#5Faves: Parental Uses for a Timer

My mom had a simple timer that she used exclusively for cooking and baking. Whether it was lasagna in the oven or her frequent batches of chocolate chip cookies, the timer’s use was exclusively in the kitchen. I recall an egg timer or two as well, the old-fashioned sand-filled kind, which were used for my play.

chick timer

Our beloved chick timer.

The myriad uses for the timer are yet to be explored in our house, but since joining 10 Minute Novelists several years ago, I’ve discovered more “grown up” uses for the timer that I should be employing more frequently to keep on task with both writing and household chores. Continue reading

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Excessive Options and Apathy

Last week I passed a billboard for a convenience store chain. (I wanted a photo of it, but since it was along a highway, and I was driving, I didn’t get one.) The image consisted almost entirely of beverage bottles and read:

“Are 500+ beverage options excessive?”

“Yes.”

The implication, of course, is that excess is a good thing, and that this store has whatever you might like to satisfy your thirst. (Except alcohol. This is Pennsylvania, people.) Continue reading

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Top 10 Tuesday: Hidden Gems Series & Standalones

I’m linking up with The Broke and the Bookish (which describes me quite well) for ten underrated/hidden gem books I’ve read over the last year or so. I adapted the topic slightly to suit the books I had in mind, making the focus here mainly series.

If my list is “more of the same” from me, it’s because hidden gems are a mainstay of my reading diet. Most of the books I review and blog about could be considered hidden gems. While I do read classics and books by major publishers with super-wide exposure, I concentrate my efforts on quality books by authors who publish independently or with independent publishers. I know self-published books have a bad rap in certain circles, but there are many, many excellent books out there. More every day. Continue reading

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Interview with Romantic Suspense Author Therese Heckenkamp

Frozen Footprints, a Christian suspense thriller, includes some rather dark moments with a seriously-disturbed villain. The story, however, is never without hope. How do you balance the darkness and the light so that you allow the reader to contend with the horror your characters experience yet leave them with a satisfying, positive ending?

Frozen FootprintsWhile writing, I strive to find some positive moments amidst the hardships, even if they’re brief. Most readers will understandably give up on a story that goes too long without some kind of goodness or possibility of goodness occurring. Even if it appears to vanish for a time, there has to be some type of hope if I don’t want to end up with a novel of despair. (And I don’t! There are plenty of those out there.) How to bring in that lightness? It may be with another character, a positive perspective, a note of humor, an unexpected kindness, or a glimmer of faith. Similarly, a change in situation, or some form of comfort found in an unlikely place, may bring relief or an inspirational moment. Continue reading

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Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Farm Show Fracas Edition

While we live close to the state capital, where the Pennsylvania Farm Show is held each January, we’ve only been there several times, all more than a decade ago. It’s something like a local family tradition/institution, and I’ve been wanting to take the kids for years, but weather, basketball, or something else has interfered. Since my oldest daughter joined 4H, I decided this year we’d go. On Sunday, later in the morning than I’d anticipated, I took the three youngest children to the show. Here’s how it went down. Continue reading

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Shrinking in the Distance: My Kids Are Growing Up and Away

The day after Christmas, we enjoyed a short winter reprieve. Temperatures soared. With my 13-year-old’s brand-new drone fully charged, we headed to the park, where he could fly it in wide open spaces without worrying about entangling his new toy in wires or treetops. All of the pre-Christmas bustle had ceased and for once, we didn’t have holiday travel plans. Our visit to the park was sheer fun.

I took this picture of my children chasing after the drone in the distance. From our vantage atop a hill (at this time of year, it could as easily be the sled riding hill), they seemed so small. My oldest is only a few inches shorter than me, but in this picture, he might as well be the size of his three-year-old brother. Continue reading

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the January 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND CatholicMom.com!

As of this writing, I’m trying to hit my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal, and I’m only a book away! I think I’ll make it. As the new year begins, I’m looking forward to reading some paperbacks that have been piled around the house and some NetGalley review copies that  have been burning up my Kindle. Now, on to January’s books.

Resisting HappinessAn anonymous parishioner provided each family in our church with a copy of Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly for Christmas. This one was already on my husband’s book pile. I read Matthew Kelly’s Rhythm of Life many years ago, but haven’t gotten around to any of his books since. My 13-year-old has been watching Kelly’s Decision Point Confirmation Program video series with his classmates at school, and while I think he’s a bit weary of the “be the best version of yourself” mantra, we’re still going to give this book a go.

Unearthing ChristmasBecause it’s still Christmas, I’m reading Unearthing Christmas by Anthea T. Piscarik. I’ve sold books alongside Anthea at several diocesan women’s conferences, so it’s about time I got around to reading her book! So far, I’m enjoying the back and forth between Christmas 1955 and 2015. I think the characters will soon be descending into a bomb shelter, which should make things interesting. VanishedI’m also about to begin the final ebook in the Memories of Jane E, Friendless Orphan series: Vanished by Erin McCole Cupp. I’ve loved this series so far, and once it’s done, I’m probably going to be re-reading the classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte with a small group of friends online. I have to say again how much I love the covers of these ebooks!

Treachery and TruthTimed perfectly to the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26), my son just completed Treachery and Truth: A Story of Sinners, Servants, and Saints, the true story of Good King Wenceslaus, by Katy Huth Jones. When I won a paperback copy of the book, I knew my son would be all over this since “Good King Wenceslas” has always been his favorite carol. I’d catch him singing it at random times throughout the year. (It didn’t hurt that the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Special included its own adaption of the song by Buford and Baljeet.) AhsokaRealizing he’d not had enough forethought to ask for the new Star Wars book Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston for Christmas, my son brought me cash to order it for him on Amazon Prime since Ahsoka Tano has always been one of  his favorite characters. (I suspect he may have had a crush on her years ago, but this kid is really tight-lipped about that sort of thing.) This book is geared right at his age level (grade 7 and up) and has good reviews. I may read this one myself.

Farmer BoyMy third grader continues to read the Little House series. She’s currently enjoying Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of the few books in the series I haven’t read. It apparently has a lot to do with that team of calves on the front cover that seem to keep Almanzo out of school. SounderI’ve also begun reading Sounder by William H. Armstrong aloud to her and whomever else cares to listen. I read it several times in elementary school but can’t recall much beyond it being a sad dog story somewhat like Old Yeller (which I read to my kids a couple of years ago). It’s also a Newbery Medal winner. These books have helped fill my daughter’s reading BINGO card over Christmas break, and in order to cross off another block, she read an entire book of classic fairy tales.

A Squirrel's TaleThe little kids are enjoying the books that we got them for Christmas. I purchased both of these at an online Usborne Books & More party hosted by a friend of mine. Usborne sells high quality books for children of all ages. My son, a big fan of Honey Bee’s Busy Day, which I linked to in September’s “An Open Book,” is enjoying A Squirre’s Tale, also by Richard Fowler. The Human BodyMy daughter snatches her dad’s flashlight for her new book, Shine-A-Light: The Human Body by Carron Brown and Rachael Saunders. This is a very cool concept – shine a light behind the page to see “inside” the illustration. Perfect for glimpsing skeletons, muscles, nerves, and unborn babies. (If you’d like to contact an Usborne representative, let me know, and I’d be happy to refer you.)

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