Book Review ~ A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

Back of the book:

Michigan, 1880
Annalisa Werner’s hope for the fairy-tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way, and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That’ll be enough. A marriage for love . . . that’s something she’s given up on.

So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom. Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany, and a former schoolteacher—or so he says. He’s looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.

With time running out, she accepts Carl’s help, but there’s more to theis man than he’s admitting. He’s also gentle, kind, charming—unlike any man she’s ever known. But even as he is shining light into the darkness of Annalisa’s heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.

My thoughts:

This is kind of like the mail order bride books, except with a twist. Make that a couple of twists. After Annalisa’s husband suddenly dies her father decides she needs a new husband and quickly. He takes matters into his own hands and writes a letter to a cousin to send an available male. The cousin receives the letter but sends someone else instead. The mystery man arrives just in the nick of time, but he’s got some secrets that he’s not telling.

I loved the new take on this age old tradition. Carl is such a breath of fresh air for this community. The men are very dominant and angry but Carl slowly begins to change things. It was a nice reminder that one person can make a difference.

I was struck by just how stark living conditions could be for people trying to eke out a living from the soil. No wonder tempers were short. Poverty was constantly knocking at the door. Men were designed to be providers and in this situation it is easy to see how they would feel like failures and become hardened.

The budding trust and affection between Carl and Annalisa was beautifully written. My heart broke when Carl’s secrets began to come to light. Jody Hedlund has once again put together a novel that touches on all your emotions. I think you will laugh and cry with the characters but most importantly when you close the cover for the last time you will sigh with contentment.

Connect with the author:

Tasty Tuesday ~ Frozen Chocolate Banana Bites


Happy last Tasty Tuesday of July! It's Laura from Food Snob St. Louis with an easy snack recipe that you can make in just 10-15 minutes. Your kids can even help! Sometimes we just need a little something sweet. The other night, in an all-out desperate need of chocolate, but unable to drag myself to the grocery store, I made these frozen chocolate banana bites.

They are semi-healthy, and your little ones will love helping dip or drizzle the bananas with the chocolate! Simple homemade snacks like this are great to have around the house for those afternoon hunger pains.


 Head on over to Food Snob St. Louis for the recipe. Also, there is still a little bit of time to enter my Barre3 at-home workout giveaway!      

Take it OR Leave it ~ Levi's White Jeans

Last week you all changed my mind on the skinny jeans. Now for this week I thought what about white skinny jeans? I will admit that anything white and children make me nervous but looking fashionable may make me change my mind!

Now for the “Take It OR Leave It” game. Here’s how it works . . . grab a shopping buddy and head to your favorite store. Find a display you love then recreate the look in your size. Turn to your shopping buddy and simply say, “take it or leave it”. Then trust their judgment!

Now I’m inviting you to be my shopping buddy! Here’s this week’s selection:

Tank: Lace Cami

Top: Stripe Summer Blouse

What do you think . . . should I “Take It OR Leave It”?

Old El Paso Mexican Cooking Sauces & Stand ‘N Stuff Tortillas Make a Tasty Meal + Giveaway

Old El Paso has come up with the most clever thing! It is a soft taco shell that is formed into a bowl shape. They sent us the Stand ‘N Stuff soft flour tortillas and their three new Mexican Cooking Sauces to try. When I took all the products out of the box I immediately started thinking of the ways I could use them. 

On the back of each of the Mexican Cooking Sauces they feature a recipe that you could use if you desire. There is also a description of each sauce. The Chile & Roasted Garlic sauce is a mild sauce that is recommended for burritos. It is described as a savory blend of mild ancho and guajillo peppers, roasted onion and garlic. The Roasted Tomato sauce is also a mild sauce and it is recommended for tacos. The description says it is a savory blend of roasted ripe tomatoes, Anaheim peppers and a touch of onion and garlic. The third sauce is Chipotle and it is classified as medium and recommended for fajitas. Its description is a rich smoky blend of chipotle peppers and fire roasted tomatoes with a touch of sour cream.

I decided to give the Chile & Roasted Garlic Mexican Sauce a try first. I had some chicken breasts in the freezer so I tossed them in the crock pot and poured the sauce over them. I filled the pouch up with water and added it to the crock pot. I set it on high and let it cook for about 6 hours until the chicken was falling apart. (You can cook it for less time if you don’t desire shredded chicken.)

Lord have mercy! It is so sad that there isn't some type of scratch and sniff button I could embed on here. The description of savory doesn't even begin to describe the succulent vapors that were wafting out of my kitchen all afternoon.

After being tortured most of the day the chicken was finally done. I decided to make some rice to go along with it. I got out my handy dandy rice cooker and used some of the sauce off of the chicken along with water to cook the rice in.

When everything was finished we heated up the Stand ‘N Stuff tortillas in the microwave according to the directions. Then the assembly began. We layered in the rice then chicken and topped it all off with some shredded cheese. A little lettuce, tomato, avacado and a dollop of sour cream rounded the whole thing out.

To say this turned out delicious is an understatement. I can’t wait to try the other two sauces. You know I’m already planning ahead to the next time we have company over. This would make an excellent taco bar night! I’m pretty sure these are going to become a staple in my pantry.

Now for the really exciting part . . . one of our blessed readers has the opportunity to win the Stand ‘N Stuff tortillas and all three of the new Mexican Cooking Sauces. Just use the form below to enter.

Connect with Old El Paso:

Old El Paso on Pinterest 


One reader US only 18+ will win an Old El Paso Prize! Giveaway ends on 8/12/2013 at 12:00 am EST. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered.

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Book Review & Giveaway ~ Ever After by Vicki Courtney

Back of the book:

Most women dream about having a family and building a home. We grow up on a steady diet of fairy tales and chick flicks that drive our dreams—and leave us with a sugarcoated version of reality. We want it all: the prince, the kiss, the proposal, the ring, the castle, and eventually, the kids in smocked rompers playing cheerfully on the perfectly manicured lawn. Our hopes and dreams are pinned on the world’s version of happily-ever-after.

The problem is, fairy tales and chick flicks end where real life begins. We never see that follow-up scene where the prince and princess argue at 3 a.m. over who will get up with the colicky newborn. Or the princess reluctantly returns to work to help pay the bills and feels the stress of juggling work and family. And you certainly won’t see that part where the princess moves her last child into the dorm and realizes the bulk of her identity has been based on being a mother.

In Ever After, best-selling author Vicki Courtney addresses the realities of marriage and motherhood, the difficulties and the blessings. She offers women a behind the scenes glimpse of what a fairy tale really looks like on the average day for the average wife and mom. Poignant, funny, and even cathartic, Vicki shares mistakes made, lessons learned, and memories to keep. Most of all, she reflects the hope that Christ meets us wherever we are in the journey, and that He alone is the answer to the happily-ever-after we long for.

My thoughts:

I really wish I could just read aloud to you the introduction of this book. After hearing it I’m pretty confident you would say, “Give me that, I need to read it for myself”.  If you've ever had the privilege of hearing Vicki speak and enjoyed it you are definitely going to delight in reading this book. Her witty yet wise voice comes through in her writing.

Each chapter addresses one of our fairy tale notions and walks us through what the reality is and should be. Don’t get me wrong this isn't a preachy you’re doing it all wrong type of book. How could it be with chapters that include: P-31 Flunkie, Great Sexpectations, Prince Charming Letdown and Fine Whines: Aged to Perfection.

This book is designed with every woman in mind. It is for the single woman who is looking for her prince charming. It is for the young married woman who can’t believe her prince is looking like a frog. It is for all those mommas out there just trying to keep the moat around the castle clean. And it is also for the woman who is looking back and ahead at the same time.

Since I couldn't read you the beginning let me at least leave you with a quote from the ending:
“No fairy tale can match the rescue mission that took place in God’s story. ‘But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8 ESV). Our Prince awaits. Ever after begins today.”

Connect with the author:


Here’s the really good part . . . you can win a copy of Ever After for yourself. Giveaway is open to US only 18+ giveaways ends 8/12 at 12:00 am EST. Just use the form below to enter!

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Post Sesame Street Cereal ~ S is for Strawberry

When I think of a typical morning with little kids it includes Sesame Street and bowls of dry cereal. Both of my boys are fans of Sesame Street and we enjoy watching it together.

When I was asked to try out the new S is for Strawberry Post cereal I knew it would be a good fit for our family. The boys loved the boxes and we were excited to try it out. When I opened the box I was surprised by the delicious strawberry smell.

The boys loved it and the best part is that it is low in sugar, made from whole grains, and no dyes! It is a snack my boys love and I don’t mind giving it to them since it is actually a great cereal for them. Another feature I like is that the x and o shapes make it easy for toddlers to self-feed.

Bottom line we will purchase this cereal again. I would also recommend this to other moms especially those moms looking for a healthier option to the classic high sugar cereals.  You should be able to find the newest flavor S is for Strawberry at your local grocery store. Once you try it with your little one come back here and let me know how your family liked it!

Connect with Post:

The Creator's Rhythm

Tiny Love Magical Night Mobile ~ Review & Giveaway

We are expecting our second baby in early November, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to review the new Magical Night Baby Mobile by Tiny Love. This 3-in-1 nursery toy goes from a crib mobile to crib projector to a night light so your child is able to use it from birth to toddler.


 As you can see I had some "help" putting together the mobile. It might seem crazy to allow a toddler to help assemble something like this, but here is the best part about this product: there are no tiny pieces to put together. The whole thing easily snaps together in less than 5 minutes. The only thing that requires a screw driver is installing the batteries, which is not a big deal at all.


 Changing from the mobile to crib projector . . . .


. . . to the night light is very simple. Each step took less than 5 minutes. I didn't feel frustrated at all! How many baby items that require assembly can you say that about?!


 The music piece has 9 different songs from 3 different categories that will play continuously for 30 minutes. We've been using a CD player with music for our first baby, but it would of been so nice to have something like this right in the crib. The bottom line: this is a great product if you are in the market for a mobile or crib-side musical toy for your little one.


One reader will win their own Magical Night Mobile from Tiny Love. Open to USA only 18+. Giveaway ends 8/07 at 12:01 am EST. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered. 

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Living a Joyful Life

Take it OR Leave it ~ GAP

So this outfit is not too far from a typical outfit for me with exception to the skinny jeans. For the longest time I have had the idea that skinny jeans and post children do not go together but I thought I would see what you all thought!

Now for the “Take It OR Leave It” game. Here’s how it works . . . grab a shopping buddy and head to your favorite store. Find a display you love then recreate the look in your size. Turn to your shopping buddy and simply say, “take it or leave it”. Then trust their judgment!

Now I’m inviting you to be my shopping buddy! Here’s this week’s selection:

Pants: 1969 zipperlegging skimmer jeans

What do you think . . . should I “Take It OR Leave It”?

Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck ~ A Contemporary Fiction Book Review

Rachel Hauck
Royal Wedding Series, Book 1

About the book:

Once Upon a Prince, the first novel in the Royal Wedding series by best-selling author Rachel Hauck, treats you to a modern-day fairy tale.

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess---just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn't going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simons Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family's tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna's aid under the fabled Lover's Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He's a royal prince. She's an ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel's coronation.

It's the ultimate choice: His kingdom or her heart? God's will or their own?

My thoughts:

Once Upon a Prince is more than a story about the prince of Brighton. It is really a story about a relationship with the Prince of Peace. Rachel Hauck has once again carved out a tale that will not only entertain you but will also make you examine your relationship with the ultimate Prince.

This is truly a delightful modern-day fairy tale. It has all the great elements, a beautiful young woman who has been wounded in the arena of love and a handsome young prince masquerading as a tourist. When the two meet it is one of those priceless stories that will be told again and again to their children and grandchildren.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the way both Susanna and Nathaniel struggle with doing what is expected and what is right. Above all else they love the Lord and rely on Him to guide their decisions. There were times when I even wanted to set the book aside and join them in worshiping the Almighty. For me this really was a very moving story.

I’m excited that this is just the first of the series. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the next one. For a delightful read that will also allow you to ponder on your own relationships, pick this one up!

Connect with the author:

Put Some Slaw On It! ~ Recipe for Basic Coleslaw

One of my favorite side dishes has to be, hands down, coleslaw. I love it on nachos, burgers, pulled pork, smoked ham, and of course it belongs on a hot dog. I'm not much of a fish eater but my husband makes a mean fish taco and it has to have slaw on it! If it holds still long enough, in the summer especially, it will get a scoop of slaw on it.

My grandma had several ways to make coleslaw. Each recipe would be hand chopped and the dressing was definitely homemade. (A bottle of dressing would have sent her into a fit!) The common factors in most of her recipes were a little sweet with a kick of spice.

I wanted that same taste but I'm too  lazy busy to do it her way. So . . . a little experimenting later and here's what I came up with. It's quick and easy and tastes delish!

Basic Coleslaw

1 bag of chopped coleslaw mix

Dressing Mix:
1 Cup mayonaise
3 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar
1/4 tsp Slap Yo Mama (or more to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix it all together until the mayo is no longer lumpy. Add in the cabbage mix and stir until it is well coated. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Now use your imagination and add a little slaw to your favorite dish!

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter ~ A Contemporary Romance Review

Denise Hunter
Chapel Springs Series, Book 1

About the book:

Madison’s heart has been closed for years. But one summer can change everything.
In the years since her twin brother’s drowning, Madison McKinley has struggled to put it behind her. Despite the support of her close-knit family and her gratifying job as a veterinarian in their riverside town, the loss still haunts her.

To find closure, Madison sets out to fulfill her brother’s dream of winning the town’s annual regatta. But first she has to learn to sail, and fast.

Beckett O’Reilly knows Madison is out of his league, but someone neglected to tell his heart. Now she needs his help—and he’ll give it, because he owes her far more than she’ll ever know.

Madison will do anything—even work with the infamous Beckett O’Reilly—to reach her goal. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying. As summer wanes, her feelings for him grow and a fledgling faith takes root in her heart.

But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their new love. Can their romance survive summer’s challenges? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

My thoughts:

If you can classify a novel as steamy without it crossing the line then this one is definitely putting off some vapors. The relationship between Madison and Beckett has been brewing for years and it finally comes to a point that they need to pursue it or move on. The problem is that neither one of them is sure how the other one feels. In order to figure it out someone is going to have to become vulnerable. That would mean exposing old hurts and weaknesses.

Ten years before Madison’s twin died in an accident. Everyone seems to have moved on except Madison. There’s a hole that just can’t be filled no matter how hard she tries. So instead she just pushes all those feelings down. But unfortunately her life is beginning to spiral out of control and she no longer has a choice about facing the past.

Beckett has so much baggage that he looks like a seasoned traveler. His father is a well-known alcoholic. His mother is long gone. He and his sister have spent years trying to forge a life in the face of all that adversity. As an adult Beckett is nothing like he was as a rowdy teenager, but can he convince Madison that he’s not who she thinks he is?

I enjoyed reading Madison and Beckett’s story. It made my heart pound and times with anticipation and at other times it just broke with sorrow over their situation. I think you’ll find it to be the perfect savory and sweet summer read. This four book series is off to a fabulous start!

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Wordless Wednesday ~ Stand Your Ground

Tasty Tuesday ~ CSA 101

Hi Rambles of a SAHM readers! It's Laura from Food Snob St. Louis back yet again with your Tasty Tuesday post. This week, instead of giving you a recipe, I thought I would discuss my thoughts and opinions on CSAs and why they are great. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

The basic idea is that you purchase a "share" of food that comes from a local (distance varies) farmer or rancher and receive your piece of that share each week. I like CSAs because you have an opportunity to support your local community and you have a closer connection to where your food is coming from.


So how do you know if a CSA is for you? Here are some tips and personal thoughts to consider if you are interested in joining a CSA:

 - Find what CSAs are offered in your area. Local Harvest is a great resource for finding them. - Consider pick-up location or delivery options. You don't want to feel burdened by a trip to go pick up your CSA share. Many offer pick-ups at farmers' markets or grocery stores. Some might even offer to deliver to your home for an additional charge. Think of where you normally shop or is near your home and go from there.

 - Don't expect a CSA to be less expensive than a trip to the grocery store. Yes, some may be, but some may not necessarily (from my experience). Consider if the produce is organic or not, or if it is heirloom, or if meat is grass fed . . . all these things can affect the price. Just remember it is the quality of the items you are receiving and confidence in the farmers who produced it. I have noticed that often times it would be difficult the purchase an equal amount of organic food from a grocery store, so for us, a CSA is worth the price because even though the food may not be certified organic, it is often grown with organic principles and of the same quality.

 - Think about how you eat. Are you a vegetarian? Paleo? Gluten-free? Different CSAs offer more than just vegetables (meat, staples, etc.), so be sure to find one that meets your dietary needs. - If you are out-of-town a lot or don't cook often a CSA is probably not for you. Most if not all of the items you receive are perishable, and you don't want to waste all that food.

 In case you missed some of my recipes from the CSA I participated in, here are some links to the 12 that I shared as a part of this series: 

  Arugula Salad with Basil Vinaigrette Roasted Sunchokes Pecan Crusted Trout Sorghum Glazed Carrots Mini Asparagus and Sausage Frittatas Pesto Pasta with Asparagus Slow Cooker Baked Black Beans Strawberry Balsamic Poppyseed Salad Garlicky Lemon Roasted Broccoli Black Eyed Pea Saute Spanish Onion Garlic Torta Fresh Green Bean and Tomato Salad   

 Have you ever been a part of a CSA? Tell me about your experience!  

Take it OR Leave it ~ Ralph Lauren

I never wear hats. However EVERYONE is wearing Fedora style hats. So I had to try!

I am not sure if it is because I am petite but I feel like they make me look funny instead of cute. So I thought this would be a great chance to see what you all thought. This summer I have been wearing a lot of dresses so I thought this would be a good match up to see what you all think!

Now for the “Take It OR Leave It” game. Here’s how it works . . . grab a shopping buddy and head to your favorite store. Find a display you love then recreate the look in your size. Turn to your shopping buddy and simply say, “take it or leave it”. Then trust their judgment!

Now I’m inviting you to be my shopping buddy! Here’s this week’s selection:

Ralph Lauren

What do you think . . . should I “Take It OR Leave It”?

Book Review ~ The Winnowing Season by Cindy Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall
Amish Vines and Orchards Series, Book 2

About the book:

The tornado that devastated Kings’ Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community—and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them?

On the eve of their departure to begin a new Old Order Amish community outside of Unity, Maine, Rhoda Byler is shocked to discover that choices made by her business partner and friend, Samuel King, have placed her and her unusual gifts directly into the path of her district’s bishop and preachers. She is furious with Samuel and is fearful that the Kings will be influenced by the way her leaders see her, and not what they know to be true—that Rhoda’s intuition is a gift from God.

Jacob King won’t be swayed by community speculation. He loves Rhoda, believes in her, and wants to build a future with her in Maine. But when the ghosts of his past come calling and require him to fulfill a great debt, can he shake their hold before it destroys what he has with Rhoda? Samuel has a secret of his own—one he’ll go to great lengths to keep hidden, even if it means alienating those closest to him. Throwing himself into rehabilitating the once-abandoned orchard, Samuel turns to a surprising new ally.

Book 2 of the Amish Vines and Orchards series asks: can the three faithfully follow God’s leading and build a new home and orchard in Maine? Or will this new beginning lead to more ruin and heartbreak?

My thoughts:

One of the many things that I appreciate about Cindy Woodsmall’s series is that they seem to come out in pretty quick succession. Even with that it is still sometimes hard to immediately remember what happened in the last book and where we are at in the story. At the beginning of each of her subsequent books is a short synopsis of what has occurred in the story up to this point. I really wish more authors and publishers would adopt this practice.

This installment picks up where the first book left off. Samuel is still smitten with Rhoda but he can’t act on those feelings because his younger brother Jacob is actively pursuing her. Samuel and Rhoda are amazing business partners but could they be life partners as well?

Samuel makes decisions out of his passionate nature and does so in the pursuit of truth and justice. The problem is that in that quest he winds up hurting the very one he meant to protect. I find myself so frustrated with his stubbornness. He always thinks he’s right!

Jacob makes me crazy too. If he would just tell the truth about things it would not only allow others to help him, but it would give him the freedom to begin to set things right.

Rhoda is such an interesting and complex personality. I admire her ability to stand up to constant ridicule from those around her. One of the things that has me scratching my head is her willingness to cover up for Jacob. When will she realize that she’s not helping by allowing him to continually escape detection and repeatedly shirk his responsibilities to the group?

I have to say that I had the same exact reaction to the ending of this book as I had to the first one and many of Cindy’s other books as well. It went something like this, “What . . . that can’t be the end!” I would then frantically flip a few pages just to see if I had missed something. Nope . . . another cliffhanger! It is a very good thing that the next book in the series, For Every Season, is scheduled to release in August 2013. I can hardly wait!

Connect with the author:

Twitter: @CindyWoodsmall

Amish Vines and Orchard Series
1.       A Season for Tending
2.       The Winnowing Season 
3.       For Every Season 

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