Thursday, July 2, 2015

In Good Company by Jen Turano #BookReview

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
Last week during my garage sale, the mailman came to the door with several packages and one of them was the new book by Jen Turano - In Good Company. I started to read the book during a lull in the sale and was hooked immediately. I found myself picking it up when I had a few minutes between people stopping at the sale. There was just something so compelling the story that Jen Turano was telling. It wasn't one of those books where you needed to read a few chapters to get started, I was drawn in before I finished reading the first chapter and it just kept pulling me along.
The book In Good Company is set in 1882 in New York City and Newport. The first chapter of the story introduces us to Millie Longfellow, a young lady that is determined to be the best nanny but seemingly has found herself in a bit of trouble and being dismissed from her job, again. When Everett Mulberry finds himself in need of care for the three children that he has been given guardianship of because yet another nanny has quit, the agency pairs them them each one last chance, each other.

Millie has a way with the children and though her methods are called into question, she proves that she knows what she is doing when she able to find a way to get the children to not only cooperate but to begin to be the children that Everett remembers from visiting them at their home. As Everett spends more time with Millie and around the children, his perspective on what matters most evolves.

The author did a wonderful job bringing the loveable (and not so loveable) characters to life in the story. As a reader, I was compelled to continue reading (just one more page) to find out what would happen to them next, so much so that I was almost late to work one morning because I wanted to read just one chapter before heading out for the day and found myself four pages into the next before I forced myself to put the book down. We learn bits of their past to gain insight, but the story remains focused on their interactions and conversations.

This was a well written piece of period fiction. I enjoyed the references to Jane Austen and the parallels that they drew. I was amused by Millie's continued referencing of her dictionary and her attempt to insert 'big' words into her conversations. I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables with my daughter, and Millie's use of words reminded me a lot of Anne.

I found out after reading the book that it is actually the second in a series (clearly, nothing lost by reading them out of order - as I thoroughly enjoyed this book on its own). I look forward to reading the first book in the series, as well as other books by this author. In reading about her, I learned that she went to school very close to where I live. She doesn't live here now, but it is still a connection.

From the book cover:
After growing up as an orphan, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm aren't always well-received and she finds herself dismissed from yet another position.

Everett Mulberry has quite unexpectedly become guardian to three children that scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he's desperate for competent childcare.

At wit's end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance--with each other. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges, Everett focuses on achieving the coveted societal status of the upper echelons. But as he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the children's parents, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?

You can learn more about the author and her other books on her website.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dinner in a Hurry: Burrito Bowls

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.
At our house, summer is punctuated with a variety of sporting events for the two kids and many times, the events overlap. The net result is that having a family dinner is increasingly more challenging, but since family dinner is something that I strongly value, I find creative ways to make it happen and to try to keep it reasonably healthy.

One thing that we have turned to this summer has been Burrito Bowls. I can prep most the night before and we can simply assemble and enjoy for dinner.

Rice, prepared
Pinto and/or Black Beans, prepared
Pork, Chicken or Beef, prepared
Shredded Lettuce
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese
Salsa - Mild, Hot, Verde

Assemble bowl, with desired ingredients, starting with the rice, the beans and the meat. Then top with the lettuce, sour cream and cheese.

Finish with desired salsas.
We love the Herdez Salsa Casera and the Herdez Salsa Verde as toppers for our bowls. They also make great dips for a side of tortilla chips. Sometimes, I even get ambitious and make some guacamole.

The last time we made bowls, I found a great product to help make the prep work even easier. I used Lloyd’s pulled pork for this. It’s this new variety I haven’t seen in store yet, but hope I do soon!
I love that it has no sauce. It makes it perfect for use in the bowls and it also allows more flexibility in my family where everyone likes their pulled pork a little different - more or less sauce, more or less spice.

What is your family's go to meal for a quick family meal during busy times?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product samples for my family to try. I also receive thought starters and information that can be used in a post.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Proposal at Siesta Key by Shelley Shepard Gray

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
There is nothing like a sweet romance to enjoy on a beautiful summer day. Sitting on my deck with a tall glass of water and some snacks, relaxing, listening to the sounds of summer around me and reading. That was how I read a good portion of The Proposal at Siesta Key by Shelley Shepard Gray.

I have read several books by Gray, but this is the first book I have read from this series. The Proposal at Siesta Key is the second book in the Amish Brides of Pinecraft series, but because each is its own story, there was no catching up needed.

There is something so appealing about the characters that Gray develops. As I read the book, I couldn't help but feel a connection to them and to want to influence the situations in their favor. Both Penny and Michael have experienced a loss in their lives, but for each not only was the loss very different but also the way that they and their family coped with the loss. As readers, we get to watch them journey further in the healing process as they meet and grow close to each other, developing friendship and later realizing it is something more.

I liked that the book was more about the story's characters and what was going on in their lives, rather than being about them being Amish. The themes of love, loss, and healing are universal, the fact that the characters are Amish seemed to be more of a backdrop or setting for the story than something that was a focus.

If you enjoy reading light romance stories, then you will enjoy this book.

About the book:
The Proposal at Siesta Key (Avon Inspire, May 2015)

A young Amish woman, yearning for freedom, crosses paths with a handsome Mennonite celebrity in a deeply moving tale of friendship and self-discovery---the second installment in the unforgettable New York Times bestselling author's new Amish Brides of Pinecraft series.

Penny Troyer rarely disobeys her parents. In the years since her sister's tragic death, they've wanted nothing more than to keep her safe...even if it means never leaving the house.

But tonight, she's bending the rules because Michael Knoxx, the most famous member of The Knoxx Family Singers, a traveling Mennonite Evangelical family ---is scheduled to speak. Penny has heard of Michael---how he lost part of his leg in a terrible accident and uses the experience to inspire others---and knows she must meet him. So, for the first time ever, Penny stands up to her parents and goes out on her own.

Though he speaks about living life to the fullest, Michael knows he needs to take his own advice. Life on the road is grueling and Michael wants to slow down, to perhaps meet someone who sees him as a man, not just a celebrity. So when a twist of fate allows him the chance to stay a little longer in Pinecraft, Michael knows God is showing him a new path, especially when he discovers how much he and Penny Troyer have in common.

But new friendships can't stop time. Soon, Michael's time in Pinecraft will be over and he'll be back on the road. Her time with Michael has brought her happiness, but will she be able to follow her heart? Or will she be faced with the one thing she's sure she'll never have the courage to do?

Purchase a copy here.

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Find Shelley online: website, Twitter, Facebook

Check out more reviews and learn more about the book at the Blog Tour Landing Page.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

‘The Proposal at Siesta Key’ 5-Book Giveaway

Click on the button below to enter to win!

Proposal Siesta Key Shelley Shepard Gray
Details and rules on the sponsor's site.

No compensation provided. Information and button was provided through Litfuse Publicity for Shelley Shepard Gray.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.
Memorial Day weekend was always a weekend of parades, picnics, the top 500 on the radio (in honor of the Indy 500) and the indicator that school would soon be out. I can remember sitting at my stereo with my fingers ready on my tape deck in hopes of catching my favorite song and recording it - of course, there was always that risk that the dj would talk over part of the song...but at least I had the song captured. It really is funny to think about now. I can remember fast forwarding and rewinding through those random radio tapes to find the right song. Then, I got a new stereo that had two tape decks and then (wow!) I could make a mix tape of the best of what I captured from the radio. That way, I could take my walkman and listen to my tape while I was out and about. Ah, but I digress...

Memorial Day has changed for me over the years. Now I can choose to buy a song or an album online and not worry about 'catching' my favorite one on the radio, besides which the radio stations I listen to featured a flashback to the 80s weekend this year. We only go to the parade if the kids are marching in it with one of their teams or scouts. We always loved to host a picnic, but with a busy baseball tournament weekend, we can't 'commit' to a time for a picnic because the schedule comes out a few days ahead for pool play and the playoff brackets aren't determined until the night before play and you play until you lose (not necessarily consecutive games, but close enough that coming home isn't always an option). And, when we are invited to a picnic, there isn't as much time to plan.

As much as I have always been a fan of homemade, there are times like this where convenience rules.

Want to bring a quick and easy main dish? Simply prep a couple packs of hot dogs in water in a standard crock pot. Prepare a can of Hormel Chili No Beans in a small crock pot (I have one of those dip warmers that works perfect). Grab a couple bags of buns and some shredded cheese. Voila! You have tasty and easy, Coney Dogs. (you can find a 'recipe' for chili dogs and more on their webpage.)
For a quick bleacher snack, grab a Hormel Gatherings Party Tray. We always bring a cooler with us to the game and the snack pack size gives us an option for a snack that is more than just chips or candy (which seems to be what my kids want to buy at the concession stand) and one that is easy to share with fellow fans. When ready to enjoy and share, open the crackers, cheese and pepperoni and place into the tray and serve. You can even keep the lid in place to help prevent the baseball field from becoming part of your snack - have you seen the amount of dust that the kids kick up when they slide into the plate? Of course, the Hormel Gatherings Party Tray is also great for an impromptu post game gathering to celebrate too. When the kids are done playing, they are usually hungry and a quick picnic or evening gathering is a high potential.

Of course, if you have time for a traditional picnic, that doesn't mean that you want to spend your time in the kitchen prepping, so I still recommend a coney dogs and cheese trays.

We had fun at our tournament this year. We went 1-1-1 in the tournament; even though we should have done better, the boys still enjoyed it. My daughter had a soccer game and the team won. We even found time to picnic at a friend's house on Monday.

How did you spend your Memorial Day?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product and some of the information for this post.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!

Thank you to all the men and women who have bravely served our country.