Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's on My Nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand

With everything that's happened in the month of December (my husband being gone a weekend, a two day trip to Phoenix, Christmas, couch shopping, etc), I'm surprised that I finished so much. Most of the reading was fairly light because I was trying desperately to finish The Brothers Karamazov by the end of the year. Success!

As always, links are to my full reviews on Goodreads.

Bible Reading
  • Hosea
  • 1-3 John

Christian Fiction
  • A Time to Heal (Quilts of Lancaster County, #2) by Barbara Cameron - 3 stars. An easy weekend read.
  • Ten Thousand Charms (Crossroads of Grace #1) by Allison K. Pittman - 3.5 stars. Similar to Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, though not as well written.
  • The Missionary by William Carmichael, David Lambert - 2 stars. Maybe a guy would like it better? Tons of action and no character development.
  • She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell - 3.5 stars. Another solid read by Mitchell. So far, all of Mitchell's books have been good.
  • Courting Cate by Leslie Gould - 3.5 stars. An Amish setting of a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew.
  • Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard - 3.5 stars. A Jane Austen style read, though not as good. Very clean period romance.

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Unrated for now. I finished this classic last weekend and am still putting together my thoughts. I didn't really enjoy the story but I thought the author included some timeless observations about morality, society, and everyday life.

General Nonfiction
  • Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat--Not a Sour Puss by Pam Johnson-Bennett - 4 stars. A great cat care book.
  • The Older Cat: Recognizing Decline & Extending Life by Dan Poynter - 1 star. A horribly written and poorly organized book on caring for an older cat.

Secular Fiction
  • The Giving Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini - 4 stars. Finally! I was wondering if Chiaverini had written too many books in this series but this was a fun read, way better than the last two.

Currently Reading
I hope to finish the Christmas collection and possibly one more book before the end of the year. I have fun plans for my 2013 reading and can't wait to start!

Happy January reading!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Movies

We watched a few Christmas movies this season! Just for fun, I kept track of the movies we watched and how we liked them. It's hard to find quality Christmas movies but there were a few fun ones scattered throughout. The italicized descriptions are attributed to Netflix but the ratings and notes are my own.

12 Dates of Christmas
Unwillingly set up on a blind date with handsome Miles on Christmas Eve, Kate gets 12 chances to relive the date over and over again until she sets things right. At first reluctant to give Miles a shot, Kate learns acceptance from a holiday miracle.

2 stars - It felt reminiscent of Groundhog's Day (Bill Murray) but with none of the charm. I felt sorry for the romantic interest!

All She Wants for Christmas
A small-town woman with big business dreams works as an efficiency expert at the local Christmas ornament company. But there's trouble in store, including financial struggles for the factory and a charming stranger who may not be what he seems.

2 stars - I dropped it when the main character starts following her would-be boyfriend around and acting like she's in high school. I couldn't handle the fake drama! It wasn't realistic for her to be so suspicious and clingy about a guy she just met.

Christmas Angel
While writing an assignment for school about Christmas wishes, Olivia Mead begins to notice strange things happening around her. As her wishes start to come true, she becomes convinced that they are miracles linked to a woman she thinks is an angel.

3 stars - This movie barely earned a three star rating as the main character was a know-it-all fifth grader who never really seems to learn her lesson. The message of the movie is a solid one, that we need to leave certain things to God and allow ourselves to admit when we are weak so that He can demonstrate His strength. Too bad the mediocre acting/plot/soundtrack got in the way of the message.

The Christmas Orange
Incensed to discover that Santa Claus has left him only a single orange for Christmas instead of the hundreds of presents he requested in a long, detailed list, 6-year-old Anton Stingley decides to sue Santa for breach of contract.

2 stars - What an odd little animation! I had to look up the significance of a Christmas orange, as the movie didn't provide any enlightenment.

Christmas with a Capital C
This Christian family film follows the residents of Trapper Falls, Alaska, as they try to mount their annual Christmas celebration despite the interference of a Scrooge-like lawyer who objects to the town's public displays of Christianity.

3.5 stars - One of the first holiday movies we watched this season and one of the best. It was a very interesting look at religious freedom (or freedom from religion) versus the desire to celebrate a Christian Christmas celebration.

Crazy for Christmas
A single mother is forced to chauffeur a wealthy man around town on Christmas Eve while he gives away cash to strangers. When a reporter pursues the story, a new romance blossoms and the single mother learns the true meaning of Christmas.

3 stars - This was one of the more unique plot lines out of the bunch. The romance between the reporter and single mother didn't ring true but the relationship between the wealthy man and the single mother was cute.

Dear Santa
When she finds a letter mailed to Santa by a little girl asking for a new wife for her daddy for Christmas, twentysomething Crystal sets out to find the man and his charming daughter, hoping to make the girl's wish come true.

2.5 stars - A cute story about a ditzy rich girl who discovers that it means more to give than receive.

Holiday Engagement
Hilary's plan to hire a good-looking guy to act as her boyfriend backfires when she brings him home for the holidays to try and fool her family. The joke ends up being on her when the fauxmance invites real complications.

3 stars - Run of the mill rom-com. Cute but not memorable.

Holiday Favorites: Vol. 4
When a cigar-smoking Santa takes a break from his duties, playful toys emerge from their cheerfully wrapped boxes in "The Christmas Visitor," one of the six vintage Christmas cartoons and live-action shorts that make up this volume from the Holiday Favorites series. Other titles in the collection include "The Christmas Visit," "The Candle Maker," "The Night Before Christmas," "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" and "Christmas Journey."

3 stars - It seems odd to mention a cigar-smoking Santa Clause but I remember this animation from my childhood and loved it. It was a trip down memory lane to see the Santa take everyday items from an orphanage and create new delightful toys for the children.

Holiday in Handcuffs
When her boyfriend dumps her just before the holidays, aspiring artist Trudie desperately kidnaps a handsome stranger named David. Intending to present him as her new boyfriend at Christmas, she finds instead a genuine bond forming with her victim.

1 star - Terrible acting, terrible plot, unbelievable romance. I want my 90 minutes back!

Midnight Clear
Stephen Baldwin and K Callan star in this heartfelt tale about despair and the life-altering power of kindness. On Christmas Eve, five small-town residents face loneliness and suicide. But as their lives intersect, they find hope through one another.

3 stars - A depressing but surprisingly believable movie that only offers hope in the last ten minutes. The message that God can bring hope through the actions of a stranger is overpowered by the despair. The characters were depressed and had a reason to be. Not a very uplifting Christmas film.

The Polar Express
A young boy's faith in the holiday spirit is revived after he makes his way by train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve in this warm-hearted computer-animated tale inspired by Chris Van Allsburg's award-winning children's book.

2 stars - I'm curious why this movie was rated so high! We had high hopes but thought the character design was a bit creepy, that the movie is not very appropriate for young children (the scene with the train hobo slamming into the top of the tunnel and disintegrating into snow was disturbing), and the story was a hodgepodge of adventures with no real reason why these select children were chosen to ride the Polar Express. I was hoping a different character would be chosen for the first gift of Christmas! The one thing I enjoyed about it - the gorgeous backgrounds. The scenery was beautiful!

The Santa Clause
A bizarre twist of fate transforms a divorced dad into the new Santa.(Description from

4 stars - A nostalgic visit to a movie from my childhood.

Nick Snowden (Thomas Cavanagh) is next in line to take over the duties of Santa Claus. When the bumbling trainee loses his prized reindeer three days before Christmas, he undertakes a journey from the North Pole to California to bring it back.

3 stars - It sounds silly but it was actually a rather cute movie!

Snow 2: Brain Freeze
This sequel to the hit TV movie finds newly minted Santa Nick Snowden in trouble just days before Christmas. When a trip through a magic mirror leaves him with no memory, his wife, Sandy, tries to help him recover in time for his midnight ride.

2 stars - I should have known the sequel wouldn't be as good as the original!

With two months of mediocre holiday films, it was nice to watch our all time favorite Christmas movie yesterday.

My husband and I both love this movie. It's our tradition to watch it on Christmas day and this year was our third viewing of it. The movie teaches such wonderful life lessons about working hard, putting family and friends first, and staying true to your moral beliefs. Out of all the Christmas movies I've seen in my lifetime, It's a Wonderful Life is my top recommendation!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

My all-time favorite Christmas song...

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Slowly but surely!

On September 24, we bought a bed. Since then, we've been saving our money and waiting.



At 11:30am...

Our very empty living room

At noon...

Bruno wonders what has changed

"Is that for me?"

Our Aries cat claims it for his very own

We are very blessed! We finally have a couch and it was paid for with cash. I have to admit, it is hard to not be tempted to finance our furniture purchases. So far we've been able to purchase a bed, a folding table, folding chairs, an executive office chair for my husband's work at home job, and a couch. Not bad for six month of saving and shopping around. We're slowly furnishing our house and are avoiding debt.

God is so good!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In which we talk about... books.

A. Larry Ross Communications contacted me about reading and reviewing Midnight in Aisle 7 by Jay Lowder. I might have liked the book more if I hadn't read it immediately following A Big Life. When I finished reading A Big Life, I was hungry for more missionary stories. Midnight in Aisle 7 is about people meeting God in everyday places in everyday America.

I tried to like it but couldn't immerse myself in the book. I'm not familiar with the author and don't want to make any assumptions about his ministry or his spiritual life. But the book was disjointed and I couldn't really see how people were "experienc[ing] an encounter that brings significance to life" (from Amazon's book description). It felt more like the author had an idea for a book, realized that these types of stories sell well today, and threw something together. Each chapter was separate from the rest and read more like a short story or a written version of a story shared at prayer meeting. There wasn't anything remarkable about the book, unfortunately. I was really hoping to read something special but the book fell short.

The Fall into Reading challenge ends tomorrow. I have finished half of the books I set out to read. North and South is the only book I have completely finished. I am still working through The Brothers Karamazov, currently at page 571 of 776. I am determined to finish before Christmas! And I was never able to locate the Bill Clinton autobiography, despite searching several times. My library catalog shows they own it but I was unable to find it on the shelves. Even though I didn't finish everything on my list, I did push myself to read two books that I had been procrastinating!

I currently have 42 books checked out at the library with another two on hold. At the end of the year, I'm going to return everything and start over. It bothers me to no end to constantly feel like I'm "behind" with my reading because I have a number of books due back with not enough time to read them. As much as I love browsing the stacks and coming home with a HUGE number of books, I think I need to limit myself to only what I can actually read within the loan period. I visit the library almost every single week anyway so I can always pick up more books.

That's probably enough book talk for now. I have two more review books to read as soon as I'm done with The Brothers Karamazov. Then it's time to look forward to 2013 and all the reading it will hold!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

So good to be home!

I am very glad to be home again. We've had a very busy December already and there are still two weeks left!

Two weeks ago, my husband flew to Michigan for three days to see his parents. They had a good but very rushed trip. I wish it would have been possible for him to stay longer, even though I was lonely at home without him.

This past weekend, Jeff and I flew down to Phoenix. Very early Sunday morning, we headed to the airport. When we landed, we were very quickly reminded of why we had left. Even though the weather was warm enough to just wear a sweater (as opposed to a sweater AND coat here in Seattle), Phoenix is so very brown. It was depressing.

Locale notwithstanding, we had a great trip. As soon as we landed, we picked up our rental car and headed over to my mom's house. We spent several hours playing games with her and then checked into our hotel. We primped a bit and then headed to my husband's company holiday party at Maggiano's Little Italy. The best part of the meal was the chocolate cake (From their website - chocolate cake layered with sambuca chocolate mousse, iced with chocolate frosting and dusted with cocoa powder). YUM!

On Monday, I spent the morning with my mom at her house. Then she dropped me off at Jeff's office where we went out for lunch with the boss and his wife. After lunch, we went to the Data Center and I got to see where the company's lifeblood is located. It was very cool! We dropped a coworker off at the airport, picked up a Redbox DVD to transfer from Phoenix to Seattle, and then went back to the airport ourselves. We ended up having an extra hour to kill so I got a lot of reading and knitting done.

The flight home was a bit turbulent but the ending made up for it. I thought we would fly into the airport from the south but we actually ended up far enough north that we flew over the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market ferris wheel. That looked awesome lit up at night and I wish I could have taken pictures of it.

Now we're back home and life can return to normal. We're determined to not travel more than 10 miles from home for at least a month!

My mom and I

Friday, December 14, 2012


I feel so old for saying this, but what is this world coming to? I don't usually follow the news; it's too depressing. But this morning I found out about the school shooting in Connecticut. What a tragedy. All those elementary aged children dead. Adults dead. And for what? Why?


I know that the Bible says that things will get worse before Jesus comes.

I know that Jesus IS going to come back and children will get a new chance at life, a much better life than they could ever hope for.

But why the heartache? Why the pointless killing? Why the wars? Why the pain? It hurts too much.

I want to do something. I want to help. I want to make something right. And all I know to do is pray. The affected families are across the country from me and there's nothing I can do for them. My heart aches.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2013 Reading to Know Book Club

Reading to Know

I'm so excited! Carrie at Reading to Know asked if I wanted to lead the discussions on one of the 2013 books! I had the opportunity to choose between adult classics and children's classics. My immediate thought was that I wanted to revisit Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. We're reading it next November!

Want to join the bookclub? You can pick and choose which months you want to read and there are some really awesome options. Here is the schedule!

January - Any title of your choosing by L.M. Montgomery
February - The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
March - Any title of your choosing by Maud Hart Lovelace
April - No Name, by Wilkie Collins
May - Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
June - Through Gates of Splendor, by Elizabeth Elliot
July - The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
August - Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot
September - The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
October - The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
November - Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
December - A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

I have grandiose plans of reading them all but we'll see how they fit into the schedule next year.

I hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Auntie Times Three!

I am an auntie again!! Adam was born this afternoon. Isn't he gorgeous?

Welcome to the world, nephew!

Friday, December 7, 2012

My husband - the most important relationship

Reverb has another really good prompt today. I can't resist answering it.

Considering the idea that nothing lasts forever: what was the most important relationship that you fostered in 2012?

How will you continue to nurture it in 2013?

My husband is the love of my life. We've been married for over seven years and I am so incredibly grateful to God for bringing us together. The first couple years of our marriage were tough as I battled some old abandonment issues. But my husband meant what he said in our vows - he has stuck by me no matter what has happened.

This year, I spent over two months in Michigan helping my husband's parents. Before that trip, we had only been apart for a week. By the end of my stay in Michigan, I was desperate to get back to him. Even though I knew that I was needed in Michigan and happy to help, I missed my husband something fierce.

Every so often, I have to remind myself what it felt like to be apart. It's so easy to take my husband for granted because he works from home and we are around each other almost 24/7. Sometimes my selfish nature emerges and I want things my way. I can be short tempered and take advantage of my husband's very giving nature.

In 2013, I want to continue to deepen our relationship. I know that I have flaws, that human nature is to be selfish, but with God's help, I hope to become a better wife. I love my husband more than I could even think possible and want to be the best wife possible.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2012 - What have I learned?

Reverb has a really good prompt today.

Compare the “you” from the beginning of 2012 to the “you” that you are now. What new skills or talents have you learned or discovered this year?

I've learned a lot this year, both in the form of new skills and about life and God's leading.

Here's a look back at what I've learned...

The importance of missionary work.

How to make a fantastic pizza sauce. So many people volunteered favorite recipes and we had a wonderful time testing them out.

That we have been financially blessed by God and have learned how to manage these blessings well enough to move across country and start buying furniture without credit. We also paid off our last credit card earlier this year.

While in Michigan, my mother-in-law taught me how to knit. I've started and completed several projects since March.

I have learned how to rely on God so much more than before. It's been a crazy year. My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and I spent nine weeks in Michigan helping the family. My husband was given permission to move his work from Arizona to Washington. Our male cat was traumatized from the move and had some serious issues that resulted in almost $1,000 in vet bills. In all of this, God has provided and guided and is teaching me how to trust Him regardless of what is going on around me.

I can't wait to see what 2013 brings.