Book Review: Saving Amelie

If you enjoy historical fiction, especially about the WWII era, this is an absolute MUST-READ.

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke is a brilliant novel set in Germany in 1939-1940. It follows the story of Rachel, a German-American woman, as she learns the truth about her past along with the truth about what Hitler’s regime is actually doing – not just what the propaganda press will report. She is faced with many difficult and life-threatening situations and has to decide what is most important.

The pace of the book was great – plenty of excitement and suspense balanced with more subdued times to observe the characters as they prepared for what was next. I was thankful for those quieter times because I wouldn’t have been able to put the book down if the author hadn’t created a “pause button” occasionally.

This is an incredibly well-researched book and the author weaved in real people and situations beautifully with her fictional characters. I especially loved that she used a real German/Bavarian village for one of the settings, incorporating their history and passions, as well as a real-life preacher who is still beloved today.

This book made me really think about what it must have been like to live in Germany during this time and what I would have done in similar situations in light of all of the propaganda and mixed messages (along with a comparative lack of access to truth that we enjoy today via the Internet). It’s so easy to look back and pass judgments – but this book will help you to step back and walk in their shoes for a moment.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: I’m No Angel by Kylie Bisutti

I’m No Angel: From Victoria’s Secret Model to Role Model is a refreshingly honest look at what really happens in the modeling industry and how difficult it can be for Christians to maintain their morals and convictions in this field.

Kylie writes about her journey to becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel – one of the top modeling careers in the world – and how it challenged her and strengthened her faith along the way. The book is so compelling and moves at a great pace. I found it hard to put the book down because I was so intrigued by everything she experienced and learned. It takes a lot of courage to leave a life like hers behind and to pursue what you know to be right.

This is a great autobiography and a definite inspiration to all women to stand up for what we believe in, no matter what the consequences may be.

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First Pregnancy: 32 Weeks and Counting…

10320414_10100203948552830_3245351653827089556_nAs of tomorrow, I will be eight months pregnant. EIGHT MONTHS. Out of ten. That means that in less than two months, we will be parents. We will have a baby girl to care for and keep alive ;) Our lives are about to completely change whether we are ready or not!

I am so thankful that this has been an incredibly easy pregnancy. I do not take this for granted, as I know that so many women are miserable the entire time. I have had maybe a handful of days that were uncomfortable or miserable, and that has mostly been slight hip pain (and mostly at night). God has been so gracious to me throughout the past eight months!

I have learned to manage my gestational diabetes fairly well. I am on medication to try to bring down my fasting blood sugar numbers and thankfully haven’t yet experienced many side effects from the medicine. I’ve found that I can get away with far more than I had imagined and I’m learning what spikes my blood sugar and what doesn’t. Sonic’s sugar-free slushies have helped with my sweet tooth cravings :)

I have only gained 25 lbs thus far and hopefully won’t gain more than 5 more thanks to the gestational diabetes rules. :)

Our baby is currently 4lbs, 13oz from their best guess and she is a healthy weight. Depending on how much she grows, it is likely that they won’t let me go past 39 weeks (July 27). She is very active and sometimes I wonder if she’s dancing in there! She is still “breech” but has plenty of time to turn over, thankfully. This mama is hoping for a completely natural birth, so she needs to cooperate :) Haha.

10256843_10100203665564940_7227908944016164964_oLast week, Brennan and I went on our “baby-moon” to San Antonio and had a wonderful time. We made sure to balance the need for rest/relaxation with exploring the area and I think we did pretty well. We spent a day in Austin, as well, and we saw the State Capitol and the Lyndon Johnson Library/Museum, both of which were worthwhile visits. The heat was a little much for me, which I know must be due to pregnancy (and the fact that PA hasn’t had any heat yet this year) because it doesn’t usually bother me very much.

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It was so wonderful to spend some much-needed time together before our baby comes. We’ve both been working as much as possible, leaving very little free time to just hang out together; to have six days together was a true blessing! I’m so thankful that we are truly best-friends and that we never get tired of each other. Brennan is an incredible blessing and has taken extra good care of me during pregnancy. So blessed <3

 

 

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When we got home, we realized that we spent less than we had budgeted on our trip (and on car repairs), so we were able to purchase our stroller/car seat off of our baby registry! This was the most important thing left on our registry, as we need to be able to bring her home from the hospital :) The rest of the items we can get as we need them, but this one had to be purchased. The only other thing we need to get in the next two months is the glider that we registered for so that I have a comfy place to feed our baby. Other than that, I think we’re ready for her to arrive!

I still can’t believe that we’re about to be the parents of a baby girl. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, to observe her little personality, and to be in awe of the miracle that God is giving us through her.

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Book Review: Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt

Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt is a wonderful piece of fiction. I still find myself thinking about the characters and the story-line days after finishing the book.

Here’s the synopsis:

Can a young widow find love again with her husband’s reflection?

Haley’s three-year marriage to Sam, an army medic, ends tragically when he’s killed in Afghanistan. Her attempts to create a new life for herself are ambushed when she arrives home one evening—and finds her husband waiting for her. Did the military make an unimaginable mistake when they told her Sam was killed? 

Too late to make things right with his estranged twin brother, Stephen discovers Sam never told Haley about him. As Haley and Stephen navigate their fragile relation­ship, they are inexorably drawn to each other. How can they honor the memory of a man whose death brought them together—and whose ghost could drive them apart? 

Somebody Like You is a beautifully rendered, affecting novel, reminding us that while we can’t change the past, we have the choice to change the future and start anew.

From the very beginning, I was drawn in and fascinated by the characters and the plot. Beth Vogt has a way with words and made the characters so believable and real, and I felt like I really knew them. The plot about Haley becoming a widow resonated with my deepest fear, and it caused me to really think through how I would cope if anything were to ever happen to my beloved husband. There were so many twists in the story that I didn’t expect!

Be prepared to have many emotions touched by this work. It is well worth the read!

I received a copy of this book from Howard Books in exchange for my honest review. 

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Redeeming Grace Church – Guatemala 2014

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God is at work in Guatemala City, and this summer our church’s team will be joining Him there! Our church is headed to Guatemala City for a mission trip! Unfortunately, I will be unable to join them as the trip will be happening on my due date ;) However, I believe that it is my turn to be the “sender” and to help them get there, so I have taken on many of the administrative aspects of the trip preparation, including fundraising.

There are ten people from Redeeming Grace Church preparing to serve the people of Guatemala City from August 2-9, 2014. They will be going with an organization called Good News in Action – a church planting group that has been serving in Central America for over 40 years. They will be going out each day to meet people in certain Guatemala City neighborhoods and inviting them to events, sharing the Gospel whenever possible, and loving the beautiful people of Guatemala.

As a team, we need to raise about $16,000 to cover our expenses. If you are willing and able to support the team financially, we have set up an online giving page that makes it easy! Donations are tax-deductible (as long as you give us your name), and one-hundred percent of donations received will go to missions!

Please pray about supporting this cause and help be a “sender” of RGC’s team!

Preparing a Place for Our Baby…Part Two

In my last post, I showed pictures of the progress we’d made on the baby’s room.

We had a lot of work to do between refinishing the floors and painting every inch of the room, but it’s DONE! My mom flew out from California for a week to help us with the painting and other preparations, and we are so thankful for her time and effort. The end result is a drastic difference from what we started with – though that wasn’t hard to achieve ;) We still have things to do, such as hanging decorations on the walls, but the majority of it is done and we have about three months to organize and prepare for her arrival.

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We were SO blessed at our baby shower and were especially thankful to receive her crib! What a relief it is to have it in our home, assembled and ready for her! It is beautiful and we are so excited to have it already. There are still things that we need to purchase, like the stroller/car seat, but having the crib now relieves a great burden.

I’m 28.5 weeks pregnant, so she can come as soon as 9 weeks from now, which is crazy. This pregnancy has flown by and I can’t believe we’re 9-12 weeks away from meeting her!

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Preparing a Place for Our Baby…Part One

When we bought our house in December 2012, we knew we had a lot of work to do. Thankfully, we received a great deal of help from friends and family and were able to finish a majority of the house in just a few months. We didn’t take the time/energy/money to do the rooms we weren’t going to be using, including the bedroom that will become our baby’s room.

This is what it looked like when we bought it:

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Lovely, right? It has affectionately been known to us as “the pink room” and I can’t wait for it to have a new name. :) “______’s room” :)

The transformation began on April 19, 2014 when we were able to re-finish the hardwood floors in that room. We had done the rest of the house  over a year ago, but the pink room became the storage area for all of the furniture that went in the other rooms during the process and we couldn’t really do these floors. We didn’t think we’d be using this room for a while… :)

Now the floors look great and are protected by thick paper so that we can continue the renovation process!

Brennan removed the wallpaper border last night, and we’ll be patching/repairing the walls over the next couple of days. On Sunday a heavy coat of primer will be applied (thanks to some wonderful friends!) and then some fresh paint next week (thanks to my Mom who is coming all the way from California to help us prepare the room).

The preparation of her room is making this feel more and more real – in three months we’ll have a new family member!

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First Pregnancy: 25 Weeks and Counting…

IMG_0289-2This post is more vulnerable than I tend to be on here, but I know that my struggle isn’t uncommon among women, especially those who are pregnant, so I felt that it was worth sharing.

Last week we had our “maternity photos” taken by a talented friend of mine who was in town for a visit.

I had hesitated to have them done because I am incredibly self-conscious of my appearance right now; however, knowing myself, I realized that I would likely regret not having done this to document our first pregnancy. We decided that even if we didn’t share any of them, it was important to have them taken for our benefit and for our baby girl to see some day.

We had these done the day after my 24-week appointment – the one where I was told that I had gained “too much weight” the past month, therefore making me feel even worse about my weight and appearance. The number I saw on the scale was truly horrifying and one that I never thought that I would ever see. Not exactly what you want to hear before having portraits taken!

It doesn’t help that I was already overweight when I found out I was pregnant (I had actually just lost 11 pounds and was doing really well with losing weight…figures :) ). I was already self-conscious and nervous about gaining weight during pregnancy because of this, so hearing that from the nurses just made me feel *great* about myself. :)

I’ve tried to remind myself of a few things over the past 25 weeks:

1 – I am growing a human being. This takes a toll on any pregnant woman’s body.

2 – I am supposed to gain weight, and as long as I am doing my best to be healthy, the number on the scale doesn’t matter (much easier said than believed).

3 – After delivery, breastfeeding and a good diet/exercise will melt the pounds away, and I will be able to work toward being at a healthy weight before the next pregnancy.

4 – My husband loves me no matter what and he still thinks that I am beautiful. He tells me that daily, even though I may not agree :)

5 – I have to stop playing the comparison game! It doesn’t matter what other pregnant women look like. It doesn’t matter that they might look “cuter” pregnant than I do. At the end of the day, what matters is that our baby is healthy and I am healthy.

I know that this will be a daily battle for the next few months, especially when comments like the one I received yesterday are received (“you look like you’re ready to go any day!”). But, the most important thing that I can do right now is to just continue eating well and taking care of the growing baby inside of me, no matter what the scale (or my mind) says. That’s all that matters.

 


 

Other than the above, I am still feeling GREAT and am so very thankful that pregnancy has been so kind to me thus far. I am having issues sleeping because of hip pain, but Brennan’s massage skills are really helping to calm down the irritated muscles and allowing me to sleep more soundly.

I will be 26 weeks on Sunday and can’t believe that we’re getting so close to meeting her already! My last day of work is less than three months from now…crazy.

No, we do not have a name. Even if we did, we have decided to not share the name until birth for multiple reasons. :)

She is kicking and moving around frequently now (ever since 22 weeks), though not strong enough for Brennan to be able to feel yet.

The floor in her room was refinished last weekend thanks to Brennan and our friend Dean! Next is a fresh coat (or coats) of paint in the next few weeks and then decorating.

This is getting real.

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Book Review: Schools in Crisis: They Need Your Help

I am going to be a first-time parent in August and we’ve already started discussing what to do when our daughter is old enough for school. It only takes a quick glance at the news to see that our public school system is not what it used to be, and it has left many Christian parents wondering what is truly best for their children.

This is my first “Frames” book and I was really impressed with the format. The Barna Group has taken a great amount of detailed research about a difficult topic and has compiled it into a short, easy-to-read book, providing a great resource for parents (and others) who are concerned with the state of our public schools.

From the book’s description:

Millions of children are not fulfilling their God-given potential in many of our nation’s classrooms. Their potential and purpose is literally being left on the floor of classrooms in many low-income communities. What may God have called them to do? How will a substandard education possibly prohibit them from accomplishing that purpose? In what ways are Christians and churches accountable for that? How are we our brother and sister’s keeper with respect to a quality education?

Join Nicole Baker Fulgham, formerly on the national staff of Teach for America and the founder of The Expectations Project, as she explores what our role is in solving the nation’s crisis for public education. This Barna Frame explores a critical topic of our time – Schools in Crisis…

If you have children or are simply a concerned citizen, pick up this book. It will prove to be a great resource as you navigate what action you should take.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

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Product Review: Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese Slices

I love cheese! It’s definitely on my top ten list of favorite foods.

So, when I was asked to try Sargento’s new Ultra Thin Cheese Slices (that are only 40-45 calories each!), I was ready!

What I liked most about these were the thin slices – we made quesadillas with them and the cheese melted so quickly and evenly! They are rich in flavor despite their size, so you don’t miss the extra calories.

Check them out the next time you need sliced cheese. They are reasonably priced, only 40-45 calories per slices, and they are DELICIOUS.

 

received these products complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster.

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