Friday, March 30, 2012

April Fools--What's Your Best April Fools Joke?

As many you know, April 1st is just around the corner, only two days away! And while April 1st is rather significant for me this year, as it marks the official release of my debut novel, Sanctuary for a Lady, it also happens to be April Fools Day. (For the record, I keep telling myself that my novel releasing on April 1st is incidental and not because my editor thought my writing was a joke.)

So to celebrate April Fools this year, I thought I'd share with you a recent prank I fell for. Totally. Completely. Utterly.

I recently had my website redone, so it could look professional rather than homemade by the time my book released. (Go on, you can take a peek at my new website at I used Casey King at Kings Royal Media to do my site, and he did a wonderful job, if any of you were wondering. But little did I know Casey is a bit of a prankster.

So Casey was in the middle of tweaking my site, and sending me a bunch of emails, asking details for little things, and I was in town doing errands and answering his emails via my smart phone. In one of these emails, I asked if he'd gotten the check I sent him earlier that week, as he should have received it. Then I got in my car and headed for home. My phone did its little "ding" signifying I had another email, so when I pulled up to our town's one and only flashing light, I checked my email.

More accurately, I read the first line first line of the email, which said my check bounced.

Now let me pause at this point of my story and encourage you all to learn two lessons from my tale of woe. First, don't check email while driving, as you tend to miss important pieces of information. Second, when you check email, be sure to read the entire thing and not just the first line.

Unfortunately for me, I did neither of these things. I saw the line that said my check bounced, and I turned the car around and headed to my bank, fuming and absolutely furious. You see, I KNEW I had money in my account to cover the check, or SHOULD have had money in the account. But living North of Nowhere as I do, and using our town's tiny little bank, we've had trouble in the past with the bank putting our money in the wrong account. This has happened twice actually, and yes we still bank there (though I'm not sure why).

So at this point, I was absolutely certain the bank messed up one of our deposits yet again. I stormed into the bank, which was about ready to close. Then I proceeded to tell the poor teller one of my checks bounced and ask for a print out of my bank statement as I started rummaging in my purse for my most recent deposit slip.

The teller so graciously accessed my account information and responded that I had money in the account and nothing should have bounced. Then she asked if I knew what check number I was talking about. So I gave her the check number, and she told me the check cleared.

I frowned and replied that that there must have been some mix up with the business associate who said my check hadn't cleared. Then I thanked her, turned around, and completely confused by this point, pulled out my phone to email my website guy. The phone screen came on, and before I started a new email, I glanced at the rest of his original email, which told me (ever so kindly) at the very bottom that my check HAD NOT bounced.

How about that for April Fools a month early!

So now you know the worst prank I've fallen for in the past decade, I'm curious about you. What's the worst prank you've ever fallen for? Or if you don't want to share that, why don't you share the best prank you've ever pulled?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookie Recipe from Eva Maria Hamilton

Hello everyone, and thanks for stopping by! Today we've got a special treat in store, an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookie Recipe from author Eva Maria Hamilton.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies

• ½ cup unsalted butter
• ¼ cup salted butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1 cup oatmeal flakes
• ½ cup chocolate chips
• ½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper which can be reused for several batches. If you don’t have parchment paper, grease the cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream room temperature butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
In another bowl, mix flour with baking soda, chocolate chips and raisins. Combine ingredients from both bowls.

Drop spoonfuls of cookie mix onto the cookie sheets and bake for approximately 10 minutes. The cookies should have slightly golden brown edges.

Transfer cookies to cookie rack to cool. If you don’t have a wire rack just use a cool plate.

Makes approximately 60 cookies that are both crunchy and chewy.

Alternatives: This recipe can be made with organic ingredients. The chocolate chips or raisins can be substituted with nuts.


Thanks Eva! Those sound delicious. Though I'm not much of a raisin fan myself, but substituting those raisins with some nuts seems yummy. If you haven't stopped by the interview with Eva, be sure to do so before the week is up. She's giving away a copy of her debut novel, Highland Hearts, to one winner. And without further ado, here's a little more about Highland Hearts:

Scotland 1748 – The Battle of Culloden is over, but one Highlander’s fight has just begun…

Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in the Americas to reach this moment. Now he’s returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery’s father – that his years as an indentured servant would earn him Sheena’s hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena’s father has died, his contract has been lost… and Sheena is engaged to another man.

Just a quick note, but if you have time, I'm giving my call story over at the Pink Heart Society today. I'd love to see you there!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Author Eva Maria Hamilton

Today I'm pleased to introduce you to a very special author, Eva Maria Hamilton. As many of you know, I do an interview on Making Home Work once a month, but this month's interview is extra exciting for me!

Eva Maria Hamilton spent years studying people from all different areas of academia and brings that understanding of the human condition into each of her written pieces. An advocate for lifelong learning, Eva Maria Hamilton studied in both Canada and the United States, earning a diploma in Human Resources Management, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, an Honors Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, and a Master of Science in Education.

She's also a debut author with my publisher, Love Inspired Historical. Since I'll be launching my own debut novel in exactly one week, I wanted to draw special attention to her. Congratulations Eva, on the release of your debut novel, Highland Hearts!

Hi, Eva! And thanks for being with us today. Why don't you start by telling me about your family. How many children do you have, and how old are they?

I live in Southern Ontario, Canada (halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls) with my husband of over twelve years and our four - almost five - year old daughter. I have a love of learning and have spent many years in university getting numerous degrees and taking courses in just about every field of study. I home school our daughter and of course the main reason why I’m here today is because I write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line.

That's great Eva, I have a five year old, and am planning to home school him in the fall. I hope that's going well for you! Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?

Ever since my husband and I started dating our goal was to do something that allowed us to work from home and we have been working extremely hard to pursue that dream ever since.

And what a great dream to have, not only for you, but for your husband as well. What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?

The most challenging thing about working from home while raising children and homeschooling would have to be finding time to do everything. That said, flexibility is key. We all try to go with the flow.

Ah yes, I'm afraid I could use a few lessons in flexibility myself. Did you ever get your children involved with your home business? What advice would you give mothers thinking about having their children help with their business?

My daughter is almost five so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity yet. But she does help whenever she can. For example she helped me bake that first batch of cookies that I am sharing on this blog, she’s helped count out bookmarks and she will play quietly if she knows Mommy and Daddy have something urgent to work on. As for advice, when I was young I helped my mother with one of her home-based businesses and that experience and time spent with loved ones is priceless, so I say go for it.

What challenges did working from home present to your marriage, and how did you compensate?

One of the challenges I think people working from home face is separating time between work and leisure. There seems to be a tendency to work nonstop at home instead for example, clocking out of work at an actual time when you have to leave your office. But like anything else it’s a learning process and every couple needs to find something that works for them.

Wow, you really have some great advice about working from home! If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

The only thing I would do differently is tell myself not to worry. Everything will, one way or another, turn out okay. It is actually really good advice to tell ourselves right now.

Is it worth it? What keeps you home instead of having an outside career?

It most definitely is worth it for us. We’ve settled into a nice routine and lifestyle that makes us happy and keeps us fulfilled. It may not be for everyone but it works for us.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Eva! Eva will be back with us again on Wednesday, sharing a recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies. So make sure to stop back by!

For a chance to win a copy of Highland Hearts please answer the following question from Eva: "Since I am always looking for new names for characters, what are some of your favorite Scottish names, both first and last names, male and female?"

Friday, March 23, 2012

First Blog Review for Sanctuary for a Lady & Weekend Assignment

I have such exciting news for everyone today! Though Sanctuary for a Lady hasn't officially released yet, my first review is up, over at Homemaking Through the Church Year. Go check out the blog, if you have a moment, and be entered in the drawing for a chance to win a copy of the book. Thanks Jessica Snell, for the review!

Now for our weekend assignment. With all that delicious food on the menu I shared earlier this week, I bet you can guess what your assignment is. That's right! INVITE SOMEONE TO DINNER!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Simple Menu for Entertaining Dinner Guests

As a pastor's wife, I find myself often inviting people from either our church or the community over for dinner. Not only do we like the time of conversation and getting to know others, but we also like the benefits of teaching our children to mind their manners and be polite to our dinner guests. (And having the house clean for company is definitely a benefit the day after, but it seems to add to my stress level the day of!)

Anyway, I thought I'd share a simple, fairly mess-free dinner menu. Be aware this will not win any awards for the cheapest or most home-style meal. But hopefully it will encourage you to invite your friends over to dinner, and reduce your stress level while doing so.

1. Barbeque Chicken--Use whatever marinade you like on your chicken. Plain old BBQ sauce will do fine, if you don't want to be creative. (Although as we just finished with maple syrup season up here, my husband made a marinade using sap water. It turned out really yummy!)

Here's a hint: boil your chicken until it's mostly cooked a couple of hours before throwing it on the grill. Then just grill it for fifteen minutes or so. This prevents your chicken from getting that dried-out, over-grilled toughness.

2. Cheesy Potato Casserole--As I can't claim authorship of this wonderful recipe, I'll give you the link here. This is a simple, tasteful recipe. You can make it several hours ahead of time and leave it in the fridge until ready to pop into the oven. And I dirty one bowl (plus the pan I put the potatoes in) while making it. I don't know about you, but I'm always game for a mess-free recipe.

3. Salad--Now this can be as elaborate or simple as you want. You could go all out with veggies from your own garden during the right time of year, and your own homemade dressing. As for me, I go for the bagged salad from the store. It's simple, and you don't have a mess.

4. Biscuits--Again, this can be as elaborate or simple as you want. Personally, I buy the Grands biscuits from the store and pop them in the oven. But if you want to make from scratch, feel free to do that as well.

5. Dessert--I try to keep this simple, too., and I usually opt for the Easy Peanut Butter Pie recipe I shared last month. Oftentimes my dinner guests will ask if I want them to bring anything to the meal, and when they ask, I usually suggest they bring a dessert. Then I don't have to worry about preparing something sweet, and I can coordinate the rest of the meal to fit together.

So there you have it: A simple dinner menu for entertaining guests. Now I'm curious to know if any of you have your own dinner-guest tricks you'd like to share. Or maybe someone has that perfect, simple recipe for homemade biscuits?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Top Ten Signs Spring is Here

10. You wake up to birds chirping.

9. Your boots get stuck in the mud. Twice in one afternoon.

8. Lawn care people start knocking on your door.

7. Smelt are running (a sure sign, for my fisherman husband).

6. Your kids start going outside and digging in the mud.

5. Your husband starts going outside and digging in the mud, then claims he's gardening.

4. Your kids need baths twice a day instead of twice a week.

3. You get hay fever.

2. You get your first mosquito bite.

1. Taxes are due.

So what do you think? Have anything to add to the list? How do you know spring is here?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekend Assignment--Read to Your Kids

Since we've been talking about reading to children this week, you've probably already guessed what your assignment is for this week. That's right: READ TO YOUR KIDS.

Pick at least two books over the weekend to read to your little ones, and make the time to do it. You might even take a trip to the library.

And our question for discussion today: What type of books do you prefer to read to your children? Dr. Sues? Richard Scary? Fancy Nancy? Any other thoughts or ideas? Leave your answer in a comment below!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reading to Children--Quotes

I have quotes to share today, some from rather famous writers and celebrities, about reading to children. Enjoy!

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall."
— Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
— J. K. Rowling

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
— Emilie Buchwald

"Teaching reading IS rocket science."
— Louisa Moats

"Babies are born with the instinct to speak, the way spiders are born with the instinct to spin webs. You don't need to train babies to speak; they just do. But reading is different."
— Steven Pinker

"Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today."
— Gabriela Mistral

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read."
— Marilyn Jager Adams

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."
— Jacqueline Kennedy

"No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. She will not want new fashions nor regret the loss of expensive diversions or variety of company if she can be amused with an author in her closet."
— Lady Montagu, providing advice on raising her granddaughter, 1752

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."
— Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

"Wear the old coat and buy the new book."
— Austin Phelps

"You may have tangible wealth untold. / Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. / Richer than I you can never be – / I had a mother who read to me."
— Strickland Gillilan

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark."
— Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

If that's not encouragement to read to your children, I don't know what is.

Side note: I'm also blogging today over at Regency Reflections, where I'm sharing a review of a simply wonderful novel I read over the weekend, Heart's Safe Passage by Laurie Alice Eakes. Stop by if you have a chance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reading to Your Child--Three Reasons Why You Should

I'm a rather busy mom, and on this blog I usually post about ways to optimize your time and make homemaking and raising children simpler. But today I'm going against my usual mantra, and I'll address something that will add time to your busy schedule. But it's worth every minute of sacrifice you make. Today I'm going to talk about reading to your children.

Child psychology experts advocate you should read 20 minutes a day to your child, and they have myriad reasons to back up their advice. Here's a few:

1. Reading to your children helps develop their imagination, while on the flip side, too much television hinders your child's imagination. This is interesting to me, as I actually force my oldest son to go up to his bedroom and play with his toys for forty minutes per day. No coloring books, no TV, no computer games. Just his imagination and his action figures, or blocks, or Lincoln Logs or Legos. And when I do this early in the day, I notice that he's more responsive and better behaved throughout the day.

2. Reading to your children helps them associate reading with pleasure. Whether or not your child becomes an avid book lover later in life, he or she will spend much time reading: newspapers, blogs, magazines, textbooks, text messages, emails, and those annoying forms you have to sign at the doctor's office once a year. Your child won't be able to get away from reading as he or she matures into adulthood. Reading to children when they are young can help prepare them for the future responsibilities they'll face in our busy, modern world.

3. Reading to your children boosts their background knowledge and curiosity. If your child has a question or something piques his interest in one of his books, go to the library and get more books on the subject. Fill that thirst for knowledge your child is already developing, and do so in a way that makes learning fun for him.

I know reading to your children takes time from your busy schedule. And if you read before putting them to bed at the end of a long day, it might be the last thing you want to do or have energy for. But the end result is worth it.

I'll have more on reading to your children in my next post. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what your son's or daughter's favorite book is in the comments below.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Merry-Go-Round: Old Fashioned Fun

With March proving to be delightful in the weather department, we’ve been visiting playgrounds recently. On one visit, for nearly the entire half hour or so we were there, my three oldest children played on one piece of equipment: the merry-go-round. Laughter, squeals of pretend terror, sheer joy on the faces of the children hanging on for dear life as other kids ran as fast as they could in the grooved circle—what could be a better picture of childhood?

Nearly every non-preschooler who came to the playground made a beeline directly for the merry-go-round. I sat on a nearby bench and watched the interplay between the kids, and was heartened to see everyone getting along. Chants of “Push us, push us,” were answered by someone leaping off and racing around. When my youngest son (age 3) got on and then decided he wanted off shortly after the rotations began, a kid yelled, “Stop, someone wants to get off,” and they slowed to allow my son to slid off.

What other piece of equipment can teach children how to get along with one another better than a merry-go-round? There’s so many life lessons to be learned while spinning until you’re dizzy.

But we adults have over-reacted to the merry-go-round’s potential harm by suing playground equipment manufacturers, and cities and schools that had parks with merry-go-rounds installed. Sure some kids have gotten hurt on merry-go-rounds, but what I find more disturbing is our increasing desire to wrap our children in cotton wool to avoid any booboos or skinned knees (hence the tendency to make them wear knee and elbow pads while bike riding or rollerblading).

No one wants our children to get hurt psychically, and we should put a stop to obviously dangerous things. On the other hand, giving children the freedom to spread their wings and fly around the world on a merry-go-round can be wonderful to their own development.

Let them see the world outside is to be explored and conquered, not feared and avoided. Let them experience the joys and pains of mastering things like bike riding and monkey bars. Let them view the world from a different perspective by climbing trees or hanging upside from the swing set.

Sure, you might have to stock up on band-aids and kiss a few more hurts, but if you can resist the urge to place your children inside a bubble, you might just find out that they are tougher than you think. Hearing your children describe their outdoor adventures can be a priceless experience in itself.

So keep the cotton wool safely tucked away, and go find a park with a merry-go-round, but I’d avoid jumping on board unless you have a stomach of iron. Some things are better left to the kids.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Spotlight:: Historical Romance Novels for March, Part 2

Hello everyone, I'm back again today to feature the next two romance novels releasing this March from Love Inspired Historical. (If you missed the first two novels, be sure to check out the previous post featuring Mandy Goff's and Eva Maria Hamilton's newest books.)

Next on our list, we have The Bridal Swap by Karen Kirst. Karen is also a newer author. Her first book, The Reluctant Outlaw released last fall, and now she's got another novel in her Smokey Mountain Matches series. I haven't read either of these yet, but I do have The Bridal Swap on my to-be-read list for March. Here's a little more about the book:

The heiress Josh O'Malley has courted by mail is on her way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to become his wife. His dreams are coming true, and together, they'll create the family he's always wanted. But when the stagecoach arrives, it's not his intended who exits, but her sister, Kate!

She came to end her sister's engagement, but with her duty completed, Kate Morgan is in no hurry to leave. She can't help but like the beautiful mountain town…and her sister's would-be groom. If only Josh would realize that his dream can still come true—and love can be found where least expected.

And finally, we have tried and true Love Inspired Historical author Linda Ford, with her novel The Cowboy Comes Home:

Security and a home of her own—that's Sally Morgan's dream. And a new job could offer both. Her employer will marry her if she proves her worth as housekeeper. A sensible—if unromantic—plan. Until a lean, laid-back cowboy moves in next door…and "sensible" moves right out!

Linc McCoy and his family left town years ago under a cloud of suspicion. A cowboy with a tarnished name has nothing to offer a woman like Sally. Except for a spark of kinship neither can deny. And the growing hope that two guarded hearts might learn to trust in a power greater than them both.

So whether you're looking for a story set in the Scottish highlands or in the old west, I hope you'll enjoy one of these novels this month.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Spotlight: Historical Romance Novels for March

At the beginning of every month, I'm going to highlight some romance novels that I'm looking forward to reading. As many of you know, my own romance novel, Sanctuary for a Lady, will be release in April, only one month from now. So in honor of that, I want to look at the novels releasing from my publisher this March.

I'm super excited about this batch of novels, because three of the authors are new. Since I'm going to be a new author soon, I'm sure you can understand my enthusiasm in introducing you to some others. The first is author Eva Maria Hamilton with her debut novel, Highland Hearts. Here's a little about the book:

Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in America to reach this moment. Now he's returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery's father—that five years as a servant would earn him Sheena's hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena's father has died, his contract has been lost…and Sheena is engaged to another man.

Sheena has spent the past five years trying to forget Logan, the man who abandoned her with no explanation. She won't listen to his protests that he loves her—has always loved her. It'll take more than empty promises to win her back…and to prove that his highland heart is hers forever.

I haven't read too many stories set in Scotland, so I'm really looking forward to seeing eighteenth century Scotland through the eyes of Sheena and Logan. (And by the way, isn't Logan an awesome name for the hero?) I downloaded the ebook version of Highland Hearts two days ago and am currently enjoying Sheena and Logan's story very much!

Next up is Engaging the Earl by author Mandy Goff. This is Mandy's second novel, and I'm super excited to read it. I first met Mandy when I happened upon her debut novel, The Blackmailed Bride last year. I read the first couple pages of The Blackmailed Bride online and fell instantly in love with the character of Olivia. Now that Olivia is happily married, she's out to find the perfect match for her brother, Marcus, and I can't wait to see what happens.

To help her destitute parents, Emma Mercer must marry very well. And very soon. Love is irrelevant. Only security matters…doesn't it? Aided by her friend Olivia—and Olivia's brother Marcus, Earl of Westin—Emma quickly gains society's notice. But Marcus himself, the only man whose company Emma truly enjoys, seems oblivious to her charms.

With his finances in jeopardy, Marcus knows he can't be the wealthy groom Emma needs. Instead, he'll see her properly engaged to the right man…and break his own heart.

Yet Emma's determination and Marcus's resolve may be no match for love, faith—and a scheming sister determined to end Emma's husband hunt right at Marcus's side.

So, if you're looking for something to fresh and new to read, I suggest you check out these authors. On Wednesday I'll introduce you to two other books from my publisher. In the meantime, keep in mind the ebook versions of these novels are only $3.99, and the print versions are just slightly higher.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekend Assignment: Take Time with Your Kids

Happy Friday everybody!

I'm going to start giving little weekend assignments on my blog. Not necessarily huge tasks, but small ideas that can help your family grow closer.

This weekend, set aside some time to be with your kids. Take a moment and remind yourself for a moment about of how special your children are. You only have one chance to raise them.

Yesterday my oldest came home from preschool with a game of Go Fish that his teacher had given him. My husband and I, who weren't planning on taking a Go Fish break, sat down and played it with him. We played and played and played, and my son smiled and smiled and smiled. And it was good. A pleasant surprise and a nice way to spend time with him.

So now I'm curious, do any of you have a favorite activity to do with your kids?