Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: Death by the Book

Death by the Book (Drew Farthering Mystery #2)Death by the Book by Julianna Deering
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book quite a bit. It was a nice clean mystery with some romance. the main character and hobby detective Drew is a wealthy man in a small town in England wooing his American girlfriend Madeline and wondering when she will consent to marry him! He stumbles upon a set of murders and assists the police with the investigation. I enjoy books like this, no worries about overly gruesome murder scenes or sexual encounters, but still entertaining and well written books. I liked the main characters and really didn't see the end twist coming, though to be honest, I read to enjoy not to figure out the mystery ahead of time. It is a Christian novel, though is not preachy or overwhelming. I think if would be enjoyed by anyone who prefers clean mysteries or romance, though the romance is definitely a secondary storyline.

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

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Book Review: Notes from a Blue Bike

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book.  It's kind of a memoir, including snippets from the author's expat life and travels, but is mostly an encouragement to live a simple intentional life, contrary to the go-go-go crazy lifestyle most in the US live.  The book is separated into sections like travel (a favorite for me!), food, education, entertainment and work and the author focuses on how their family has chosen to live a slower,  more intentional life as a family in those areas. I think she does an excellent job of presenting what her family does without making it seem like the only option.  She presents both ideas and concrete ways. I love that she doesn't say there's a right or wrong; in the education for example, they started out with traditional preschool, homeschooled, and are currently doing traditional school again.  So no matter what your own life looks like there are ways to apply the goal of living intentionally to it. I thought this book was so readable and enjoyable.  It gave lots of food for thought but was a very enjoyable process. I'd recommend it to anyone who would like to live more simply and intentionally, or to anyone who feels overwhelmed with the typical US pace of life.  An excellent inspiring book I will definitely enjoy reading again!

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pattern Testing: the Lucille Top

This was another one from lovelier weather...also from Shwin & Shwin.  This is the Lucille Top!

You could easily make a dress as well.  Again, we upcycled from 2 teeshirts.

You can see the cute pleating on the shoulders in these pictures. 

It's such a stylish little top with leggings, jeans or whatever!  

Pattern Testing: Every Little Thing Top

A long while back (as you can tell by the warm weather pictures...) I did one of my first pattern tests for Shwin & Shwin. The Every Little Thing Top and Dress.

We did the tunic length.  So cute and simple; no hemming with the cute band at the bottom.  We used an old crib sheet and some pink polka dot fabric I had in the stash.

And its another chance to practice your buttonholes!  You could easily do snaps, or even a hook and eye instead, but buttons really aren't as difficult as they seem!

Another great, solid pattern from Shwin & Shwin!  It goes from 6 months to 8 years so you can get a lot of use, especially with the tunic and dress lengths.  The pattern also has a bow option, which we obviously didn't do here, but may try in the future!

Pattern Testing: Rigby Polo

Another pattern I tested for Shwin & Shwin was the Rigby Polo.
Photo by Shwin & Shwin

This pattern is for wovens and I almost didn't test it, but I'm so glad I did.  The color blocking on the sleeves and pocket is so cute!

I added snaps to this after this photo (you can do buttons as well), and it can be worn open or closed.  This shirt was upcycled from a skirt (the plaid), and a pair of pants (that I had leftover from cutting out pants for E!).   

E really didn't NEED this top, since its short sleeved but I made it work by adding armwarmers (made from the Anytime at All Tee pattern!

They are super simple, I just made it a bit slimmer and cut the top arm band the exact size of his upper arm.  I think for a more active kid an even smaller band or some elastic might be needed...  Now E's wardrobe is much bigger since he can wear all of those short sleeve shirts he has!  I'll definitely be whipping up a few more pairs of these.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Echoes of Mercy

Echoes of MercyEchoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel. In summary, Caroline is an investigative agent sent to a chocolate factory after the death of a fellow agent in order to determine whether his death was an accident or murder. She meets and is attracted to Ollie Moore, who turns out to be the son of the owner, undercover in order to understand the inner workings of the factory and its employees in preparation for taking over the management from his father. Caroline's compassion leads her to help Letta, Lank, and Lesley, three poor children left alone when their father dies. Ollie also becomes attached to the children and  both they and Carrie change him from a good man to an even better one. There is mystery as Carrie tries to investigate the goings on at the factory and romance. The children's story is intertwined throughout the story and definitely adds to the book as they affect all the characters lives. I thought the author developed her characters well and I definitely felt attached to them. Carrie's faith and compassion are so real, and the children's heartbreak and joy are well expressed too. I found myself tearing up with them as things are settled at the end of the book.

Overall, it was an excellent book and I would recommend it to those who enjoy Christian mystery or romance novels.

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

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pattern Testing: the Anytime at All Tee!

I'm so excited to be on a team of pattern testers for Shwin & Shwin.  They have a crafty sewing blog AND a pattern shop full of great patterns. Being a pattern tester means I get sneak peaks and sews of patterns she's working on, and the deadlines she gives are what I need to actually get things sewn up!  One of the ones I tested a little while back and again recently is the Anytime at All Tee, a GREAT basic tee-shirt with tons of options.  She gives colorblocking lines (2 different styles, plus you can mix and match to make slews of options!), pockets, short sleeves and long sleeves, and ruffles for girls! And one of the best things for me, is that the pattern goes from 3 months to 8 years old, and the 3-12 month patterns are bodysuits!  So useful for YEARS!  And its great for boys and girls! (I promise, I'm not an afiliate or anything... I just love this pattern and have already sewn it up 3 times plus using the arm pattern to make armwarmers for E!) 

And another important note:  Shwin & Shwin has this pattern along with other new patterns ON SALE!!! Just until midnight Sunday night, February 16, 2014, you can get it for $5.95 (regular $9)
Photo by Shwin & Shwin

So, on to my versions... Two I've sewn for E, who REALLY needs long sleeved tees since he jumped sizes on me and I wasn't prepared...

 This was the first one.  I try to sew most things from free or super cheap clothes I have stashed, and this was scrapped together from two tees. Obviously I did the colorblocking and long sleeves. LOVE it.  Such a great pattern.  If you check out the pattern page here or the photo above, you'll see there are tons of options with the colorblocking. Also below, I didn't do color blocking on the bodice, but still added it in the arms.  

Again, sewn up from two tees.  This is a pattern that pays for itself, if you have a thrift store that sells off stuff super cheap (mine gets rid of stuff for $0.49!) or buy from yard sales or take cast offs from family and friends!  I can't always find clothes in the right size at our Goodwill for 49 cents, but I can ALWAYS find tons of great fabric!

This is a really terrible picture, BUT I just wanted to show a girly version quick; this was Lia's Christmas outfit this year. The top is from the Anytime Tee pattern with ruffles (and sequins but really, don't ask...).  I also added a band at the bottom of hers, which was super easy, to help it look nice with her skirt.   Yet another great DIY option for a girl's top!  

So if you sew, check out the pattern and snap it up before prices go up.  There also a few other new patterns on sale too, so check them out as well!  (the pattern review post on her blog is here.) i have a couple more things I am now allowed to share coming up, and a few I forgot about completely too...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book Review: The Jesus Bible

We recieved a copy of the Jesus Bible to review this week.  This is an excellent Bible aimed at younger readers. There are so many great tools in it. First of all, its a sturdy hardbacked book and it uses the New International Version (NIV). This is not a simplified children's Bible, this is the whole entire Word of God, with added tools for kids.  Such as the book introductions: at the beginning of every book in the Bible is a one page intro which answers several typical questions such as who wrote the book, why and to whom.  But I love that it also asks "Where is Jesus in this book?"  I love that kids can start to see the connection to why we read Old Testament books or other dryer books from hundreds of years before He comes onto the scene.  They begin to see how the entire Bible is connected.  Another neat question is "What do we learn about God in this book?" Similarly, I think it's hard to understand some of the more obscure historical books, and I love that they help kids understand them.  There are also are devotions scattered throughout the book, focused on a verse of scripture and (in the one we read) referring to others in the passage.  My six year old loved this reading and was excited to read more. 
Also helpful are the smaller applications notes titled "Live Like Jesus" that help kids apply Jesus teachings to their own lives.  Finally, hints of the Savior and Jesus Revealed are small clues which tell of prophesies of Jesus coming and how they are being fulfilled.  They also include a scripture reference. 

This Bible has a neutral color scheme, great for a boy or girl;  It has a simple typface and simple passage headings to aid understanding.  I would definitely recommend this Bible for kids and young teens as a first Bible, and even for adults who are new Christians and want a simple introduction to the Bible.  If I had to give a criticism, it would be that my daughter was disappointed it wasn't a "girly" bible!  Maybe ZonderKidz will consider doing a "girly" one soon!  Overall, though, I'm thrilled with this Bible and happy to have it as my daughter's first Bible!

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess

We got the book Bible Stories for His Beautiful Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd from Tyndale House Publishers for review.  Its a very sweet book full of simple stories and colorful pictures. Each chapter includes the bible story, a  one sentence "Princess Prayer", and a "Princess Jewel" which is kind of a thought for the day.  I got it for my 6 year old kindergartner, and as an advanced reader, she can read this with no problem.  For us to read together though, it is well below her level. I'd suggested it for a 2-5 year old.  The stories are very short and simple, 2 pages of large print and lots of margin; I'd guess maybe 60 words and a bible verse.  I think they are well written for a younger child, and my daughter loved the princess theme.  When I asked her what she liked about it, she said the Princess Prayer and Princess Jewel.  As I said, I'd recommend this for girls from 2-5. It's a nice hardbacked, slightly padded cover and and heavier weight pages, perfect for these younger ages learning to care for books.

We got a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in return for our honest review.