Doing the best she can to raise happy, healthy children

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I am very excited to have finished the last book in the Amish of Summer Grove series. It is a well-written fantastic story. To be honest, I want to get to my review quickly, so I won’t delay!

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Gathering the threads by Cindy Woodsmall

This is the third and final book of the series. Ariana has returned to the Old Order Amish that she grew-up and loving. She finds herself feeling confused and uncertain of where she belongs. Skylar is also found struggling a bit figuring out how she fits in with the Brenneman family.

This book ties the entire series together and pulls everything into a wonderful ending. Woodsmall’s characters continue to grow. I grew to love all of them. I loved where they ended and the path we took along the way.  The book is a coming age of sorts as both Skylar and Ariana must find thier path and define who they are.

This book is a Christian novel. There are multiple references to God. The story is so much more than a Christian Amish novel. It evaluates what it means to be a family and how to be true to yourself and honor God at the same time. There are many underlying Christian themes such as honesty, forgiveness, and love.

I honestly did not find anything negatives about this book. It was an absolute delite to read and a fitting conclusion to the series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish or Christian novels. I also would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories about family relationships. This book is an innocent story with no sexual contexts. There is the mention of past drug use and smoking. I would recommend this book to young adults.

On a scale of 1-5 book ends, I give this book a 5 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I did receive this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

If you’d like to pre-order this book, click HERE. You can also pre-order it from Amazon.

What are you reading? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to share a link to one of your recent book review.


So, I’m two days late this week in my Monday edition of 21 day fix post. I ended up traveling last weekend and although I got home yesterday, I was beat. Traveling alone with the kids was exhausting! It reminded me how lucky and grateful I am to have such a helpful husband.

So week 2 wasn’t great. I did good with the exercising for about 1/2 the time. Then with traveling and such, I did none. I did walk quite a bit. But that was pretty much it. My eating wasn’t great either. I drank a lot of coffee on the go (Starbucks and gas station sweetened coffee drinks). Yeah. I’m feeling the lingering effects of traveling, tiredness and poor eating choices.

Week 2 Goals: No Candy- did pretty good until I started the road trip. Seriously, I ate almost an entire bag of chocolate covered raisins while driving. Oops… Exercise daily- that did not happen. Increase water intake- also failed. Eat all fruits and veggies 4 days was also a failure.

Week 2 Accomplishments: I don’t think there were many. I did mostly make better snacking choices. I ate fruits and veggies for snacks when I was home. And really only splurged at the end of the week when I was traveling. So, I’m going to count that as an accomplishment.

Week 2 Areas for Improvement: Wow. There were a lot. I think overall, the biggest theme for me was finding a way to be accountable even when life gets busy. I think last week really reinforced my need to get a bit more structure in my eating/planning. I could have/should have done better. I could have planned and packed healthy snacks for myself. I could have gone to the store while out of town and picked up some fruit.

Week 2 Over-all thoughts: I struggled last week and see myself having some struggles this week too. I almost feel like I should’ve waited at least three weeks before trying to start this. Life is busy and hard and I’ve not put for the effort I needed to in order to be successful. I also feel like I made a lot of excuses for why my meal planning didn’t get done or I ate poorly and didn’t exercise. Sadly this week is 1/2 over and I’m feeling the same excuses break into my thinking, again. I’m wondering if I need to get connected to a challenge group to help me stay motivated.

Week 3 Prep: Honestly, I started this week still out of town and my “bad habits” from last week are lingering into this week. So, I did not get any prepping done.

Week 3 Goals: My biggest goal is to get re-focused on what I’m doing. Its late in the week to do much prepping as a goal. I will tonight make some hard boiled eggs. I will begin tracking my containers again. I have family in town this weekend, so I will make sure there are plenty of fruits and veggies in our house. Its also the State Fair starting this week. One HUGE goal for me is to not over-indulge in fair treats this year.

There you have it. My not-so-successful week of 21 Day Fix. I will work on the last few days of this week in hopes of salvaging some of it. We are all human and we have goods and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. I will not let that define me.

I’d love to hear how you manage eating healthy and/or follow the 21 Day Fix when you’ve got family visiting. I’ll have an extra 7 people (more than double my little family) staying with us for 3-4 days.

 


Hello my friends! Sorry I’m posting a lot today. I’m trying to get caught and/or stay caught up on my posts. The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy. Today was a bit more relaxed which is why I was able to finish up a book. We also ran a few items to Good-will and played some video games. Overall, a pretty good day!

I finished reading The Tea Planter’s Wife today and here is my review.

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The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Gwendolyn Hooper is a young, newly married woman who moved from London to Ceylon. Life in Ceylon is not at all what she expected. Her husband becomes distant, neighbors are difficult and the workers are resentful. She also quickly discovers her husband has a secret and he’s not willing to share it with her.

Jefferies does a great job of setting the stage and describing the environment of 1920’s Ceylon. She writes a rich story with themes of love, distrust, and prejudice. She tackled each of these topics while weaving a story with many twists and turns. This story does a good job of demonstrating how not being open with a spouse can lead to loss and poor decisions.

The cons of this story are a few. I had a hard time connecting with the main character. I found her immature and without much depth. In fact, I found many of the characters to be shallow. I believe the story would help flesh out the characters more. However, there were very little growth in the characters despite significant life circumstances. Her characters had wonderful opportunity to be fleshed out. I feel like the story would’ve been better if only one of the social issues/themes. This could provide more room to flesh out the character potentially. The lack of fleshed out characters and multitude of issues addressed in the book makes the book seem very long.

Overall I felt this book was just OK. Its not great, and probably wouldn’t come up in conversation for me to recommend.

On a scale of 1 to 5 bookends, I give this book a 3.

This book is not good for teenagers or younger as there are sexual scenes in the book. Although not completely explicit but they are written in the story.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher for an honest review.


Hello my friends!

I started the 21 day fix and am 1 week in. I did it about a year ago but graduate school took over my life. This led to a pretty sedentary life. Of course, this led to me gaining some weight. I decided to give this a go again since I enjoyed the exercises before and the diet overall focuses on healthy eating: lean meats, plenty fruits and veggies, etc. I also decided to write about my experiences following the 21 Day Fix.

Week 1 Goals: Exercise daily and begin following the diet.

Week 1 Accomplishments: I hit all 7 days of exercising. The last time I did this program, I skipped the Pilates and Yoga days. Instead I just took the day off from exercising. This time, I decided I didn’t want to do that and would plan on doing all 7 days of exercising. I did not buy any soda for the house. This is HUGE considering during graduate school I was drinking 3-4 cans of diet soda a day.

Week 1 Areas for Improvements: Diet. I did OK considering I started it somewhat abruptly. However, I still found myself snacking on candy my kids had (Dots, Twizzlers, Etc.). I also did not fully track all my food everyday.  I also drank my coffee as usual which includes adding some sugar and caramel syrup.

Week 1 Thoughts:  This was a pretty good week. The exercising felt good but I did have to modify every day most of the exercises. It was tough realizing how much I’ve lost in a year! I was much stronger when I was running and exercise regularly. Despite my diet not being perfect, I feel good about what I did last week.

Week 2 Goals: No candy! I don’t have much in the house this week so that will help me tremendously! Exercise daily. Eat all my veggies and fruits at least 4 days this week. Increase my water intake.

Week 2 Prep: I made two jar salads. I have fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge. I need to track down my food sheets with recipes I used last year. I’m hoping to find them, but if I don’t, I’ll reach out to a coach and ask for the lists.

Have you completed the 21 Day Fix? Did you like it? What fitness plan have you tried? I’d love to hear from you!


Hello my friends! A couple of weeks ago I found an amazing deal on the 6 quart instant pot. I’d been watching them for a few months after seeing a lot of chat on the interwebs about how awesome these things are. It took the hubby a while to think it was a good idea. It was one more appliance to fill up our cupboards. However, when Kohls’ deal helped convince him.

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Yogurt
I was so excited to make this. Honestly, this was the main reason I wanted an instant pot. Well that an the ability to cook chicken from frozen in 25 minutes. I have a rice cooker and a crock pot. So, although these tools would be useful, I could already accomplish those tasks.

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So, back on topic. yogurt. We eat a lot of yogurt in this house between just eating it and putting it in our smoothies. I also liked the idea of making my own yogurt. I hadn’t attempted it before buying the instant pot because it seemed like a lot of work. When I got the instant pot this was the first thing I researched. I immediately found several recipes with minor differences. I do think you may need to do some experimenting to make it work. I was pretty lucky I had success the first time.

Recipe 1
Ingredients
6 cups milk
2 TBS store-bought vanilla yogurt

Directions
1) Sanitize your instant pot: 1 cup water in the instant pot, 
set for 1 minutes.Have your valve in the sealing position. 
2) Pour out all the water. Add the milk. Push the yogurt button 
and then press the Manual button. The display should say boil. 
Once the instant pot has boiled the milk, it will ding and the 
display should say Yogurt. 
3) Once it finished boiling, shut off the instant pot and set a 
time for 25 minutes. Measure your yogurt and set on the counter. 
4) After the 25 minutes, open the instant pot and stir in the 
yogurt. Mix it well. 
5) Turn on the instant pot, push the yogurt button and add time 
to 14 hours.
6) Drain off extra fluid if desired.

This one worked pretty well. I originally set the instant pot for 8 hours, it didn’t seem set up well. Since it was late at night, I added the additional time to equal 14 hours so I could go to sleep! Everyone in the family love this yogurt. It lasted less than a week and I need to make some more.

For my second batch I decided to add a little vanilla.

Recipe 2

Ingredients
1/2 Gallon Milk
1 individual sized carton of vanilla yogurt
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Directions
1) Sanitize your instant pot: 1 cup water in the instant pot, 
set for 1 minutes. Have your valve in the sealing position. 
2) Pour out all the water. Add the milk. Push the yogurt button 
and then press the Manual button. 
The display should say boil. Once the instant pot has boiled the 
milk, it will ding and the display should say Yogurt. 
3) Once it finished boiling, shut off the instant pot and set a 
time for 25 minutes. Measure your yogurt and set on the counter.
4) After the 25 minutes, open the instant pot and stir in the 
yogurt and vanilla. Mix it well. 
5) Turn on the instant pot, push the yogurt button and add time 
to 12 hours.
6) Strain extra fluid as desired.

This second one did not set up as well. I did only do 12 hours instead of the 14. It had quite a bit of extra liquid. I was able to strain off quite a bit of fluid but it was still a runnier yogurt. At first, I was quite worried it wasn’t going to work. However, after it chilled in the fridge, it was thicker. My husband said he didn’t care for the vanilla in it. It felt it added an after taste. I’ll probably not add it in again when I make it but instead we’ll add it after and right before we eat it.

Here’s what the yogurt looked like once its finished but not drained yet.

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Have you tried to make yogurt? Do you have a good recipe for it? Have you had better luck when adding in flavoring? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment and share your yogurt success stories!

 


Hello my friends! This summer has been flying by here in my house. I and the littles have gone on several fun adventures. I need to sit down at some point and share those with you all. All of the extra fun the last several weeks have decreased my time for reading. This is for a good cause of course, making memories with my littles.

None the less, I did finish the second book in the Amish of Summer Grove series. And what a great book it is! Here is my review.

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Fraying at the Edge by Cindy Woodsmall

This is the second book in Woodsmall’s Amish of Summer Grove series. This book continues with Skylar and Ariana’s switched at birth story. Skylar a typical college student in the English world with a drug addiction finds herself in an Amish family that she doesn’t want or need. Ariana an Old Order Amish girl who loves her Amish life and has plans to marry Rudy is now forced to live in a world that goes against her morals. Both girls count down the days of returning to their old loves while struggling to get through each day. God is working in both their lives and in the end, they must choose which home is truly home.

This book is superbly written. It examines the pressures both girls face living in different worlds. Woodsmall does a wonderful job bouncing back and forth between the Amish and Englisch worlds. This seamless transition makes the story a quick and enjoyable read. Each girl has different struggles and I enjoyed reading the perspectives of each one as they adjusted to their lives.

This book not only looks at the differences between the two worlds, but it also briefly looks at drug dependence. Skylar  is a drug addict and she is determined to get her drugs to help her feel better. It does talk about the feeling she gets when she uses. The character’s in the book have tremendous strength when confronting her about her addiction. To quote the book, “Decide that you, your family, your future are worth more than these stupid pills!”

This book is a Christian novel and it does a wonderful job weaving scripture and Christian themes into the book. Not only does it focus on the Amish viewpoint, but it also points out how others view Christianity. Through Nicholas we see debates and conversation on how Christians can be viewed. This is a good way to help us as the readers begin to evaluate how we could answer some of these very same questions.

I try to provide some cons to books. Its hard with this book to find something. Woodsmall’s talent and experience in writing is evident. The one thing, I think I would change is when Skylar saw her parents again after 3 months living with the Amish. I feel like this was rushed maybe or just didn’t go as I pictured. There was a lot of hurt from Skylar and although she stated it and the parents acknowledged it, it just seemed rushed. I don’t know. Just something about it didn’t seem 100% right. It was still quite good though.

Overall, this was a solid Christian book taking the atypical story one more step further. I look forward to reading book 3! Book 3 is now available for pre -order.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 bookends.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish stories and Christian novels. There is mention of drug use and addiction so I would recommend this book for 17 and older and/or with caution in younger ages.

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of this book from the publisher for free in anticipation for the Book 3 launch.

What are you reading now? I’d love to hear about it. If you have a recent book you’d like to recommend, leave a link to your review in the comments.


Well, sadly, I must admit I’m at the age when it may or may not be acceptable to have a mid-life crisis. I’ve reached the age, I feel like I’ve got life pretty much figured out. Life is pretty routine. We’ve met the adult right’s to passage: marriage, full-time jobs, kids, mortgage, etc.

So, a mid-life crisis is acceptable now, right? Well, I don’t know about acceptable, but its been an ongoing conversation between myself and my husband. The “mid-life crisis” we talk about isn’t the typical. No, we don’t talk about getting a divorce and marrying younger spouses or buying that fancy sports car or even plastic surgery to look younger.

Our mid-life has us evaluating the difference we are making in the world. Are we really making an impact on it or are we just living day to day? How does our job help with that?

Part of my re-evaluation had to do with my job. Working for the “man” and making a big company wealthy and seeing very little of the wealth trickle down to its employees who do the work, isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be a disconnected voice at the end of the telephone receiving the verbal abuse from dissatisfied individuals. I don’t want that anymore. That change isn’t BIG enough for this mid-life crisis.

I think my mid-life crisis started 2.5 years ago when I enrolled for nurse practitioner school. We had to write an essay which included an explanation why we wanted to be a NP. I simply said I wanted to give back and provide quality care to some of the most needing individuals. That essay, I believe started my re-evaluation of my goals and what I wanted to accomplish.

And so, here I am, in my mid-life crisis looking for ways for our career, our life-work to mean more than making someone rich or an accumulation of things. I want to feel like what I do, means something. That this little God-given life is used for a GREATER good.

Currently, I’m processing what this looks like. I’ve got questions to ponder. How and what beyond my recent education and career change, can I do to make the world a better place. What have you done? What should I consider? Where do I go from here.

As I’m working through my mid-life crisis, I may came back here to write about it. If I do, assuming I do, I’ll start it as a series. But feel free to comment and let me know what your non-typical mid-life crisis looked like.