Saturday, November 28, 2015

Crafty Times: Christmas Tags

Crafty Times is a new thing I am trying on the blog where I can share some of the art and crafts I have created (you can too of course). I really dabble in a wide variety of crafts and hope you can find something that sparks your interest or inspires you!
It has been a while since I have been able to post a Crafty Times (or find the time to make anything either). I have made it a goal to spend more time with my crafts next year and to also get my Etsy shop back up and running with a selection of products.
One of the things I have started working on was making Christmas Gift tags, I have had so much fun playing with my stamps and making these tags. I had planned to have a bunch done and listed for sale on Etsy, and also a bunch made as gifts too but I only got these few done (and not even completely done, they still need ribbons).
I hope you like them and may are inspired to make some of your own!
These first three were just dabbling and trying new tools and techniques

 These next ones I plan to sell as a set of Polar Friend's (I figured 4 - 6 in a set is a good number).


 And this last one is the beginning of a 4 tag set of Christmas Kitties

I am really having a lot of fun making these and trying to techniques and playing with lots of new, cute stamps!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bedtime Story: Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long

Read for: Children's Book Challenge
Synopsis: "On the farm where Otis the tractor lives, the farmer has introduced someone new—a scarecrow to shoo away the pesky crows. But when Otis and the animals greet the scarecrow with friendly smiles, the scarecrow’s frown never leaves his face. So everyone leaves him alone.

Then one day, when a cold autumn rain sets in, Otis and the animals snuggle close and play Otis’s favorite game: the quiet game. Otis knows the puppy and ducks can’t sit still for long, and soon the farm friends begin to giggle and squirm, feeling warmed by one another’s friendship . . . but on this day, Otis can't seem to take his eyes off the lonely figure in the cornfield.
A deeply resonant book about subtle acts of compassion and standing up for others, featuring everyone's favorite tractor, Otis."

My Review: This was a very cute book, we are coming to be big Otis fans. This is a good book for the fall with the illustrations and setting but it would also be great any time of the year with the message. Munchkin picked up on the message right away and kept asking why the scarecrow was sad. The games that Otis and his friend played were also fun. The story was great for Munchkin and he really enjoyed it and hopefully the message of not leaving anyone out of the fun will stick.
My Rating: We definitely have enjoyed this book and love the message contained in it. We give this book a rating of Four Paws!
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pen to Paper: Holiday Cards to Others

I hope all of you in the US are having a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones! I am taking advantage of a little down time this morning to work on some of my holiday cards and getting the last of my packages packed and addressed.
Something that I try to do each year is add someone in need to my holiday card list, there are many out there who may not have family or loved ones to send them holiday cards and sometimes a kind thought of a stranger can make all the difference during this time of year.  So I have compiled a list of some charities or places to send an extra holiday card to in order to brighten someone else's day.
Military Members
Our soldiers and veterans should always have our thanks and be in our thoughts. There are many organizations out there that collect cards to send on to our military service members, both overseas and here at home.
The one that I will be sending to this year is Operation Christmas Cards, they are more local to me and I always like supporting local businesses and charities. You don't send to a specific person just write a thoughtful note in the card to a military member and the charity distributes them. Their deadline is December 5th and cards can be sent to the below listed address (there are guidelines so be sure to check the website).
Operation Christmas Cards
867 Grafton St #10#2
Worcester MA 01604
You can also check with your local Red Cross office, in years past the Red Cross has run a large card operation but it appears that they are no longer running it as a whole but individual offices may still be sending cards out.
In years past I have also gone through the Adopt a US Soldier program, however this one takes a little more time and commitment, it should not be looked at as just a holiday thing but a longer commitment. I adopted a soldier for a full year at one point and send a few care packages, several cards and letters throughout the year, the soldier I was sending to was unable to respond, but it is still nice to know that those packages and letters may have brightened his days.
I am looking forward to having Munchkin help me with this idea this year. There is a program called Cards for Hospitalized Kids, and they accept cards year round to distribute to kids where are in the hospital all over the country. They should be hand made cards and can be sent to the below listed address by December 10th (again be sure to check their guidelines on their website).
Cards for Hospitalized Kids
 7290 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60631
You can also check with your local hospitals, I know many also accept handmade blankets, scarves and may also accept cards for the children.
Don't forget our elderly, not all of them are able to be with family during the holidays and some may not even have family anymore to share in the joy of the holiday season. You can always contact your local nursing homes and assisted living centers. I did come across this great page on Facebook that lists addresses for elderly living homes throughout not only the country but also the world. Please be sure to read their instructions HERE.
Additional Ideas
I remember years and years ago my church sent Christmas cards to prisoners, this is something you should consider. We received many very appreciative thank you responses at the church and one of the prisoners was an amazing artist and drew the most beautiful picture to hang in the church. This is definitely something you need to contact the prison and find out their guidelines and policies on before sending anything.
The homeless are also people to consider, check with your local homeless shelters or food banks to see if they collect and distribute holiday cards. This little bit of kindness and the simple thought can make all the difference and brighten what could be a gloomy time of year.
I am sure there are many more ideas out there of people who could use just that little bit of thought and cheer during the holidays and all it could cost you is a few minutes and a stamp. Isn't that worth it?! So please consider adding someone extra to your holiday mailing list!
Your Mission for the Week: Should you choose to, I would love to have everyone of my followers to send a holiday card to someone in need. It only takes a moment while you are sitting down to send out your other holiday cards and letters.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review of Next Stop: Nina by Robin Raven

Read for: Requested Review
Synopsis: "Nina never was one who felt comfortable in this world. As she struggles to cope with the pain of her present and past, the young girl's life is changed through the beauty of art. When Nina grows up and winds up in over her head in a dark place, she finds herself somehow transported to another time when nothing is quite what it seems. She must fight the horrors of her past all over again. Along the way, she faces greater challenges than she imagined. This is a character-driven novel with a heroine who faces life, love, and overcoming suicidal depression on her own terms."

My Review:  This was an interesting book, I was originally drawn to it because the beauty of art can do amazing things for someone's outlook on life. I found though during reading that the book that it wasn't the art that the character looked to but more the artist. I found this book to have some interesting ideas however it was confusing to read. Nina goes back in time and has a chance to relive her life several times, but there are also flashbacks scattered through out the story so at times you are wondering if she went back again or is just remembering. It could be inspiring to those struggling with depression but also have the reverse effect because how many lifetimes does one get in the real world to find the good in life? It is a good story though if you read it as purely fiction and not an inspirational book.
My Rating: This is a difficult book for me to rate, I enjoyed several things about it but not others. I did like how Nina developed her self-worth through aiding others.  In the end I am giving it a rating of Three Paws.
Next Stop: Nina was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
You can find out more about Robin Raven and her work on her Goodreads page or Website.
You can also obtain your own copy in digital or print version on Amazon or in print version from Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tasty Attempts: Pesto Ranch Crockpot Chicken

Last year I had started posting What's For Dinner. While I really enjoyed those posts, it was hard to keep up with a weekly post, especially since Munchkin is getting a little more picky about his diet and we are having a lot of repeat meals (sometimes the same thing several times a week). I still wanted to keep posting tasty recipes but include a little more variety (like the appetizers and desserts that I make for various parties). So I am now posting Tasty Attempts every other Tuesday. The posts will include a variety of recipes, maybe some of them turn out tasty, maybe others are failed attempts.
So I have been trying to make a commitment to using my crockpot more often, it really does make life easier knowing my main dish is complete when I get home and I only have to make sides with Munchkin hanging off me. It just takes a little planning ahead to get it going in the morning before work.  Not too long ago I came across this recipe on Pinterest for Pesto Ranch Chicken. It is so simple, a jar of pesto, a ranch packet, a little chicken broth and some chicken thighs, all of which other than the pesto we have on hand at all times!
I did cut the recipe down and it was done earlier than expected, so my chicken all really fell apart but it was still really tasty. I also made a stovetop stuffing and made some mushrooms and onions to go along with it.
One thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that a lot of pesto sauces are made with pine nuts, so use caution with any allergies. Munchkin couldn't take it to preschool since it is a nut free facility (not that there was any leftovers).  This was definitely a quick and simple dinner to make though and one I will keep in mind.

Review of South of Superior by Ellen Airgood

Read for: Mount TBR & Reading Across the States
Synopsis: "When Madeline Stone walks away from Chicago and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, she isn't prepared for how much her life will change.

Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters-one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As Madeline begins to experience the ways of the small, tight-knit town, she is drawn into the lives and dramas of its residents. It's a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but friendship, community, and compassion run deeper. As the story hurtles along-featuring a lost child, a dashed love, a car accident, a wedding, a fire, and a romantic reunion-Gladys, Arbutus, and the rest of the town teach Madeline more about life, love, and goodwill than she's learned in a lifetime.

A heartwarming novel, South of Superior explores the deep reward in caring for others, and shows how one who is poor in pocket can be rich in so many other ways, and how little it often takes to make someone happy."

My Review: This was an odd book for me, I don't know what I really expected but it was still something I was not expecting. Not a lot really happens other than day to day relationships and hardships but somehow the story still really pulled me in. Every time I would say I will finish this chapter and go to bed, I found myself reading another 3 or 4 chapters. I did like the way the story brought the characters around over time to a new way of looking at life, instead of looking for all the negative things that have happened but instead looking at the good. It wasn't a blow me out of the water with the feel goods but it still gave a little bit of that warmth and thought that maybe things really aren't all that bad.
My Rating: I really can't tell you what kept me so captivated by this book because there really wasn't a lot going on and I didn't really find a lot of connection with the characters either.  It has earned a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Re-Read)
Gearteeth by Timothy Black
Dixie and the Class Treat by Grace Gilman (Early Reader)
The Gingerbread Man by Karen Schmidt (Bedtime Story)
Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey (Graphic Novel)
Healing the Highlander by Melissa Mayhue

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

Snow Cones & Dimes = 3pts
Snow Falls Sometimes = 3pts
Next Stop: Nina = 3pts
King of the Wind = 5pts
Starter Wife = 5pts

Currently Reading:

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl - Audio - 16%
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas - Nook- on page 32 of 648

 Books to be Read Soon:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg - Mount TBR/ Reading Across the States
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Mount TBR
Dark Sun, Bright Moon by Oliver Sparrow - Requested Review


Total Points Earned
143 points + 19 points earned + 10 points for completing a challenge = 172 points

Pages Read/ Time Listened
53,618 pages read (974 read this week)
183:46 listening time

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



Gosh, it is already Thanksgiving this week! I swear the second half of the year just absolutely flies by for me. I did get a decent amount of reading done this week but I am starting to get frantic. I have, like always it seems, left some of the longest and most difficult books to read for the very end of the year when it is the craziest. Oh well, like my mom tells me quite often, do what you can and the rest will be there tomorrow.

I do want to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, I hope that you are able to be surrounded by loved ones. I happen to be extremely thankful for my Hubby who works insanely hard so that I can enjoy the things I enjoy. Munchkin says he is thankful for donuts!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review of Healing the Highlander by Melissa Mayhue

Read for: Mount TBR & Series Challenge
Synopsis: "ANDREW MACALISTER longs for a cure to free him from the excruciating pain caused by an old wound, but when he rescues a drowning woman, he has no idea how much his life is about to change. All Drew knows is that this mysterious woman is hiding secrets—and that he’s never felt such a consuming desire before. Yet he cannot deny her request for help, even if it means bringing the detested English army to his Highland clan’s home.

LEAH NOBLE MCQUARRIE still harbors a deep hatred of the Fae who tortured her eleven years ago, forcing her to escape back in time to the thirteenth century. A descendant of the Fae, Leah denies her heritage and her magical healing abilities. But the English army is holding her beloved adoptive grandfather captive, so Leah must seek help from the Fae—and the captivating man whose touch she craves.

Then Drew discovers Leah’s secrets, and he’s torn between old loyalties and trusting a woman who has the power to give him the future he’s sought—but could destroy his clan forever. . . ."

My Review: Thank goodness Mayhue decided to keep with the historical aspect again instead of bouncing back to the fantasy. One thing to keep in mind with reading this series is to keep them all on hand to keep track of the dates, sometimes the time are earlier than the previous book and sometimes later. With that said, I enjoyed reading Drew's story and seeing both him and Leah grow and develop understanding. I also really like the tensions of the time period and how Mayhue integrated them into the storyline.
My Rating: Another great book in this series. I feel like Mayhue finally found a rhythm for the series and is following through with it. I really enjoyed this book again though maybe not as much as the last book. I give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.