Monday, March 28, 2011

Backing It Up!

by Doula Brandi

I’m techno-illiterate. I don’t know a mother board from a video card. I only recently upgraded my CRT monitor to an itty bitty flat screen, but I digress. One thing I do know is that you MUST backup your computer, frequently. This has been drilled into my head by various individuals who shall remain anonymous. However those same mysterious individuals helped me immensely in compiling the information contained in this post and I am grateful to them! I’ll call them Mr. Chips and Ms SavvyData for the fun of it.

If you are working from home, you will have important files on your computer that you cannot afford to lose. These files are too important to leave to chance. When chances are, at some point in your life, your computer will crash. You may experience a natural disaster (think Japan) or a fire (heaven forbid) or even theft, but we must be prepared for these events while we hope that they never happen.

First rule of backing up is: JUST DO IT! And do it now. “It is 100 percent certain that ALL hard drives will fail, you just don’t know when. Also backup means a duplicate copy. Make two copies at a minimum” advises Ms SavvyData.

Be intentional in your efforts, schedule backups. Keep your backup device (disk, external hard drive or flash drive) in a safe place. Let your backup device dwell where you like to live, in mild temps away from moisture and out of the sun. Don’t use them for other purposes! If you use a flash drive for backup, don’t use it for school or another project. Keep it dedicated and in its own special place to prevent it from being lost. Flash drives disappear easily as we have discovered in our own home. Flash drives are subject to failure if they are: placed close to anything magnetic, dropped or exposed to water (such as being used as a toddler teething device). If you plan to backup on disk, remember that quality is important.

Secondly you should determine your frequency intervals. If you only add new information monthly, then a monthly backup should be sufficient. If however you are adding new data daily, such as research or photos then you should consider a daily backup. Make it part of your start-up or shut-down routine.

After you have committed to backing up on a disk or flash drive regularly, you may find that this method is not meeting your needs. If you have huge files (photos or video) you may need an external hard drive, or even an extra hard drive mounted in your current computer. You may be interested in one of the online backup subscription systems such as “The good [subscription services] take it seriously, with server farms located in multiple locations, high security buildings, climate controlled, and built to withstand natural disasters; earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Also they take the security of your data seriously against hackers and such. You could truly sit back and relax, and they will have your data backed up in multiple locations, so if one server/building fails, you are covered” says Ms SavvyData. So if you think that this type of service fits your style, do your research and find a reputable company to entrust your data with. Mr. Chips advises that even if you do have a backup subscription you should still perform targeted backup on certain very important files, so in reality you would have your backup backed up!

If you’re forgetful (like me) or need very frequent backup, you may be interested in an external hard drive with backup software that you can schedule and forget. Or you can utilize a RAID system. (umm, yeah, this is sooo not coming from me…) “If you want a complete minute to minute backup without having to think about it, you can have a mirror RAID set up on your computer that backs up everything continually on the second internal hard drive. The only problem is that your computer may run a bit slower at times since it is writing all the information twice” advises Mr. Chips.

So what exactly is RAID and how does it work? “The simplest and fairly inexpensive is RAID 1 (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). It is two hard drives installed with an exact mirror copy on each hard drive updated in real time. If one drive fails, you have the same exact information on the second drive. Just replace the failed drive with a new one and it will rebuild the information. No lost time or lost data. Of course there is always the chance they fail at the same time. Higher levels of raid [are available], with more disks, and more redundancy, so more drives can fail at the same time and still not lose information, and more cost too” explains Ms SavvyData.

A last parting thought from Ms SavvyData “… all this backing up does no good if the unthinkable happens, fire, tornado, flood (unless you have one of those online services). Make two copies and bring one to a friend or relative’s house and have them store it for you. Maybe get a backup buddy, commit to a weekly or monthly schedule, two external hard drives a piece, one to keep at your house and backup new files on and one to keep at your friends house, swap them on a predetermined schedule. Small businesses do this all the time, they send their backups home with employees, swapping them out nightly or weekly.”

Disclaimer: I do not subscribe to Carbonite nor am I recommending it; I am simply using it as an example.

Thanks again to Mr. Chips and Ms SavvyData for their expertise!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Currently Free Kindle Books

by Melissa Jagears

A Family of Value

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes

by Naomi Rawlings

A secret British spy, and unassuming midwife, and growing number of disappearing American men . . .

If you enjoy historical romance stories, you should check out Laurie Alice Eakes' book Lady in the Mist. Eakes' newest, full length novel is full of secrets, doubt, and forbidden love.

When local midwife Tabatha Eckles meets a stranger on the beach early one misty morning, she has no idea how drastically her life is about to change. But change it does, as Tabatha finds herself falling for the mysterious British indentured servant . . . and growing more curious about his secrets.

In a market saturated with inspirational romance authors, few books stand out as spectacular reads. Lady in the Mist is one of those books. It won't leave you feeling as though you've read this story before.

Eakes takes a woman deserted by every significant person in her life and pairs her with a man who has no choice but to one day abandon her. The characters of Tabatha and Dominick embody the essence of Christian romance. As the couple confronts forces both internal and external that drive them apart, both characters must work out their own relationships with God as well as solve a threatening mystery.

I wish more romance writers wrote stories as captivating and deep this one. I'll definitely be reading Eakes' next book.

Monday, March 21, 2011

(No longer) Currently Free Kindle Books

by Melissa Jagears

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives

Quiet Reflections of Peace

The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

We aren't Spartans for a Good Reason

by Melissa Jagears

Ok, so I'm probably the only person given the topic of Encouragement and thinks: "Plato's Republic's history on the Spartan culture could work."

If anyone out there reading this thinks, "Oh, I can totally see that." Then I want to meet you, my long lost twin. Anyway....

I was fascinated when reading Republic last year with the forms of government covered, but especially the Spartans. They were an oligarchy (a rule by the few) but an interesting one. Most oligarchic cultures that I know of chose the elite by race or descent. But the Spartans attempted to see from infancy who would be the strongest. To see each human by their inner worth. (And if they were judged unworthy they were killed, so eugenics basically.)

But even more fascinating was the children were taken away from their parents to be molded by the citizens who were deemed best for educating different types of children. The government officials tried to use everyone's natural skills to the state's advantage, and that included whoever had the best parenting skills would be chosen to parent other people's children.

So, here's the encouraging part: No one has every tried to set up this system again in the long ages that have passed since Sparta was destroyed.* Besides this one hiccup in history, I think mankind has realized that there is nothing better than parents (be it single, adopted, biological, etc.) for raising a child.

So if you've sacrificed to stay home with your children, don't let anything make you feel poorly for that decision. Deep down, in all of our hearts, we know that no one can raise children better than a parent who loves them. And if you are sacrificing something to give your children more of your time, attention, and direction, than you are the best person in the whole world to raise them because you love them most.

1 John 3:16- This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

The person who sacrifices the most for another loves them the most. Besides Christ dieing for my children to offer them eternal life--the ultimate Love--I am the one who is willing to sacrifice the most for them; therefore, I am the one that loves them most. Other relatives, day care workers, teachers, babysitters, maybe even some government workers may love my child, but they will never love them like me.

So if you are struggling against familial or societal pressure to get "a real job" or whatever it is, go with your parental instincts. You know what is best for your child, and if that means you plan to give up financial comforts, social status, etc. to give them more of you, then I want to encourage you by saying:

"You're right. Persevere. We aren't Spartans for a good reason."

*I do not claim to be an exhaustive historian, if a culture later in history tried to set up a Spartan-like oligarchy, I'm ignorant of it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(No Longer) Currently Free Kindle Books

by Melissa Jagears

Dropping in again to mention the kindle books currently free that might interest working moms

The Truth about What Customers Want

Living Rich by Spending Smart

Moms' Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World

If you don't have a kindle you can always download Kindle for PC so you can read it for free, or to store them until you do buy a kindle.

*I don't endorse these books, just letting you know they are free for a limited time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Portobello Mushroom Tortellini

by Desirea Packard

Portobello Mushroom Tortellini

1 1/2 pound cheese tortellini
3 large portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine (can substitute white grape juice)
3/4 pound alfredo pasta sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring pasta to a boil, cook for 8 to 10 minutes until done; drain. Meanwhile, prepare mushrooms by rinsing and thinly slicing the mushroom caps. In a medium skillet over low heat, combine wine, parsley, garlic and mushrooms, saute for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove skillet from heat and slowly add alfredo sauce, stirring to blend; season with salt and pepper. Separate hot pasta into servings and spoon sauce over pasta. Garnish with cheese.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Sleep Solution

by Sally Chambers

Glimpses and Guidance from the Garrett

Have you just been reminded by that women's magazine on the table that says you need to get your "beauty sleep?" and you know there's no way that's happening? Are you exhausted from conquering cobwebs, creating casseroles, chasing children, and the million other things you have to do every day?

I remember the times when I was exactly that, exhausted and complaining to my mother that 24/7 just wasn't enough. Wise woman that she was, she handed down some sage advice.

"Take naps when your children do."

No, I'm not encouraging you to sleep less, but I am discouraging you from worrying about when you sleep.

It's said that Ben Franklin only slept two to five hours a night, but he caught up on his lost sleep with cat-naps during the day.

Call it a power nap, siesta, or a kid-nap, it adds up to a smoother day. When I followed my mom's suggestion, I had much more energy, my "off-with-their-heads" mood vanished, and even though there was still dust in the corners, I don't think a soul noticed but me.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24 NKJV

Monday, March 14, 2011

Color Injection

by Cherilyn David

Sometimes I can’t figure out my palette. I’m an artist, but I’m conservative too. I like purple in my clothes and jewelry and lots of colors when it comes to flowers and paintings, but in my home I like greens and browns and earthy tones. My house looks it, apparently. I had some friends over recently and one of the husbands remarked as he entered the living room, he thought my house would be awash with color. It isn’t. Brown, black, cream and green are my primaries. We got a little crazy in the new house with some bright pinks and yellows in the bathrooms, but that’s it.

So it’s been bothering me, in the living room mostly. The old piano, neutral quilt and vanilla candles don’t help to lighten the mood. So I decided to inject some color. I do mean inject, not blanket or envelope. Not a complete overhaul and not a big investment. I decided to inject gold and dark teal. You keep your existing colors and just introduce something new!

The way I look at it, it doesn’t take much to makeover a room; fabric, paint and change.

Fabric: Thrift stores yield sheets, robes and if I’m very lucky, actual curtains. Fabric swatches I already had from quilting to cover the existing throw pillows. I am all about a new look for existing items! Keep in mind, the existing items don’t have to come from the same room. Take a walk through your house, dare I say garage ~ and see what you find. (My cost: 0 Realistic cost: $5)

Paint: Obviously, paint is a God send. Anything can be new and different, with a simple coat of paint. My craft drawers are full of fifty-cent bottles of paint and I have more paint brushes than socks. For this project I painted a purple vase gold, brushed a neutral frame with a little of gold and teal, but then wiped at it in a staining fashion. I painted three square canvases and my favorite ~ I had a candle holder, plate-type thing with browns, golds and cream and one burnt orange color. Covered the orange with teal. (My cost: $1.50 Realistic cost: $10)

I was having a hard time with my favorite green lamp. Not teal-green of course, that would be too easy. It’s more of a dark sage glass, and I love it!! So it went to my bedroom, replaced by a gold lamp from the dining room.

My favorite change of all has to be my pillow cover that I dyed teal. I accomplished this by mixing parts of green and blue RIT dye. There is still a black velvet paisley pattern on what used to be a cream, canvas background. Now it is teal, as are some old sheets turned curtains and pillow covers. RIT dyes are $1.66 apiece at Walmart. (Actual cost: $3)

Candles are awesome because you can get them in any color, arrange them in a variety of inexpensive ways and if you don’t care to burn or smell them, you don’t have to. I am not counting my cost for candles, because I would have been buying them anyway, just in more subdued colors. Don’t buy the more pricey glass holders in the candle aisle. Go to the glass dishes or square dinner plates. Don’t buy the marbles and other embellishments in the craft aisle, buy bags of beans in groceries. Split peas, lima beans and black beans are awesome in a glass dish around a candle. Or get even more creative. See the miniature wood slices around my candle? You can buy them, or go in the yard and chop up a branch with some pruning shears! FREE!

So, if you have some crafty supplies around the house, this could be a no cost, no brainer. But even if you have to shop a little, a $23 redo is as good as it gets!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review ~ Incendiary, by Chris Cleave

by Cherilyn David

When you find yourself Googling, to see if the events in the book you’re reading, really happened… I think that’s good fiction.

I almost didn’t read Incendiary. The author is British and I had a hard time getting through a previous novel, Little Bee. Not that it was a bad story line or anything, but I really stumbled on somewhat of a language barrier. I know, English. This is even more shocking when you consider what a huge Bridget Jones fan I am! In any case, it was the jacket that drew me in, the mother, the tragedy.

I found the story Cleave is telling to be a little crazy, all over the place and fraught with unbelievable twists. Except I believed it. Life is like that, sometimes, for some of us. Instead of the disconnect I felt in my previous experience with the British tongue, I found myself seeking out the meaning in things I wasn’t sure of, because I wanted to know!

I’m amazed at the way he manages to speak from a female perspective. So much so, I was shocked to discover the author was man! I love the covers of both books; the silhouettes, the eyes!

Incendiary's unnamed heroin, slash adulterous alcoholic, is endearing and crass, broken and strong. Although her behavior is somewhat unorthodox much of the time, I found myself loving her and begging for her triumph! Her story has just enough that any person can relate to. We all know love, we all know loss and unfortunately, we all know how terrorism can grab anyone from their modest stoop and set them spinning.

[in-sen-dee-er-ee] adjective, noun, plural -ar•ies.
1. used or adapted for setting property on fire: incendiary bombs.
2. of or pertaining to the criminal setting on fire of property.
3. tending to arouse strife, sedition, etc.; inflammatory: incendiary speeches.
4. tending to inflame the senses: an incendiary extravaganza of music and dance.

Just found out that there was a movie made as well in 2008. How did I miss this? Watching a movie after I have read the book is a great way to revisit your overall feelings, as well as compare and contrast which story you prefer. We all run a movie in our heads when we are reading. It’s fun to have another on the screen and catch the similarities!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gluten Free Beef Biscuit Bake

by Doula Brandi

For the past decade I have eaten wheat free foods. I have a mild wheat allergy and cannot tolerate the non-sprouted grain. Being wheat free was daunting at first but over time I’ve learned to adjust. Now I can take almost any recipe and adapt it to my own use. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to get it right mind you! But seldom anymore does a whole batch go into the compost pile!

Healthy wheat free recipes usually don’t qualify as ‘easy’, meaning that everything must be made from scratch. So I have looked for casserole and crock-pot recipes over the years to simplify the food prep and reduce my time in the kitchen. One of our family’s favorites is called Spinach Beef Bake. This recipe is a spin-off of an old Taste of Home recipe. I have adapted it with a gluten free crust and a simple yet tasty & healthy filling.

Crust, Gluten Free

¼ cup potato starch flour

½ cup tapioca starch flour

¾ cup brown rice flour

2 tsp guar gum (or xanthan gum) [this gives the GF flours some ‘stick-to-it-ness’ that gluten provides in wheat flours]

2 tsp baking powder. Aluminum free preferred.

½ tsp sea salt

Mix together dry ingredients then add:

2 eggs

½ cup almond, rice or dairy milk

1/3 cup oil

Blend together wet and dry ingredients, pour into a 9 X 13 pan and spread out the batter, pushing it up the sides a bit.


1# ground beef or turkey, brown over medium heat, remove from heat and drain if needed.

Add seasonings such as: salt, pepper, basil, oregano or seasoned salt to taste.

Add 1 package frozen spinach, mix well.

Shred 4 oz cheese, I use Monterrey, cheddar or Colby Jack into a bowl and add

2 eggs, mix well and add to the meat & spinach mixture.

Pour into the batter lined pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until the crust is done and just starting to brown and the eggs are set in the center.

This takes a little bit of prep time, but most of the cooking time is spent in the oven, while I am doing something else. It’s a one dish meal, all that is needed is a tossed salad and dinner is served!

This dish can be made very quick and easy if you are not wheat or gluten free. Simply 2 cans of refrigerated biscuits instead of the scratch biscuits pressing them into your pan, sealing the edges of the biscuits together to form the crust. Continue with the filling and bake as directed above.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meet Guest Contributor Sally Chambers

If you've come for the Thoughts of Spring Blog Party, welcome! If you're a mother trying to balance kids and work and everything else, we hope you stick around and follow our journeys. Please come back this week and meet some of the other authors of this blog.

Hi, I'm Sally Chambers, grandmother, wife, mother, and writer of inspirational fiction, devotionals, poetry, and more. I'm married to my retired engineer, high school sweetheart and we have two grown, married children. I've been a stay-at-home-mom, a business owner, and now retired, my passions are writing, reading, researching for my novels, Salvation Army, teaching Sunday school, and reading to children. Hobbies are beading, crocheting, and doing any kind of puzzle. Since I retired from a long-time career in insurance, I enjoy spending lots of time devoted to my writing. And you can see that I need spend some time creating some order out of my writing room chaos!

We live on Florida's Space Coast and love being so close to the ocean even though it means braving a hurricane or two...or more every year. Love the bird life here. Right now the robins are wintering as they wait for the northern snow melt, but the cardinals, jays, doves, and every kind of waterbird visit our feeders and two ponds.

And I wouldn't be a typical grandma if I didn't include at least one brag photo of my little great granddaughter! So here's my sweet River by the duckpond.

How would people describe your personality? (If they could only use ONE word.) Are they right?

An optimist. Yes, they'd be right.

What is your comfort food/drink? Be brave – tell us something very random and weird about yourself.

A big mug of fresh-perked Dunkin' Donut's Cinnamon Spice coffee laced with lots of honey and cooled to perfection with Silk's chocolate soy milk. Starts my engine!

If you could live anywhere at all (and take all your loved ones with you), where would you go?

I have sand in my shoes and heart. I wouldn't budge from right here where I live now on the east coast of sunny, warm, sub-tropical Florida it's been home for a long time.

What are your favorite animals?

Horses and dogs. I've had and adored both. But if I tried to ride a horse now there'd be body parts strewn from the Space Coast to the Gold Coast! I didn't sit down for a week the last time I hopped on to ride bareback...the bruises were epic.

Who is your favorite blogger? Why?

All of Crystal Laine Miller's blogs. Anything Crystal writes is interesting and informative. I love her When I Was Just A Kid Blog. She features the lives of people like Camy Tang, Eva Marie Everson, Colleen Coble, Deborah Raney, Rachel Hauck, Agent Terry Burns, and more, with their wonderful personal photos.

P.S. Yes, I'm a hopeless romantic♥ (but married to that engineer who doesn't have a clue☺).


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Meet Contributor Desirea Packard

This should be fun, I am not very good at talking about myself. But here goes nothing. I hope you enjoy getting to know me better.
I am happily married to the man of my dreams. I have a special needs child who is the light of my world. I stay at home so that I can be here whenever he needs me, but while I am home I work on blogging, writing, and photography. I am not sure which one of these is my true passion. Probably all three. I am an identical twin. We are mirror images and she has been my best friend the longest. No matter what happens, we are always there for each other. I hope you will find this to be very enjoyable because I am who I am...

I would say, loud. I tend to be at a 12 when I need to be at a 2. Most people think that I am fun to be around, that I am kind and always trying to find how to help someone in need. Sometimes I can be not very nice, and then people would tell you a different story. If you have seen this side of me, then you have done something to deserve it, but this only usually happens in situations pertaining to my son. I think that I am beautiful inside and out and it was a long time before I came to that conclusion on both. I find if I am truly happy with myself then it's easier to be happy with other things.

This is easy for me. Coffee and Chocolate. I always want coffee and I can never have enough chocolate.

I will watch just about anything. Or at least try. I prefer the more drama, comedy, romantic comedy type movies. But if I stay awake long enough to watch the whole thing then I'm off to a good start. I am so exhausted at the end of the day if I sit down to watch a movie I usually fall fast asleep. I do not prefer horror movies, I will watch them but it's seldom. I think this world is scary enough without adding to the possibilities by watching something scary. I am a crier, so if the movie can make you cry, chances are I am sobbing.

They always say don't judge a book by its cover, but shamefully I do. If the cover doesn't catch my attention, chances are I won't even pick it up unless it's been recommended. I do love to read, this is my true passion. I don't have very much time to do it, but I try to at least an hour a day. I will read just about anything. I have no preference. I love reading.

My greatest accomplishment is being a mom, and not just any mom, I am lucky. God gave me this precious little boy who just happens to have disabilities. It has been a long road and will always be but I wouldn't change it for a million bazillion dollars. He is and will always be my greatest accomplishment. I love him so much sometimes I can't breathe and would never be able to imagine my life without him.

I know this will sound funny to most of you, but I love the smell of a new shoe. I don't have any idea why that is, but I do. This past week we got Malachi's new shoes and I couldn't wait to get them out of the box and smell them. But the more normal whiffs I love are coffee, babies when they are clean, spring flowers, and clothes hung out on the clothes line.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this and don't think that I am now crazy. I hope you keep coming back and checking out our blog. Thanks for reading...


Friday, March 4, 2011

Meet Contributor Cherilyn David~

This should be fun... I almost forgot about all the great questions everyone was answering and pasted in my jacket bio. What a snooze that would have been! This will be much better...

I am Cherilyn David.

Hmmm.... everything? I know the Greek alphabet. Thanks to Mrs. Lancaster in 6th grade, I know it by heart and can't seem to shake it. It's a great party laugh and for tie breakers in trivial pursuit. I am secretly waiting for the day I am on Jeopardy and Alex says, "The letter in between Iota and Lambda in the Greek alphabet." I can start girly clapping and exclaim, "What is Kapta?!?!" Yes!

Oh yeah, girly clapping. That's what my boyfriend calls it when I clap when I am excited. My daughter does it too.

I love wood, words and trees.

Well, I am a chick, so most chick flicks are wonderful to me, but too cheesy gets a thumbs down. My favorites, You've Got Mail, Sweet Home Alabama. I love to be surprised... I've tortured many a friend with the last five minutes of DejaVu, "Look, look!! You're missing it! It's him!" I cannot stand movies where something is really unrealistic or unfair. Not unfair like slavery, unfair like a character tolerating an annoying family member endlessly without consequence. Not unrealistic like sci fi, but unrealistic situations, like falling fourteen times in a 20-foot stretch of forest.

Hmmm. I could live anywhere with wifi, bookstores and people I love. The world is full of too many awesome choices. New York, Italy, Seattle, Australia.

True story. A guy asked me this once, asked for a few words to sum me up. I have a hard time with a limited scope like that, so I asked an ex. His answer: Beauty, brains & comfort. This is now scrawled, four feet across on my kitchen wall. Perfect, but not something I would have come up with.

My daughter, a combination of boundless love, worry and guilt, will torment me the rest of my days.
I believe in love; other than that I'm a pretty smart girl.

No one I cared about would want for anything. My grandchildren would travel, young and often. A man saved my daughter once. Not a doctor or anything. Just a man. I would do something amazing for his family. I don't know what. His daughter's college? Pay off his home? Both. Sign the check over?

Thanks for reading!!! ;)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meet Contributor Naomi Rawlings

If you've come for the Thoughts of Spring Blog Party, welcome! If you're a mother trying to balance kids and work and everything else, we hope you stick around and follow our journeys. Please come back this week and meet some of the other authors of this blog.

Hi! I'm Naomi Rawlings, wife, mother and aspiring writer. I have a four-year-old son and a one-year-old-son. I spend my days trying to sneak time to write, picking up, cleaning, playing, and mainly just enjoying my family. My husband pastors a small church in Michigan's rustic Upper Peninsula, so my family shares it's ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer, bald eagles, and even an occasional moose. We live three miles from the southern shore of Lake Superior. The scenery is beautiful, but we average 200 inches of snow per year, and even in July, Lake Superior is too cold to swim, though my boys like to try.

How would people describe your personality? (If they could only use ONE word.) Are they right?

Nice, at least that's how I'm most commonly described--but most people don't see me yelling at my four year old to pick up his toys or complaining about the endless laundry.

Who is your favorite blogger? Why?

Probably Gina Holmes and what she did with Novel Journey. It took her twelve years to get published. Wow! I don't know of anyone who deserved a book contract more than she did. And the interviews she posts are so helpful to new writers.

What is your comfort food/drink?

Living where I do, it depends on the season. Today, at 12 degrees outside, it's hot chocolate. In July, it would be ice cream.

Do you have a strong desire to do something you’ve never done? What is it?

Yeah, leave my kids with Grandma for a week and go to Jamaica (or some other island with white beaches and palm trees) with my husband.

Movies: Action, Drama, Romantic Comedy, Documentary, Comedy? What are your favorite genres?

Anything with romance.

Books: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Romance, Biographies, True Stories, Self-Help, Devotional/Study? What are your favorite types of reading material?

Well, since I'm an aspiring novelist, I'd bet you'd never guess. Fiction, particularly inspirational romance.

If you inherited a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do with your money?

Remember that trip to Jamaica? After my vacation, however, I'd do something smart with it like pay off our house, invest, etc. But Jamaica is first. Definitely.

Name one weakness of yours (confession is good for the soul).

Sugar, even if I'm trying to loose weight, I can't completely take it out of my diet. I have to sneak little snacks here and there.

If you could live anywhere at all (and take all your loved ones with you), where would you go?

Actually, I love where I live. I suppose I would trade our hills in for mountains and give us warmer summers, but I wouldn't move.

Strange Talent? Can you juggle basketballs, put your legs behind your head or perform some other strange feat?

I play the harp. I'm not sure it that's strange or just makes me a nerd.

What’s something you consider yourself to be good at? (Don’t worry, it’s not bragging, it’s acknowledging a God given gift).

Writing. I hope. Otherwise I'm wasting a lot of time.

What is one of your favorite things to catch a whiff of?

Flavored Coffee--the gourmet kind, not the cheap stuff in our cupboard.

When you leave a social gathering, do you wish: You would have talked more or You would have talked less?

Both. If I say a lot, I usually regret it, and if I keep my mouth shut, I usually thing of a gazillion brilliant, witty things to say after I leave.

What is your greatest fear or strange phobia?

My husband suddenly dying.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I look at my family, and hope it will be raising my children to love God and honor Him with their lives. Whether I achieve that or not, only time will tell.

What are your favorite animals?

Our Irish Setter, Callie

Are you a hopeless romantic?

Oh yeah. For my first Mother's Day, my husband bought me a twenty dollar charcoal grill. I cried and told him to take it back. I said I'd rather have nothing than a grill. A grill! Did I mention it was my first Mother's Day ever?

What movie or book character can you most relate to?

Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. I'm a little too witty for my own good and place a little too much importance on first impressions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

(No Longer) Currently Free Kindle Books for Business

by Melissa Jagears

Here are some books available for free on Kindle you may want to check out for growing your home business before they're no longer free:

How to Make Money with Social Media: An Insider's Guide on Using New and Emerging Media to Grow Your Business

The Truth About the New Rules of Business Writing

How to Innovate in Marketing

Recipe: French Nickel Toast

by Cherilyn David

*Read entire recipe before starting. Watch for Plan B and other tips.

French Nickel Toast

My recipe names are goofy, but I love them. This is a spin on french toast, using pumpernickel bread. Yum! Pumpernickel bread has a bite to it, which makes this recipe one of those sweet/sour concoctions. If you absolutely hate pumpernickel, feel free to substitute.


Pumpernickel bread (2 slices per eater)

Bread Batter:
egg whites(amount varies, read on…)
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Burnt Sugar extract
milk (after all ingredients, about 1/4 amount of milk) i.e. Bowl is half full of egg whites and flavor, fill up to 3/4 with milk.

Dip bread slices in batter, in a dish they can easliy be covered in, until well saturated. Place carefully by spatula in an already warm non-stick pan. Cook like french toast or grilled cheee, flipping two or three times until golden brown, a few minutes on each side.

Serve warm and top as desired.

butter, for cooking and topping, as desired
olive oil or cooking spray
powdered sugar, for topping as desired

Homemade Cranberry Syrup

half stick butter/margarine
quarter cup cranberries (dry or fresh)
half cup sugar
quarter cup water

Heat not quite to bowling and maintain that heat, stirring often
(sugar can be added for desired consistency, cranberries can be added or subtracted to preference)

Plan B: Hate cracking eggs? Buy your egg whites in a carton. Hate wasting the yolks? Put each with a dab of sugar in an ice tray and freeze. Then throw cubes in a ziploc for future use.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are You Ready to Party? - Meet Brandi

I'm ready for spring and always in the mood for a good party. The Thoughts of Spring Blog Party is just what the doctor ordered for my cabin fever.

I'm Brandi, a wife, mother and doula. I have three super busy kids who keep me on my toes. I like to refer to myself as a "home-insteader", preferring home church, home school, home birth, home office, etc to the alternatives. I'm creative and like to sew, make my own jewelry, doodle and other 'artsy fartsy' crafts. I have an odd sense of humor and lean heavily on the sarcasm [reader beware!]. Let's jump in and have some fun!

"Be brave - tell us something very random and weird about yourself."

I love dreadlocks. I want some. I want some badly, but I think that my family would disown me if I turned my head into a mass of twisted felted hair. I also like Reggae music. That's as far as I go into the Rasta culture though. Not into the hemp, only to braid it for jewelry or the seed ground up in my smoothies!

"Strange talent?"

I can turn my tongue completely over, upside down, bottoms up. And as you can see from the photo, my daughter takes after me.

"What are your favorite types of reading material?"

Being a certified doula, I spend my fair share of time behind birth oriented books, but when I'm not keeping abreast of current research I do like a good Jane Austen book, and I don't mind reading them twice. I also like Jeanette Oake and any book set in Amish country. I currently am enamored with Hebrew culture and history centered around old testament times. It really makes the Scripture come to life for me! History & Astronomy also rank high on my list. I just wish I had more time to actually read books instead of just collecting them!

"Movies - what are your favorite genres?"

My taste in movies parallels that of my book choices! I have the complete set of BBC classics-Jane Austen. All of the "Love Comes Softly" series. Gone with the Wind. The Quiet Man. Chariots of Fire. Since we don't have cable tv we rely on netflix. It is so easy to pick out family friendly movies from netflix!

"If you could live anywhere at all, where would you live?"

I would love to spend a couple of years in Alaska but anywhere in the mountains would be good for me. There is just something majestic about mountains. I feel protected, at peace, completely at home in the mountains.

Thanks for partying with me! Come back and visit frequently, I love company! Many thanks to Lynnette for hosting this blog party too!

Meet Contributor Melissa Jagears

If you've come for the Thoughts of Spring Blog Party, welcome! If you're a mother trying to balance kids and work and everything else, we hope you stick around and follow our journeys. Please come back this week and meet some of the other authors of this blog.

I'm Melissa Jagears and I have a 4 year old girl and a baby boy who turns 3 months old today! I write historical romance. I am my church's financial secretary, and I teach English as a Second Language classes sporadically. I'm frugal to the point my hubby gets made fun of at work, but we'd rather be laughed at for transforming milk carton jugs into sandwich containers than be in debt. No one's died from being laughed at--that I know of anyway. Now, on to the fun questions:

How would people describe your personality? (If they could only use ONE word.) Are they right
And no, they wouldn't be right, but I am so shy in person I come across that way, but you put me behind a keyboard and I'll talk my fingers off.

What celebrity/celebrities would create a “Star-Struck” feeling if you saw them in real life?
I'm really not a big celebrity person, might be because we haven't had TV for 3 years now and I don't know who is who anymore.

But maybe Hugh Grant. I have this weird desire to watch any movie he's in. (I even bought one terrible one from the dollar store that I bet he wishes he could steal every copy on the planet so no one could see him in a boring movie with his gross long hair. - The Lady and the Highwayman.) He isn't ultra-handsome or someone whose personal life seems too upstanding, but it's simply the British accent I think.

Who is your favorite blogger? Why?
Unfortunately, my favorite bloggers tend to disappear. Perhaps I jinx those I deem favorite. I guess I like bloggers who are sarcastic and biting that say controversial things I wish I had the guts to say out loud in public, but I'm too much of a people pleaser.

I loved Doug TenNapel when I was pregnant with my daughter, but when he hit one million comments he stopped blogging every day. But thanks to this questionnaire I see he's still blogging sporadically. Whoo hoo!

And Chip MacGregor, a literary agent who quit blogging entirely. But his archive is really worth looking at if you want to get published.

Be brave – tell us something very random and weird about yourself.
I like to stand on furniture, especially if I'm talking on the phone. I'm half billy goat, I think.

Movies: Action, Drama, Romantic Comedy, Documentary, Comedy? What are your favorite genres?
Romantic comedies, any period movie, and movies from the 40s and 50s esp. those with Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Esther Williams, etc.

Books: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Romance, Biographies, True Stories, Self-Help, Devotional/Study? What are your favorite types of reading material?
Inspirational Historical Romances, "Classics," and non-fiction.

If you inherited a million dollars, what is the first thing you would do with your money?
Put enough into savings that the interest would give us sufficient income so we don't have to work anymore if we don't want to.

Name one weakness of yours (confession is good for the soul).
Sugar - not sure I could live without sugar. One month in China drove me batty. I ate very weird things all in a quest to find something dessert-like to end my meal. The worst was a peanut butter and seal Popsicle. (I had no idea the seal on the picture eating the peanuts would also be included in the dessert - pulling skin out of a Popsicle is not pleasant after you've eaten half the Popsicle!)

If you could live anywhere at all (and take all your loved ones with you), where would you go?
A tropical island.

What’s something you consider yourself to be good at? (Don’t worry, it’s not bragging, it’s acknowledging a God given gift).
I hope writing, otherwise I am wasting a lot of my time and the time of others.

When you leave a social gathering, do you wish: You would have talked more or You would have talked less?
Definitely talked less. When I tell my husband this, he'll say "but you barely talked at all."

What is your greatest fear or strange phobia?
I'll go out of my way to avoid failure.

Are you a hopeless romantic?
I love reading romances, but in real life I am highly unromantic. Practical, Practical, Practical is my motto. I'd rather have my hubby fix a garbage disposal than buy me flowers. (I've actually made him cancel a flower order.) He can't take anyone's advice on how to woo a woman, it most likely will fail with me.

Last Valentine's Day, he did wonderful; I was very, very pleased. Everyone at church was sharing during the service what they had done/received, but I leaned over to tell my hubby that though I was truly happy with my gift, it would probably be best not to share. We chuckled the entire time imagining the reaction if I'd raised my hand and shared with the congregation that he'd bought me a dollar bag of those orange circus peanut marshmallows.

What movie or book character can you most relate to?
I love Jane Austen's characters. I am a mix of Elinor Dashwood and Fitzwilliam Darcy.


Review: Atlas of the Human Heart, by Ariel Gore

by Cherilyn David

Every life-movie has its soundtrack. ~Ariel Gore

I come away from Atlas of the Human Heart, with the same symptoms I am always left with after reading Ariel Gore. I want to trade in my sensible SUV, rearrange furniture, smash the fine china. Ariel’s words have always had a way of making me seek out a more chaotic, but driven day and that those days would be more appropriate and justified than any!

The self-described memoir slash novel, follows Ariel’s departure from high school at the age of sixteen, one year younger than my daughter, all over the world and back, covering just three years or so. Because her mother was crazy, she traveled alone. Ariel makes friends and enemies, good choices and bad and somehow continues to find food, shelter and money as something pulls her onward. A little true, a little false, like life, like people.

You have to make room for the fool in everyone. ~Hilda Effania

The act of reading this book, followed much the same path as Ariel in her travels. The beginning is good, but safe, a little edgy, but that acceptable edgy we experiment with now and then. As it carries on, her story and her spirit grow and change, surprising the reader with their own need to turn the page. Ariel’s voice is true and real. She’s not a slave to grammar or sentences and yet everything sounds just right. I have always called this type of writing conversational. I love it.

Ariel’s journey is that of a child and a mother. One girl, writing her own definitions of love with one heart and then two. Her words fill you with more and less, all at once.