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.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Storm Rising By Ronie Kendig

Storm Rising
by Ronie Kendig
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764231872

When I had the opportunity to accept Storm Rising for review from Bethany House, I was pretty excited. I hadn't read any of Ronie's books and I'd heard what a great author she was. As you know, most of the books I read are historical fiction, but every now and again I get an itch for something different. Storm Rising fit that bill.


Does an Ancient Book of Prophecy Hold the Answers to Saving the World . . . Or Predict Its Destruction? 
Mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets--and dangers--never before seen on earth. 

Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is once more given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as Viorica snatches the volume right out from under them.

Iskra "Viorica" Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most--freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe, and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives, and entire nations. Though both are haunted by secrets of the past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in centuries-old words could unleash a storm of their own destruction.

My Review:

Do you like books that grip you from start to finish? Have you sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what's about to happen? If so, then Storm Rising is the book for you. Starting with the prologue, it's an action packed adventure until the epilogue!

Not having read Ronie Kendig's books before I wasn't prepared to be "all in" with the story. To be honest, my mind kept going back to the characters during my day when I was reading. Have you ever had that happen? Your mind wanders to the fictional characters you're reading about, and you're wondering what they're doing? lol As if they're doing anything without you reading the book.

I think for me, that's how great this writing is. The characters were brought to life through Ronie's writing. Leif, the former Navy SEAL, who has 6 months of his life missing from his memory. That's part of the storyline that I'm committed to. There's also something else fascinating about him that I hope will be answered in the books yet to come. The author and those who have read the book already should know what I'm referencing.

Then there's Iskra. The life she's lead - the terrible things she's done and been through - she's such a fighter. It's easy to see why she and Leif have a hard time building any trust. There's just something so "set apart" about her. Something that makes me want to cheer her on. Tenacity. Maybe that's it. Strange that I would hope a bit of her would be in me.

Next there's the rest of the special ops team who the readers get to know and you root for. I like that they're present throughout the entire story so that we become invested in them as well. Each one for their own reason, but trust me, you're going to like each one of them

Of course, what would a story like this be if we weren't questioning those in authority and wondering if they're for or against the team. Who can be trusted at all throughout this book? And of course, I have to mention the Book of Wars which is what this series is all about. I never even knew this was mentioned in Numbers. I read where it's mentioned, but don't understand it at all. How cool that the author ran with it as a storyline!

There is some romance in the story as well. When I'm reading books like this I tend to gloss over those parts. I mean, I realize it's an important part of the story and we get to know the characters better, but when the romance parts show up I tend to read over them a bit quicker. I'm in it for the action! hahahaha

I've already read the summary for book 2 which comes out in March 2020 and I'm on high alert! The only hard part about this book was finishing it so quickly. I enjoyed it so much I wasn't ready for it to end. Today has almost been like an adrenaline rush that I'm coming off of as I read the epilogue. This book is absolutely a must-read this summer!

About the Author:

Ronie Kendig (www.roniekendig.com) is an award-winning, bestselling author of over twenty novels. She grew up an army brat, and now she and her Army-veteran husband live a short train ride from New York City with their children and a retired military working dog. Ronie's degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters.

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.


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.


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.

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