Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Patmos Deception

The Patmos DeceptionThe Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book but felt like I kept waiting for more.  What I loved most was the setting in Greece and the tie in to Paul's exile on Patmos. It was so neat to read and be reminded that these are real places where the New Testament stories occurred. Unfortunately, the rest of the book was a little flat for me. The story follows Carey as she goes to Greece for a job opportunity only to find that the Institute has closed.  Her childhood friend Nick asks her to help investigate the theft of religious icons which she does. This takes them off to the Islands of Greece and they meet Dmitri a fisherman turned tourist boat operator struggling to make ends meet and not lose his family's boat and dock space.  Dmitri is drawn into a scheme to steal a letter written by Paul's scribe to Jesus' mother, a priceless icon. Dmitri's first mate, Sofia, and her husband Manos, island's policeman are also drawn into the story.  I enjoyed a few of the characters (I think Sofia and Manos were actually my favorites, and they are really just supporting characters!) As I write this summary, I realize that I'm confused (and disappointed) in the ending of the story. Nick was asked to investigate the theft because high level people in the country were believed to be involved in the theft and it needed to be kept quiet.  As I think over the conclusion, I don't think this was concluded at the end! The ending seemed rather anti-climactic. Minor characters (who weren't even named!) are arrested and no mention is made of the actual "bad guy" or of the other high level people involved. The "romance" in the story really didn't speak to me either.  Carey had always thought herself to be in love with Nick throughout their childhood relationship, though he never saw her that way.  When he shows interest in her, she realizes he is not the best man for her after all.  Dmitri also shows interest in her but appears to be somewhat of a playboy. The characters and romance really don't seem to be well written, I wasn't invested in any of the main characters and the romance seemed fairly nonexistent to me. The ending of the book was terrible. In addition to the previously mentioned anti-climactic ending to the drama, the author doesn't even finish the romance story.  Suddenly, both men propose to her and the book ends with no closure.  She makes no decisions, however has a short conversation with a friend about these two proposals. The faith aspect of the book also seemed practically non-existent.  I don't recall Carey doing much soul searching, or discussing faith much, yet suddenly she has a conversation with Dmitri (untold as well, he merely asks her to explain to him and it's implied that she does so) and later with Sofia.  Carey doesn't witness or discuss her faith really yet supposedly both of these characters come to Christ through her.

So in summary, though the idea behind the book is good and the majority of it isn't terrible, it just seemed very superficial. It didn't feel like a book a well known author like Davis Bunn would have written, rather it felt like a beginner's novel.  I really wouldn't recommend it.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: The First Christmas Ever

You can never have too many books about the real reason of Christmas!

This book, The First Christmas Ever, written and illustrated by Dennis Jones, is an excellent addition to our library.  The illustrations are quirky and unique and inject a bit of humor into the story. The story is true to the Bible and well written, easy for young listeners to understand. We definitely enjoyed this little paperback and it will make a regular appearance in our Christmas reading!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book REview: Playing Saint

Playing SaintPlaying Saint by Zachary Bartels

This book  was a really enjoyable Christian mystery. The main character, Parker Saint, is the Pastor of a mega church with his own tv show to boot. He preaches a feel good message which doesn't help him much when he is forced to assist the local police detectives with a murder investigation with Satanic influences. Throughout the investigation, he comes to realize where he is lacking and makes changes in his life. The investigation was great and I enjoyed the characters. Paul Kecham, the rough head detective was one of my favorites, but I especially enjoyed Parker's escapades with the 3 Jesuit priest/spies! The mystery had a nice twist at the end and held my interest throughout, and the story of the change of Parker's spiritual life was well done as well.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review: Adventure Bible, Moses Leads the People

I snagged a review copy of an I Can Read book from Zonderkidz. It's the Adventure Bible Series called Moses Leads the People.
My oldest, who is in first grade this year, but a very advanced reader, said she loved this story. I'm excited to have another good reader for teacher my younger children when the time comes and I love having more bible stories around!  The pictures are great and the story is Biblically accurate and interesting. I liked the way they dealt with the scarier parts of the story, like the death of the oldest sons; it states it accurately but doesn't dwell on it (for younger children who aren't quite ready for that aspect of the story) and the picture that goes along is not graphic. This is a great addition to our library!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door

It's always fun to review kids books!  And my kids and I loved this book from Zonderkidz.  Its a fun cowboy story about Conrad, a well prepared boy (with a gigantic first aid kit he knows how to use!) who goes to learn how to be a cowboy on his Uncle Clint's ranch.  When he arrives, he meets the know-it-all cowgirl next door, Imogene.  Conrad sets a wonderful example throughout the book as he responds to her annoying comments and especially at the end as he shows her kindness despite the fact that she has just bought the horse he was bidding on! The book feels like a very well made hard back, and has adorable illustrations throughout.  At the back of the book there is a spread of cute cowboy poems, as well as a letter from the author to parents explaining the theme, the reason behind the story, and includes discussion starters to help kids understand being kind to one's enemies. This is a great storybook with a great message that I know my kids will read over and over!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book ReviewL NIV Essentials Study Bible

I was able to snag an ebook review copy of this study bible, the NIV Essentials Study Bible. As an ebook, this has a really nice layout.  There are many menus in the front, including lists of links to the different kinds of helps and devotionals. The books of the Bible are linked as well as each chapter for easy access, which makes using this as your only Bible during sermons much more possible. This would be a good Bible for beginners to ebook Bibles as well, as the introduction includes a brief tutorial on how to navigate to specific passages and supplementary materials. One thing I really like about this version is that the supplementary materials are not interspersed throughout the chapter as they are in a typical printed Bible.  Rather, they are in a section at the end of each book of the Bible and hyperlinks are included in the readings.  So one can easily read their chosen passage without distractions, and then go back and use the hyperlinks to see applicable supplemental materials.  Or if you prefer, you can jump to them during your reading.

There is an excellent introduction to each book of the Bible as well, and I appreciate the simple layout.  Rather than one long introduction of several pages of info, which can sometimes be hard to follow and read, this Bible's introductions are short and simple, with various sections such as Key Concepts, About the book, Key Verses, Key Teachings, Key Terms, and People to Know. These sections are often simple bulleted points or short descriptions of key terms or people. The supplemental helps seem to be explanations and devotionals to really help one understand the text and explain common questions and cultural differences the text might bring up.

I'd definitely recommend this Bible for those seeking to deepen their faith and study of the Bible. The helpful commentaries and easy to navigate layout make it an excellent choice for an e-Bible.

I recieved an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Tried and True

Tried and True (Wild at Heart, #1)Tried and True by Mary Connealy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really was interested in reading this book after reading the promo. Kylie, who is honorably discharged from service in the Civil War where she enlisted disguised  as a man, is now homesteading also disguised as a man. The land surveyor, Aaron, quickly realizes she is far from a man when he inspects her property and meets her. He gets caught up in investigating and protecting her when someone tries to scare her off her property.

Most of the novel was interesting, and enjoyable to read. Its a easy, noncomplicated adventure of sorts. The main part of the mystery is wrapped up easily and that is where it was kind of ruined for me... the rest of the novel seems like they just tacked on the there to round out the story, and that part of the storyline comes out of nowhere. There were several inconsistencies, such as the fact that their indian friend Sunrise, first touted as the best tracker there is, doesn't hear someone sneaking up on them yet the entire group quickly finds them for the rescue. There is hardly any talk of faith throughout the book, yet at the end they are suddenly extremely spiritual.  The entire ending was odd to me and didn't fit the book well at all.
I imagine readers of Christian fiction would enjoy this book, however the ending section really spoiled it for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

book review: the Loving Kitchen

This book by LeAnn Rice was a nice cookbook. I recieved it as an ebook, and it is easy to navigate as the index contains links to the pages, and you can navigate by chapter as well.  The recipes are good basic recipes with normal every day ingredients.  The recipes aren't new and inventive so much, but I like having nice basic cookbooks as well.  I wish there were a few more pictures, but the instructions are good. There are lots of great breakfast recipes, some that can be made ahead to simplify the morning's rush. Breads, Starters and Salads, Soups and Sandwiches, Entrees, Vegetables and Sides, and Desserts are the remaining chapters. I love that the final chapters are called Reaching out and Gathering In, where the author relates her experience briefly of dealing with her husband's death from cancer, and realizing the importance of reaching out to others and helping as we can, in her case, through sharing gifts of food. In Gathering In, she talks about the importance of meals as a family and includes conversational games to get everyone interacting.

I recommend this book to all cooks who enjoy good, solid recipes with everyday ingredients.  It would be especially good I think, for beginning cooks as things are basic and clear and not overwhelming with odd, difficult ingredients and techniques.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Murder at the Mikado

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book in the series (don't worry, I think you can read them on their own, I read 2 and 3 without ever reading 1). I enjoy what I've read of this series so far, this mystery was no exception. The mystery is intriguing and keeps me guessing. I enjoy the characters as well; Drew, the wealthy gallant young man especially. He's not your typical heir, instead genuinely cares about people, like his estate manager who is a good friend, and treats those of all stations with respect and kindness. Madeline is Drew's American fiancĂ©, and while I enjoyed her character in the previous book, I found myself quite annoyed with her in this book as she seemed to flip flop between being whiny about wanting Drew to drop the detective case of investigating a murder in which his ex-girlfriend is. A suspect, and understanding why he felt the need to investigate. Even when another person of interest offers him information about the birth mother he has been searching for in exchange for clearing her name, Madeline gets upset and says that she doesn't understand why it can't be left in the past (though previously in this book and the previous one she is in full agreement with his desire to find his birth mother,  Her immaturity and poor attitude throughout the book did detract from the story for me. The mystery was great though and perhaps I'm just terrible with figuring out the who-dun-it, but it was not who I thought it might be!

This is labeled Christian fiction, but it honestly is very sparing in that area. A few of the characters mention God rather vaguely and Drew prays several times, especially towards the end about his Spiritual life, but I don't think it would be overwhelming for non-Christian readers looking for a clean mystery/romance. I enjoy this series and would definitely read more!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Homesick Texan's Family Table

This cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, is a beautiful book filled with gorgeous pictures of food and the Texas countryside. 

I wasn't sure how much I'd find that I actually wanted to try, but actually have many that I'd love to try first!  It seemed that everytime I turned the page, I'd change my mind about which was first on the list!  I am dying to try the buttermilk bacon-fat flour tortillas, since I've been trying to become better at my own!  I love breads so obviously the Oatmeal Bread, Buttermilk Dinner Rolls and Angel biscuits are also on my list!  The rest of the breakfast dishes sound delicious as well, and I may even have to venture into making my own sausage, because the Bacon-Molasses Breakfast Sausage sounds so good! And this is all just from chapter 1, the Breakfast and Breads chapter!

Every section and recipe start with a anecdote about the origin, or some memory of the recipe with relation to the author's family, and her writing adds so much to the book. It feels like you are sitting down with her as she shares her family with you. I love how she takes family recipes and gives them (sometimes) a new twist, such as with the simple Chipotle Ranch-Spiced Oyster Crackers. j

The recipes are not filled with wild and crazy ingredients or tools, but really seemed to use ingredients that could be found anywhere.  The author lives in NY and notes and the beginning that she cooks in a tiny kitchen.  It's refreshing (and helpful) to read a cookbook where the cooking feels attainable- I don't have to have a restaurant style kitchen to succeed!  Throughout the recipes, especially in the main section, she notes about how while Texans may do it a certain way (grill, smoker etc), she uses the oven/broiler etc due to her circumstances and I love that  the recipes are written this way for the ordinary home cook. 

The recipes do include a lot of peppers and other spicy-er ingredients, but if you like Texan and Mexican style food, then you'll love this cookbook.  Even if you don't, there are definitely recipes for you as well (the dessert section is amazing... Fresh Peach Ice Cream, Molasses and Spiced Pecan Ice Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, Gingerbread, Pecan Pie... mmmm..... And there are other recipes too without too much kick, like the Shrimp Boil, and Catfish Tacos.

I'm so happy to have this cookbook on my shelf and can't wait to cook from it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

Book Review: All for a Sister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel was the third in a series apparently, but don't let that scare you away. in guessing they are not really interrelated as I never once felt like I had missed something.  The premise of this novel was so intriguing. when the DuFrane family's baby daughter dies from what is labeled an accidental death, the mother Marguerite cannot believe this and begins her crusade against 12 year old Dana Lundgren who ends up spending 20 years of her young life locked away in prison. The story begins with and being returned to the DuFrane family residence as coheir with young Celeste and is revealed through Dana's telling of the story, flashbacks of Celeste childhood, and the confessional writing of Marguerite DuFrane. The story was engaging as Celeste learns that things were not as she thought, and struggles with reentry into a completely new lifestyle from the one she left at twelve, and the mystery of what happened to the family is revealed. This is an excellent novel for those looking for clean engaging mysteries. While it is a Christian novel, I don't find it overwhelmingly so, and actually found myself wondering for most of the novel where the faith aspect was. It wasn't quite as inspiring with regards to faith as other Christian novels but does lend itself to a wider audience as I don't think nonchristian readers will be so overwhelmed. A excellent read, and I definitely wouldn't mind reading the others in the series or other by this author.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Treat Yourself

I was lucky enough to snag a review copy of this tasty looking book, Treat Yourself, by Jennifer Steinhauer who blogs at  In this book, she takes treats from the past and shares recipes to make them at home. She has 7 chapters including Classic Cookies, Sandwich Cookies, Snack Cakes, Fruity Treats and Filled things, Savory Snacks, Candy, and Frozen Treats.  Recipes I'm looking forward to trying include the Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies, Mint Milanos, and Zebra Cakes. She has recipes for Honey Buns (They have to be even better than the packaged ones!), Hostess Cupcakes that my husband will love, Strawberry Pop-Tarts with a variation for Cinnamon ones (my favorites!), and Pinwheels.  Savory snacks include things like funyuns, cheeze-its, Ritz Crackers, and pizza pockets. I may have to try the recipes for Twix and Junior mints in the candy section, and  my kids would probably think the candy dots are fun!  And my daughter practically salivated over ice cream sandwiches and Nutty Buddies (drumsticks) and the Strawberrry Shortcake Ice Cream Pops are on my list.  

The list of snacks is excellent and the recipes seem fairly simple to do.  The pictures make me hungry just to look at! My only criticism of the book is that I wish each recipe included at least a small picture.  Most of the pictures included are full page color photos that are amazing, but there are a few recipes with no photos.  Even a small thumbnail would be helpful for those of us who aren't familiar with all the old treats.  I would definitely recommend this book, my daughter and I are looking forward to trying out a lot of the recipes!

You can check out a selection from the book here.
And you can read more about it from the publisher here

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Review: The Imagination Station, Captured on the High Seas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a great book for young readers (elementary age) that gives a peek into the Revolutionary War. The books are a spin off of the radio series, and this book follows cousins Patrick and Beth as they are sent back in time by Whit at Whit's end in the Imagination Station. This is book 14, and though I've never read any of the others, they appear to jump off of each other. In this book there is a brief introduction of their past adventure (from book 13 I assume) where they went to meet Paul Revere.  A musket ball strikes the Imagination Station and breaks the windshield, and they end up on an American ship when they thought they were going home. Young readers get an exciting look at the life of soldiers at sea during the Revolutionary War and meet young James Forten.  I really liked how the end included a page of "Questions about this book", in this case, 3 questions that clarify the story as well as what was real and what was fiction.  There is a lead in to the next book in the series as well. I think this book was well written and while being full of adventure to entertain the reader, it also provides a lot of information about history.  I'd recommend these to young readers and feel that they are a fun way to learn about history while enjoying an exciting read.

I recieved this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Samantha Sanderson on the Scene

Samantha Sanderson On The Scene (FaithGirlz! / Samantha Sanderson 2)Samantha Sanderson On The Scene by Robin Carroll

This is the second book in the Samantha Sanderson series that follow middle schooler Samantha in her investigations as a reporter for her school's paper. This installment deals with the subject of bullying, as Samantha finds out that an acquaintance, the best friends of Samantha's least favorite person at school, is receiving nasty notes, texts, emails and unwelcome surprises in her locker. She determines to find out who is doing the bullying and to bring awareness to the issue by doing a series in the paper. Samantha again show her good character by the way she treats Nikki, and her unwillingness to identify her because of her promise to Nikki to keep her name out of it. The character of Sam is a great role model for young girls as she is responsible, honest and cares for others.  I definitely recommend this for young girls and will be sharing it with my daughter when she is old enough.

I recieved a copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: The Great American Slow Cooker Book

I was able review this cookbook, The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. 

I almost didn't because I read a review that said about using strange ingredients, but I haven't found that to be true.  It has everyday basic ingredients and the cool thing about this book, is that they have written and tested the recipes for  three different sizes of slow cookers!  I love this!  So if I want to try a new breakfast recipe like Pecan Pie Porridge, but I'm not sure if anyone will eat it but me, I can give it a whirl with the 2 quart size recipe!  Things I know we'll love and want leftovers of, I can jump right into the 6 quart recipe!  Each recipe offers the options for 2, 4, and 6 quart slow cookers and also gives basic information like how long to cook and also extra cool tips like how much effort and time the prep takes or (my favorite) how long it will keep on warm!  My current crockpot doesn't have a timer (it does have the three sizes of crocks like the recipes which is super handy though!)  but I hope to get one again with the timer and love that they switch to warm as needed. This is such great information to include on the recipes so you don't wake up to a dried out, disgusting breakfast or come home to a similarly icky supper.  There were lots of yummy sounding breakfast recipes (which aren't always a common addition to slow cooker cookbooks) and a GREAT soup section. Sloppy Joe Soup? Steak and Potato Soup? Yum!  There are quite a few seafood soups that sound tasty as well, and I don't even like seafood all that much...Categories for the book are broken into Breakfast, Soups, Meat, Poultry, Fish & Shellfish, Vegetables & Side Dishes, and Desserts and Party Drinks. And each of those is broken up into sub groups as well. The center of the book holds a section of colored photos, a page or two of recipes from each category. I didn't really think about missing pictures in the book, until I saw these!  They are lovely pictures and really help you realize what you would be making. The Trail Mix Porridge looks so tasty! I like that recipes don't seem to have a lot of bottled sauces and such... the Orange Ginger Barbecued Wings, for example, don't include a barbecue sauce but instead give the ingredients to make your own!  And there are still only 11 ingredients in the recipe. Obviously, I don't see myself trying every recipe in the book, but there are definitely tons of new and delicious sounding recipes that we'll be trying. I love using my crockpot, and am thrilled to have some new recipes to try out in it!  I'd recommend this book to all cooks, from experienced to inexperienced, large families to those cooking for one or two (thanks to the different size options!). The ingredients in most recipes are basic enough to satistfy those who like simple foods, though I think even die hard foodies will find some recipes to try!  Great cookbook, I'm so glad I got a copy!  

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: Samantha Sanderson at the Movies

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is book aimed at younger readers, I'd say middle school age (the main character is in 7th grade).  I think it's a great new series for girls to read about a strong, smart girl who loves God and has good goals for her future.  "Sam"  wants to be a reporter like her mom when she is older;  For now, she writes for the middle school paper and when she and her best friend are at the movies and help discover a bomb, she gets herself assigned to the story. She investigates on her own, writes her conclusions and has to deal with the consequences of her stories, both good and bad.  Her dad is the detective in charge of the case, and the story tells of the dynamics between them as well, as she tries to get the scoop for the paper.  I love how the mystery is interesting and engaging but there are also other great side stories as well. When one of Sam's friends reveals that she knows about God but doesn't believe in Him, Sam is confused and goes to her sunday school teacher for help on how to reach her friend.  Through the story, the readers get great advice on planting seeds and being patient.  Sam also has to figure out how to fix her relationship with her dad when he feels she has betrayed his trust by pursuing a story he told her in confidence.  I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book for young girls and will definitely be saving this one for my daughter when she's a little older! It was definitely a great well-written book with great teaching about faith.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Martian

The Martian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a bit of a different book for me, the story follows astronaut Mark Watney as he and his teammates are on their mission to Mars.  They are forced to evacuate due to a dust storm that could damage their only means of leaving the planet, and when Mark is hit by something from the storm and his spacesuit's life support readings fail, his teammates think he has been killed.  He is not, however and ends up being left on the planet alone, with enough food for a short period, though not near enough to survive until the next mission to Mars.  The beginning especially had quite a bit of technical mathematics as Mark figures out how much food he needs etc, and I honestly skimmed that part, but most of the story is very engaging as he figures out how to survive on Mars. I enjoyed how the story shared different points of view, Mark's story and also the mission control from earth as well as his teammates on their journey home as they deal with their guilt for having left a teammate behind.  There was some rough language in the book, but it is fairly decent otherwise. I enjoyed following Mark's adventure with surviving on Mars.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bubble shorts for L

I won some Peek a Boo patterns a LOOOONG time ago and even bought a couple on sale and have finally gotten around to sewing them! (I thought this was my first, but realized I did a Hang Out Hoodie a year or two ago...).

So L has about 2 pairs of shorts for this summer. She has lots of little skorts but I figured I'd finally get around to the Bubble Shorts pattern! I made a size larger hoping they would last longer and it is a good thing because they are almost too tight in the cuffs!  The next pair will probably be an inch or so longer and I will probably have to add a half inch or so to the cuffs.  

I made these shorts out of a mens shirt that I got in my stash of stuff from Sunshine Connection here in town - 50 cents for a bag of clothes so I'm thinking it cost me.... maybe a nickel?  LOVED the color and was so glad when L picked it for these shorts!  I still have lots of fabric left over so we'll see if I can sneak something out of it for the baby! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New wallet...

I designed my own wallet once, but after using it awhile I realized that a lot of the pockets I thought I needed were rather unnecessary.  And when the elastic I was using to keep it closed snapped, and the button disappeared, I decided it was time for a new one.

I loved the looks of the Greenbacks Wallet Trio by Sew Sweetness and picked it up to try.  Again, pictures are just quick snaps, not pro shots... :)

I modified a bit, because I really wanted a wristlet to make it easy to grab and go.

I love this style, the divider zipper pocket holds my coins and the wings (?!) don't let it open the whole way so all your stuff won't fall out!  I love that it zippers completely closed too.

The pattern is written with both sides being sewn for credit cards, however I left one side so I could use it for my cash envelopes (a la Dave Ramsey's cash envelope system, which we do our own version of!). I only need a few since we aren't hard core cash people, so I have an envelope for my fun money, one for eating out, and one for household.  If you needed more, you could leave both sides as full envelopes and add the smallest of the pattern's trio for your cards, or just tuck them into the zipper pocket (because if you are hard core D.R. fans, you probably don't have many anyway).

I really like how the cards stand up, I think they fit much nicer that way.  I've got a few different ones stacked together (i.e. one pocket for all our insurance cards).

It is actually MUCH bigger than I thought it would be, but I quickly adapted... I quite like that I can fit my checkbook inside (as is with my current cover, though I plan to attempt a streamlined, slimmer version so it doesn't make the wallet quite so chubby. My Cake Batter Chapstick (Limited Edition, eek! How many should I stock up on????) fits in there too.  I had planned at some point to make a clutch to tuck both my wallet and checkbook into to quickly switch purses/diaper bags, so this actually takes care of that for me.

It was NOT the easiest thing in the world to sew... I did a lot of picking out of seams, though that was mostly because I kept trying to use my machine, even though the directions said that a lot of the binding needed to be hand sewn... It is time consuming because of all the hand sewing, at least for me since I don't do much of it.  It freaked me out a bit that my hand sewing was the only thing holding the outside fabric on to the rest of the wallet!  I was able to machine sew some, if I did it again, I would probably only machine sew the straight edges and hand sew the corners and into the V made by the dividers since the corners gave me the most trouble on my machine.  So if you are patient, give it a whirl!  Most of the wallet is very simple to put together, so if you have the time to sit down with a movie and hand sew the binding, you will be fine!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: Life Behind the Wall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a collection of three short youth books about the Berlin wall. Aimed at youth, they follow a family as the city is first divided, then in the middle of the years of conflict, and again when the wall comes down. They don't give a lot of historical/political information. The books briefly talk about how the Russians have control of one side of Berlin and Germany, and the Americans are helping to protect the opposite side.  The books focus more on what it was like for the characters as they deal with life behind the wall.  I enjoyed these books, there was enough action to keep you going, and I enjoyed the characters and the way the same family and storylines were continued through out the books.  As an adult, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read all three at once, it really gives the young reader the full feel of each of the three time periods.  The third book brought tears to my eyes as there was more of the family history revealed. I would recommend this to young readers, probably as early as upper elementary for advanced readers, but definitely for middle grades and high school.  I enjoyed them as an adult and they have whet my appetite for more historical fiction about the Berlin wall and the Cold War.  I enjoy historical fiction but have tended to read mostly about World War II and for some reason, really have not had a lot of exposure to the Cold War through Literature, so I'll be looking for more!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Let's Sew Together

I was excited to have the chance to review a crafty/sewing book! Let's Sew Together, by Rubyellen Bratcher is a fun book full of little projects to work on as a family.

To be completely honest, I probably would not have gone out and bought this book, but I think it will be really fun to sit down with my daughter, who is showing interest in sewing at 6 years old, and pick out some projects to do together.  I like that the book is a combo of machine sewing, hand sewing, and no sewing crafts.  They are some great toys, like puppets, a girl doll and a robot doll, play place settings, fruit and veggie softies, etc.  There are clothes, little slippers, pencil pouches, and a beautiful map quilt.  I love that she really encourages kids to personalize and decorate, using fabric markers on the projects and then embroidering or free hand quilting. There are templates included for projects where they are needed.  They all fit on the page and inlcude percentages for sizing up appropriately. This is really my only criticism of the book, I'm not sure that my home printer/copier can do enlargements, so I'd probably have to take it to a copy shop or somewhere with a copier.  I wish there were some way to give a unique code inside each book to download the files online or something. There is a simple, thorough introduction that makes this book accessible to beginning sewists. I'd recommend it for beginners as well as for sewists of any level with kids who want ideas for projects to work on together.  You can read more info from the publisher here.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Truth Be Told

Another enjoyable novel. Like most Christian romance/mystery novels, this is an easy read. It's not deep and inspirational or thought provoking but it is a good, quick, fun read. The romance angle is sometimes a little much for me, but the mystery was engaging and interesting to follow. Amelia is returning to the small town where she grew up, and where her father still lives for her customary summer visit with her father only to find him dying if cancer and herself i possession of a newspaper. She takes the reins and tries to continue her father's investigation on a local company buying up local land and planning to mine it. She meets Ben Stone, a young employee of the company and they strike up a mutual interest. What she doesn't know is that he has been told to get close to her to convince her to give up the investigation. Thankfully, Ben is a honest, Christian man who sees Amelia as a friend and soon realizes as well that there is more to his company than meets the eye...
Recommended for readers who enjoy clean romance or mystery.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bed Space Saver!

We had seen some posts floating around Pinterest of beds built with drawers underneath to save space (like this one).  I immediately LOVED this idea and even found plans to build them on Ana White's amazing site!  I soon realized that basically all this was was a bed build on top of a dresser and set out to convince my amazingly handy husband to figure out how to do a thrifty-er version!  We ended up with this amazing bed that we all LOVE. (Disclaimer: if I were a "real" blogger, this post would be full of beautiful pictures, however, it's just me blabbing about my projects so... you know. You get messy rooms and clothes and stuff everywhere, because that's life around here!)

We found the dresser at our local Goodwill for $15!  (I wanted it when it was $30 but the hubby thought that was too much and snagged it when they put it on sale!)

It is not solid wood but is very solid and sturdy and I knew I would paint it anyway (and I have a very hard time painting over wood...)

This is the first picture I took of the process, already sanded to scuff it up a bit for paint, and minus the drawers.

We painted it that lovely deep purple, and awesome hubby figured out how to take her existing bed and put it on top. I believe he screwed the actual sides of the bedframe into the wall, and also added some 2x4 brace posts as well. It is also screwed down into the dresser (obviously not in this picture yet, since we switched the position!). You can see above how this does leave a good size space behind the dresser.  We had thought about adding a little bookshelf door that would swing out, but for right now, her hamper sits right in the hole, and it's used as a fun little hideaway!  Eventually, it will be great to store things like larger or out of season clothes, etc. 

A nice big 1x10 with some matching curves cut into the top makes a nice guardrail so she won't fall off in the middle of the night. 

And some matching paint to bring it all together! The sticker just adds the finishing touch, we got it from Icon Wall Stickers when I won a giveaway...just pretend it isn't slightly crooked! (The little clothes labels I also won in a giveaway from Crafterhours.)

She will be sharing her room with her baby sister and this helps consolidate furniture so much!  We love that its a "fun" bed to sleep on since its higher, but is still fairly easy for mom to help make up with sheets if needed.  We will probably do another when baby girl is old enough to need one (though there is a debate about that vs. a bunk built up above...). We'll see...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters ChristianitySeeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book. It is a autobiographical account of the author's movement from the Muslim faith to faith in Christ. I thought this book was very well done. It was so easy to read, and very engaging. At times it felt very much like a memoir (which it kind of is), but it is also full of information. I appreciated how the author took the time to educate the reader on beliefs of Islam, and though he obviously comes to discard the Muslim faith as true, he is respectful throughout and discusses his childhood and the faith he was taught with affection. The book details so much that would be helpful to those interacting with Muslims: beliefs, arguments they are taught against Christianity, major stumbling blocks to belief in Christ. It also, through dialogue between the author and his Christian friends, presents the arguments made to him proving the case for Christianity as being truth. I really appreciated that this was not an easy, off the cuff decision for him. The aithor is obviously an intelligent man. Throughout the book, he is a pre-med student in the Honors program at his university who later goes on to finish medical school. He is a devout Muslim who believes what he has been taught and knows it well. He discusses, researches, and ponders the things he learns from his friends for over 3 years before making a decision. He does not just believe what is told to him, but studies and investigates everything on his own, reading the Quran and other Muslim writings as well as books by Christian authors and eventually, the Bible. Most of the book focuses on the case for Christianity, but eventually he does look at his Muslim faith to see if it holds up to similar scrutiny. It was very interesting how he discussed why it is so difficult for a Muslim to turn to Christ, saying that, among other things, they are usually completely ostracized from their entire community and friends, even from their immediate family. Something that stuck with me was that he said he knows people that understand the truth of Christ and will not turn to Christ because they have no friend or support in the  Christian faith to support them when they are essentially excommunicated.

I would recommend this book whole heartedly, and feel it is great for a wide audience. It is excellent for Christians who are frequently in contact with Muslims  (or even if not) and want to understand them better, but also for any Christian wanting to know how better to defend and present their faith. I also think it would be a great read for those interested in following Christ who are skeptical. Some may want to delve deeper into the topics and proofs presented but at the very least it would be a great introduction.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Review: Silenced

Silenced (Alaskan Courage, #4)Silenced by Dani Pettrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fast, good read.  The series follows the McKenna siblings, a close knit and is of the romance/mystery genre.  This particular book, number 4 in the series, is focused on Kayden McKenna as she finds a fallen climber during a free climb and assists new deputy Jake Cavanaugh investigate what turns out to be a murder. The romance develops between Kayden and Jake as they continue to investigate together.  The mystery was great, with a twist I didn't really see coming. I have enjoyed the first few in the series, though I missed the third one; I think these are enjoyable on their own, but they do bring in the other siblings occasionally, which is more enjoyable when one is familiar with their stories.  There are some lead-ins throughout the series to that hint at who the next book will focus on (Reef is up next time! and the last McKenna sibling so perhaps the end of the series??), but I'd say that each book is definitely very satisfying on its own.  I'd recommend it to both mystery and romance readers (I prefer mysteries but don't mind when there is romance mixed in!). The siblings are Christians and refer to their faith, but I don't think the faith aspect is too overwhelming for non-believers either.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: For Such a Time

For Such a TimeFor Such a Time by Kate Breslin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really enjoyable book placed in the times of the Holocaust.  These books are always hard to read but I really enjoy and feel that its necessary to understand what went on in those times.  While the author is very clear that the events in the book are fictional, she does state that the suffering of the Jewish people in the camp is true to history, and I think she does a good job at portraying that without being incredibly graphic. The book follows the main character of Stella and is a story based on the story of Esther in the Bible.  Stella is a Jew in Dachau concentration camp but was taken with false papers showing her as Aryan. Aric, the new commander of a different camp, sees Stella and is drawn to her strength despite the circumstances and finding the inconsistency in her paperwork, frees her from the camp and gives her the position of his secretary.  She travels with him to the new camp and finds her uncle Morty there, and also becomes attached to the Jewish houseboy Aric "saved" from the camp.   She feels torn between her new feelings for Aric, who seems unlike other SS officers, and her loyalty to her people, and risks her own safety to help save some of her people.  The parallels between the story of Stella and the story of Esther are obvious, and the author includes a verse from the book of Esther at the beginning of each chapter to help guide the reader in those parallels.  The story of Stella is interesting enough without adding the twist of the similarities to the book of Esther, but it is an interesting comparison.  The story and characters drew me in and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how Stella would succeed at being the Jews' "salvation" as they call her. The ending was a satisfying twist.  I'd recommend this book to romance and intrigue readers as well as those interested in the Holocaust in a less graphic description.  For hardcore studiers of the Holocause it may not give anything very new but its a great intro to the Holocaust for those not as well read on it, or who prefer not to read the more distressing graphic accounts. I appreciated that the author took the time at the end to discuss the fact and fiction of the novel.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: A Table By the Window

A Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom RecipesA Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom Recipes by Hillary Manton Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book about Juliette, the youngest in a boistrous French Italian family of restauranteurs. It follows her desperate attempt to end her loneliness by attempting online dating, her struggles with her career as a food writer that she loves/hates, her love of food and cooking and her intense family.  It is a story about new love, the dynamics of family and of course food. Throughout the book, Juliette attempts to discover why her late grandmother had a photo of a young man (who is not her grandfather) hidden away in the inside of a dust jacket on a well used cookbook, and why this young man looks just like one of her brothers. I enjoyed Juliette's family quite a bit, and think books on her siblings could be interesting as well. However, they will have to wait, as I realized, as the book ended quite quickly that this is almost definitely the first in a series on Juliette's story. The authors answers just barely enough of the stories raised in this book that it is almost satisfying on its own. Juliette finds some answers about her grandmothers story, amd reverses a hasty decision about her own, but there is so much left to tell in those two storylines as well as in the storylines begun about her family. I was switching devices  as I was beginning (what I was surprised to find out was) the last chapter! I really thought I had at least a quarter to the book to go. That is really my only criticism of the book, that it really seems like a large book split in two that is just not quite satisfying enough to stand on its own. I love book series, but much prefer when the individual books can be read on their own. This is a Christian novel, though it really is not overwheming or attempt to be spiritually inspirational or evangelistic as some Christian novels are. the characters' faith shows through at different points as the offer to pray for each other or  pray in the midst of turmoil to find peace, etc. While I think Christian readers of fiction or romance will enjoy this, I think it could be enjoyed by non-Christians who enjoy clean novels as well.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Review: Bluebonnet Bride

Bluebonnet Bride (Butterfly Palace, #1.5)Bluebonnet Bride by Colleen Coble
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm always disappointed to read a book and realize that it is a novella. i wish publishers would be more specific in their description that is not only a novella but part of series. the series dorsnt bither me so much, especially in books and series like this, where I assume they just follow different sets of characters. The novella, however, I found very unsatisfying. the storyline and writing style have the makings of a good book, but everything felt very forced and incomplete. The mystery was told more than experienced, and everything moved too quickly in both the mystery and the romance. It really wasn't all that enjoyable as I felt like the reader was just rushed through what could have been a good story too quickly to enjoy it. I really wish the autbor had taken the time to make this a full fledgedmember of the series. I'm really not sure what is the point of the novella. However, if you are looking for a very short, clean, mystery romance, then you will probably enjoy it.

I received a copy if this novella from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: Murder Simply Brewed

Murder Simply Brewed (Amish Village Mystery #1)Murder Simply Brewed by Vannetta Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't usually choose to read Amish fiction but this one is different from the traditional Amish novel. It is a mystery novel set in an Amish tourists village run by Amber, a middle aged, never married woman. one of Amber's employees is found dead of what appears to be natural causes, thought there are some suspicious circumstances, and several acts of vandalism quickly follow. Hannah, a young Amish girl who works in the quilt shop next door to the victim's coffee shop, finds the body and finds herself becoming involved in investigating the mystery with Amber.  There is some romance as well as they both develop love interests. I enjoyed this clean mystery/romance and thought there was a nice balance between the two. I liked the variety of hearing the story through several different viewpoints, and while it gives a nice peek into Amish life it wasn't an overwhelming part of the book. I think mystery readers who aren't generally into Amish fiction might want to give this one a try!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I also read the first in her Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, Falling to Pieces and found it similarly enjoyable.  Again, there was a nice mix of the "English" and Amish viewpoint and life and a good mystery. I'd like to continue to read the others in the series. 

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Book Review: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies

Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and GumptionMiss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption by Brenda Spahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great, inspiring book. it was a pretty quick read, and I was sad when I got to the end! The book tells the true story of Brenda, a self-professed addict to making money as her wealth and success is stripped away and she is almost sent to prison. She feels led by God to do more with her life and chooses to work with women in prison and rehabilitating from prison as that almost happened to her. She volunteers for a while and then gets the idea to start a "whole way house" rehabilitation program. Expecting white collar criminals as she almost was and as she'd had worked with when she volunteered, shed gets a houseful of hardened drug users, attempted murderers, armed robbers, etc. The story is mostly told from Brenda's viewpoint, but I loved that there were several chapters told by the women themselves.The book does an excellent job of helping the reader understand the fear and difficulties these women face as they integrate back into society. The authors include wonderful scenes that bring the women and their struggles to life, like the first trip to walmart. I love that the book ended by sharing what several of the first women are doing today.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired to step outside their bubble and do something. We can't all do what Brenda did but we can all change our attitudes and help others.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This novel is a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness and love.  The idea of a story about a fashion model didn't instantly draw me in, but as soon as I started reading I was hooked.  The author does an excellent job developing the characters and showing their inner turmoil and fears.  Ivy is a NYC model at the end of her ten year run of fame. She desperately takes a job from her stepmother to model her wedding gown designs for a photo shoot and charity fashion show.  On the outside, Ivy is a gorgeous successful woman, but on the inside she feels unloved and unwanted, due both to the last ten year of being treated as an object of beauty and lust as well as to growing up the product of adultery, ignored completely by her father and finally removed from her mother's home as her mother retreats into alcohol, drugs and depression after Ivy's father cuts off the relationship.  The author writes beautifully and Ivy's transformation in the small town is so well done and believable.  I love that the characters of faith in this story, her stepmother Marilyn, and Davis and Sara her nephew and niece, while believing in Christ's power and love, also have issues in their lives and I love that the author allows Ivy in her brokenness to be instrumental in their healing as well.  Despite the fact that Ivy is the child of her husband and his mistress, Marilyn has always felt God calling her to love Ivy as a daughter and she lives that calling despite the fact that Ivy doesn't see it and responds negatively to her.  Ivy's redemption and the redemption of these relationships in her lives was moving.  All these main characters have struggled through so much: guilt, blindness, infidelity,rejection. Marilyn makes a powerful statement that really impacted me in my personal life. She says, "God's not in the business of pampering His children. He's in the business of perfecting them."

This book is one that I will lend freely, but will always have a spot on my shelf.  While there is romance, I'd say its not specifically a romance novel; it is a novel about the redemptive power of Christ and the freedom we can have in Him.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Storming the Black Ice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Once again, I feel like I'm in the minority because I didn't love this book.  To sum up, the book is based around the idea that the British have found a huge oil deposit in Antarctica and have a base set up researching and protecting it.  They are attacked by Venezuela who is working with Argentina and want to take control of the deposit as they are worried about another country getting a piece of the fuel money pie in South America.  The book follows various characters, my favorite being Austin Rivers, a Leftenent in the British army I believe, who is stationed at the base in Antarctica. His story was the most interesting to me as he has a son (from a one-night-stand he has begun a relationship with as well as keeping in touch with the mother.  The author does a great job of painting the picture of the big burly army dude baby talking at his son. Various other characters are introduced, though often fairly quickly dismissed as their subs are sunk! I thought there would be more suspense and espionage, though this really is a very much a military novel, following the attacks and defense of subs as well as Rivers, his fellow army man, and the civilian engineers' capture and subsequent treatment.  This book is published through a Christian publishing house, though  honestly, I found very little Christian content in it, other than a character or two who are or have become Christians (not in the novel's timeframe), and people occasionally talking about praying. Overall, I did enjoy the book even though it wasn't what I was expecting.  However, it was one of the other main characters, Pete Miranda, who really kind of ruined the book for me.  I was ok with Pete, although he really is a ladies' man but at the beginning of the book meets a girl who then follows through out the book as his love interest.  However, I really felt their relationship was more of a lustful one that anything with substance.  Its frequently mentioned about how amazing she looks, how he feels when he looks at her, but really nothing to substantiate any kind of solid relationship is presented at all.  The whole thing felt unnecessary and silly, especially when he invites her to visit his family in Texas at the end.  The whole relationship is very sexual, and yet he (though never showing any spiritual inclination) wants to avoid a sexual encounter with her when she tries to seduce him over peach pie at her apartment.  One of the last sentences of the book has Pete saying that they are going to "finish that peach pie".

Honestly if you are just looking for a fairly clean military novel, you'll probably enjoy this. But if you pick it up thinking its going to be a Christian military suspense novel, i think you'll be sorely disappointed. I won't read it again, and won't be rushing to pick up any more of this author's books either. Not to say I wouldn't read one at some point, but its definitely not my favorite.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my  honest review.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review: Life Support

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this story. The book follows Lauren Barclay, an ER nurse who has returned to her home town to help her parents deal with her irresponsible sister who is also bipolar (though no one in the family admits this). Eli is a physician's assistant dealing with his own issues, an overbearing arrogant father who degrades him about his profession and professional opinions, especially with regard to his older brother who is mentally and physically handicapped from an accident when they were children.  The story follows them as their problems collide and magnify and their relationship changes.  It's pretty much a romance and family drama, with a peek into the ER atmosphere which (most likely due to the author's career as an ER nurse) seems very realistic.  I enjoyed the story and the characters for the most part though I was SO frustrated with Lauren's wishy-washy, defensive attitude about her sister.  It seemed like she was so quick to fear that her sister had done something wrong, very enabling to all her sister's irresponsiblity, but also very quick to become angry at any insinuation that her sister needed help. I imagine though that this is fairly true to life as many normal, well-educated people don't see or refuse to see the things going on in front of them. My only other criticism would be that at the end of the story, it seemed like I blinked and everything was wrapped up and over.  All the issues were solved without any effort or drama, everyone just suddenly admitted their issues and it was over.  It was a little anticlimactic for me.  But i enjoyed the process and it was a book I would recommend to lovers of Christian dramas/romance.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pattern Testing: Georgia Twirl Dress

I did snag a pattern test for L in this last batch, the Georgia Twirl Dress. This is the last of my pattern tests for Shwin & Shwin for this round.  The pattern includes both top length and dress length.
Photo by Shwin & Shwin
Here's L's:

This is such a simple and cute pattern.  Its hard to tell, but the entire thing is a wrap, the skirt is split down the back as well, so it is SO simple to get on.  The two buttons hold it together and the full circle skirt wraps over itself enough that there's no panty views!  Always a good thing...

 She includes an option to make it fully reversible by making the two skirts the same length or using a fabric with no wrong side for the underskirt. Everything is very well constructed and the seams are all hidden. 

The bodice construction above makes this so simple to put together. No armholes to hem and sew, just the slightly curved pieces that overlap.  

I actually meant to follow Shauna's lead and have the top skirt and bodice match, but I accidently cut the bottom layer as the longer one, and didn't have enough fabric of the smaller print anyway.  I'm ok with it, I like the way it turned out and still coordinates together.  

And speaking of fabric, this is the first one in a while I didn't upcycle!  I actually won a fabric giveaway and had picked this out to do something for myself... oh well. It look so cute on her, i can't really complain!

This pattern goes from 12-18 months to 8 years old, so still tons of usage!  Several options included and you could even take the layers even shorter if you like the peplum look... 

I believe this is my last pattern test to blog... finally!  So we'll see what comes off the machine next!  I have quite a list/pile in my sewing room/dining room... The first ones will probably be practical projects before I get to more clothes, sale stuff, or other fun things...