Sunday, July 31, 2011

Countdown to Love by Julie Ford Virtual Blog Tour

Summary from goodreads: 
Abandoned at the altar, Kelly Grace Pickens finds herself left holding not only the bouquet but also the exorbitant bill for an A-list wedding. Homeless, a once promising singing career floundering, and her life bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of her country music ballads, she reluctantly accepts a last minute offer to appear on a reality TV show akin to the bachelor. Pitted against silicon-enhanced supermodels in four-inch heals, Kelly feels confident that she will be among the first would-be fiancés to be excused. Only, when the mysterious bachelor from New York City, Dillon Black, invites her to stay, Kelly finds herself thrust into the vortex of a game she doesn’t have the first idea how to play. Nursing her hopelessly broken heart while avoiding the foils of her fellow contestants, Kelly is oblivious to Dillon’s affections as she wades through hurt and betrayal to discover, in the end, that she has landed firmly on both feet. 

Leaving behind Nashville’s Music Row for the majestic Grand Teton mountains, Count Down To Love takes readers on a journey from duplicity to sincerity as Kelly discovers that being true to oneself is the first step in finding happiness and everlasting love. 

Count Down to LoveCount Down to Love by Julie N. Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In order to understand my response to this book, you would have to understand my relationship with country music and reality shows.  And romance novels.

I hated country music as I was growing up, but in recent years, country music has easily become my favorite genre--or almost favorite.  Once I read the synopsis of this book, I knew I would love it because it was about a country music singer.  The author's knowledge and integration of country music into the story really intrigued me.  All I could think about as the story enfolded was how CMT or GAC should make this into a made-for-TV film!

Reality shows are not a really big deal with me.  I used to enjoy American Idol.  I like America's Got Talent, and So You Think You Can Dance is great.  Other than that, you can really count me out.  I never had any desire to watch the Bachelorette or the Bachelor or any of that other "rubbish."  Who in their right mind would go on a television show looking for real love?  Well, Dillon and Kelly Grace felt the same way.  One thing I will say is that I had never realized all the scripting and "acting" that went into reality shows like this.  I just never thought about it.

Romance novels are actually a relatively new interest of mine.  I honestly have not read that many.  As I was reading this, I considered given it a rating of a four.  As romance novels go, the characters were fantastic.  Dillon was an absolute dream, and I mean it.  And Kelly was so sweet and innocent.  I understand about discovering who you are and not just acting how you think people want you to act.  What I appreciated about this romance novel was the Christian influence (imagine the heroine was a virgin!) and the absence of prolific sex!  In fact, the love scenes were some of the most fantastic and genuine I had ever read.

Why did I give it a 5-star rating?  It wasn't until the book took a very dramatic turn more than halfway through.  This is the first book in years that I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish.  And this author knew just how to keep me guessing about what would happen next--even to the end of the novel.  My only complaint is that it didn't really end.  I so hope that she will be writing a sequel some time soon.  I can assure you I would read it in a heartbeat.

So don't walk to the nearest bookstore--run!  Or better still, download it to your e-reader.  If you like romances even just a little bit, you will love this story!

I received a free copy from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are 100 percent mine, and I received no financial compensation whatsoever.

View all my reviews


I have been so excited about doing this blog tour, so I am going to do what I normally do not do when reviewing a book or participating in a blog tour.  I just have to add some additional thoughts.  As I have said many times before, I am still kind of new to this whole romantic novel genre.  And when it comes to contemporary romances, I generally don't like them all that well.  And when you add in the fact that this is a debut novel, there would appear to be a lot of reasons why I would not like this book.  But as you read in my review, I loved this book with a passion in spite of many things that could have been against it.

In the days following my completion of this read, I could not stop thinking about this book.  I would be driving down the road, and I found myself casting country stars to play the characters in this book.  I found myself reliving many of the romantic scenes between Kelly and Dillon--I honestly don't usually do that, but the romantic scenes were so sweet and sometimes funny.  All I can say is:  Please, Julie Ford, don't make us wait too long for another installment!

Summer Giveaway Hop (8/7) International--2 winners! (Closed)

I am participating in this fantastic summer giveaway hop hosted by I Am a Reader Not a Writer and Book Hounds.  I absolutely love doing these blog hops, and this time is certainly no exception.  In fact, I got inspired last time to try something a little different for this giveaway, so here goes.

This giveaway is open internationally--I am always so glad to get to do that for my followers!  And it involves a surprise.  So here are the instructions.

For the mandatory entry, you will need to list 3-10 books that you would like to have.  I will need you to list the title and author, or if you would like, please leave a link to that book.  Ranking them in order is fine, but that may or may not help your results.  After you create this comment, make  sure you fill out the rest of the rafflecopter form.

When the giveaway is done and the two winners are picked, I will be contacting each person to get their mailing information.  I will also take that opportunity to clarify the book lists if needed and to make sure that the winners have not procured a copy of any of the books on their lists.  I will then choose one book for each winner that will be sent to them.  The winners will not know which book they are receiving.  Understand that I have the right to get a used copy of the book or a new copy.  It is my decision.  But don't worry.  Unless it is some out-of-print book or a very old book that I get, it will be in good condition.

Once the winners receive their books, if either one of them contact me and thank me for the book, that person will be able to receive the following:
1.  10 extra entries into any of my current giveaways (the person may spread these out any way they like)
 2.  One month of featured advertising on my blog for free.  This will consist of a weekly feature on my blog and featured entries in my giveaways.   (Note:  If the winner(s) don't have a blog or business to advertise, we will work out a substitution.)

Sound good to you?  Well, then, what are you waiting for?  Enter my giveaway by filling out the rafflecopter form, and then hop on to the next blog.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Time Island Review and Giveaway--A New Virtual World for Kids (Ends 8/13) (CLOSED) U.S. only

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were asked to review a fantastic new world for kids called Time Island.  I will say that I was skeptical at first.  Not because it did not seem like a great program.  As I read about it, I was intrigued.  I just knew that my daughter normally gets started on a computer program or game online, and then she never goes to that site again.  I have to admit that I was concerned she would do so again.

Was I ever wrong!  I walked my daughter through the simple registration process, and she jumped in and played.  And played.  And played!  And the next day, she played again.  And a couple days later, she played again.  I have never seen my daughter so engaged on a website.

I will admit that I did not watch absolutely everything she did, but permit me to comment on my favorite features.  During the registration process, the parent gets to decide if the child is allowed to chat only used the scripted messages the program has created or if the child is allowed to use his/her own words to chat.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to discuss online safety with my daughter.  She is 8 years old, and I decided to let her create her own words in her chat sessions for two reasons.  First of all, she understood what information she was not to share.  And secondly, she honestly does not like to chat on the computer yet.  I also moderate what she does on the computer.  I am not there every moment, but I am aware of what she does.  I also liked the fact that the world is on a desert island.  This was ideal for my daughter.  She loves adventure, and treasure hunts spark her interest.  I honestly have no qualms about this program.  I am even happier that it is completely free!

My daughter's review was almost completely positive.  She loved the "fishing" game, and she loved the fact that if the program crashed, she was able to pick up where she left off.  She did not like that some of the games did not appear operational.  Time Island is still in beta according to the site, and so not everything may be fully functional.  But it certainly captured her attention more than any other website has!

In order to help you in your quest to get your child set up on Time Island, check out these links:

Now to the giveaway. Last week, my daughter received a really neat Time Island goodie bag in the mail.  It was a nice drawstring bag with bracelets, temporary tattoos, and stickers--plenty to share!  I am sorry I didn't get a picture of it before she got into it!  But not to fear.  You have a chance to win your own Time Island goodie bag! The wonderful people at Time Island will award one of my readers their very own goodie bag!  This giveaway is open to the U.S. only, and it will end August 13 at 9 P.M. Pacific Time.  Please fill out the rafflecopter entry form and only comment on this blog post when specifically requested to.

Straight Talk 2--Finally a Cell Phone That Makes Sense

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Straight Talk for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

hook, line and sinker

Money and the lack thereof seems to be everyone's focus lately.  I don't know about you, but I am always looking at ways to save money without sacrificing quality and service.  It's not an easy task, I'll grant you, but it is essential to survival in this world where we find ourselves.

When it comes to cell phones, I think there is a company that gets it right.  It is called Straight Talk.  I love the idea that just being with the company can make the customer feel richer.  This company offers a plan with everything you need--no contract--for half of what the customer would normally pay.

Imagine what you could do with the money you save.  Perhaps a trip, a new outfit, or even a chance to pay off your other debts!  What would you buy with the extra money you save?

I know you may be thinking this is too good to be true, but this company has everything you need.  Straight talk offers nationwide coverage and excellent reception/connectivity with no contracts, surprise bills, or credit checks.  They also only use trusted phone manufacturers like LG, Motorola, Kyocera, Nokia, and Samsung

Monthly Plan:

1.  The "All You Need Plan" even meets the needs of heavy phone users with 1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 30 MB of web data.

2.  Their Unlimited monthly plan is only $45, and it includes calls, texts, picture messaging, and web use. Imagine unlimited calls, texts, pictures messaging, and web browsing for only $499/year.  411 calls are included at no additional charge.

3. Straight Talk International Long Distance service  is a flexible prepaid calling service that enables the subscriber to make international phone calls from your home, office, or call phone at low rates.

call a friend

4.  It is totally free to activate, reactivate, and terminate.

Phone Selection

1.  Reconditioned phones are available starting at $10 ( with a camera, mp3 player, mobile web access, bluetooth capacity). 

everything you need

2.  Great for the young person starting out on his or her own journey away from home.

3.  The customer will be able to find amazing smart phones, touch screen phones, and app capable phones with such advanced and often necessary technology including voice navigation, camera, video recorder, music player, instant messaging and bluetooth. 

Still want more information?  I don't blame you.  Check out these videos that follow:

Straight Talk 1

Straight Talk 2

Straight Talk 3

So are you ready to save some money?  Than go check them out!  What are you waiting for?  No time like the present!


Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, July 29, 2011

Free-Wheeling Friday--SHANKZ Glow Golf Review (Olympia, WA)

I don't usually review local places, but I just thought I had to take a moment to review this wonderful place my daughter, her friend, and I went today.

A few weeks ago, I saw a deal come through on Mamsource.  I make it a point to subscribe to as many daily deal sites as  possible.  I admit that I do not often buy a deal, but there are those moments that I do.  And this just happened to be one of them.  The deal was two adults and two kids for about half off or more, and I bought it at once.

SHANKZ is a black light miniature golf place.  Saying all that does not do it justice.  I had remembered seeing this place before because it is right next door to our favorite IHOP (another great place!).  I realize that I took a chance, but my daughter loves miniature golf, and I just thought this would be perfect for her.

Originally, I thought another adult might come along, but it just didn't work out.  But even so, we saved money, so I am not bothered.  

Now, how do I explain this place.  When we got there, I gave the voucher to the gentleman at the desk, and he knew exactly what to do--I am so glad when there are no problems with vouchers!  I asked the man what to do, and he led us behind the black curtain into a wonderland of black light and florescent colors.  The themes included underwater creatures/scenes, the jungle, and even prehistoric creatures!  I  wanted to take some pictures, but I knew my phone would have none of it.  So here are some internet images:

My Daughter's Favorite

All in all, this was a fantastic time.  Martha (my daughter) and Meghan (her friend) were so excited about everything that was glowing--their shirts, their shoes, their necklaces I just bought them at Family Christian Store, and much more.  They both got a hole in one.  But did I?  Nope.  Not a chance!

It was nice that there were 18 holes that were creative but not too challenging.  They usually left me in the dust.  After the golf, they got to play in the moderately-priced small arcade attached to the place.  And of course, we ended with ice cream. 

I say all this to say:
1.  Watch the deal sites.  You might find something that you already do or buy at a huge savings.
2.  Watch the deal sites for new adventures.  Be willing to take a chance.  

Where do you find the deal sites?  I usually discover them from bloggers.  I know it can be a pain to get all those e-mails, but it is worth it when we are able to have a day like today.

What deals have you discovered near you?  Any special experiences or adventures?  I would love to hear!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dunkin Donuts $10 Gift Card Giveaway (Ends 9/3) WW (CLOSED)

Today I have another great giveaway for my wonderful readers!  It is a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.  I have to say that I love their dark coffee, and I wish I had one near me!  Which reminds me.  Be sure to click on the above link to ensure there is a Dunkin Donuts near you.  I was only going to open this to the U.S., but when I checked, I discovered they are all over the world.  So, this is a worldwide giveaway.  Just make sure you will actually be able to use it.  I would hate for you to win, receive the gift card, and then not be able to use it!

This giveaway will end September 3 at 9:00 P.M. Pacific Time.  Make sure to enter your responses on the rafflectoper form and only make comments as indicated on the form.  Thank you for helping me to make this blog what it is intended to be!

Thoughtful Thursday--Hearts Against Hunger

Matthew 25:31-46

New International Version (NIV)
The Sheep and the Goats
    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I don't know about you but sometimes I become rather egocentric, especially when money seems to be the kind of issue it is now.  There is so much uncertainty in the world, and I often think about my needs and my wants.

Sometimes, we want to help, but we don't know where to turn.  We might be afraid that our money will be misguided or that people with genuine needs will not be served.  And then sometimes we wonder if we can afford to help others.

Let me direct you to Christ's words above--When you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me.  Who are the least of these?  Anyone who is in need.  Anyone who is suffering, who is hurting--look at who Christ mentions:  hospitals, jails, naked, hungry.  You know what, I am not in any of the situations mentioned.  

Now suppose that there was a simple way to make a difference in people's lives.  Suppose it was through a reputable organization, and it was easy!

Melanie over at Only a Breath has given you a way to do just that.  Hearts Against Hunger is a grass-roots effort to raise money for children who are hungry. Many bloggers, including Only A Breath, Time-Warp WifeMagnolia GraceTammy’s Two Cents, and Faithful Always are joining together in the fight against hunger! I want to say a HUGE “THANK YOU” to these bloggers for being so willing to raise awareness of childhood hunger!

We need your help! Please get involved today!

YES! I will donate only $1 to provide 7 meals for a hungry child!

To get involved, please donate at either of the links below. If you would like to join our “Hearts Against Hunger” list, please email me at Melanie (at) OnlyABreath (dot) com and let me know that you are spreading the word about our food drive (either through your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, email, snail mail — we’re not picky!)
Please grab our button from the sidebar, link back to this page, and spread the word!
Please donate now at Feeding America — our goal is $1500 which will provide 10500 meals!!!
In addition to this, when I donated (I did give $10), I was able to donate through Amazon payments.  That was an option at checkout, and it made things so easy!  While I may not have given much, I knew that God wanted me to give, and I am so glad led me this way!

If you are still not convinced, check out this video:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Well Spoken Wednesday: Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar Review

Summary from goodreadsWhile selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England. Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance. Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.

Exit the ActressExit the Actress by Priya Parmar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book because a historical fiction group here on goodreads was reading it.  I had planned to participate in their book reading, but I had so many other things going on, I was actually unable to do so.  I am glad to say that I persevered and finally finished it.  And all I can say is that I am glad I did!

I can't recommend this book highly enough.  When I was "forced" to set this book aside for other endeavors, I actually resented it!  I wanted to read this book and find out what happened to Nell (she's the main character).  This is my kind of book in the extreme.  It is historical fiction at its height.  The author has researched everything very well, and almost every person in the book is a literal, historical character.  Many of the events actually occurred--even some of the more bizarre ones. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it when historical fiction authors research their topics in great detail, and Priya Parmar certainly did her homework.

I think the author had a stroke of genius when she chose to use Nell's own voice to tell this thoroughly entertaining story.  I have to say that there was never a dull moment in this book.  And I learned so much about history.  I verified a lot of it with my history expert in England (my best friend).

Indeed, this book had it all--romance, heartache, history, villains, intrigue, humor--and no bad language or intimate sex scenes!  Yes!  If you haven't read it, go out and get a copy today!

View all my reviews

About the Author

Priya Parmar, a former freelance editor and dramaturg holds degrees in English Literature and theatre. She attended Mount Holyoke College, Oxford University and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She divides her time between Hawaii and London. Exit the Actress is her first book. If you would like to learn more about Priya please visit her Simon and Schuster.

Be sure to check out her entertaining author interview here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Preparing to Interview Sandra Stiles, Author of Steps to Courage

Earlier this summer, Sandra Stiles contacted me and asked if I would interview her book Steps to Courage.  I agreed, and she sent me two signed copies--one for me to read and review and one to giveaway.  (That means that once I get my tail in gear and review it, we can have another giveaway!)

She might think I had forgotten--I have been so busy reviewing books and meeting deadlines.  But I did not forget!  It is next on my list.  I will be finishing a book tonight and starting hers tomorrow.

When she contacted me, she told me the story behind the book--I'm not going to ruin it for you.  And I was excited to learn about what she does for a living--no, I'm not going to spoil it for you!

In addition to this, she agreed to do an interview on my blog.  This is my first time to interview an author, and I thought it would be neat to have my readers post questions here for her to answer when that time comes.  After all, why should I ask all the questions.  I realize that you may not know anything about the book or the author, but I'll post a link, and you can do some research.  I've actually hinted at a couple of things you might want to ask her.  But the questions are up to you.

So here are the guidelines.

1.  You may post one question per day on this post for the author.  Make sure that you ask "real" questions.  I make the decision about whether a question is valid or not.  Any invalid questions will be deleted.

2.  For each question you post here, you may get one extra entry into all my current giveaways.  This option will be disabled after I have read the book and the interview has happened. (not valid on Called Home e-book giveaway)

3.  Also, for each question you post here (remember only one per day), you will receive an early entry into the book giveaway that will be happening in the near future.

My guess is that I will have the book read within a couple weeks--3 at the most, but I can't imagine it will take that long.

So are you ready to post questions?  Go for it!

Sandra Stiles on goodreads

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Solution Sunday--Eco Lips SPF 15 Balm

About a month or two ago, I won a great item that I really did not think I would like.  I won what you see in the picture:  

Eco Lips SPF 15 Mint with Eco Clip

I have never been a fan of lip balm.  Sure, I get chapped lips like most people do, but I either forget or just don't think about lip balm.  I have tried to carry it in my purse before, and it just seems to get lost.  (If you saw my purse, you would understand!)  So it just became something I did not use.  I put up with dry lips.

When this item came, I immediately tried the lip balm, and I loved the mint on my lips--it felt so good. In fact, it felt better than any lip balm I have ever used.  I also liked the clip and the fact that it was hard to lose the lid!!

I don't know when I got the brainstorm, but I decided to hook this clip to my cell phone carrier.  I began to use this lip balm regularly.  Sometimes more than once a day.  And I have noticed a definite improvement in my lips.  They feel healthy and protected.  The chapping is almost nonexistent.  I can't recommend this lip balm enough.

And to make the review even sweeter, I just discovered a day or two ago that I was able to take the lid of the balm does come out of the clip.  I was thinking that possibly when the lip balm was gone, I would have to throw away the clip--it may not be useful anymore  But it seems that Eco Lips thought of everything.  When your lip balm is gone, you take it out of the clip, and you can replace it with another lip balm!  

So if you have a problem with dry, chapped lips, check out Eco Lips today!

Disclosure:  I was not financially compensated in any way for this review, and I won the item in a blog giveaway that I reviewed today.  I reviewed it of my own free will, and all opinions are 100 percent  mine.

Vinyl Word Art Giveaway (8/21) U.S. only (CLOSED)

Well, I am still cleaning stuff out, and it just so happens I found a really neat vinyl wall word art that I won last year.  I do not recall where it came from, but the amazon image is pretty close to what it looks like.  And it does read: "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  At the time, we thought we had the perfect place for it, but it just doesn't work where we thought it was.  So, my loss, your gain.

On to the specifics.  I will send this only within the U.S.--it is rolled very well, and I don't think the international shipping would be kind to it.  This giveaway ends on August 21 at 9 P.M. Pacific Time.  Please fill out the rafflecopter form and only make appropriate comments as indicated on the form.  If you have any questions or issues, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here.  Only entries entered on the form will count.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Satisfied Saturday--Not Your Mother's Casseroles (a mini-review)

Not so long ago, I received this book from a giveaway I entered, and this is my first time to use it.  I remember being impressed by it, but I just didn't have a moment to take a look at it.

I decided that this week I would use it, and I found that the recipes were not hard to make and seemed to be able to be made with readily available ingredients.  I like that the food is somewhat healthier and not made with all the unhealthy convenience foods.

So here is the meal plan for this week:

Meal 1:  

German Apple Pancake (p. 19)
              Sausage Patties

Meal 2:

Baked Ravioli (p. 184)

Meal 3:

Tortilla Chicken Casserole (p. 225)

Meal 4:

Golden Raisin Salad (p. 295) use craisins instead of golden raisins; add feta cheese
Flaky Almond Croissant Bake (p. 39)

I have to get back into the habit of reviewing last week's meals.  They were all good!  Taste of Home has not been a disappointment.

Extra Giveaway Entries Again

If you want to snag another free 5 giveaway entries to all my current giveaways, enter this giveaway and fill out the rafflecopter form for each giveaway you have entered.  And you will receive 5 extra entries!  Notice that this extra 5 entries is only valid until the end of that giveaway--July 31.  Thank you for your support!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Monogrammed Art Giveaway Update

Well, we got 16 comments--pretty good start I would say.  Unfortunately, this giveaway is closed, and because we did not get 20 comments, the sponsor will not be providing a prize at this time.  I'm sure all of you are disappointed who wanted to win this prize. But read on so you will know what the next step is.

For those of you who manage a blog, you will know that sometimes bloggers are somewhat at the mercy of the sponsors.  Different sponsors have different rules, and one thing on which I pride myself is following the rules the sponsor has laid for me.  Thankfully, we have a very gracious sponsor.  I told her earlier today that I didn't think we would have 20 comments.  She is in the process of moving, and she will not be settled into her new home till around September.  She has agreed to try this giveaway again then.  I will be participating in several giveaway hopes, so that will work well for me.

When this giveaway comes again, here is the good news.  While you will have to enter a blog comment again, I am going to keep all of your giveaway entries.  So they did not count for nothing!!  I think the only reason more people did not enter was that it is summer, and people are on vacation.

So if you were looking forward to a mongrammed art piece, don't give up!  Just wait a little, and don't forget about my other giveaways!

Campbell's Spaghettios with Sliced Franks Review

I don't know about you, but during the summer, it is tough to find food that my daughter will eat for lunch.  She eats hot lunch a lot during the school year, and she often is not content with a sandwich.  And sometimes I make salads for my mom and me, and you can imagine that an 8-year-old will not eat a salad.  In both of these situations, it is very important for me to have something I can fix my daughter almost instantly and serve to her before her complaints of hunger become too loud and insistent.

At the beginning of summer, I went to the store and stocked up on easy-to-prepare foods that my daughter might like.  You never know for sure what she might like or what mood she might be in at any given time.  I got all different varieties.  It just so happens that one variety I got was Spaghettios with Sliced  Franks.  I knew that my daughter used to like Spaghetiios, but I wasn't sure if she still liked them.  I knew she liked hot dogs, so I thought I would give it a chance.

When I heated up the Spaghettios and gave them to my daughter, she ate them up in no time.  It was clear that this was a hit with her.  In fact, she is willing to eat Spaghettios with Sliced Franks at just about any time. She loves the flavor of these.  She is not a tomato sauce fan, but this food is flavored exactly the way she likes it.

There are many varieties of Spaghettios out there, and the good news is that they provide pretty good nutrition to our kids.  Most have good protein, fiber, and vegetables.  I like that Campbell's has gotten on the ball and added good nutrients to their foods that kids will still like to eat.  

And here's something fun for your kids.  Check out My Slurp for fun online videos, games, and more.  

Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this review in any way.  All opinions are 100 percent my own.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seattle's Best Coffee Review

First and foremost, I am a coffee addict--I admit it.  If I go a day without coffee, I must be ill.  I have two cups in the morning and often one in the afternoon. I love practically every kind of coffee--lattes, cappuccinos, coffee with any kind of cream and splenda.  In a pinch, I will drink the coffee black, but that is not my preferred way.  I also like iced coffee and frozen coffee--I'm sure you get the idea.

It's actually kind of funny because the vast majority of my life, I couldn't stand coffee.  I used to watch my grandpa and mom drink cup after cup--sometimes six a day.  It was Martin who got me hooked on coffee (my friend from England).  I couldn't stand coffee or tea, and he sent me both from England.  And I developed a taste for both.  And then a few years ago, I got hooked on coffee--I had to go buy a coffee pot!

Now, at first, I was not terribly particular about the brand of coffee I got.  I tried them all.  My mom prefer Starbucks--after all, we do live in the Pacific Northwest.  And I will say that in the past, I have not been impressed with Seattle's Best Coffee.  I don't know why, but the taste just was not my thing.

When the chance to fry a free sample of Seattle's Best Coffee came up, I decided to give it a try again.  I noticed when it arrived that the packaging was different, and there was a number on the bag--5.  I did not even know what that meant.

One day shortly after that sample arrived, we ran out of our normal coffee.  So I substituted the free sample of Seattle's Best--hoping it would be good.  Here's the proof.  It was not until my mom and  I were done with our coffee that morning that I remembered that the coffee was not our normal brew.  And my mom and I did not even notice!  This coffee was so good and dark and rich like our normal brew.  I was quite pleased.  So pleased that I went out and bought a full-size pack of Seattle's Best coffee for us!

I have since learned that Seattle's Best has instituted a new level system.  My mom and I prefer dark coffee so it makes sense that level 5 would be our favorite.  But they have levels 1-5--something for every taste.  In fact, they have all sorts of drinks that I have not even looked for.  Check out their brand and products here.

My mom and I have since talked about the necessity to cut back on the price of coffee, and Seattle's Best is a moderately priced brand for a great price.  I think it will become one of our staples now that I know what level we like.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Seattle's Best on facebook

Seattle's Best on twitter

Disclosure:  I request a free sample of Seattle's Best Coffee.  The company sent me a sample merely because I requested it.  I chose to review it, and I was not financially compensated in any way.  All opinions are 100 percent mine.

Giveaway Reminders

I don't normally remind you about giveaways on my posts, but I feel I must this time.  I have 3 that end this month.  And a couple really need some help.

The Monogrammed Art Giveaway ends Friday night at 9 P.M. Pacific Time.  As a reminder, if there are not at least 20 comments, no art will be given away.  If we are able to get 40 comments, 2 pieces of art will be given away.  And if we  make it to 60 comments, 3 will be given away.  We have 8 comments right now.  I have promoted this as much as I can, and I want to be able to award at least one prize, so I am adding some more bonus entries.  Go check them out.

The New Chapter Zyflammend Giveaway ends 7/24.  This one has the added bonus of a $5 Amazon gift card.  My mom and I are hooked on this supplement.  She has bad arthritis, and since she has been taking this regularly, she is beginning to see vast changes.  I am not having near the amount of pain in my back.  So be sure to enter!

And then the giveaway with no entries: Called Home E-book.  This giveaway ends on July 31.  No one has entered, and I have to admit I don't know how else to promote this.  This is a great book, and although it is an e-book, you do not have to have an e-reader to use it.  I did not have one, and it worked well for me.  It is a delightful summer read, and the entires are very easy.  So don't forget to enter!

Thanks for all your support!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm a Book Sneeze Women of Faith Blogger! 2011 Seattle, WA

Okay, I wasn't planning on posting this tonight, but God had other plans.  I applied to the Book Sneeze Women of Faith 2011 Blogger Program.  I was almost certain that when I signed up, there would be no way that I would be selected.  After all, I am not a "big-time" blogger.  And I know there are several other bloggers in this area who would probably be better suited to this opportunity.

I guess God had other ideas.  I found out today that I am going!  I am totally shocked!  I looked over the information for the event, and I am already planning who might be going with me and where I may be staying while in Seattle.  I remember the first and only time I attended a Woman of Faith concert.  I was still married, and I remember I did not stay for the entire thing.  But I greatly enjoyed it.

I hope that if you get a chance to go to Women of Faith in your area of the world, I encourage you to go.  I will be covering the event, but the main thing you will hear from me is how it touched my life.  I say this because I know for sure that it will touch me.  God will use it in my life.  And I get to have two days away from this place!  That will be a nice vacation I have never had.

If you are going to Women of Faith in Seattle (or anywhere), drop me a comment here.  I would love to connect with you and share our mutual experiences!

Disclosure: I will be receiving two event passes --one for me and for a friend to attend the event, thanks to Booksneeze. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are 100 percent mine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Music Monday--Four Freshmen The Capitol Collector's Series

Tonight I am reviewing a CD that is probably not on your top ten list or even your top 100 list. But I have to say that it was nice for a change.

I think I happened to find this CD at a yard sale, and this was the first time I had ever listened to it.  It was really mellow music as I cleaned my room and put stuff away.

The first several songs made no impression on me.  I wasn't familiar with them so they didn't exactly "click" with me.  However, I have learned that sometimes  CD's have to grow on you.  And I think that the songs may have been arrange chronologically.  So their early music may not have been as nice as their later works.

Mood Indigo and It Never Occurred to Me were the first ones that caused my ears to perk up.  I was vaguely familiar with these songs, and the sound was more mature.

Song #15 was the best song of all--Graduation Day. That seriously had to be a big hit for them.  I knew  that song, and it was possibly the reason I bought the CD.  And all the songs following this were more familiar.  Route 66--how can you go wrong?   I loved #17--It Could Happen to You.  Fantastic song about not falling in love and yet you do without realizing it.  Classic!  And #21 And So It's Over--how could it be more appropriate?

I tried to fault their harmony, but never once was their harmony out of tune--at least on this CD.  Sometimes the melody was overshadowed by the harmony, but I could not fault their sound.  All I can say is that you have to be in the mood for these kinds of songs if you are going to listen to it.

Guest Post, Gloria Schumann, Author of Called Home: Two Hearts Answer and a Giveaway! (ends 7/31)

The past. Our story. The handful of pieces that help form the person we are today.

Is it good? Is it bad? Is it somewhere in between? Has is turned you optimistic? Or pessimistic? Has it opened doors or slammed them in your face? Would you change it or not? How much a part of you is it today? How much do you let it drive the direction you go?

Emma Benson, the heroine in "Called Home – Two Hearts Answer", is a creature carrying around her past like a Plexiglas shield. Any attempts at closeness from the opossite sex, especially David Schlosser, are deftly deflected and kept a safe distance away, where they can't penetrate her tough exterior and hurt her, yet again.

She snips, she snaps, she shuns, and still, David persists in his friendliness. She makes fun, she turns the smart aleck phrase, she avoids, but David sees right through the protective shield to her true nature—the loyalty to her family, her bouts of civility toward him, her care and concern of others. Emma is a sweet, smart, self-sufficient woman forging through life with the wounds of her past leading the way.

I love Emma because, in the beginning, she is strong and uses it to hinder her growth, her fulfillment, her happiness, but through very real and impressive events, the strength she wields is, instead of cutting off the world, used to enhance her chunk of it. Her outlook on life has turned the corner. She is now open to the vast and glorious wonders life can offer. If, like Emma, you're aware of them, if you allow them into your reality, the possibilities of joy, love and hope are endless. They're sublime.

Emma is an excellent example of perseverence through the storms of life, eventually learning to cope with the past, without giving into her insecurities. One, I myself, would like to emulate. In the end, the choices she makes puts her exactly where she belongs—in control of her life making healthy decisions toward her dreams, instead of out of fear. We should all be lucky enough to be in such a beautiful place in our lives.

Find out how Emma does it in "Called Home – Two Hearts Answer" and may you lead your life in hope and joy of the future. 

Gloria Schumann
Author of Called Home-Two Hearts Answer
Available on Amazon
By Savant

If you would like to read my review of this book, check out this post.  It is definitely worth your consideration!  And because Gloria is such a wonderful author and lady, she has agreed to give away a copy of her book Called Home: Two Hearts Answer!  She will give an e-book copy to one lucky reader, and since it is an e-book, the giveaway is open worldwide!  Just fill out the rafflecopter form before.  The giveaway will end at 9 P.M. Pacific time on July 31.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Have Been Sick

Sorry for being behind in posting.  I woke up at 3:30 with some kind of nasty stomach virus.  I thankfully did not throw up or anything though I thought I would.  I have slept so much and had little energy today, but it seems that my body is fighting the illness off.  I had planned out my meals, but I didn't get around to posting them.  I should be up and running tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Parent's Choice Infant Formula Savings Sweetpstakes

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of PBM Products for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I remember so well when my daughter was a baby and a toddler.  We had to rely on formula since my breast milk was insufficient for her.  I can remember how hard it was for me to admit that I was unable to meet her nutritional needs on my own.  But I was so thankful for great formulas that provided the needed nutrition to her young body and mind.  Even back then, I can remember using Parent's Choice formula to meet her needs.  The price was right, and I knew that she was getting a good start in her young life.  I remember my only concern about formula was that she would not be as intelligent as those who grew up on breast milk.  I heard all the statistics, and it worried me.  I also worried that she would be overweight.  

I am happy to report that she is tall and skinny and one of the most intelligent kids in her class.  I guess statistics aren't everything, are they?  And it's good to know that Walmart still carries their affordable Parent's Choice Infant Formula.  I can honestly say that it is the next best thing to breast milk.  I am so glad that parents have these kinds of choices today, and in this difficult economy, it is good to know that parents can find quality products at reasonable prices.

For the past 13 years, Walmart's Parent's Choice Infant Formula has helped to write the earliest chapters in millions of success stories by allowing parents to provide outstanding nutrition at affordable prices.  I think that is what I appreciate most about Walmart.  While their prices are low, you do no feel that you have to sacrifice quality.  This is certainly the case with their Parent's Choice Infant Formula.

Now the folks at Parent's Choice will help one student and one family write another important chapter in their lives with the launch of the Parent's Choice Infant Formula Savings Sweepstakes.  This sweepstakes which has been created in partnership with PBM Products, LLC, a Perrigo Company, will provide one lucky winner with a $10,000 college scholarship in the form of a College Savings 529 Plan.  I have to say that I am extremely impressed that Walmart has offered this opportunity.  The cost of colleges keeps going up every year.  in fact, I know for a fact that in our state of Washington, some law was just changed so that the state universities could increase their tuition more than they have in years.  I can only imagine how much my daughter will have to pay when she is old enough for college! 

Furthermore, in this economy, how can parents find enough money to set aside on a regular basis for their child's future education plans?  The unemployment rate continues to rise, and parents like me may only be able to find a part-time job or two to support the family.  Not only that, but the cost of living keeps going up, and it seems like every time you turn around, something happens to eradicate your savings account!  I think that this opportunity is exactly why Walmart is so well-respected all over the U.S.  They truly care about providing quality products and services for the average family at reasonable prices.  And now they are offering a fantastic sweepstakes opportunity to help families save money for the future.

The Parent's Choice Infant Formula Sweepstakes was officially launched today, June 15th, and will run through 11:59 P.M. on August 1, 2011. If I were you, I would check it out today so I do not forget.  You certainly don't want to miss thie opportunity.

More information, rules, and an entry form can be found here.

Parent's Choice infant formula is Walmart's private brand formula and is available exclusively at Walmart locations nationwide and online at


Parent’s Choice Infant Formula Savings Sweepstakes

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Question Friday 7/15/11

I haven't done a blog hop like this in a while, so I thought this might be a fun way for you to find out a little about me.  And I certainly need to hope around and see what others are saying!

Questions for Friday, July 14th: (Special thanks to @katieb38,@trooppetrie@Simply_BC,@PardonMyDust, and @RachelR77 for their question suggestions! I'd love to link YOU in a future 5QF, so head on over to my community or shout 'em out to me on Twitter, remember to@5crookedhalos me and use hashtag #5QF!)

1. If you knew your best friend's spouse was cheating on her or him, would you tell her (him)?

2. Soda in a can or a bottle?

3. What do you wash first, hair or body?

4. What advice would you give to any new mama?

5. What is your best hangover remedy?


1.  First of all, I would have to be absolutely certain.  I would have to have proof that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt.  I would not unnecessarily upset my best friend for anything.  (Actually, my best friend in a single bachelor--I don't have a best friend who is a female and is married.)  But I would pray about it before I said anything.  But if I had proof, I would certainly share my findings with my friend.

2.  You know, I really don't care.  Soda in cans are much easier to open.  Soda in a bottle is harder to open but very nostalgic and sometimes better than what you get in a can.  I really don't think I have a preference.  

3.  I always, always, always wash my hair first.  It makes more sense.

4.  No matter how much you think you are prepared, nothing can really prepare you for the adventure of motherhood.

5.  I've never been drunk in my life.  I don't need a hangover remedy. 
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