting involved, he can't turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man's name on her bakery's deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. Not the stoic lumberman who oozes confidence without saying a word whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can't even control her pulse when she's around him.

Once vows are spoken, Abigail's troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. As trust grows between Zach and Abby, she finds she wants more than his rescue. She wants his heart.

My Review:

Oh my word! I LOVED More Than Words Can Say! I was riveted to the page from the start. We catch up with Zach Hamilton after he's left the home he's shared with his adopted siblings. The readers also meet Abigail Kemp who has been running her father's bakery ever since he became sick and passed away.

The two become entwined and the reader begins to see Zach for more than just the older kid who ends up having to provide for 2 other orphans. We get to see his tender side. I have to say, at first I didn't think the man on the cover really conveyed the Zach we met in More Than Meets The Eye, but it's definitely who he is as we get to know him better throughout this story.

On a side note, I love, love, love that Abigail is a curvy girl, and Zach has no problem appreciating her figure in a way that's respectful and Abby understands that she's not just the dumpy, chubby sister no one could be interested in. What a breath of fresh air.

These two are ready to take on not only the city council, but also Abby's old best friend who has become a very bitter woman as well as the past that's coming back to haunt Abby's sister, Rosalind. They're definitely a force to be reckoned with. One of the aspects I like most about these characters (thanks to the author's writing) is that they talk to each other. If they're upset, even though one or the other would like to avoid it, they end up discussing whatever it is. Another breath of fresh air if I do say so myself.

More Than Words Can Say is definitely a book that will keep you awake until the wee hours of the night because you aren't going to want to stop at the end of the chapter you're on. So, be prepared to have some time to read because you won't want to the story to stop. I think the anticipation of Abigail and Zach figuring out their feelings for each other is part of it as well as hoping the antagonists in the story either finally acquiesce or get their comeuppance. There were a couple times I wanted to turn to the last chapter just to quell my excitement, but I didn't! I was enjoying the story too much to ruin it!

I would have to say this is probably my favorite book from Karen Witemeyer thus far. I'm ready for another one!


About the Author:

Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyerwrites historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at www.karenwitemeyer.com.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Britfield & The Lost Crown By C.R. Stewart & Giveaway


Britfield & The Lost Crown
by C.R. Stewart
Publisher: Devonfield Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-7329612-1-0

I was able to receive a copy of Britfield & The Lost Crown thanks to FrontGate. This book is geared to children 9-12 years old. This book will be released August 15, 2019 so be ready to pick it up for your kids!

Summary:

Tom has spent most of his life locked behind the cruel walls of Weatherly Orphanage, but when he learns that his parents might still be alive, Tom knows he must do what he can to find them. He can’t leave Weatherly without his best friend Sarah, so armed with a single clue to his past, the word Britfield, the two make a daring escape by commandeering a hot air balloon. Now they’re on the run from a famous Scotland Yard detective and what looks like half the police officers in England. Tom and Sarah’s journey takes them from Oxford University to Windsor Castle, through London, and finally to Canterbury. Along the way, they discover that Tom may be the true heir to the British throne, but even with the help of two brilliant professors, it looks like Tom and Sarah will be captured and sent back to the orphanage before they have a chance to solve Tom’s Royal mystery.

My Review:

It's been a while since I've truly read a pre-teen novel, and Britfield & The Lost Crown was a fun adventure. I do want to point out that this isn't a Christian novel which I didn't realize initially. That being said, I was ready to give into the story.

Initially I wasn't a fan of the names of the villains. The author was a bit basic and in your face with the names. lol What I found interesting was how detailed and in-depth the rest of the book was. When the author talked about the places that the characters visited, the detail was incredible. You basically get a history lesson as you read the story. So the names of the villains surprised me. One of the only negatives was the mention of one of the non-essential characters lighting a cigarette.

One thing that I kept doing was forgetting that this story was set in modern times. When I think of the word "orphanage" my mind thinks back to the early part of the century or the previous ones. I don't typically think in the present. It took a while for me to adjust my thinking. Also, the look of the hot air balloon on the cover doesn't look like the modern balloons I've seen. Reminders of the present day came at one of the libraries where Tom needed helping searching on the computer for the word "Britfield".

I enjoyed the flow of the story and as I read, I tried to imagine what it would be like as a 12 yr old reading the book. Honestly, I think they'd be enthralled. The escape of Tom and Sarah, their adventure trying to hide from all of the bad people, riding in a runaway hot air balloon, etc would certain grab a child's attention and keep it to the very end.

I think young kids who like like adventure stories will love this series. The author's website looks like it's going to have some fun interactive opportunities. You can also check out some of the different spots Tom and Sarah visit throughout the story. It's a pretty amazing feature and a great way for kids to get a better visual idea of where the characters in the book visit. Overall this was an enjoyable book and one kids would enjoy.


About the Author:

Born in Newport Beach, California, C. R. Stewart has 20 years of experience in writing fiction, non-fiction and movie screenplays. He is a prolific writer, producer, creativity specialist, international consultant and prominent speaker.



Now you have the opportunity to win this book! Be sure to enter!! Winner selected on 7/1/2019.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Visit Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. I drove up with my pastor's kids to meet them for the day and then I took off on my own. Yes, on my own. I have to tell you, I have actually enjoyed going to places like this and doing it on my own. I can walk as fast as I want, stop at the animals I want to see, skip the ones I'm not as enamored with, and linger longer at the ones I was fascinated with.


First, the parking is free! We were able to get a super close parking spot even though the zoo had been open for almost 3 hours. The cost for my ticket was $17.95. Not a bad price for all of the animals you get to see.

Visitors start off in the Forest Passage. I caught a small glimpse of a sleeping Canadian Lynx as well as the Amur Tiger. The Tigers were in the shade napping. Smart Tigers. lol Getting to the zoo in the middle of a hot June day means you should expect some animals to be snoozing in a shady spot. I also was able to spy a Komodo dragon and was surprised at how large it was.

From the Forest Passage you can go to the right and head towards Kids Kingdom or the left to the African Savannah. I went left. The flamingos caught my eye. They are such an incredibly beautiful bird! Also saw a black rhino trying to snack of shrubs through its enclosure. Silly Rhino! Caught a glimpse of a couple sleeping African Lions. I was able to grab pictures of other Savannah animals, but sadly most of them were at poor angles. Can't win 'em all, eh?


The elephants were fantastic to watch and I probably spent the most time watching them. They were at the watering hole grabbing some water and one was giving herself a dirt bath. So fun to watch. As I went around the corner to get another view of them, I saw a person standing next to an elephant. I figured it was part of their Wild Experience. As I turned to see them face forward, there was a line of people to stand next to it! 🤯 Visitors had the opportunity to stand next to the matriarch of the elephant herd for $10. Up to 10 people could do it. I walked past it, but then I knew I'd probably never have the chance to get up close and personal with one ever again so I went back. It was cash only so I had to borrow it from our pastor. HA!

I was actually glad I was so far ahead of them because I knew that I'd probably be so overwhelmed by the experience I'd start crying. Turns out, I got a text they were heading that way to do it as well! CRUD! They got there just in time... honestly! Sure enough, as I started walking over to her I started tearing up and I told her handler that I was going to cry. He said, "It won't be the first time." As I was standing next to her, she turned a bit to me and nudged me with her trunk! I wanted to hug her and not let go. I was shocked at how rough her trunk was and she had the longest random hairs sticking out from it. So in awe of God's handiwork in creating this majestic beast. I wanted to spend a LOT more time with her. I could've used at least another hour. heh heh heh


As I was leaving the Savannah I was able to see the Masai Giraffe and Grant's Zebra eating. Those I was able to get a great photo of. Right next to this area was the Tropical Forest. The lemurs cracked me up. You'll see in the photo below why I had to laugh. This is how I like to relax. hahahaha I didn't grab photos of the other primates, but shared videos on my Instagram Stories. You can find them in my Highlights.

My next stop was at The Islands which also spills over to the Jungle Odyssey. This was all outdoor. First was the Philippine Crocodile. It was having a great time keeping cool swimming around its tank. And there were the cutest baby clouded leopards! It was hard to get photos of them because of the glare on the glass, but they were sweet to see sleeping. The anteaters and capybara were fun to see together. One of the capybara was sitting in the mud. I'm telling you, it was stinking hot on Saturday.


The PPG Aquarium and Water's Edge are right next to each other and walking inside the aquarium was so cool and relaxing. Anyone else hypnotized by watching the sharks swim around? I kind of zipped my way through the aquarium. I paused at the jellyfish to watch them swim around and loved seeing the stingrays super close was incredible. They're such an interesting species. I actually touched 2 at the Stingray Touch Tunnel. They feel slimy and I could feel the spine of one. It was SO cool! At the Water's Edge we got to see the Sea Otters being fed and that was delightful. That was a fun video to grab.


My last stop was at the Kids Kingdom. Sadly I didn't realize the Worlds of Discovery was just past Kids Kingdom. No idea how I missed it, but next time, right? I wasn't sure if I should go into Kids Kingdom since I was kidless for the day, but as soon as I saw the sign about alpacas I was going to knock the kids out of my way to get to them. Ha! This was definitely kid heaven. There's even a mini log ride! The alpaca were in an enclosure so that when you walked around them, the only way you were allowed to touch/pet them was if they came to the border of their area. I mean, they were literally right there for the petting. As long as you didn't leave the path, you could pet them. I was able to pet the butt of one as it was eating. lol You get what you get and don't throw a fit.


It was really a great day. I was there for about 3 hours. If I'd have gone with little kids it would've easily been a full day. There are plenty of places to eat or grab snacks. I ate before I went in so I don't know how much anything costs. One expense I absolutely want to have next time is the Wild Encounter. You can pick an animal on their specific list to spend about a half hour with. Each encounter is different. The current cost is $60. How incredible would that be? To get up close to an animal with a small group.

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, I would highly suggest you take a day out at the zoo. It's a fabulous way to spend the day and I'm looking forward to when I can take the whole family there since none of the guys have experienced it.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Heart & Home By Victoria Duerstock & Giveaway

Heart & Home: Design Basics for Your Soul and Living Space
by Victoria Duerstock
Publisher: Abingdon Press
ISBN: 978-1501881039

I have been trying to do things around our home, little by little, to make it homier. My hope with reviewing Heart & Home with was that I could get design tips as well as spiritual encouragement.

Summary:

Our home and its design can encourage spiritual growth in our hearts. Heart & Home is a short devotional book with daily devotions for 90 days. The devotionals seek to draw clear connection between the basics of interior design and scripture that encourages spiritual growth within our hearts. The devotionals inspire women to have a captivating heart and home. Included in each devotional is an applicable design tip and photographs. Example devotional topics include unity and harmony, negative space, flow, focal point, and balance.

This devotional includes four-color photographs of home interiors throughout the book.

Click here to view a sample of the book.

For more information about the series and for links to purchase, visit https://www.abingdonpress.com/victoriaduerstock.


My Review:

I know full well how an organized and beautifully designed home can make people feel relaxed and comfortable. I also know how unsettled we can feel when we're in a home that is disorganized and is out of whack with design. I'll be honest. I have no clue how to decorate a home. It seems like I have an idea of what could go in each little spot, but nothing is cohesive, even in the same room. Cringeworthy I know!


I have a long way to go when it comes to home decor. I have lots of ideas, but I think I need several homes so I can put to them all to use. Starting with the first page I realized how much I really have to learn. I have colors galore throughout the house. Gulp. Turns out  I should've picked an overall color scheme and stuck with "three or four colors to use in various shades throughout the house." Too bad I didn't read this before I slapped paint on the walls in different rooms.

I really like how the scripture and prayer go along with each design idea. They fit well with the design suggestion the author brings us. The photos not only give me great inspiration but I like the sense of calm each of them brings. If an image can do that for me, how much more would that be in my house? There are a couple pages that I would actually like to incorporate into my home.

I also like the layout of the book. Under each of the titles is the scripture, the author's thoughts on how to apply the design idea and how it fits in with faith. To be able to pull those two together page after page is a gift! I appreciate the prayers as well because they're a great starting point to go deeper into prayer.


I want it to feel cozy and homey. I feel like taking some of the steps recommended by Victoria I might be able to accomplish some of that goal. At least little by little, right? Not only do I want those as part of my home, but peace would be wonderful, too. I know when I'm at my best friend's house, there's so much peace. Her design throughout the house is simple and peaceful. There's not a disorganized spot in her home. It's definitely inviting. Like scripture says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." John 14:27a

One of the other facets of my home is getting the family onboard. Having an all around idea for our home and having my guys on the same page as me will probably help us get to our (aka MY) goal sooner rather than later.


As much as I enjoyed Heart & Home, I'm looking forward to the September release of the "For Christmas: Celebrating Joy In Your Living Space"! This would make the perfect gift for my Christmas loving daughter who is in her first home.


About the Christmas release:

As a writer, teacher, and speaker with a busy work and family life, Victoria Duerstock understands that all the tasks of the holiday season can make it easy to forget the true joy that Christmas can bring. In Heart & Home for Christmas, Duerstock brings her mission to inspire hope for God's purpose, and her 20 years of experience in the furniture and design industry together, connecting Scripture with design elements and easy decorating tips in a way that reflects the true spirit of Christmas. The devotions and holiday decorating tips will encourage spiritual growth and inspiration to have both a captivating heart and home at Christmas.

Click here to view a sample of the book.

Releases September 17, 2019



About the Author:

Victoria Duerstock is a writer, blogger, teacher, and speaker. Her mission is to inspire hope and ignite bigger dreams for God’s purpose in each of our stories. She has a master’s degree in music, but ended up working in the furniture industry for more than twenty years and loves to make connections between our home environments and our spiritual lives. Victoria writes at Encouraging Women Today, Everything’s Gravy, Creative Corner, and Serious Writer Academy and also has contributed to devotionals for Worthy. She lives in Nesbit, Mississippi, with her husband, and they have three children.

Follow her on:

Facebook - http://facebook.com/VDuerstock
Twitter - https://twitter.com/vduerstock
Instagram - http://instagram.com/vduerstockhttp://instagram.com/heartandhomebooks


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Creative Commons License
Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.