Friday, June 28, 2013

Recess Monkey Deep Sea Diver CD Review

We received this CD free to facilitate this review. This post has affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my blog. 

Recess Monkey is composed of three teachers who make music. They are a Seattle, Washington based group who have made a name for themselves with their happy Kindie Rock style. They incorporate fun puns and jokes into their lyrics to keep it entertaining. Their music is great for both kids and parents.

I had heard of Recess Monkey before through my kids. They had asked me one night to put some music on and specifically asked for Recess Monkey. So, I looked them up and their page has a music player that streams their music to it. We listened and danced and had loads of fun.

Their next album, Deep Sea Diver, I had to have because I love the ocean and the song titles sounded so fun. I was given the chance to get the CD free for review. I loved the lyrics to each song and so do my kids. I absolutely love The Deep End, Beach Ball, and The Seven Cs! I can relate to the song Shrimp, LOL! Recess Monkey reminds me of The Beatles or The Monkees except for kids....well, and parents. This undersea themed album is very catchy and imaginative.

Track Listing:
  1. Tambourine Submarine
  2. Fish Sticks
  3. The Deep End
  4. Beach Ball
  5. Shrimp
  6. Compass Rose 
  7. Choral Reef 
  8. Tattoo Me
  9. The Seven Cs 
  10. Seagull 
  11. Up Periscope
  12. Walkie Talkies 
  13. Seahorse 
  14. Making Waves 
  15. Stranded... 
You can purchase the Recess Monkey Deep Sea Diver CD for $14.99 (at time of post) on

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review. This post has affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Listen to the Birds An Introduction to Classical Music Storybook & CD Review

We received products free from The Secret Mountain to facilitate this review.

I love to sit and listen to the songs of birds. They always cheer me up with their lovely tweets and twitters. A lot of classical music artists have been inspired by the birds and their creativity has been forever immortalized in this music. There is a tremendous similarity between notes of instruments and the birds' songs.

Listen to the Birds An Introduction to Classical Music hardcover Storybook captures the essence of these birds in gorgeous illustrations by Cecilia Varela. This book has wonderful explanatory notes and descriptions of the birds in detail. It also has a listening guide that has notes on the music, the composers, a gloassary of musical terms, and a timeline of composers and periods. It has 64, 8"x8 pages.

Listen to the Birds An Introduction to Classical Music CD is a wonderful compilation chosen by Ana Gerhard of beautiful classical music by notable works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, and others. It offers 20 excerpts (26 minutes) ranging from The Goldfinch, Hens and Roosters, and The Dance of the Swans to The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Piano Concerto N, and Dance of the Firebird. These are performed by great luminaries including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra.

This book and CD is fabulous for homeschool and the introduction of classical music to little ones. Great for ages 7-9. Originally this was published in Mexico and now the English version is available in North America for the first time.

  1. The Goldfinch, Vivaldi 1:05
  2. La Primavera, Vivaldi 1:07
  3. The Song of the Birds, Janequin 1:35
  4. Melancholy, Rautavaara 1:24
  5. The Bird (Peter and the Wolf), Prokofiev 0:28
  6. Hens and Roosters (The Carnival of Animals), Saint-Saëns 1:07
  7. Aviary (The Carnival of Animals), Saint-Saëns 1:23
  8. The Swan (The Carnival of Animals), Saint-Saëns 1:15
  9. Dance of the Swans (Swan Lake), Tchaikovsky. 1:29
  10. Song for the Lark (The Seasons - Album for Children), Tchaikovsky 1:02
  11. The Lark Ascending, Vaughan Williams 1:32
  12. Ballet Of The Unhatched Chicks, Mussorgsky 1:10
  13. Toccata Con Lo Scherzo Del Cucco, Pasquini 1:28
  14. The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, Handel 1:12
  15. The Robin, Messiaen 1:02
  16. Papageno and Papagena (The Magic Flute), W.A. Mozart 2.33
  17. Piano Concerto N° 17, W.A. Mozart 1:35
  18. The Raven, Schubert 0:48
  19. Dance of the Firebird, Stravinsky 1:14
  20. Toy Symphony, L. Mozart 2:08
 You can purchase this book and CD at

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received products for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review. Affiliate links may be present in this post. Thank you for supporting my blog.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zaycon Foods

All information is provided by and Zaycon Foods. I will receive 40 lbs FREE Chicken for posting. There is also affiliate links in this post. Thank you for supporting my blog.

How does Zaycon Foods manage to provide such high quality super fresh meat and produce to its customers at such low prices? The answer is strength in numbers. And not our numbers, yours!

Zaycon Foods can sell its products at bulk rate prices to individual consumers and families because our unique sales event business model brings lots of people together, adding all their purchasing power into a combined bulk food purchase. And when you buy as part of a group that’s committing to such a large purchase, the power is in the hands of the purchaser! It’s the ultimate group buy in terms of both price and consumer empowerment.

You can pre-select exactly what you want to order from a given Zaycon sales event – sometimes you may want to stock up on our amazing meaty back ribs and sometimes it might be all about the Zaycon bacon – and then, on the day of the sales event, you and a whole big bunch of your neighbors will find yourselves in a nearby parking lot watching as an entire tractor trailer’s worth of high quality natural food is unloaded into all of your cars! You will be amazed at how quickly one of our refrigerated trucks goes from being filled with natural, fresh chicken or hundreds of gallons of grade A non-homogenized milk to being empty and back on its way to the farm!

A Zaycon Foods truck sales event often lasts less time than you would spend on a trip to the grocery store, yet you will leave with a whole lot more food than you’d get at the market, and for much better prices, too!

When you use the Zaycon Foods sales event as your preferred place to purchase meats, milk, and any of our other fine products, you get advantages even beyond the bulk pricing that comes with our special sales model. You also have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you’re going to get! A trip to the grocery store can involve wasted time wandering around looking for various foods spread out across the store; at a Zaycon Foods parking lot meat truck delivery (or milk or berries or fish delivery, too!) you have pre-ordered your foods, so all you have to do is show up and wait for our friendly staffers and volunteers to load up your car.

Also, unlike in the grocery store, the prices you will pay for a Zaycon Foods product are locked in on our website, so you will know how much you are going to spend before you have committed to a purchase.

At a supermarket, you might pay one price for chicken on one day, and then a higher price on another day. With Zaycon, you decide that you want to order a case of our fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts, you check the price and then you commit to it, knowing that from that moment on, we are committed to getting you your fresh, natural food!

Watch this video to find out more:

To Get Started Click on this link

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: All information is provided by and Zaycon Foods. I will receive 40 lbs FREE Chicken for posting. There is also affiliate links in this post. Thank you for supporting my blog.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Funky Monkey Snacks Review and Guest Post: Don’t Let Healthy Living Take a Vacation This Summer

I received these products for free to facilitate this review. This post is sponsored by Funky Monkey Snacks.

Funky Monkey Snacks are healthy all-natural freeze dried real fruit snacks. They are great for summer time! The snacks come in seven different original flavors: Applemon (freeze-dried apple and organic cinnamon), Bananamon (freeze-dried organic banana and organic cinnamon), Carnival Mix (freeze-dried organic banana, pineapple, apple and papaya), JiveALime (freeze-dried pineapple and lime juice), MangOJ (freeze-dried mango and orange juice), Pink Pineapple (freeze-dried pineapple and guava) and Purple Funk (freeze-dried organic banana and organic açaí). They also have teamed up with Marvel to bring new flavors (I did not receive these to try) with Marvel characters on the packaging. They are all free of: GMOs, preservatives, added sugars, coloring, flavoring, wheat, gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree-nuts. They are also a vegan, kosher, and raw food. Some of their snacks are even USDA Certified Organic. The USDA defines 1/4 cup of freeze-dried fruit as 1 serving of fruit and Funky Monkey Snacks have 3 servings of fruit in every bag. The fruit used are sliced into full slices instead of diced and contain more nutrients than regular dried fruits because no heat or cooking was involved in the process of making them.

These snacks were really good and my kids and I enjoyed them. They have an awesome crunch that is very unique. My favorites were the JiveALime and Applemon. My kids loved those and the MangOJ the best. These are great to take on trips and are so convenient and portable! They can be taken anywhere to be eaten.

Below I have included some great tips from the CEO of Funky Money Snacks...

Don’t Let Healthy Living Take a Vacation This Summer
Matt Herzog, CEO of Funky Monkey Snacks

As school lets out and summer begins, family trips, camp and lots of free time can mean a more lax eating schedule and menu for kids. How can parents keep them on track during carefree summer activities? Below, Matt Herzog, father and CEO of healthy snack company, Funky Monkey Snacks, gives some tips on this topic:
  1. Don’t forget breakfast! It’s easy to forget about this meal when kids get up during the summer and head outside to play immediately. Have quick options on hand, such as oatmeal, yogurt, non-sugary cereal or whole grain toast with peanut butter. 
  2. Try to stay on a schedule. Even though the regimented hours of school are no longer present, try to serve meals at approximately the same time they would have been eaten during the school year. This helps prevent unnecessary snacking and allows the family to plan ahead and spend mealtimes together. This also means that it’s good to still have a set bedtime, even if a bit later, so that everyone is getting plenty of rest. 
  3. When traveling with children, make sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks to have on hand in case you get stuck in traffic, at the airport or someplace where healthy eating options are limited. Funky Monkey Snacks are a great option of course, but also pre-cut vegetables, whole grain crackers or homemade trail mix will also do the trick. 
  4. Buy personalized water bottles for each child (with their favorite character, sports team, color, etc). This show of personality will help each child want to drink more water – a must for hot summer days. Plus, the individuality will prevent mix-ups about which bottle belongs to which child. 
  5. Limit screen time and find fun activities outside. Movies, television, iPads and video games are all fun, but take advantage of the weather! Start a family garden and let your children choose what to plant so they are invested in helping it grow. Take walks, find hiking trails, bike to get frozen yogurt. Go to the beach and bring the Frisbee. The bottom line is that even though summer should be filled with fun activities and some treats, it should not be an excuse to drop all the rules, or back-to-school time will be an even bigger hassle! Maintaining a sense of schedule, while throwing in fun, summer-specific activities and trips is the perfect recipe for a healthy and harmonious summer together.   
Matt Herzog was a brand manager at General Mills, where he responsible for the launch of Yoplait Whips! as well as managing Chex Mix. Now, he is using his healthy snack food knowledge as the CEO of a small startup with an all-natural, freeze dried fruit snack (made in Brazil using fresh tropical fruit). Since becoming CEO, Funky Monkey Snacks has taken off, landing distribution through natural and conventional grocery stores,, as well as Walmart. He is also a father of two.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. The Guest Post was provided to me free to share by Funky Money Snacks. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review or posting this guest post.

Way Back in the Gardenia Rows: Everyday God-Moments and the Recipes that Accompany Them by Kay Wheeler Moore FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Hannibal Books (April 29, 2013)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Kay Wheeler Moore is a Pulitzer-Prize nominee who stirred up her heirloom cornbread from "Way Back in the Country" and her tangy orange/pecan salad from "Way Back in the Country Garden" on live TV while she promoted preserving family history through recipes. Her other previous books are "When the Heart Soars Free", a book of Christian fiction, and "Gathering the Missing Pieces in an Adopted Life", based on her newspaper series when she was a Houston Chronicle reporter. She and husband, Louis, are parents of two adult children and their spouses and grandparents of three.

Visit the author's website.


What are the tangible moments in life when God has been so real to you, you can almost hear His heart beating? When has He provided such an unlikely solution to a dilemma, the answer had to be His doing and a result of no other source?

Pulitzer Prize nominee Kay Moore, author of "Way Back in the Country" and "Way Back in the Country Garden", collections of family recipes and the stories behind them, now inspires readers to preserve God-moments in their own lives and to capture recipes of the foods that were served accompanying those life-changing times. Using illustrations from her own experiences, she contends that God shows up in quiet, everydaylife lessons as well as in miracles that may not be of the Damascus Road scale but nonetheless make a permanent imprint on the human heart.

As with her other "Way Back" books, Kay’s newest is packed with recipes for tantalizing foods, all of which are accompanied by small vignettes describing the context in which they were served and which illustrate the bond of food, family, and faith.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (April 29, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613150253
ISBN-13: 978-1613150252



Food and Faith:

Holy Ground

Early June mornings, while the dew still shimmered on the summer grass, I wordlessly followed my mother out back to her prized spot by the hedge.

In my shirtwaist of starched organdy with its prodigious bow I stood expectantly while she took her shears and lopped off the most showy bloom from a bush in her gardenia rows.

Fragrance from the creamy white petals invaded my nostrils as she pulled a silver safety pin from her apron pocket and fastened the flower to my dress.

Down the street, bells from the tile-roofed steeple called neighboring children to line up for Vacation Bible School. Mother wanted to be sure I wore (and smelled) my church-going best even though the morning would find me wrist-deep in finger paints.

At noon, after my class of kindergarteners had memorized our Scripture verses and heard flannelgraph Bible stories and pledged allegiance to the Christian flag, I walked the short block back home to my house.

By that point my gardenia was limp and brown-tipped; its scent was diluted by my sweatdrops from the playground.

But none of that mattered, because my mother was waiting with her welcoming lunch of tuna-salad sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies formed into bars.

When I think about the days in which the concept of God’s love first was introduced in my life, I can’t help associating those happenings with the gardenia blossoms and tuna fish and bars of chewy chocolate.

Those summer-sweet days at Bible School helped teach me Who God was, how He created the world, how He moved in history, and how He was a personal Father Who knew and loved me.

Interlaced with all those memories, something yummy to eat always was around the corner. Food and faith—they were an everpresent duo in my life—just as I know they are in the lives of others, as well.

* * * * * * * *

This book, simply put, tells stories of ways I’ve experienced God—and the food that accompanied some of those God-moments.

Some think Christian testimonies must be linked to a pat, memorized format of Scriptures or must cover a set of key points that spring from a proper acronym.

In God’s Word, however, Bible figures simply share their testimonies by relating what God has done for them. The blind man Jesus heals proclaims through the simple statement, “I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25). The forgiven woman at the well merely narrates, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:39). Before Agrippa, the apostle Paul quietly recalls the Damascus Road (Acts 26).

Old Testament writers repeatedly recount God’s hand in history (for example, Ps. 18). All are simple stories, earnestly told, of golden God-moments in each of their lives.

Way Back in the Gardenia Rows represents a collection of my faith stories—certainly not every one of them, since they happen every day and every hour. Oceans of ink could not possibly describe them all.

Part of them recount my “faith genealogy”—religious influences from past generations that trickled down to merge into the river of faith that flows into my heart. They show how God was at work in my life for generations before I ever was born.

Others delineate times in which God’s hand was so apparent that I could only stop and acknowledge, as Moses did, that I stood on holy ground. Some occur during a tsunami of tragedy and challenge; others happen on spiritual mountaintops; still others take place during unremarkable, quiet moments with nothing afoot except the stirring of the Spirit.

These are family stories; God works in families in every generation. From the first biblical grouping of Adam and Eve and their offspring He picks the family as the milieu in which He accomplishes His work. He places Jesus into a family. This is what He does with me as well.

Although our paltry lives may seem inconsequential, they actually are no different from those of the Old Testament patriarchs or the New Testament martyrs. All of us, as our pastor once instructed us, are involved in an epic that surpasses the great epic films such as Braveheart or Last of the Mohicans or Gladiator. We are involved in an epic tale that is the redemption of humankind. Every single day “we get to play a part in that huge story,” he told us.1

This is simply my version of my particular bit-part in that epic. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts, says Psalm 145:4. I want to make sure that the next generations are reminded of His mighty acts in my life and theirs, too.

As with my previous two cookbooks, which featured the antics of The Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (my mother and two aunts) and the generations that surrounded them, these family stories are linked to recipes—a food that was served at the dinner after a baptism, cookies that were prepared as we celebrated the miracle of our daughter’s graduation. I consider these foods to be integral to that particular memory from my faith journey. The story of that event wouldn’t be complete without remembering what we ate, who originated the recipes, and other lore that surrounded the cooking and consuming.

Many of these cooks have left this earth and today are dining in the banquet hall of the King. Telling about their special dishes almost seems to bring these dear ones back to life again.

* * * * * * * *

These happen to be my stories, but they are undistinguished. Every reader can spin similar yarns—only the names and circumstances differ from those of mine. Again, as with my two previous recipe books, I repeat the urging: tell your own tales, preserve your own happenings. Commend God’s works in your life to the generation that follows yours. While you’re at it, throw in a good recipe or two. Lock all this in for those that live after you.

Make sure they know that throughout your life, humble and ordinary as it may seem in the scope of human history, you—as I—have been standing on holy ground.

Today’s tuna-salad versions are so soigné with upscale additions, our forebears wouldn’t recognize this basic staple that was on the table at least three or four times a week (served on white bread with crusts removed) when I was a pup. All these years later I still think my mother’s cloth-coat variety is best.

Mable’s Tuna-Fish Sandwich Spread

1 (5-ounce) can tuna, packed in water

1 hard-boiled egg, diced

1 medium apple, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

In a medium bowl flake tuna that has been drained. Stir in egg, apple, and celery. Fold in mayonnaise. Spread on bread slices.

Chapter 1

Tippy-Toeing By

“Keep your eyes straight ahead, and whatever you do, don’t look out at the audience.”

No set of instructions could have been more of a siren song to a 5 1/2-year-old—even one about to follow Christ in baptism as she stood in slightly chilly waters on a spring morning.

After all, I had to know whether my daddy was out there among the onlookers. Daddy typically worshiped at his own church—Austin Street Church of Christ—on Sundays, while Mother and I filled the pews at First Baptist, Garland.

But on this red-letter day Daddy made a special exception and joined the Baptists in worship. All the more reason why I simply must careen my head ever so slightly toward the crowd to see whether I could nab a glimpse of him.

Then, just as the service was about to start, I heard him clear his throat. Nobody made this trademark, gutteral throat-

clearing sound like my Daddy. Suddenly I had the answer I needed. He’s here! I could assure myself.

I righted myself on the platform with its few bricks added so my shrimpy little head could be seen above the baptistery rail. Bro. Cockrell then baptized me as a symbol of my pledge to live for Jesus from that time on.

How did it happen that one so young—barely a first-grader—was making the most important decision of her life?

Long before my birth, did certain foundation stones that would help me one day decide I wanted to become a Christian get cemented in place?

Granted, God has no grandchildren. We do not inherit salvation just because we had righteous forebears. Every person must make his or her own decision about trusting Christ as Savior.

Yet the milieu in which I was reared most certainly created a fertile ground for being open to the gospel. Who had plowed that ground before me?

* * * * * * * *

To answer that question, I started by looking at the faith-lives of some of the Christians on my family tree. For example, if anyone ever found God’s grace dumped smack-dab in the center of her lap, it would be my maternal great-grandmother, Frances Mitchell Harris.

I let my imagination wander back to 1873 and tried to envision 20-year-old Frances as she and her family of eight jostled along in their ox-wagon on the rutted roads between their home near Jackson, MS, and their new location in northeast Texas.

Did Frances hear, No going back. No going back, every time a loose side board on their wagon made a clomp-clomp-clack, clomp-clomp-clack sound? As the prairie road snaked by her, Frances doubtless knew she might never return to her birthplace in the Deep South. Frances was the oldest offspring of her parents, Littleton and Annie Eliza Mitchell. What would Texas be like for the Mitchells in this new state to the west? she may have pondered.

In Frances’ mind, just about any place would have been good for putting the past behind her. Like many others, her family had lost everything in the Civil War. Littleton’s plantation near Jackson was burned out in the “late conflict”, as many called it. A friend of “Lit” already had relocated to Kaufman County, TX, and had a large farm there. He asked Lit to join him in Texas and help work the blackland prairie in that area.

Frances also had another reason for needing a new locale. She had ended a brief marriage to her young husband, James Miller. They had married in Mississippi a few days before Frances’ 15th birthday but parted only about a year later when things didn’t work out. James had been 21.

Twin babies lay buried under the soil back home in the Magnolia State.1 A wedded life that began with high hopes had gone afoul. Perhaps Texas would bring happier times.

* * * * * * * *

Another Texas newcomer—Joseph Francis Harris, who farmed land nearby—already made his home in Kaufman County, where the Mitchells soon would build their log cabin with its dirt floor. Though only 23 Joe Harris already had his share of rip-snorting life experiences.

Hailing from Washington County, IL, Joe at age 18 enlisted in the War Between the States, where he fought opposite Frances Mitchell’s South. Although he is not thought to have seen much combat, Joe was injured in a fall from a bucking horse while he was on Army duty in May 1865.2 After his discharge he was badly hurt while he worked on a dredge boat on the Mississippi River. Once in Texas he became a stagecoach driver; while doing this he almost froze to death in a snow-and-sleet storm.

But by the time the Mitchell family arrived in Kaufman County in 1872 or 1873, Joe had settled into farming. Sometime soon after the Mitchells landed in Texas, Joe and Frances met and fell in love. Frances never had obtained a divorce from James Miller, although they had been separated for several years. But a few days after that divorce was granted, a JP married Frances and Joe. The newlyweds lived on a farm about 12 miles from Terrell, TX.3

Before 11 months of marriage went by, a baby boy was born to the couple. Indeed, if Frances were grieving an empty cradle from an earlier time, the arrival of Charles Cornelius Harris on December 31, 1873, helped fill the hole in her heart. Before young Charlie reached age 2, a second boy, Eddie, joined the family; another brother, Thomas, was born before Charlie was 3. Twins Jesse and Albert would appear on the scene before Charlie celebrated his 5th birthday.

God truly had granted Frances a second chance from the life she left behind in Mississippi. At the end of the clomp-clomp-clack, no-going-back of the ox-wagon, God had made sure the man who would become her life’s companion and by whom she would have 14 children was already in place, waiting for her.

* * * * * * * *

How Frances Harris’ faith shaped her life in those days is not precisely defined in the record left behind her. Her obituary states that she had been a member of the Baptist church all her life. I feel fortunate to possess her family Bible and know she must have opened it for guidance, especially during times of heartache that were to lie ahead for her and Joe.

Their second and third boys, Eddie and Thomas, each died in young childhood. Their first daughter, Mollie May, did not live to see her 2nd birthday. A later son, John Delbert, died as a teen. Jesse, one of the twins born to Joe and Frances, ultimately left his wife and their five young children and didn’t return to the family. How I wish we knew the verses Frances claimed as anchors during those hours of trial.

But Frances had to realize that God was the source of all her blessings and was the One who turned her life around from those dark days in Mississippi. A total of 57 grandchildren, including my mother, Mable Miller, and her sisters Frances and Bonnie, emerged from the 49-year union of Frances and Joe. Among Frances’ offspring are many committed Christians. My maternal grandmother, Mattie (ninth child of Joe and Frances), no doubt was put on that pathway by a godly mother.

A loving family surrounded Grandma Harris with affection and care until her life ended at 92. As I wrote in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, Grandma’s photographs in later years always showed her with a contented smile, even though a broken hip left her wheelchair-confined during many of those latter years.

I’m convinced that Frances Harris was a woman with peace in her heart because she knew that God was the Source of all she had received in this life and would provide for her in the next.

Frances Mitchell Harris—the first plank in the platform of faith that would shape my years.

* * * * * * * *

The second plank—the Miller clan on the paternal side—also demonstrated faith in times of severe hardship—faith that would trickle down to my mother and ultimately to me. (This Miller family was no relation to Grandma Harris’ first husband, James.)

My great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Compton Miller, remained devoted to God even after her husband, Peter White Miller Sr., was butchered4 up and died from complications of his war injuries. He had served in the Confederate Army from Tennessee.

Rebecca, like many other Civil War widows, no doubt experienced cruelties in the years just after the war. Likely her land and other property eventually were seized. At the time, she was 46. Her children included a 2-year-old son.

Ultimately she moved from Tennessee to Delta County, TX, to join several of her kin. One of them was son Alfred Compton Miller, eventually grandfather to the Miller Girls.

Family historian Garland Button conjectures that a life of Christian dignity even in the face of suffering and separation characterized stalwart Rebecca. “The life of Rebecca Compton Miller must have undoubtedly been deeply rooted in the Christian faith,” Button writes. He says this was reflected in the lives of the 15 Miller children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

“This family is one that throughout its history has been made up of people dedicated to the Christian ethic in its fullest sense,” Button continued.

Like his father, Alfred C. Miller was not given the gift of years. At age 40 in 1892 he passed from this life and left his wife, Margaret, as a young widow with six children—a seventh one died just three weeks before Alf did.

At this point my mother and her sisters became direct eyewitnesses to the Miller family faith legacy.

Their grandmother, Margaret, as had her mother-in-law, Rebecca, lived with the families of various children after she was widowed. My mother, Mable, remembers Grandma Miller kneeling every night by her bedside while she stayed in the home of the Miller Girls’ parents, Mark and Mattie.

“We would see her praying and would tippy-toe by the door so we wouldn’t disturb her,” my mother recalled.

The bowed countenance of Margaret Miller, a grandmother who had suffered much, impressed Mable, Frances, and Bonnie Miller. In their adult lives all three sisters were Christian women devoted to prayer.

As they grew up, the Miller Girls were always in church—singing their red-haired father’s favorite hymn, “Wonderful Words of Life”, as well as other classics. As I wrote in the chapter, “Roll, Jordan, Roll”, in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, the three sisters never had a question about whether the family would attend services on Sunday; the question of where depended on the weather. Their own church was the New Hope Baptist Church, where Papa was ordained a deacon. But if rains had fallen on Saturday night and the roads weren’t dry, the Methodist church in Brushy Mound was closer to them and would do just fine.

All three girls trusted Christ as Savior and were baptized in the pool adjacent to the cotton gin in their community. Way Back in the Country describes frequent two-week tent revivals. At one of them Mable made her profession of faith.

History repeated itself into a third generation when the Miller Girls’ mother, Mattie, was left a widow while in the prime of her life—age 49. Three successive Miller men—Peter Miller; Peter’s son, Alfred, and Alf’s son, Marcus—all died in middle age, leaving wives and families that depended on them.

Once again a grieving Miller woman turned to—and found—help in the Heavenly Father. Mattie easily could have given God a real flaying and demanded to know why her beloved was abruptly taken from her. Instead she leaned on Him in her needy hour. Just as the Miller Girls had observed their grandmother in prayer, I often saw my Nanny with bowed head as she sat in her rocker with her Bible open. I always felt confident that some of those prayers were for me. Almost until she died, she gave enthusiastically to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Her means were few, but out of them she contributed to spread the gospel.

Christian role-modeling from this second plank of my faith legacy—the Millers. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them (Ps. 22:4).

* * * * * * * *

Matters of faith in the Wheeler family—the third plank in my platform—are detailed in chapter 2, “The Runaway”. But a visual that I observed when I once visited my grandfather Wheeler’s place of origin—Borden Springs, AL—summed up the story for me.

There, in a graveyard adjacent to the Church of Christ, were Wheeler markers as far as the eye could see. Towering over them was the headstone for the grave of Calvin Marshall Wheeler, my granddad’s grandfather—the progenitor.

Churches of Christ had a heavy concentration in Alabama as the movement grew in the middle of the 19th century. It traces its origins to the Restoration Movement (also called the Stone-Campbell movement) of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as Barton Stone-Alexander Campbell followers from Kentucky and Tennessee migrated into northern Alabama.

Cathryn Killian, my late cousin on the Wheeler side, told me that the Wheeler family had been aligned with Churches of Christ for many generations, which probably explains why my dad never quite was willing to sprint over and join my Baptist mom in her church membership. My granddad, James Devastus Wheeler (I nicknamed him “Bandad”), became a lay Church of Christ preacher, as the next chapter explains. His spiritual impact on my life was immeasurable.

My grandfather was a boy of 3 when his father, James Washington Wheeler (more on him in the next chapter) pulled up stakes from this idyllic setting in the Blue Ridge foothills and began his Texas migration. Whether my grandfather’s branch ever made return trips to Alabama to see those left behind is a matter of mystery.

But in their new state they decidedly brought their Church of Christ heritage. Once settled into Antioch, TX, in Delta County, they joined the Church of Christ. James Devastus grew up in that setting and at age 13 was baptized at nearby Rattan.6 As an adult, when he and Zella moved to Cooper in 1910, he found no Church of Christ congregation existed and drew together a few disciples to begin a local body.7 My Bandad, in my estimation, was one of the truest Christians that ever walked on the earth.

* * * * * * * *

The spiritual roots of the W.H. Wright family–my dad’s maternal side—are obtuse because of the situation that makes most Wright information cloudy. Chapter 10, “In Search of Mollie V.”, describes the early passing of my grandmother’s mother, Mollie V. Wright, when Mammaw was 6. Mammaw—Zella Mae Wright—then died when I was 10, so I was physically around her less and “caught” less information from her (except one rare jewel of a fact described later) than I did from any of my other living grandparents.

I do know that her family also evacuated from northern Mississippi in the wake of the Civil War aftermath—no doubt for some of the same atrocities that caused the Mitchells and Millers to flee the Deep South.

Regardless of the W.H. Wrights’ faith tradition, soon after Zella married my Bandad, J.D. Wheeler, she joined the Church of Christ and became a part of his family faith practices. She was baptized by C.E. Holt at Rattan, TX.

Here is what my grandfather, her life’s companion of 57 years, wrote on the one-year anniversary of Zella’s passing: “She spent much time in the study of the Bible and was a good Bible student. She spent much time in prayer. Zella was a devoted Christian and a true helper in life, in joy and in sorrow. I believe she is safe in the arms of Jesus.”

Little else needs to be said from this one who knew her best. As with my Nanny, the prayers of my devoted Mammaw, Zella Wright, may just have been some of her greatest spiritual contributions to my life.

* * * * * * * *

What were those prayers by my Nanny and Mammaw? I have no doubt that in part, they pled with God to send a child to their infertile children—Mable and J.D. (Doyce).

And does God answer prayers retroactively? Since prayer transcends time and space, did He know of the urgent petitions my Nanny and my Mammaw one day would utter and start answering them . . . before either of those godly women was even born?

Consider the following story, which concludes my first chapter. The name in this amazing tale—W.F. Kimmell—won’t appear on any of the family trees at the end of the book. But this Civil War narrative about W.F. is as vital to my family faith heritage as are any of these already told.

* * * * * * * *

Eager to do his part for his country, Albion, IN, native William Francis Kimmell enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry in April 1861. Enthusiastically he wrote regular and highly detailed letters home to his lady friend, Leah Crispell, back in Albion.8

Initially W.F.’s letters are cheery and buoyant. “I am here a United States soldier enlisted for three years and hoping to do something for my country before I come home again,” he wrote in June 1861.

As days wore on, the realities of the War Between the States set in for this Union frontline infantryman—who fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Many times the enemy troops that faced the 8th Ohio were led by none other than the brilliant strategist, Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who knew nothing if not how to annihilate troops. “I helped bury fifteen rebels today,” William’s letter in October 1861 said. “A person never thinks of the dead and wounded during a battle. But it is a horrible sight after it’s all over.”

After the Battle of Blue’s Gap (WV), Kimmell wrote Leah on January 15, 1862, “There was a bullet went through my coat.” After the battle of Winchester, VA, in April 1862, he penned, “I had four bullet ho(l)e in my overcoat, one of them give me a little scratch on the arm.”

At the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the war, Kimmell wrote of his group, “Four killed and sixteen wounded out of the thirty-two engaged. How I ever escaped unharmed is a mystery to me . . ..”

After the Battle of Gettysburg, Kimmell wrote Leah, “There is but eleven of us left out of the ninety-eight that came into Virginia two years ago. My chances are growing smaller all the time.”

In December 1863 Kimmell described continued carnage: “I am now the last one of the six men left in the company (six men who shared a tent as they first came into Virginia two years beforehand). . .. Why should they all go before me? I was always considered the smallest and the weakest one of the lot.”

But W.F. continued to survive fray after fray and returned safely home to Albion in late July 1864. William and Leah, to whom he mailed the letters considered to be a unique, firsthand glimpse of frontline Civil War military life, married shortly afterward.

* * * * * * * *

A pensive W.F. once posed the question, “Why should they all go before me?” Earlier he had written, “How I ever escaped unharmed is a mystery to me.” W.F. pondered how he was allowed to live when bullets whirred all around him and death claimed comrade after comrade.

To God, however, the answer to W.F.’s questions was anything but a mystery. God saw beyond those bloody fields of battle and down through the generations to those Delta County prayers that one day Mattie and Zella would pray. The two women’s children—Mable and J.D.—were so, so, so meant to be parents but could not produce them genetically. Mattie and Zella surely begged heaven for a child to occupy this deserving home.

I believe God preserved W.F. because He knew that through his bloodline would spring the child God—from before the foundation of the world—already had picked out to fill those empty arms. He knew that in W.F.’s bloodline one day would be an infant who would need an adoptive mom and dad.

On a November day in 1948, a husband and wife from the combined merger of the Millers, the Harrises, the Mitchells, the Wrights, the Wheelers—all the families mentioned previously in this chapter—would show up at Florence Nightingale Maternity Hospital in Dallas and would present themselves to be just the adoptive parents that this child would need.

On the Civil War’s bloodiest days, God took me into account. It was an example of God’s prevenient grace—the grace that works ahead of time for a specific event in the future. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5 tells us.

I believe He kept W.F. alive so that His perfect will might be enacted.

My mother’s Golden Fried Okra was an after-church staple we could count on. Although I can’t guarantee it was on the table the Sunday after I was raised out of the baptismal waters, I know my mother missed very few Sundays preparing this dish, which has been called the “pâté of the South”.

Golden Fried Okra

20 okra pods, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1-inch cooking oil

Stir cut-up okra into beaten eggs; then dredge in mixture of flour, cornmeal, salt, and paprika. In large skillet fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sakar International Batman Spy Adventure Kit Review

I received these products for free to facilitate this review.

My boys are like most, they love superheroes! With all the new superhero movies coming to the big screen this year they have been having a great Super Hero Summer. My son, Jaedan, loves Batman. The Dark Knight is definitely one of his favorite super heroes.

I received a Batman Spy Adventure Kit from Sakar International for free to facilitate this review. Sakar International has paired up with Warner Bros., DC Comics and Cartoon Network to create a large line of consumer electronics. They also have been known to pair with other awesome companies to make some very cool gear with your favorite characters on them. I looked on their website and I love the WINX branded items myself! They also have Disney, Nickelodeon, Nerf, Marvel, Hello Kitty, Crayola, among others.

This Spy Adventure Kit has branded items from Batman The Brave and The Bold series on Cartoon Network. With all the camping that my boys do over the summer they will sure be taking along this fun kit. When we opened this kit my son went outside straight away to try the items out.

Here is a list of contents:
  • 4X28 Binoculars
  • Directional Compass
  • Telescope (10 power)
  • 35MM Camera
  • Flashlight (illuminates up to 10 feet)
These kids toys are great for the adventure and nature lover that also loves Batman. The binoculars are great for sightseeing and nature observations. The directional compass is great for camping and nature studies. The telescope is good for viewing large terrestrial and astronomical bodies. The camera is an old fashioned 35MM that takes 35MM slide or film to work, but was also focus free. My kids had never seen a 35MM camera before, they are used to digital so they had no idea how to work this and I am so glad it came with instructions on how to load it. The flashlight illuminates up to 10 feet and is great for taking camping for night time use. It uses 2AA batteries that were not included.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Itty Wigs Baby and Toddler Headbands Review

I received these products for free to facilitate this review.

Itty Wigs are whimsical headbands for babies or toddlers with yarn pigtails and bows attached. The crochet headband is made from a stretchy ribbon material so it expands to fit the wearers head comfortably. The yarn pigtails are curly in ringlets that sit atop the head. These headbands are fun and fashionable for little girls with or without hair. These are sure to get a smile and a giggle out of passersby.

We received the Tooti Fruitti "Hair" with hot pink bows and a pink band & the Cinnabrown "Hair" with light pink bows and a white band. My youngest daughter, Zari, has a lot of hair for a 2 year old, but all my kids did at that age. We placed her hair in a ponytail in the back so we could showcase the hair accessories in the pictures, but these also look good with her hair down in my opinion. I really loved the look of the Tooti Fruitti "Hair" one the most on her, but I am really glad we got to try both. The Tooti Fruitti "Hair" is a combination of pinks, blues and sandy blonde colored yarn. I love this color combination! It was especially cute against the hot pink bows and pink headband. The Cinnabrown "Hair" has a cinnamon colored yarn with some lighter browns, dark browns and reds in it. My Zari likes to also wear hers when playing dress up and pretend. They are both adorable!

I've seen these mostly in pictures on babies and younger toddlers, but I think they look just as adorable on my little girl. Also I want to mention that I had another idea for these. Many little girls with cancer loose their hair because of radiation therapy or chemo and I thought these headbands would be adorable on them as well.

Itty Wigs has other colors to choose from too. They currently have Light Blonde, Medium Blonde, Tooti Fruitti, Cinnabrown and Midnight for the yarn (faux hair or fake hair) colors . Headband sizes come in infant to toddler & child to adult. The Headbands come in pink, white or black, but can be made custom in other colors as well.  You can also specify the color of the bows that come with these and have them attached permanently or with clips so as to be able the wear them separately. You can also choose bows that are multi colored like: camo, patriotic (red, white and blue), or zebra stripe. They also have flower ones instead of bows to choose from and you don't even have to have bows or flowers if you don't want to. These are totally customizable, just ask first to see if what you want is available.

Check out their website at and their Facebook page at

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Monsters University Movie Review

On Monday June 17th my family and I went to an advance screening of Disney and Pixar's new movie, Monsters University (the prequel to Monsters Inc.), in Disney Digital 3D for free to facilitate this review. We also got free movie posters and stickers for the kids.

We went to the beautiful Regal Bridgeport 18 theater in Tigard Oregon to see the movie on the big screen. They have a gorgeous layout inside Bridgeport Village, an outdoor shopping and restaurant complex, complete with a fountain, play structure and gazebo. The theater there features state of the art surround sound and comfortable stadium seating. We were excited to go to see Monsters University there because we absolutely love that particular theater!

We got to the theater and situated ourselves just in time for everything to start. The theater had booster seats, that fastened to the theater seats with Velcro, for my two smallest so they could see the movie better. We were given complementary 3D glasses to watch the film with and I was very happy to see them in two sizes, child and adult, instead of just the "one size fits all" ones we had seen before.  My family enjoyed every moment of this animated film. The 3D was awesome and even though we were up close to the screen as soon as we put on our 3D glasses we could enjoy everything in clear definition.

It was fun watching my youngest, Zari, (she's 2) who was sitting right next to me, try to grab the stuff popping out at her while she was wearing the 3D glasses. Her reactions to the things going on in the films were priceless. She hadn't ever seen a 3D movie before and she did very well at keeping the glasses on.

Before the feature film there was a theatrical short called The Blue Umbrella. This was also done by Pixar and featured new techniques in photo-realistic: lighting, shading and compositing. We loved The Blue Umbrella. It was very cute to see the inanimate objects in the New York like city come to life to help two umbrellas come together in a windy rainstorm.

Monsters University was fantastic! The animation is superb! For the university campus Pixar visited Cal (UC Berkeley), Harvard and MIT for inspiration and research and then spun monster flare into the design. The monsters, architecture and landscaping have crazy detail.

Pixar captures college life perfectly! Besides the awesome MU campus you really get a snapshot of campus life. From the different social groups to college gags and team spirit to the awesome marching band music, this is a movie that will have you reminiscing about your college days.

You also get to see characters Mike, Sulley, and Randall evolve into what they become in Monsters Inc. We see Mike Wazowski as a little boy and how Mike and Sulley's friendship started. You also get to see why Randall becomes enemies with both of them.

There are a lot of feel good morals in this movie. We see friendship, teamwork, cooperation, honesty, determination, motivation, inspiration, passion, following your dreams, believing in yourself, helping others to believe in themselves, having a positive attitude, consequences of actions, etc. These themes are intertwined throughout and are the essence of the movie.

We all loved the movie and my kids now want to get it on DVD when it comes out. My boys told me that their favorite part was when Terri and Terry Perry, the two headed monster from Oozma Kappa, told the girls from PNK good luck in the Scare Games. Teela's favorite part was the library scene in the Scare games. Zari's favorite part was where Sulley and Mike were trying to capture the Fear Tech mascot, Archie.

After the movie was over my husband, Brian, took our pictures by the Monsters University theater display. My boys were pretending to be a two headed monster in this shot, LOL! Then as we were heading out the door the person that checked us in as VIPs stopped us to give us some movie posters and stickers for our kids as souvenirs. He had us pose with the memorabilia and with his camera he took our picture saying that Disney loves seeing their happy fans. I then gave him my camera to also take a similar shot. (So...who knows...Disney might have gotten a picture of my family emailed to them...and it might show up somewhere someday.)

On June 21st, My husband's birthday, Monsters University will officially hit theaters for the general public. If you haven't seen them, look up the trailers to the movie to see a preview of how great the movie will be. This movie did not disappoint and I highly recommend you seeing it on the big screen in 3D if you can.

About Monsters University...
Opening Date: Friday, June 21st
Rating: G
Running Time: 103 Minutes

Synopsis: Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn't stand each other. "Monsters University" unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received complementary movie tickets to go to this movie for free with my family to facilitate my review. We also got free movie posters and stickers for the kids. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Thursday, June 20, 2013 Orijen Regional Red Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Review

We received a 2-oz bag (60 treats) of the Orijen Regional Red Freeze-Dried Dog Treats from free to facilitate this review. is a great place to find items for your dog or cat. They have a great selection of food and treats, bowls and feeders, health and wellness products, flea & tick products, toys, cleaning and potty training products, grooming products, leashes and collars; beds, crates and gear, litter, etc. They conveniently ship 200+ brands of pet food and other stuff direct to your doorstep, anytime of the day. They have competitive prices and offer free shipping on any order of $49 or more. They have 24/7 customer service, just call and ask your question(s). Through their referral program, customers receive a discount on their next order and donates $10 to Best Friends Animal Society.

Orijen dog treats are less than 6 calories per treat and are loaded with muscle-building protein. These are made with 100% natural meats, and nothing else. No preservatives, no additives, and no artificial flavors or colors. These are also grain free and are perfect for dogs that have allergies. The special flash-freezing techniques are used to fully retain and preserve the nutrients, flavors and fresh ingredients you would loose if it was cooked. These treats take advantage of your dogs carnivorous needs. These are whole prey treats made from 100% meat, poultry or fish and delivered fresh or RAW as nature intended to nourish your dog.

We received a 2-oz bag (60 treats) of the Orijen Regional Red Freeze-Dried Dog Treats. These are made with ranch-raised wild boar, Black Angus Beef and free range lamb. These red meats are raised on ranches in Alberta, Canada. I gave this special treat to my dog for reinforcement of good behavior and he absolutely loves them. They are soft round treats that he can chew easily. He loves the flavor and when I get the bag down from our snack cabinet he wags his tail happily and comes up to the bag sniffing it begging for more. We highly recommend these treats and are hoping to try some more of the Orijen line of products.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad Pasta Salad Review and Giveaway

I received these products for free to facilitate this review. I also have the opportunity to also give away another gift pack just like the one above to a lucky reader for free.

Want to make you summer BBQ easy and yummy too? Try Suddenly Pasta Salad from Betty Crocker and General Mills. These are quick and simple mixes that come in a box. They come complete with dry pasta and veggies with a packet of seasoning mix all in one handy box. You can also use stir-ins to create a main course or just have it as a tasty side. They come in seven different flavors: Classic, Ranch & Bacon, Caesar, Creamy Italian, Creamy Parmesan, Chipotle Ranch, Basil Pesto, Tuscan Style Tomato. You can just follow the simple instructions on the box or get some delicious recipe ideas off the Suddenly Salad website.

I received both the Ranch & Bacon and the Classic flavors along with a Picnic Cooler and blanket for free to facilitate this review. The cooler is a Leed's Arctic Zone 36-Can Cooler with Blanket. The liner is an Ultra Safe™ leak proof lining which means it is PVC free and is lead and phthalate safe under FDA and CPSC safety standards. This cooler has a main zippered top that holds a large amount of food and drink. It has a front zippered pocket to hold things and a larger zippered pocket in the back that holds the 4' x 5' fleece blanket. It also includes an adjustable shoulder strap with shoulder pad. It collapses when not in use for easy storage and has a carry handle to use when closed. This cooler is best used when items are pre-chilled and packed with ice/freezer packs not ice. It is also easily wiped clean with a damp cloth, lightweight and portable. The blanket it comes with is a thinner fleece, but provides warmth on cooler summer nights and is a good size to throw down on the ground for a nice picnic ground cover.

The Suddenly Salad Pasta Ranch & Bacon flavor was really yummy. You will need just 1/2 cup mayonnaise to add with this if you are just making it regular. It turned out very creamy and has a smokey flavor to it. On the box it has Box Tops, a delicious looking recipe called lemon-chicken pasta salad and other stir-in ideas. The instructions are simple to follow and the pasta salad is easy to make. After I made it and tasted it I was having trouble sharing because it was so good.

When you open the box you will find two things: the bag of dried pasta & veggies and the packet of seasonings. This particular one has dried shell pasta with dried peas and shredded carrots in the bag. The packet of seasoning consists of a number of ingredients and I will not list them all here, but it has good ingredients of buttermilk, onion, garlic, parsley flakes and dried cheddar cheese. Along with those contents it has imitation bacon chips consisting of many ingredients including these I did not really care for in my food: partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial flavor, caramel color, red 40, and tocopherol. This also has Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) that I usually try to avoid as well.

The Suddenly Salad Pasta Classic flavor was also really yummy. You will just need 3 tablespoons cold water and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. I used Filippo Berio® Extra Virgin Olive Oil of which I also received for free to try for being a BzzAgent. This turned out with a citrus zing and was very zesty in flavor. On the box it has Box Tops, a delicious looking recipe called ranch spinach pasta salad, and other stir-in ideas. The instructions are simple to follow and the pasta salad is easy to make. I loved the herbal zing it had.

When you open the box you will find two things: the bag of dried pasta & veggies and the packet of seasonings. This particular one has dried spiral rotini pasta in plain, spinach and tomato in the bag. The packet of seasoning consists of a number of ingredients and I will not list them all here, but it has good ingredients of red pepper, parsley, onion, garlic, basil. It also has modified and hydrogenated ingredients and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) that I usually try to avoid as well.

If you want a complete list of the ingredients you will have to go straight to the box and look at it. Betty Crocker doesn't have them listed on their website.

I myself believe that even though these boxed sides or meals are convenient the filler ingredients are not really desired. I would rather make something from scratch. These do however make it very simple to whip something up in a jiffy if you have major time constraints.

Prize: 1 winner will win a Gift Pack (Retail Value: $56) containing:
  • One package of Suddenly Salad Classic
  • One package of Suddenly Salad Bacon & Ranch
  • Picnic Cooler with Blanket.
I am trying out Rafflecopter on my blog. Please click on this post link if you do not see the script for it below. Also, if there is anything that is wrong with it let me know by emailing me: finamoon AT gmail DOT com I will try my best at fixing it. Thanks for being awesome readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: By participating in this Spark, I received product for free to facilitate my review and another gift pack to give away for free to a reader. The information and prize packs have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review and giveaway.

Letters to Katie by Kathleen Fuller FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (May 7, 2013)

***Special thanks to Kathleen Fuller for sending me a review copy.***


Kathleen Fuller is the author of over twenty books, including the best-selling Hearts of Middlefield series. She lives with her husband of twenty years, James, and their three teenagers in Geneva, OH. Visit her website at


Everything changed between them the first time he called her Katie.

Katherine Yoder has loved Johnny Mullet since they were children, but he never actively returned her affections. Like so many things in their world, he assumes Katherine will always be there. Once his horse farm is a success, then he will court her in earnest.

For several weeks, Katherine has been plagued by severe headaches and dizziness. While resting at home, Johnny unexpectedly visits, but when dizziness strikes, she loses consciousness. She awakens hours later in a hospital bed, unable to remember how she got there.

Seeing Katherine injured and vulnerable stirs something in Johnny, and his guilt compels him to spend time with her while she heals. Soon his heart begins to stir with questions: Does she even remember why he'd come to her house that day?

As Katherine struggles to recall recent memories of Johnny, a surprise visitor arrives in her already unsteady world—a man named Isaac who claims they had been writing letters to each other, even considering marriage, before her illness.

With two men vying for her attention and her memory still elusive, Katherine has never felt so divided. The answer may lie behind a door she never considered opening.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 7, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595547770
ISBN-13: 978-1595547774


“Oh, Katherine. This is so schee.”

Katherine Yoder smiled at her best friend, Mary Beth. She’d spent hours working on the baby quilt, making sure the tiny stitches were as perfect as possible for Mary Beth’s new baby. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Of course I do.” Mary Beth touched the soft flannel quilt, running her fingers over the pale yellow, blue, and peach blocks. Each block had a ragged edge, a new pattern she hadn’t attempted before. The simple style was well suited for a baby, and Mary Beth’s was due within a few weeks.

“I love it.” Mary Beth folded the quilt and placed it on her knees, her expanded belly barely allowing the space. “Danki for such a beautiful gift. Although I don’t see how you have the time, working so many hours at the restaurant.”

All I have is time, Katherine thought. She pushed the self-pity aside and managed a smile. She didn’t want to ruin the moment between them with jealousy. Unlike Mary Beth Shetler, Katherine didn’t have a husband—and soon a child—to take care of. Outside of working at Mary Yoder’s and helping her parents at home, her only other pursuits were her sewing and needlework. She was always busy, yet longed for something different. Something more.

Apparently God had other plans.

Mary Beth managed to rise from the chair in her tiny kitchen. Her husband Chris had built the four-room home behind Mary Beth’s parents’ property. The dwelling resembled a dawdi haus, and likely would be used as such once the rest of Mary Beth’s siblings—Johnny, Caleb, Micah, and Eli—married and left home. But for now, the tidy, cozy home was enough.

And more than Katherine had.

Mary Beth placed the quilt on the table. “I’m glad you came over. Since I’ve gotten so big, I haven’t gotten out much.” Her light blue dress draped over her bulging belly.

Katherine’s eyes widened. “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

“Nee.” Her friend laughed. “But I look like I am.” With a waddling gait she moved to the cabinet. “Do you want anything to drink?”

Katherine shook her head. “I can’t stay too long. I wanted to make sure you got the quilt before the boppli arrived. I have to work later today.”

“Maybe just a few minutes?” Mary Beth went back to the table and sat down. She reached for Katherine’s hand. “It’s been so long since we talked. ”

“We’ve both been busy.” She squeezed her friend’s hand. “And you’ll be even busier in a few weeks.”

“Ya.” A radiant glow appeared on Mary Beth’s cheeks. “But I don’t want us to drift apart. You’re mei best friend.”

Katherine released her hand. “And I promise I’ll be the best aenti to your boppli.”

“The baby has plenty of onkels, that’s for sure.” Her smile dimmed a little.

Katherine frowned. “What’s wrong? It’s not the boppli, is it?”



“Chris is fine too. We’re happier than we’ve ever been. “

“Then what is it?”
Mary Beth sighed, but she didn’t reply.

“You know you can tell me anything. If something’s troubling you, I want to help.”

Her friend looked at Katherine. “It’s Johnny.”

Katherine’s heart twisted itself into a knot. She glanced away before steeling her emotions. “What about Johnny?”
“Are you sure you want to talk about him?”

“I’ve accepted that there’s no future for us. What I felt for Johnny was a childhood crush.”

A crush. The truth was, Katherine had loved Mary Beth’s twin brother Johnny for as long as she could remember. For years she held out hope for a chance, however small, however remote. She had clung to that dream as if she were drowning and it was her only lifeline.

But not anymore.

She sat straight in the chair, brightened her smile, and said, “What’s going on with him?”
“He’s been acting. . .different.”

“What do you mean?”

“Distant. Partly because he’s been working so many hours at the buggy shop. Mamm said she barely sees him except for church service. He leaves early in the morning and comes home late. But when he is around, he’s quiet.”

“That doesn’t sound like him,” Katherine said. “Do you think he’s keeping something from your familye?”

Something. . .or someone?

Despite Katherine’s vow not to care, her heart constricted again at the thought.

“I don’t know.” Mary Beth’s brown eyes had lost the warmth they’d held moments ago. “He’s becoming like a stranger to me. To all of us. We’ve drifted apart.” Her smile faded. “Like you and I have.”

Katherine shook her head in protest. “You know I’m always here for you.”

Tears welled in Mary Beth’s eyes.

Katherine drew back. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I’m always crying.” Mary Beth wiped her eyes. “It makes Chris ab im kopp. Hormones, I’m sure.” She sniffed, wiping her eyes. “I’m glad we’re still best friends.”

Katherine hugged Mary Beth. “We always will be.”


Johnny Mullet put his hands on his hips and surveyed his new property. Four acres, a small house and an even smaller barn. All his.

The sad little farm didn’t look like much. But by the time he finished fixing everything up, no one would recognize it. He glanced at the empty pasture on the left side of the house. Tall grass, green and dense, swayed against a southerly breeze. He planned to purchase that acreage, too. Expand, and make his horse farm something he could be proud of.

If only Daed could see. . .

At the thought of his father, the grin faded from his face.

Hochmut, his father would say. Pride.

The worst character flaw any Amish could have.

But was there something wrong with feeling satisfied after hard work? After a job well done?

This wasn’t about pride. It was about independence. Making a good living. He’d seen his family struggle. He didn’t want that for his future. A future that, God willing, wouldn’t include only him.

With the hazy orange sun dipping below the horizon, Johnny hopped into his buggy and headed home. Ten minutes later he pulled up to his parents’ house. He was late for supper. Again. He quickly put up his horse and hurried into the house, sliding into his seat just as his father closed his eyes for grace.

After prayer, his mother passed his father a platter of ham. He speared a slice with his fork, peering at Johnny as he did. “Late day at work again?”

Johnny picked up a roll from the basket on the table. He drew in a deep breath. “Nee.”

“Then why are you late?”

“I bought a farm.”

Silence. Johnny glanced around the table. Caleb’s mouth dropped open, and Micah’s fork was poised in mid-air. Even six-year-old Eli gave him a funny look. “You what?” His mother’s eyes went wide with shock.

“You know that house down the road a piece? The one with the barn in the back?”

“You mean that shack?” Caleb shook his head.

Micah scooped up a forkful of green beans. “Calling it a shack is a stretch.”

Their father cleared his throat. The boys ducked their heads and kept eating. He turned to Johnny. “When did you do this?”

“Signed the paperwork yesterday.”

“Where did you get the money?”

He was already tired of the third degree, but he had expected no less. “Savings. From my job at Gideon Bender’s.”

“You must have gotten it for a song,” Caleb added. “Or less than a song. Maybe just a note.” He chuckled.

“Caleb.” His father shot him a silencing look before turning to Johnny again. “I wish you had consulted me first.”

“I’m an adult, Daed. I didn’t think I had to.” Seeing the flash of hurt in his father’s eyes, he added, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“I hope so.”

“Maybe you two could discuss this after supper?” Mamm’s lips pinched into a thin line. “The food is getting cold.”

Daed nodded, and dug into his food. No one said anything for the rest of the meal. But all Johnny could think about was the disappointed look on his father’s face.


Cora Easely gripped the smart phone in her hand. “The doctor wants me to do what?”

“He’d like to see you again,” the nurse repeated in a crisp, emotionless tone. “As soon as possible.”


“He’d like to run a few more tests.”

“How many more tests does he need?” Cora looked down at the bruise on her arm from the blood draw she’d received a few days ago. For months she’d been poked, prodded, scanned, and questioned. The dehumanizing madness had to stop. Her weary body couldn’t take it anymore.

“You tell Dr. Clemens I’m through with his tests. If he doesn’t have a treatment plan by now, clearly I need to see a more competent doctor.”

Silence on the other line. The nurse cleared her throat. “Mrs. Easley, Dr. Clemens is just being thorough.”

“Too thorough, if you ask me.”

“Are you refusing more testing?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

A pause. “I’ll mark that in your chart. You’ll still need to meet with Dr. Clemens at your earliest convenience. He will want to talk to you.”

“And I want to talk to him.” This nonsense had gone on long enough. She already had a diagnosis—Parkinson’s. What she didn’t have was a cure.

After making her appointment, Cora clicked off her phone and laid it on the glass coffee table. She walked to the large window in her penthouse and looked at the landscape in front of her. New York. The city of her birth, the place she’d lived all her life. But everything had changed in the past few months, changes she never expected.

Her hands trembled. The shaking had worsened over the past two weeks. Dr. Clemens had said to expect it. She hated that he was right.

Parkinson's. The diagnosis terrified her. She’d briefly glanced at the literature about the disease, only to promptly dispose of the pamphlets after reading about some of the symptoms. Loss of memory. Loss of motor function. Loss of control.

Cora Easely had never been out of control. She'd dictated and orchestrated every aspect of her life except for one. And now she was facing the possibility that within the next couple of years, she wouldn't even be in control of her bodily functions. What kind of life was that? Not one she wanted to live.


Cora turned to look at her maid, a faithful servant for the past several years. If it hadn't been for Manuela, her grandson, Sawyer, wouldn’t have found out the truth about his parents and the reason his mother ran off with his father. Or the story behind the estranged relationship she had with her daughter Kerry, and how Kerry had tried to mend the rift between them. Cora’s stubbornness had thwarted that. And now her grandson didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with her.

When he left to find Laura Stutzman two months ago, he swore he’d return. But he hadn’t. She wasn’t sure he ever would.

“Señora?” Manuela repeated. “Por favor. Did you hear me?”

“Sorry. Lost in my thoughts, I suppose.”

“Is everything all right?”

“Everything is fine.” But it couldn’t be further from the truth. She walked away from the window. “I need a glass of sparkling water.”

“Sí. Anything else?”

“No, just the water. Bring it to my bedroom.”

Manuela nodded and disappeared from the room. Cora made her way to her spacious bedroom. She sat on the edge of her bed, the silk comforter rustling from the movement. She picked up the landline phone on the mahogany end table. Dialed a familiar number. Tensed when she heard the voicemail.

“This is Sawyer. Leave a message.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but words failed. She couldn’t tell her grandson about her diagnosis. Not like this. She’d have to find another way. But she had no idea how.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Steaz Natural Beverages Review

I received these products for free to facilitate this review.

Steaz are thirst-quenching beverages that are all made with green tea and other all natural, USDA organic and fair trade certified ingredients. These are a healthier alternative to regular soda and make the perfect summer time refreshment! Great for: filling a ice cooler with at a BBQ, taking to a relaxing outdoor pool, going to the beach, bringing on a family bike ride, etc. Steaz has many drink flavors to choose from so everyone in your household can find their favorites.

I received 4 of the flavors free to try out myself and share with my family: Iced Green Tea with Coconut Water, Super Fruit Energy & Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea in Root Beer and Steazy Cola. I also received some lip balm free as an added bonus that I do not have to review.
  • Iced Green Tea with Coconut Water - A hydrating alternative to water that satisfies your taste buds, and your body! Packed with 120mg of antioxidants and enhanced with electrolytes and potassium. The perfect addition to your summer beach bag!
  • Super Fruit Energy - A clean energy supply of sustainably sourced guarana berries, and rainforest grown yerba mate - some of nature's most balanced stimulants - fortified with acai and a boost of B vitamins for that extra special kick providing an all natural "buzz" you can feel good about. Just the thing for those long summer days!
  • Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea - A guilt-free alternative to sugary, carbonated soft drinks; great for summer BBQs! The healthy zero calorie flavor lineup includes, Blueberry Pomegranate; Black Cherry; Raspberry; Blood Orange; and two new flavors: Root Beer and Steazy Cola.
Steaz Beverage Facts:
  • All use all-natural, USDA Organic, Certified Vegan, and Fair Trade Certified ingredients.
  • The Iced Tea, Sparkling Tea and Energy drinks are lightly sweetened with all-natural, organic, evaporated cane juice.
  • The Zero Calorie beverages are sweetened with Stevia, a natural herb that contains no calories and no carbohydrates.
  • The Energy drinks provide beneficial levels of naturally occurring caffeine sourced from all-natural green tea, guarana, and yerba mate.
Steaz has launched the Steaz Summer Tour Instagram Contest - offering eight changes to win $500!  To enter, simply register at, snap a shot of a Steaz drink in action this summer, and post it on Instagram @SteazSocial #SteazSummerTour. Winners will be randomly drawn to win $500 all summer long (through August)!

My Thoughts

The Steaz Iced Green Tea with Coconut Water was delicious! I love coconut water and this had all the hydrating benefits of it and the wonderful antioxidant properties of green tea! This was refreshing and one I am definitely going to get again! Steaz has other flavors of their iced green tea beverages to choose from as well.

The Steaz Super Fruit Energy drink was carbonated with sparkling filtered water and very good with a nice fruity taste to it. Along with the green tea, guarana, and yerba mate it had Acai, pomegranate, Mangosteen, blueberry and Goji. It has a total of 100mg caffeine per12fl. oz can and has added B Vitamins. They also have their energy drinks in berry and orange flavors. I sipped some of this one to try the flavor and gave this one to my husband (that is the handsome guy in the picture above) because he likes energy drinks more than I do.

The Steaz Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea in Root Beer wasn't my favorite. It kinda reminded me of mouthwash. My kids loved it though and drank it without batting an eye. The Steaz Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea in Steazy Cola was better than the Root Beer flavor, but didn't taste much like cola to me and had caramel color (which to my understanding is not good for you) to make it a darker coloring. These both have B Vitamins added and 120mg of antioxidants. Both of these my son Delbin could drink without a shot of insulin because they both had 0 carbohydrates and they are better for you than any diet sodas out there.

I'd love to try other flavors Steaz has to offer. The Steaz Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea Black Cherry and Blood Orange flavors sound good, as well as the Steaz Zero Calorie Peach Mango Iced Tea. I'll have to go searching for them.

You can purchase Steaz Beverages online on their website or find a retailer near you.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received product for free to facilitate my review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.