Tuesday, December 31, 2013

GoodBye 2013

WOW, I cannot believe another year has come to an end. I thought 2012 went by FAST, but 2013 really has 2012 beat.

2013 was an exhausting year, had a lot of "Stuff" going on and we were trying to recover from the busy year that 2012 dealt us. I must say that 2013 was a HEALTHY year for myself, my husband and my boys. I haven't had a HEALTHY year since 2009. PRAISE God for good health and being able to stay healthy and not too many Drs. Visits.

Our family started getting back into our routine this year, but more importantly we did a LOT of fun stuff this year. We were supposed to go away to a semi-local hotel for a couple of days in April, but the day we were leaving the Chicagoland area and the area we were heading to FLOODED. Heavy rains and flooding did not deter us though, I called a hotel only 20 minutes from us and we stayed there for 2 days. The boys enjoyed themselves and got to swim a lot. It was a relaxing, get away from home, family fun time. We also had a Family Fun day at Six Flags Great America. My boys and I had earned tickets through the Read to Succeed program. Hubby took the day off of work on July 22nd, and we headed out there. July 22nd is Nathan's B-day and we had a GREAT time! The boys are already asking when are we going back. We also visited Zoo, Museums, Downtown Chicago and more day trips.

2013 was an exhausting year until about May, but as the year continued on it became relaxing and fun! GOODBYE 2013!

A couple months ago I began thinking about 2014 and how I would like our schedule and routine to really get back on track. Chaos many times seems to snag our efforts to a Calm routine. I decided we needed to slow down and focus, LIGHTEN our Chaos. So LIGHTEN is my WORD for 2014!

We are going to focus on our family and only the 5 of us. LIGHTEN my load and slow down. I am a person who likes to do for others and it is hard for me to say NO, but I need to start saying NO to others and YES to what is happening in our household. We need to LIGHTEN our mouths and talk sweeter to one another. LIGHTEN my load by having the boys and my husband help me more within the household. I tend to do it all for everyone, but I can't keep doing it all. LIGHTEN our schedule so we can get our routine in full gear so that Chaos leaves us alone!

My blog has been SLOW for 2 years due to all the busy stuff in life, but my blog will be the only thing that won't be LIGHTEN. I will be picking up the pace on my blog and I have some exciting things I plan on doing in 2014!

I am looking forward to 2014: Slowing Down and Getting it DONE!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Mosaic Review: Udderly Smooth

Winter is upon us and that means DRY skin and other skin related issues. I was sooo excited to receive an invite to participate in a Review of Udderly Smooth products, as part of my participation in Mosaic Reviews. I had heard about Udderly Smooth for the first time this year, in September, but forgot to look further into the product.

About Udderly Smooth: 

Made in the USA for over thirty years, Udderly Smooth® products contain rich moisturizing ingredients. Not your average moisturizing lotion- Udderly Smooth® can be used on Dry Skin, Cracked Skin, forDiabetes Foot Care, as a Facial Moisturizer, as a General Moisturizing Lotion and many other uses.

Pioneered by a Pharmacist, reasonably priced and made in America’s heartland. Use Udderly Smooth® daily for smooth, soft skin head to toe.

Look for the lotion with the black and white cow spots. Try it and get Udderly Smooth®  (Taken from their website)

More about the Company

I received the following Items for to use and review:

1 12oz Body Cream
1 8oz Foot Cream
1 4oz Hand Cream tube
1 2oz Hand Cream tube
A few samples of hand cream to pass out to friends

My Thoughts and Review: 
I have stress induced Eczema on my Arms, just started in March of this year. I have been using Prescription Strength Hydrocortisone Cream to treat it. I also switched to using Oatmeal soap to bathe, as I heard Oatmeal soap helps the outbreaks. The combination of treatment was working OK, but it wasn't going away completely. I had begun researching online how to treat eczema naturally and this opportunity came along. I also have really "dry" feet and heels. I wear Sandals about 8 months out of the year, so the heels take a beating. I was ecstatic when I received the confirmation that I was on the Review team.

I received the various creams about 3 weeks ago and immediately began using the products.

I began with the Foot Cream(forgot to take a picture). I applied the Cream right before bed the first night and woke up to drastically improved heels and feet. I continued to use it and by the 3rd use my feet were and still are SMOOTH!!I continue to use the Foot Cream every other day and LOVE it!

The Hand Cream is so different from other hand creams or lotions that I have used. I LOVE the non-greasy feeling and that it leaves my hands feeling soft and smooth. I wash my hands multiple times per day and I don't feel the need to reapply the cream like I do with other lotions and creams. I use the Hand Cream about once a day, as I don't normally have dry hand issues so once is enough.

The Body Cream, oh the Body Cream, is by far my favorite. I have been using it on both of my arms and have seen DRAMATIC improvement with the Eczema. I had 4 spots when I began using it 3 weeks ago and I now only have one noticeable spot. 3 of the Eczema spots are completely gone, the 4th is almost gone.I have been treating the eczema for 8 months prior and didn't see much improvement. Udderly Smooth helped my eczema within 3 weeks! I am beyond AMAZED and pleased with the Body Cream!

Things I really LOVED about Udderly Smooth: 
  • Healing of Dry Skin issues begins within a couple of days. 
  • The Creams do not leave a Greasy feeling on the skin. 
  • Very Affordable for everyone.
  • MADE in the USA product. 
  • Doesn't wash off while washing hands.
The only NEGATIVE for me: 
The Creams weren't as natural as I thought they would be. Some of the ingredients are non recognizable.

More info on Udderly Smooth Products: 

Udderly Smooth comes in many Varieties and Sizes: Product Info

Udderly Smooth is available online at the Udderly Smooth Website. The prices range from $1.75-$8.75 depending on size and product.

Udderly Smooth is also available in stores. Where to Buy

Where to Find Udderly Smooth on the Web: 

I give the product 5 out of 5 stars! I will continue to buy and use Udderly Smooth! GREAT product!


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Friday, December 27, 2013

Mosaic Reviews: HelloFresh

Do you loathe meal planning and grocery shopping?? Do you wish there was someone to do it for you and delivers? Well, there is: HelloFresh 

HelloFresh is a Subscription service that creates recipes, creates weekly menu choices, gathers the ingredients for your 3 meal choices and delivers to your door every Wednesday.

I recently had the opportunity to receive a weekly box for my family to enjoy as part of my participation in Mosaic Reviews.

How Does it Work:

You will need to create an account at HelloFresh website. Once you have created your account you will be able to select your first delivery box. You have to have your order in the system the Wednesday prior to the next Wednesday delivery, so basically 7 days in advance. HelloFresh has 2 different Boxes to choose from: Classic and Veggie which both come in 2 person meals or 4 person meals. You are given 3 meals as the main choices, but there are 2 optional that you can swap out for any of the 3. Sit back and wait for your Wednesday delivery!

Our Family's Thoughts and Review: 

We are a family of 5, so we cooked all 3 meals for dinner the night after we received our box. The box was delivered on Wednesday, but we are at church on Wednesday night. The box arrived while we were gone, but that did not create a problem. The food comes in a VERY well insulated box and sits atop 2 very strong ice packs.

Our 3 meal choices were: Steak and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry, Chile Dusted Shrimp with Corn Relish, Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Skillet Potatoes and Zucchini.

My husband is the Chef of the family and I am the baker, so my hubby was the one who prepped and prepared the food. He likes for "everyone to stay out of the kitchen while I am cooking", so I didn't get to the food being made, but I did get his opinion on the preparation process. His thoughts: "The meals are easy to prepare, especially with all the ingredients measured and ready for cooking. The cooking process is easy and most of the meals did take 30 minutes or less. The Tendorloin took a bit longer, but it was worth it".

I was arranging the food on plates and bowls as each meal was ready. The finished meals were looking delectable. The 3 meals were ready for us to enjoy in about 1hr 45minutes. The wait was COMPLETELY worth it! I was quite impressed that each meal created a LARGE portion. We all took a portion of each meal and enjoyed dinner.My boys did surprise me by saying the Steak and Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry was actually spicer then the Chile Dusted Shrimp with Corn Relish. The meals were not too spicy though because the boys went back for seconds. YES, even though the meals were for 2, there was enough for seconds for my boys. I myself enjoyed every bite of each of the 3 meals! My husband was very satisfied with the meals! My personal favorite was the Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Skillet Potatoes and Zucchini. The family really enjoyed the meals!!

Some quotes from my boys: 
8yr old: "Wow we are eating fancy tonight"   We are more of a comfort food type of family, thus he thought this was fancy food. LOL

11yr old: He came to me about 2 hrs after dinner and said "When are we getting another box?" My 11yr old is the PICKEST eater I have ever met, so he comment says a LOT!! He truly enjoyed it!

The things I really Like about HelloFresh service: 
  • All the ingredients are shipped to you in the EXACT amount you need.
  • The quality and freshness of the food and ingredients.  
  • The beautiful recipe cards that give cooking instructions with pics. 
  • Ability to "pause" your delivery for however long you need to. 
  • No CONTRACT and NO Minimum monthly order
  • Customer Service is OUTSTANDING! I received a call a couple days after delivery from their Social Media rep and she was friendly, helpful and we had a nice conversation!
The CON for our family: The COST!! I am a Frugal Shopper and my weekly food budget is about $100. 3 meals will only cover 1 night for our family, so that would put our grocery budget through the roof.

More info about HelloFresh Subscription Service:

Cost per week: 

Classic Box (3 meals):
2 people $69
4 people $129

Veggie Box (3 meals):
2 people $59
4 people $109

Shipping is ALWAYS FREE!

Are you interested in HelloFresh service?? 
Sign up now and use code XN6V7C at Checkout to 
receive $20 off your first box. 

Where to find HelloFresh on the Web:

I really wish HelloFresh was more cost effective for our family because we would be ordering a couple times a month!! 5 out of 5 stars! EXCELLENT food and service!


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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Manufacturer Warranties save money

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you all are having a WONDERFULLY, BLESSED day! Jesus is the Reason for this day, but on Jesus's Birthday we are all blessed with gifts from one another!

The "Age of Technology", I am sure many received Electronics, Small Appliances, Large Appliances and more. I want to encourage EVERYONE to make sure you Register the product online, via email or via phone with the Manufacturer. I know I have disregarded those "slips" in the packaging before, but after this year I will NEVER again disregard them! Manufacturer Warranties saved us HUNDREDS of dollars this year in repair and/or replacement costs!

I have come to learn that things just don't last as long as they use to and Manufacturer "defects" are very common. Electronics(smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, etc) are not "CHEAP" to replace nor are appliances, toys and more. My boys and I all got tablets in March, hubby bought a Samsung Galaxy Note phone. My oldest son, Joshua, bought a Nintendo 3D Dsi XL in August. We immediately registered all the products online and it has "paid" off.

The boys all received a Lenovo A2107 Tablet in the Spring. The oldest son Josh, started having issues with the "battery" within a month. I called Lenovo after doing some research and discovering this was a common issue. The Customer Service Rep was able to find the information quickly and within 5 minutes we had instructions on how to ship back for repair. The instructions were emailed to us and from the day we shipped until the day we had it back was exactly 1 week! Our cost for the repair: $5.65 to ship it to them. Our cost for replacement would have been $150.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 for myself in the Spring. The tablet did an automatic update to the Android system in early October. The update caused issues with turning the device off, it would not power down unless it was on the charger and the power button was being pressed hard. Samsung and Google were both aware of this issue and worked hard to get the update to fix the issue. A couple weeks ago the software update came through, but would not install. I took it to the Samsung store inside Best Buy and they tried to install the update, didn't work. He called it in and was told that the update was causing internal issues with the tablet. The tablet needed to be sent in for repairs. The information was found in the system with just my phone number. A repair slip was generated within 3 minutes and I even had the email with the shipping label even before I left the store. I shipped it out on 12/16 and I should have it back by 12/30. Cost to repair it: $0.00!! Manufacturer warranty covered it entirely!

My husband bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Smartphone in March and about 2 months ago he started having issues with the earpiece. He could hear people when it was on speaker phone or he had earbuds in, but not when he put the phone to his ear. He took it into Sprint only to find out he did not have insurance on the phone. I suggested to him to contact Samsung and see if they can help. He contacted them and they had do a few tests and resets to the phone but really didn't help him after that. I further suggested he contact Samsung Support via their Facebook page and they were EXTREMELY helpful. They created a repair slip and emailed him the shipping label and info within minutes. He shipped it out on 12/9 and Samsung did not receive it until 12/20 due to shipping delays via UPS. The GREAT news is that they completed the repair on 12/23 and he will have it returned on 12/26. They replaced the ear piece as it was defective. Cost of repair to us: $0.00. Cost of repair to Samsung: $150.

Nintendo has also been a superb company to work with. My oldest purchased a 3D DSI XL all on his own in August and he has had to send it in for repair 2x since then. His Dsi is currently en route to our home again. The most recent repair cost was $0.00 for us, $125 for Nintendo.

Small appliances are also another product that you want to register the product purchase online. I had purchased a Nesco Immersion Blender in November '12. I was using the blender in Sept '13 and the motor just stopped working. I called Nesco as soon as they opened the next day and they were extremely helpful. The Customer Service Rep found my info in about a minute and saw that my hand blender was still within warranty. She emailed the shipping info and instructions, I had it even before our conversation ended. I shipped the handle back to them and they replaced it with a new handle, all within a week time. Cost to us: $4.78 to ship it to Nesco. Cost to replace would have been $50.

I know stores sell "added insurance" for products, even for toasters, DVD players, Vacuums etc. The insurance through the store really isn't a wise buy, even if it seems like it at the point of purchase. Manufacturers usually have at least a 1yr warranty on their products and by registering your product they will be able to assist you that much faster when/if you call them. Did you buy the insurance?? Register with the manufacturer as added protection. Registering with the manufacturer is FREE all the time and takes very little time.

I am very glad that I registered my product purchases with the manufacturer and I know my bank account is very thankful also! I now have a system in place to help me during this process. I save the receipt in a separate envelope(most registrations need the info from the receipt). I register the product online as soon as I can or as I soon as I open the product. I use a standard 2 pocket folder to keep all paperwork together and phone number of the manufacturer, so that when the need arises I have all the info at hand.

A few minutes of your time will save you quite a bit of money if a repair or replacement comes up! Take care of those wonderful presents you received and make sure to register for the manufacturer warranty!

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 12: 12 Pearls of Christmas- A Teenage Pregnancy by Robin Jones Gunn

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items from the contributors! Enter now below. The winner will be announced on January 2, 2014, at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

A Teenage Pregnancy by Robin Jones Gunn

It was early, early morning, that delicate time of day just before sunrise when it seems as if all of creation is still asleep.

In the cold, gray light she gazed at the infant in her arms. He was less than an hour old and so, so small. Instinct prompted her to draw her newborn close that he might feel the rhythm of her heart. He curled his tiny hand around her finger and she smiled. His eyes closed, and with feathered breath he gave way to the blessed sleep that follows such a long journey.

In weary awe she studied his face, his ears, his nose. He was here. He had come at last.

A single tear fell from her eye and rolled across his cheek. She kissed the tear away but could not kiss away the memories that came with the tears; memories of the day she found out she was pregnant. How exhilarated she felt and yet how terrified. She was young, and there was much she didn’t understand.

Trying to justify her condition to her parents proved more difficult than she’d hoped. But the most excruciating memory was the moment she stood guileless before the man she hoped to one day marry. She had no words to make him understand the awful truth—the child she carried was not his.

Leaving seemed to be her only option. A gracious aunt took her in and welcomed her with open arms. From the moment she arrived she was showered with motherly words of hope and sisterly touches of love. Week by week, month by month, the child inside her grew.

Was it a miracle when she returned home, her belly round, her face flushed, and found him there?

What prompted this man to take her back and make her his bride? Did he now believe what she had tried to explain all along, that none of this was her own doing?

When the time was right they left their small town together, as husband and wife, with her due date rapidly approaching. The labor began—tightening her abdomen with a force she had never before imagined. Perspiration streamed from her forehead. The contractions multiplied with a frenzied urgency until the need to push overwhelmed her young body, and the baby was born.

Nothing of the past mattered anymore. He was here. Naked, perfect, quivering in her arms. With a thrill of hope, she believed that her life, her world, would never be the same.

Now as the first silver streaks of dawn pierced through the cracks in the stable, she tenderly wrapped her sleeping babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

Robin Promo Photo Close Up 2013Robin Jones Gunn, bestselling author of the much-loved Christy Miller Series and the award-winning Sisterchicks® series, has had more than 4.5 million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her frequent speaking engagements have taken her around the globe. Robin and her husband live in Hawaii and have a grown son and daughter. You can learn more at Robin's website.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

LitFuse Blog Tour: The Journey of Josephine Cain by Nancy Moser (American Tapestry Series)

About the Book:

When a socialite from the nation's capital embarks on a journey to the Wild West, her life is changed forever.

A setting populated by hundreds of laborers, outlaws, and Indians is hardly the place for a wealthy general's daughter. But Josephine Cain is determined to visit her father, who supervises the day-to-day work involved in the grandest ambition of post-Civil War America: the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Life with the railroad is far from the proper life Josephine is used to, and she faces deadly gunfights, harsh weather, and vigilante uprisings. She is torn between the West and the East; between her privileged upbringing and the challenges of a new frontier; between the pull of the suitable beau her parents approve of and an attraction to a rough but charming Irish railroad worker. But if Josephine is willing, she just might find a new life, a unique purpose . . . and true love.

About the Author:

Nancy Moser is the best-selling author of more than twenty novels. She is a winner and two-time nominee of the Christy Award, and her latest novel was named to Booklist's "Top 10 Romance Novels of 2011." Nancy and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren, and they live in the Midwest.

My Thoughts and Review: 

The Journey of Josephine Cain is another book in the American Tapestry Series, the second one that I have read.

The Journey of Josephine Cain is set during the Transcontinental Railroad times. I have always been intrigued by the Railroad system and how it began, so I was immediately drawn into the book. Nancy Moser did a WONDERFUL job at keeping the storyline "REAL" of the times yet "FICTION", as the book is based on actual events. Josephine comes from a "privilaged life", so at first her journey toward the Wild West is a struggle for her. The journey that Josephine goes on is one that helps her discover "HER" and the direction her life is heading. The book is one of Faith, Hope, Trust, and LOVE!

The book drew me in from the second I picked it up and I finished it in less then 6hrs. I am truly enjoying the American Tapestry series! I have read a few of Nancy Moser's book before, but I think this is my favorite!

The Journey of Josephine Cain gets 5 out of 5 stars! EXCELLENT READ!

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LitFuse Blog Tour: Return to Me by Lynn Austin (Book 1 in the Restoration Chronicles Series)

About the Book: 

From the Acclaimed Author of Chronicles of the Kings

After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true---King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem. Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God's renewed favor. For too long they've remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo's sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart. And so only a few choose to leave everything to return---return to their home and their God.

Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy. As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo's beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God's leading. Zechariah, Iddo's oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather's ancient beliefs and the family they left behind. But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah---and history---forever.

Bringing the Old Testament to vibrant life, Return to Me tells the compelling story of two men living by faith in the midst of doubt, the women who love them, and the faithful remnant struggling to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.

About the Author:

Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.

My Thoughts and Review:

Return to Me is Book 1 for The Restoration Chronicles, a new series by Lynn Austin. I have enjoyed many of Lynn Austin's Christian Fiction books, as she is an EXCELLENT author. I have to say though, I had a really hard time "getting into" this book. Return to me is Biblical Fiction book, and I found it confusing.

I really had a hard time understanding and following the storyline in the book. I don't believe it is the writer's style or the theme of the book, just me and my brain. The book took me about a week to read because I would have to grab my bible and look things up for clarification. I was also a bit bored while reading at times, so I would stop for awhile. I wish that I could have understood the storyline and theme to be able to enjoy the book, but it just didn't do anything for me.

I give Return to Me 2 out of 5 stars. An OK Read!

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LitFuse Blog Tour: The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson (American Tapestry Series)

About the Book:

An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women's families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.

One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages---a network that may be the Patriots' only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family's protection and her own heart's desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.

About the Author:

Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.

My Thoughts and Review: 

History has never been "my cup of tea", I loathe history. I seem to have a hard time understanding certain parts of history, especially War times. I have noticed that when I read Historical Fiction about a certain time period, I seem to understand that time period more. The Courier of Caswell Hall, set in the American Revolution, was a shining example of that.

The Courier of Caswell Hall is the fifth book in the American Tapestry series, I have only read this book from the series. Melanie Dobson makes the reader feel connected to the story and the characters. The mix of historical facts and the fiction story are make the story very interesting. The book has 2 different storylines based around the main characters, Lydia and Sarah. I really LOVED how the 2 storylines become one at the end of the book!

The Courier of Caswell Hall is a stand alone novel from the other books in the series, but I am now wanting to read the other books! The series is written by a few different authors. I thoroughly enjoyed The Courier of Caswell Hall.

The Courier of Caswell Hall gets 5 out of 5 stars! EXCELLENT READ!!

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LitFuse Blog Tour: Home to Heather Creek Series: Before Dawn and Sweet September by Kathleen Bauer

About the Books: 

When the world around you falls apart, could it be that God is giving you a second chance? This is just one of the questions on Charlotte Stevenson's mind as she brings her three grandchildren to live on the family farm in Guidepost Books' Home to Heather Creek series.

Before the Dawn begins just one week after the funeral of Charlotte's daughter, Denise. Denise's three children barely have time to process the death of their mother before they must move to the Heather Creek Farm they have never visited with grandparents they barely know. At age 16, Sam is fiercely protective of his younger siblings. Emily is 14 and desperately misses her friends. Young Christopher is only 8 and just wants to fit in. While Charlotte tries to help her grandchildren adjust to their new life, she also wrestles with her own grief and the enormous task of bringing her family together. Bob believes the fastest path to adjustment is a firm routine, with structure and chores, the same way they raised their own kids. However, that route led to Denise running away from home as a teenager and an estranged relationship with her family. Charlotte is worried about making the same mistakes she made with Denise. Is this her chance to make things right?

It is spring when the children arrive, and as Charlotte looks around the farm, she hopes the new life around them will signify hope and healing. The miracle of new life, along with God's healing touch, reminds all of them that it's always darkest just before the dawn.

Sweet September picks up at harvest time, as the children are settling into a new school year. While the harvest should be an exciting time, the children don't seem to be getting into the spirit. Emily is struggling with farm life, Christopher spends most of his time alone, and Sam is failing school. Trying to learn from what did and didn't work with her own kids, Charlotte is determined to get her grandchildren back on track.

As tenuous family bonds threaten to break apart, a mystery on the farm might be the one thing that can bond the family together. Charlotte sets out to uncover the truth, and as the kids unite to find answers, this cobbled-together family learns more about one another and the love that binds them together.

The lives of the Stevensons and their grandchildren unfold in this captivating story of the remarkable change that comes from the love of family, the kindness of others, sheer persistence and unshakable faith. As readers follow the Stevensons' inspiring stories, it's almost impossible not feel a part of this friendly, loving community, where God's grace can be seen in every circumstance.

About the Author: 

Kathleen Bauer is the pen name for a team of writers who have come together to create the Home to Heather Creek series.

My Thoughts and Review:

I was blessed to receive the first 2 books in a brand new series, Home to Heather Creek, to read and review at the same time. I LOVE reading through series, but I don't enjoy the wait between books in series.

Wanna know how much I enjoyed these 2 books?? I was able to finish both books in a 36hr period! I do believe that is a record for me. I dove right into the first book, Before Dawn, within minutes of it arriving. The plot drew me in and "ZONED" me in. Though the story has sad happenings, the main character Charlotte, relies on her faith to overcome the challenges ahead for her and her grandchildren. Before Dawn is a story of Changes, Faith, Family, and Healing. Before Dawn was a book that I literally could not put down until I finished.

The second book in the series, Sweet September, brings about more changes for Charlotte and her grandchildren. The children are struggling with the sadness of the past year and their behaviors are reflecting that. Charlotte once again turns to God to help her through this period for their family. The family grows closer at they work together to find out who ruined their Vegetable Garden. Sweet September is about Family Bonding, LOVE, Moving forward, and Faith.

Home from Heather Creek is a wonderful series! Each book is written by a different author, but the storyline flows so well from Book 1 to Book 2. Home to Heather Creek Series teaches us that even in the midst of Tragedy and Changes, God will show us his mercy and grace and love!

I give Before Dawn and Sweet September 5 out of 5 stars! EXCELLENT Books!

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Day 11: 12 Pearls of Christmas- Do You Hear What I Hear? by Cynthia Ruchti

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

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Do You Hear What I Hear? by Cynthia Ruchti

To shepherds? Really, God? You crafted a birth announcement that was delivered first to shepherds? The story’s become so familiar to us, so easy for us to visualize because of all the Christmas pageants we’ve witnessed over the years—all the fourth-grade boys in plaid robes with a homemade shepherd staff, carrying a cloth lamb from the toy department that plays “Jesus Loves Me” if you pull the ring where an umbilical cord should be.

Theologians speculate the reason for shepherds as the audience for the holy pronouncement could be as intricate as a genetic retracing of the Baby’s heritage back through history to King David, who started his career as a shepherd.

Or it could have been simpler than that. Maybe shepherds were the only ones listening that night.

“Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night,” Luke 2:8, CEB. The biblical story tells us that the shepherds weren’t sleeping but were on guard, watching, when the news about Jesus came to them.

Distractions were few. Hills, sheep, other shepherds, a low fire, and a wide expanse of sky overhead—a dark sky that held the same stars night after night, until this one.

I wonder if any of the shepherds brought their families to the fields. I wonder if in the tent was a hardworking woman nearing the end of an exhausting day. She’d barely gotten the evening meal cleaned up when she had to start thinking about what her family and the other shepherds would need for breakfast. Soak the grains. Check the progress on the sheep’s milk cheese. And try to get those kids to settle down.

“Stop annoying your brother. Caleb! Last warning. Josh, get your fingers out of your sister’s ears. Turn down that video game. You can’t listen to the radio and watch TV at the same time. Turn one of them off. Better yet, both of them! Who’s singing? What’s that sound? Do you hear what I hear?”

What noise do I need to turn off in my life in order to hear the first notes of the angel’s song?

Another noisy Christmas party. Another trip to the department store for stocking stuffers. Another round of Christmas CDs. Another Christmas special on TV. Another Facebook post to share—the true meaning of Christmas. A text about the practice time for the Christmas program at church. Another phone call about travel plans. Brain waves clanking into each other, making a cacophony of noise.

Shutting down one layer at a time. Unplugging. Keeping even "Silent Night" low so I can silence my night and hear the downbeat of “Glory to God in the highest.”


Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Of seven books on the shelves currently, her latest releases are the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon Press Fiction), the nonfiction Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living), and several dozen of the devotions in Mornings With Jesus 2014 (Guideposts). Spring of 2014 will see the release of another novel—All My Belongings, also from Abingdon Press Fiction. You can connect with her at or on Facebook.

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