Tuesday, January 31, 2012

crafting with blendy & becky: nail polished keys

I intended to do something else for my January craft, but I ran out of time! Blendy was out of town last weekend, so I had to go ahead with this craft without her. I think I was successful even without her guidance!

I've never been a huge fan of key covers, but I also hate shuffling through all my keys, trying to find the one I need to unlock my door. When I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I'd found January's craft project! It's super simple, and you probably already have everything you need on hand!

Step 1: Gather your supplies—keys, nail polish, clear spray paint, styrofoam (not pictured), and Ron Swanson. (Just kidding. Can you imagine what Ron would think of painting your keys with nail polish? Can you imagine what Ron would think of Pinterest?) Seriously, though, this will take a while, so you'll want to have a movie to watch. I mistakenly thought I could complete this project while catching up on last week's Parks & Rec. I was so, so wrong.

Step 2: Coat the top part of one side of each key with a layer of clear polish/base coat. After it dries, paint a thin layer of your desired color on the keys. Repeat until the color is as dark as you'd like. (I used five coats of the metallic purple and three of the others.)

Step 3: After keys are completely dry, flip over and repeat Step 2 on the back of each key. (When you think the keys are dry, wait another 10 minutes just to be safe. I learned this the hard way, and I had to redo the blue and pink keys ... )

Step 4: Once keys are absolutely dry, spray each side with clear spray paint to seal the polish. If you want to do this quickly without having to wait for one side to dry before spraying the other, find an old piece of styrofoam to prop the keys in. Then you can spray both sides quickly and leave the keys outside to dry. (I don't know if you really need this step. My guess is you'd just have to touch up the keys more often if you didn't spray paint them.)

And that's it! Doing my four keys took about two hours—or one episode of Parks & Rec followed by an incredibly stupid Lifetime movie. Seriously, if you read a book that detailed your sister's murder perfectly, wouldn't you be at least a little bit suspicious that the author may have had something to do with her death? But enough about that. Aren't the keys adorable?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"unhallowed ground" by mel starr

Surgeon and baliff Hugh de Singleton is happily living at Galen House in Bampton with his bride Kate when his former nemesis Thomas atte Bridge is found hanged. Though the death is quickly ruled a suicide, Hugh suspects foul play. The problem? Nearly every man in Bampton had reason to dislike atte Bridge, and Hugh is reluctant to suspect any of his friends. When Hugh's life is threatened, however, he realizes that if he, Kate, and their unborn baby are to live in peace, he must uncover the circumstances behind atte Bridge's death.

My take: I loved this book! It is not a particularly fast read (at least if you want to understand it—it takes place in the 14th century and contains lots of terms I was unfamiliar with ... thank goodness for the glossary!), but it is an enjoyable one. It is written as though it's Hugh's journal, and as such, he includes humorous asides and foreshadowing comments that I found quite enjoyable. It also provides insight into the state of medicine in the 14th century, and the description of cataract surgery was particularly interesting and squirm-inducing.

I greatly enjoyed unraveling the mystery along with Hugh, and it was quite nice to see some villains from the last book receive their comeuppance! (If you read A Trail of Ink, be sure to watch for the description of Sir Simon's ear...)

I read and reviewed A Trail of Ink—the third book in this series—last year, so I was prepared to enjoy Unhallowed Ground. I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed, and I look forward to reading the fifth book, The Tainted Coin, when it releases.

I give Unhallowed Ground 5 out of 5 stars! If you'd like to read an excerpt, go here.

About the Author: Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Kregel Publications.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

"chasing mona lisa" by tricia goyer and mike yorkey

About the book (copy provided by Litfuse): It is August 1944, and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?

With nonstop action, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get readers' adrenaline pumping as they join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh country chateau, the race is on—and the runners are playing for keeps.

My take: Chasing Mona Lisa is an intriguing tale of danger, theft, and a race against time. Unfortunately, nearly all the excitement takes place in the second half of the book. The beginning suffers from too many characters to keep track of, frequent bouncing around between all those characters, and not enough action. Once Gabi, Eric, and their new acquaintances Bernard and Colette are on the trail of the Mona Lisa, the book becomes much more engaging. I especially enjoyed the last few chapters, when I had no idea how Goyer and Yorkey would wrap things up, and I found the epilogue to be especially touching.

I really felt like this was two separate books. I'd give the first half two stars and the second half four stars for an average of three.

You can see what other bloggers are saying here or buy the book here. Read an excerpt, watch a video and find out more here.

About the authors: Tricia Goyer is the coauthor of The Swiss Courier as well as the author of many other books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Arkansas. For more about Tricia and her other books visit www.triciagoyer.com.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including The Swiss Courier and the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California. For more about Mike and his other books visit www.mikeyorkey.com.

About the giveaway: Win an iTouch SPY Pack in the Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway from @triciagoyer @mikeyorkey! Chasing Mona Lisa is the continuing tale of Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler (first introduced in The Swiss Courier). This time the duo are on a relentless quest to save the most famous painting in the world  - the Mona Lisa. You can help Gabi and Eric with your very own spy pack when you enter The Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway!

One passionate protector will receive:
  • iTouch (The must-have device for any spy. Camera, Maps & Music.)
  • Starbucks Gift Card (For all those late nights.)
  • Moleskin Notebook (For those important notes.)
  • Invisible Ink Pen (Don’t want anyone reading those important notes.)
  • Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey (Great handbook and intriguing tale for any spy-in-training!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on January 31st. The winner will be announced at the Chasing Mona Lisa Facebook Party on 1/31. Tricia and Mike will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from Tricia's website) and giving away their books and a Book Club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Tricia and Mike.)

So grab your copy of Chasing Mona Lisa and join Tricia and Mike on the evening of the 31st for an author chat, spy training (do you know how to pick a lock?) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

it's all clear!

If you visited my site in the last couple of days, perhaps you saw everything as it usually is. If you were using Chrome as your browser, however, you may have encountered the following message:
Warning: Something's Not Right Here!

www.christianchicksthoughts.blogspot.com contains content from locationlook[dot]ru, a site known to distribute malware. Your computer might catch a virus if you visit this site.
Google has found malicious software may be installed onto your computer if you proceed. If you've visited this site in the past or you trust this site, it's possible that it has just recently been compromised by a hacker. You should not proceed, and perhaps try again tomorrow or go somewhere else.
We have already notified locationlook[dot]ru that we found malware on the site. For more about the problems found on locationlook[dot]ru, visit the Google Safe Browsing diagnostic page.
Not being very tech-savvy, I did what any girl in my position would do: I sent my tech-savvy brother a panicked e-mail! He called, and we tried to find the problem together, to no avail. (I've mentioned before how patient my brother is with me, especially when dealing with something techy that I don't understand. That was certainly true yesterday!)

This morning, I had the brilliant idea that maybe this content was coming in from one of the blogs on my blogroll. So I removed the blogroll from my site, and BINGO! Warning message gone!

You'll notice that my blogroll is back— albeit slightly altered. I hadn't changed my blogroll in eons, anyway, so this was a good excuse to make changes. I did find the offending site, and it's no longer on my blogroll. (I also contacted the site owner, who was aware of the problem and is working to fix it.)

If you did encounter the warning message, I apologize, and I'd ask you to please let me know if you see a message like this in the future. I want to keep my blog safe for viewing!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"the shadow of your smile" by susan may warren

In the three years following their daughter Kelsey's murder, Eli & Noelle Hueston's marriage has become strained nearly to the point of fracture. Eli has turned to his friend Clay's widow Lee for companionship, and Noelle has returned to painting—and neither knows what the other is up to. After Noelle is injured in a robbery, she loses her memory, thinking she is a 21-year-old art student rather than a 46-year-old wife and mother. As Noelle desperately searches for the missing 25 years of her life, Eli senses a chance to start over with his wife.

My take: As a longtime fan of Susan May Warren's writing, I had high expectations going into this novel. I was not disappointed! I know I've said this about Warren's other books, but I'll say it again: her characters come across as real people. Eli, Noelle, and Lee are all deeply flawed, and they each were headed down a dangerous (yet completely realistic) path before Noelle's amnesia forced them to truly weigh their actions and consider the cost. I also enjoyed the sub-plot of Eli's son and Lee's daughter falling in love—and I thought the effect their parents' actions had on their relationship was also quite realistic.

Last but not least, I absolutely loved the way the book ended. I don't want to spoil it for you (because you really should read it for yourself), so I'll just say that Warren didn't take the story where I expected, and for that, I'm grateful. Her ending is much more powerful than mine would have been!

I give The Shadow of Your Smile 5 out of 5 stars—my first 5-star review of 2012! Read the story behind the story here: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/books/the-shadow-of-your-smile. You can also buy the book or see what other reviewers are saying.

About the Author: 
Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church. Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you! She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at www.susanmaywarren.com.

About the Giveaway:
Sometimes love requires a little forgetting ... Come back to Deep Haven and find out what's been happening in your favorite quaint hamlet. If you're new to the Deep Haven series - this is the perfect book to start with - each book in the series is a stand alone story.

Susan is celebrating the release of The Shadow of Your Smile by giving away a prize pack worth over $200 from 1/9-1/28.

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Gift Card (Use that to rekindle a little romance, treat yourself to a spa day, snap up those shoes you’ve been eyeing, or purchase a few great books!)
  • The entire set of Deep Haven Books 
The winner will be announced on 1/30/12 on Susan’s blog, Scribbles! Just click one of the icons below to enter and tell your friends about Susan's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Disclosure of Material Connection: I a digital copy of this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 16, 2012

hating on thomas and tswift

I haven't done a bulleted list of randomness for a long time. So here you go!
  • I'm sick of reading. This is not good for a book blogger, but it's where I am right now. I've been sticking to my goal of only requesting books I'm really interested in reading, but this does not help me now, as the books due in January and February were requested in December or earlier. For the most part, these are books that I really wanted to read at the time ... I just don't feel like reading them now!
  • Are you watching Downton Abbey? If not, why not? Season One just won a Golden Globe last night, and it won several Emmy Awards last year, also. Downton is set in the time leading up to and during World War I. It's in the vein of Upstairs, Downstairs in that it deals with an aristocratic family and the family's servants. Season Two is, so far, a bit toned down from Season One—the "evil" characters are, for the most part, less evil, and much of the family conflict has diminished. I still absolutely loathe Thomas, though ... so much so that I tweeted the following last night:
    Thomas doesn't even have to be on screen for my loathing of him to grow--all it takes is a mention of his name! 
    Also, I would marry Matthew Crawley or Mr. Bates in a heartbeat. Downton airs on PBS on Sunday nights through February 19, and you can watch Season One on pbs.org through tomorrow or on Netflix.
  • Les Misérables — the musical version — is finally coming to the big screen. I was so excited when I first heard — but one of the casting choices has given me pause. Let's start with the ones I (more or less) approve of. Colm Wilkinson is Valjean. However, he's getting a bit old and wouldn't have the draw of someone with the star power of, say, Hugh Jackman, who has been cast in the role. Jackman does have a wonderful voice (see his 2009 Oscar performance here, which also features Anne Hathaway, who has been cast as Fantine), and I'm sure he'll do the role justice, but I still worry about "Bring Him Home." Though I don't know anything about Russell Crowe's vocal chops, I can buy him as Javert. And Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen strike me as the perfect Thénardiers. But Taylor Swift as Eponine? Please excuse me while I throw up. (As far as I know, she hasn't accepted the role yet, but it's been offered.) I'm normally pretty ambivalent toward TSwift, but Eponine? Really? I could see her as Cosette, perhaps, if they absolutely had to cast her (her popularity will probably bring girls to the theater). I shudder to think of what "On My Own" would sound like coming out of Swift's mouth. (Lea Salonga, who in my mind is the definitive Eponine, sings it here.) Was Lea Michele unavailable or something? 'Cause she would be perfect. (Plus, we already know how she would sound singing "On My Own." Fabulous!) ***Update 2-1-12: Taylor Swift will not be playing Eponine. I feel like we Les Mis fans dodged a bullet here!***
  • I've discovered a way to get in more steps for the Ja-La-Sta 10,000 Steps Walking Challenge while also keeping up with my commitment to read through the Bible this year — I pull up YouVersion on my computer and listen to the AudioBible! My house is basically set up in a circle with the living room at the front and the kitchen at the back. So I crank the volume on my computer and walk in a 25-step circle for the 40 minutes or so it takes to get through the day's chapters. It's a bit monotonous, but having Scripture to focus my mind on makes the time go faster.
  • I've once again been sucked into the trashy world of The Bachelor. (I prefer The Bachelorette because the guys aren't so catty, but I'm enjoying this, too.) Normally, I seek out Reality Steve's spoilers, but I decided that this year, I would just wait and watch the season play out. Then I accidentally ran into a major (MAJOR!) spoiler. I was not happy. My sister Blendy has ended her long blogging hiatus by writing her thoughts after the first two episodes. See her post here and give her some comment love! 
  • Southwest Airlines rocks! Low fares. Bags fly free. And now this: Blendy and I got ridiculously cheap tickets to fly out to see Val next month, and a bunch of us decided to go together to buy tickets for our friend Jamie to go with us. Because we didn't get her tickets during the sale, they were much more expensive. Well, we didn't exactly clear the dates with Jamie first (not a smart move, but it was supposed to be a surprise), and she has parent-teacher conferences on the day of our return. So tonight I went to southwest.com to change her itinerary ... and I was pleasantly surprised to discover they don't have any trip change fees! And, since they're currently running a sale, I was able to get her new tickets for less money than her old tickets! Unfortunately, the first tickets were non-refundable, but if she wants to fly anywhere else before next November, she has a $30 credit to work with! 
There's my list of things that have been on my mind. What about you? Any books, movies, or TV shows you're loving? Want to throw things at me for suggesting Taylor Swift may not be right for the role of Eponine? Want to get something else off your chest? Tell us about it in the comments!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"the accidental bride" by denise hunter

When Shay Brandenberger agreed to portray the bride in Moose Creek, Montana's annual Founders Day wedding reenactment, she never dreamed that the reenactment would lead to a real marriage—or that the groom would be Travis McCoy, the man who broke her heart when he left her to chase his rodeo dreams.

Shay can't wait to escape their sham of a marriage—but Travis offers an enticing proposal: remain married for five months, and he will do whatever he can to save her failing ranch.

As Shay spends time with Travis, she sees that he is no longer the man he once was. But can she really trust him, or will he abandon her once again?

My take: While I enjoyed The Accidental Bride, it wasn't one of those oh-my-goodness-this-is-so-good-I-can't-put-it-down books that I've come to expect from Hunter. (I'll acknowledge that I had insanely high expectations going in as 1. I've never met a Hunter book I didn't like, and 2. The "marriage of convenience" trope is my favorite of all romantic plot devices.) I found myself annoyed with Shay as the story progressed—not because she was reluctant to trust Travis (that was completely understandable given their history) but because she never confronted him when she found "proof" of his betrayal. Of course, because this was a Hunter book, their chemistry was undeniable, which helped me forget about my annoyance pretty quickly!

Is The Accidental Bride one of the greatest books I've ever read? No. But it's still pretty enjoyable! I give it 3-1/2 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of romantic fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from The B&B Media Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 9, 2012

goals for 2012: week 1 update

Last Monday, I wrote about my goals for 2012. I intend to do a summary post each month, tracking my progress. I thought it would be fun to do an "after the first week" update, too ... mainly because I'm doing so well right now, and it may be a different story in three weeks!
  1. Read through the Bible. So far, so good. I've kept up with the readings so far. This is helped by the fact that I was assigned a study hall this semester. I just pull up YouVersion on the computer in the classroom and go for it!
  2. Exercise four times per week. Again, I'm doing well on this one! I have a calendar that I've designated as my exercise calendar, and I track what I did and how long I did it. I've been playing a lot of Wii Sports this week, and I've used my elliptical on four different days. I downloaded an audiobook to listen to while I exercise—I've learned that I don't enjoy reading while ellipticaling, and sometimes it's even hard for me to watch TV. For some reason, an audiobook makes the time fly by! I'm listening to James Patterson's Judge & Jury. It's my first Patterson, borrowed from NebraskaOverdrive, which I can access using my library card. Actor Joe Mantenga reads it, and he does a fabulous job.
    I've also joined a walking challenge—The J-La-Sta 10,000 Steps Walking Challenge. I bought a pedometer and everything! If you'd like to join, click on the link above for details—we'd love to have you!
  3. Lose 30 pounds. I think I lost about a pound this week. Why am I not sure? Well, I have one of those scales that can save your weight and tell you how much you've gained or lost. When I stepped on for my weekly weigh-in (I've learned not to weigh every day—that can just make a person crazy!), my scale kindly informed me that I'd gained 54 pounds. Seems someone (who shall remain nameless) weighed herself and saved it. And I can't remember exactly what the scale said last Sunday, but I know it was closer to the 200-pound mark then than it was today.
  4. Travel somewhere new. No progress on this one.
  5. Complete one crafting project a month. I think I've picked my project out. No idea when I'll do it yet. See it here.
  6. Learn to say "no." Well, I passed on one book review opportunity this week. And I tried to turn down the study hall assignment, but that didn't go so well for me. So I decided to look at it positively—if the school wants to pay me to read for 55 minutes a day, who am I to complain?
How about you? Did you make any resolutions or set any goals for 2012? How are they going after the first week?

Monday, January 2, 2012

goals for 2012

I've never really made New Year's resolutions. Never publicly, anyway. I know myself, and I know I will fail. Still, I think it's good to have goals, so I've come up with a list of things I'd like to accomplish in 2012. We'll see how it goes!
  1. Read through the Bible. This has been a goal of mine every year for the last ten or so ... and I haven't accomplished it yet! I always start out so well—but one, two, or three weeks in I fall off the wagon and never get back on. I'm determined to make this year different, and I have a new plan, thanks to Tim Challies. He's created the 3650 Challenge, where you read 10 chapters of the Bible each day using Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading System. I've used this system before, but I only made it about 15 days in before I got behind and ultimately gave up. A Facebook group has been set up for encouragement and accountability for those who are taking the challenge, and I'm hoping that being part of a community of believers who all have the same goal will help to motivate me! I plan to do the majority of my reading on YouVersion, as they have a reader that will present each day's readings in a chunk, and I can check off each chapter as I complete it. 
  2. Exercise four times a week. If you know me, you know this is a lofty goal—but I'm going to try!
  3. Lose 30 pounds. Another lofty goal ... if I can get the exercise thing down, this will be a lot easier!
  4. Travel somewhere new. It doesn't have to be anywhere exotic (and seeing how my Europe fund is dwindling, it probably won't be!), just somewhere I haven't been before. Preferably with Blendy.
  5. Complete one crafting project a month and blog about it. I've never been much of a crafter, but now that I'm on Pinterest, a whole new world of crafting ideas has opened up to me! I plan to include Blendy in this one, too—'cause she's the crafting brains of this operation!
  6. Learn to say "no." I tend to over-commit myself, especially when it comes to book reviews. I'm getting better—I have let a few offers pass me by—but the question I need to ask myself is, "Do you really want to read this book?" If the answer isn't an unequivocal "yes," then I should probably just say no.