Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Tour: Director's Cut (Review)

In her third book in the Backstage Pass series, Janice Thompson dives back into the cast of colorful characters her readers have come to love.

This installment, which revolves around Tia Morales, provides yet another brilliant and humorous look behind the lens at "Stars Collide" - the television creation of Thompson.

Thompson tells the story of Tia, a director used to being in control. She calls the shots in a neat, orderly fashion.

But Tia's life outside the studio - with her crazy, zany family - doesn't flow like her favorite screenplay. Instead, it is colorful, full of life and a wee bit insane.

Through that loving insanity, Tia learns several life lessons - including how to let love enter her life in an unexpected way.

I really like Thompson's writing style. She has a wit that is enjoyable, and a humor that will  make you laugh out loud.

At times, I wished Stars Collide would actually appear on tv as a new drama - it is crafted in such away that you can truly see her images jump off the page.

On the scale of one to five, I give it a solid three and a half. If you are looking for a good summer read, I highly recommend anything by Thompson. It's definitely a fun, "beach" style read.

More About The Book
The one thing she can't direct is her heart.

Tia Morales is used to calling the shots. She's the director of the popular sitcom Stars Collide, and her life on the set is calculated and orderly. Well, most of the time. Life outside the studio is another matter. If only she could get other people to behave as well as her stars do! When she starts to have feelings for handsome cameraman Jason Harris--with whom she's been butting heads for months--it's enough to send a girl over the edge. Will she ever learn to let go and take life--and love--as it comes?
Full of the humor and crazy family dynamics Janice Thompson fans have come to love, this colorful story gives you an inside look at Hollywood and a healthy dose of romance.

If you want more of Bella, DJ, Brock Benson, and other favorite characters from Janice Thompson, you'll love the Backstage Pass series.


About The Author
Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and screenwriter. An expert at pulling the humor from the situations we get ourselves into, Thompson offers an inside look at the wedding business, drawing on her own experiences as a wedding planner. She is the author of the Weddings by Bella series and the Backstage Pass series. She lives in Texas.

Online Resources
Read an excerpt here.
Buy it at Amazon.com
My Review of Stars, Collide (Book 1)
My Review of Hello, Hollywood (Book 2)
Follow Thompson's blog here
Check out this article about her here!

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Destination: Pine Bluff (A few favorite pics)

I'll have more - trust me, I have tons of pics on my camera card, not yet processed. But here are a few of my favorite Instagram pics, which help capture the flavor of the Mission Trip.

Allison and Jack
Two "veterans" on the trip.
Both make me laugh, smile and remember to enjoy life
(in their own way)
It's because of Jack, I now own the Pink Panther theme song.
(You never know what I'll buy for a talent show entry)
Allison reminds me to take time to do kid things
- and go to bed..... 

Serving with a smile.
The "guys" fix lunch for the girls.
Without complaint.

The Table Is Set.
One of my favorite parts of the trip includes our
closing worship communion service.
The altar was decorated with transformers 
because the represented our theme - 
Be Transformed.

A Partnership.
I loved this pic of David Flemming, the pastor of 
First UMC - Pine Bluff - because he showed us
how this trip could truly be a partnership between 
a local church and the community.
Emily
Another face that reminds me to smile and to 
stop and have fun.
(You will Instagram that picture - was her only question
when I snapped this shot!)

Choose your own caption 
A) I'm a wee bit devious or
B) Aunt kaylea you have fallen for my evil plan.
Kiki on the mission trip.

Watching Sandra flourish as 
an adult chaperone on this trip.
Here she is playing Scrabble Slap with Mary Jett.

The gathering place.
It was amazing the natural flow of conversation and 
even gaming (Apples to Apples rocks)
that took place while tweens were waiting for the shower.
With family.
They may not be my natural-born nieces, 
but they are family.
I love watching them grow in their faith and seing
how God moves in their lives.

The challenge.
Ok, the pic of me going down this slide is still on my 
camera, but imagine sitting at the top, with 
a crowd of tweens at the bottom shouting your name.
Sometimes being a "fool" means more than the 
richest gold or silver.
I took up the challenge and went down the slide
(ok, several times)
much to the delight of the tweens.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Destination: Pine Bluff - The Service Projects

Our projects at Destination: Pine Bluff involved working at Neighbor to Neighbor, a collaborative ministry in Pine Bluff, and the Salvation Army.

At Neighbor To Neighbor, the students had a list of jobs to do - in fact it seemed like a hugely lengthy list.
One of the "tedious" task involved taking cans of food off of the shelf, washing the shelves, and then returning the cans to the same spots.
Everyone - students and adults alike, hung in there. moved cans and did the task without complaint.

Another piece of the job involved sorting hangers.  Let's face it - that's a job not many life. But the kids did it, again, without complaint.

In fact, remember that list on the first picture. They completed it all - and did a few other things not listed!

On Friday, our project involved working at the Salvation Army. The students sorted clothing, organized hangers - yes, more hangers, and also re-organized the entire book room (we found some really interesting titles).

All in all, it was a good mission trip. The students' worked hard - and got a lot done.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Scenes from Destination:Pine Bluff

Here are a few pics from Destination: Pine Bluff mission trip.
Enjoy

The full team

St. James UMC

Elm Springs UMC

First UMC Bella Vista
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blog Tour: Angel Eyes (Review)

Imagine a literary blender.

In it you combine a heroine with a tragic past, a strange and romantic young man, a remote setting slightly similar to Twilight, a battle of good verses evil, a celestial battle involving demons and angels and a heavy subject - human trafficking.

Mix all of those things together and you have the newest release by Shannon Dittemore - Angel Eyes.

Angel Eyes is definitely interesting. Dittemore creates her novel using a dialogue that switches back and forth between the main characters.

I think Dittemore has created a novel that will be quite attractive to fans of Twilight. Strong characters, good dialogue and more.

I'll be honest, the writing style - having multiple voices driving the dialogue - is NOT my favorite style. I find it confusing to follow the storyline. However, I think this novel will appeal to the "target audience" - teens and young adults. 

On the scale of one to five, I give it a three - and pass it along to one of the teens in my world.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
Once you've seen, you can't unsee. Everything changes when you've looked at the world through . . .Angel Eyes

Brielle went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She's come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can't seem to shake.

Jake's the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what's going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons-and Brielle- can perceive.

More About The Author
Shannon is a wife and mother. A sister. A daughter. A friend. She was raised in Northern California by her parents-pastors of their local church and constant figures of inspiration.

As a youth, Shannon traveled with an award-winning performing arts team, excelling on stage and in the classroom. As a young adult, she attended Portland Bible College, continued acting, and worked with an outreach team targeting inner-city kids in the Portland-Metropolitan area.

It was in Portland that she met her husband, Matt. They were married in 2002. Soon after, they took the reins of the youth ministry at Living Way Community Church in Roseville, California where they continue to serve in that capacity. In October of 2004, their son Justus was born, followed by their daughter Jazlyn, born in 2008.

Online Resources
Find out more at www.shannondittemore.com.
See What Others Think: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13501700/angeleyes

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

An evening prayer

I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord. I will take refuge in His loving heart. He is my strength in times of weakness. He is my comforter in times of sorrow.

Trying to retrain my brain to slow down and stop for a quiet time.

I loved this prayer on Sacred Spaces tonight, part of today's reading.

I guess the word for tonight is Presence.

Simply being in God's presence, soaking up love grace and more.

“Be still, and know that I am God!" - Psalm 46:10a NLT

Just call this a closing thought for the day.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Prayer For Tonight

Have you discovered Sacred Spaces?
It's a great website organized by the Jesuits in Ireland.
http://www.sacredspace.ie/

I love this site because it helps direct your prayers.... they just re-designed the website - and it's even better!  I've put a sample of what you can find on the site here, from today's (Sunday, June 24th's) daily prayer.

I have a feeling I'll be visiting this website frequently. There's something peaceful about it.


Presence
I remind myself that, as I sit here now,
God is gazing on me with love and holding me in being.
I pause for a moment and think of this.


Freedom
I will ask God's help,
to be free from my own preoccupations,
to be open to God in this time of prayer,
to come to know, love and serve God more.

Consciousness
How do I find myself today?
Where am I with God? With others?
Do I have something to be grateful for?
Then I give thanks.
Is there something I am sorry for?
Then I ask forgiveness.

The word of God
Luke 1:57-66; 80

Conversation
Jesus, You always welcomed little children when you walked on this earth. Teach me to have a childlike trust in you. To live in the knowledge that You will never abandon me.

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
world without end.

(You can follow them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/sacredspace.ie)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blog Tour: Mary Magdalene (Review)


Ever wonder what Mary Magdalene's life might have been like & what she experienced as a child, and as a young woman?

Diana Wallis Taylor dives into Mary's life with her newest Biblical novel - Mary Magdalene, a Novel.

Starting with Mary's life as a tween, Taylor moves explores a variety of reasons how she became known as "Mad Mary" in her village and how her faith in Jesus radically changed her life.

She also gives us a picture of why Mary was troubled by her "demons" - (spoiler alert) a childhood kidnapping and how her family helped her find healing with Jesus.

This is the second novel of this nature that Taylor has unpacked the life of a strong Biblical woman in a way that makes us re-examine their lives.

This story will definitely make you think more about Mary. It might even cause you to think about what you might do if you found yourself in a similar situation.

On the scale of one to five, this book is a solid three. If you like strong Biblical fiction, you'll enjoy this novel.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
One woman desperate for hope. One Savior with the power to heal.

A beautiful girl blossoming into womanhood, Mary has high hopes for a life filled with learning, family, and young love. In one dreadful night, all of that changes. The nightmares come first, then the waking visions of unspeakable terror, until Mary hardly remembers her dreams for the future.

Can the Most High deliver her from this torment? How long must she wait for healing?

This vivid portrait of the enigmatic Mary of Magdala comes to life in the hands of an imaginative master storyteller. Diana Wallis Taylor introduces you to a Mary who is both utterly original and respectful of the biblical account, opening your eyes to a redemption that knows no bounds.

More About The Author

Diana Wallis Taylor is the author of Journey to the Well and Martha, and has published many articles, and has contributed stories to several books.

Taylor lives in California. Find out more at http://dianawallistaylor.com/.

Online Resources
An online excerpt of Mary Magdalene
Buy it at Amazon
My review of Martha

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Pinterest Experiment: Nutella Cookies

Confession time. I LOVE Nutella.

So when I found a recipe on Pinterest for Nutella cookies I knew I needed to try it.

The original recipe called for one cup of Nutella, one egg, one cup of flour and a half cup of sugar.
However the "pinner" suggested leaving out the sugar.

I tried it that way with a slight modification.




Gather the ingredients.
Flour. Nutella and Egg.
(and sugar).
1 cup Nutella
1 cup All-purpose Flour
1 whole Egg
(original recipe: ½ cup Sugar)




Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then mix in the mixing bowl the following ingredients.

Blend all ingredients together well. (I needed to use two eggs to make it blend well.) Form into balls (I used a cookie scoop).
Place on a cookie sheet. Press down firmly with the bottom of a glass. (I dipped it in sugar like grandma used to do for dropped cookies).
Bake 7-8 minutes or until set then cool.




They turned out kinda like brownie cookies. They remind me of the cake mix cookies I make using a friend's recipe. Those are rolled in powdered sugar - which would probably be great with these ingredients!!

With my cookie scoop I made approx. 21 cookies.
Enjoy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Dangers of Pinterest

Sometimes surfing Pinterest can be dangerous.

I found this idea this week and had to try it.

(You can see the original pin here: http://pinterest.com/pin/123426846008168371/)

You start with a regular bar of Ivory soap. (Fresh apparently works better.)


Put it on something. The original post used paper plates or waxed paper. I used a plate.


Then put it in the microwave on high for about two minutes.


Something about the heat and chemicals in the soap makes it "explode."


It kind of poofs like "moon sand."

It's messy, fun and really laughter inducing. Warning it's crumbly and "smush-able" so you can probably shape it into a mold (for a later bath time!)

I ended up using the soap to make another batch of laundry soap.

Another look: before and after!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's A Fiesta

Tonight, I (along with some amazing volunteers), hosted a Volunteer Fiesta for volunteers who have been part of the St. James Kidz ministry.

Thanks to Kate Hadfield's Fiesta, Fiesta kit, I had the best kit to set the "tone" of the event.

I made volunteer packs - full of information, and also a series of "encouragement" signs to post around the room and on the tables.

The Tweens even helped me make "candy cards" 
to put at each place setting, 
to thank the volunteers. 

It was a great event, made even better because of the artwork 
by Kate Hadfield.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Live Simply

Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1370378
I love this quote. 
I found it attributed to three different authors.
I'm not sure who actually said it, 
regardless, it makes me smile.

I just want to live out the principle of this quote.

Live simply. 
Let my actions support others.
Think of others.
Remember that life is not completed in a vacuum
Live simply.
(guess I already said that...)

“Live simply so that others may simply Live” 
- St. Elizabeth Seton

“Live simply so others may simply live.”
― Mother Teresa

“Live simply so that others may simply live.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, June 18, 2012

Serving With The Tweens

I love introducing students - especially tweens - to service projects.
Originally, we  planned to do a project "off campus,
but changed for a variety of reasons.

Instead, the tweens helped me put together
volunteer packs for the upcoming Fiesta Volunteer meal.

They helped me accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
And a group of adults got to see how students 
made a difference for their church.
Honestly, I'm hoping the adults learn from the students.
And I'm hoping the students continue to be active 
volunteers.

Just another day at St. James Kidz.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Someting to think about......

I've been reading Kay Warren's book on Choosing Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough.

I wonder what she would think about this quote?

Just something to think about.... because happiness if fleeting. Joy is more definite and permanent..

The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.  ~Leo Rosten

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rock of Ages, The Moive

For the last few weeks, I've been looking forward to the release of Rock of Ages.

As someone who has LOVED the Rock of Ages, jukebox musical soundtrack - but didn't get to see the musical when it came through Arkansas - I thought the movie would be the next best thing.

I have mixed reaction to Rock of Ages.

I'm not "square" or stick in the mud, but I'll be honest.  I have no clue how this movie earned a PG-13 rating.

While there is no "overt" nudity, you can cut the sexual innuendo  like cutting Jell-O with a tooth pick.

It's there, in your face, and  at times, I'll admit, laugh out loud obnoxious.

The music is good - but not as good as the Broadway musical.

Tom Cruise, in his role of Stacee Jaxx is well, disturbing. It's not the "Top Gun" or "A Few Good Men" Tom Cruise - or even, the "Mission Impossible" Cruise.

Christians, led by Catherine Zeta-Jones' character,  come across as shallow and narrow minded. The Rockers come across as being the "cool," open or people who are "fun."

(Yes, I remember a few of those Christians from the 80s, but that's another story/memory.)


On the scale of one to five, I give this movie a two. The music is better than the movie - which plays like a stereotypical bad 80s movie.  If I had to do it over again, I would have stuck with the soundtrack - or at least just stuck with the Broadway Musical track.

I'll be honest, there's nothing "overtly" bad about this movie - but I would think a while before taking a young teen or even tween to this movie. Adults who grew up in the 80s/early 90s, will enjoy it for the nostalgic factor.

I do question the rating. Considering censors originally gave "Bully" the documentary, a R rating for language. I have no clue how Rock of Ages got away with the PG-13 label.

Maybe censors found it easier to swallow the language and actions because they were couched in humor, rather than reality (like bully).

Note: While I often receive items to review, I paid full price for this movie ticket. Just in case the FTC cares about how I came up with my opinion.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blog Tour: Chosing Joy (Review)

In the last two weeks, I've been trying to dive into Kay Warren's newest book - Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough.

Warren's writing style is warm and inviting.

But I soon learned that it's not a book that I can "speed read."

Instead, like a treat you want to savor and digest slowly, this book takes time to unpack.

Lots of time.

I'm still not finished reading it.

I love how the each chapter has questions that make you think - so you can really apply the topic to your life.

Is it easy to read. No.

Is it worth the struggle? Yes.

Am I glad that I'm reading it. Absolutely.

I'm not sure if I'm struggling with the book. Maybe God is trying to tell me something through Warren's words. (Ok. This is probably an understatement of the year.)

I know one thing.Warren has inspired me by her passion for life. I've admired her for many years for some of the actions she's taken in founding Saddleback's HIV/AIDS initiative. Her authenticity is admirable.

I keep on reading it. It may take me a while longer than normal. But that's ok. I think it will be worth it in the end.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
Everyone knows how to be joyful in the peaks of life.

I've graduated!
I'm engaged!
I've been hired!
I'm having a baby!
I'm cancer-free!

When all your fondest hopes and wildest dreams come true, and your heart nearly explodes with happiness, it's easy to feel joyful.

But what about the valleys? When nothing seems to go your way? When everything is falling apart? When God is silent, and you feel all alone?

Where does joy fit into those moments?

In Choose Joy, acclaimed author and Christian leader Kay Warren shares the path to experiencing soul-satisfying joy no matter what you're going through. Joy is deeper than happiness, lasts longer than excitement, and is more satisfying than pleasure and thrills. Joy is richer. Fuller. And it's far more accessible than you've thought.

Joy comes from God . . . and it can be yours! Today.

About The Author
Kay Warren cofounded Saddleback Church with her husband Rick Warren in Lake Forest, California. She is a passionate Bible teacher and respected advocate for those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as orphaned and vulnerable children.

She founded Saddleback's HIV/AIDS Initiative. Kay is the author of Say Yes to God and coauthor of Foundations, the popular systematic theology course used by churches worldwide. She has three children and five grandchildren.

Learn more at www.kaywarren.com and follow her on Facebook (Kay Warren) and Twitter (@KayWarren1).

Online Resources
Read an excerpt here. 
Download the study guide here.

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Closing Thoughts



Weave in faith and God will find the thread. ~Author Unknown

One of my favorite part of camp is worship.

I love spending time with God in the midst of the outdoors.

It really doesn't hurt that the outdoor chapel at Tanako
looks out over this view.


God is good.
All The time.
All the time.
God is good.
Amen.
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bubbles....

One of the coolest things that happened at camp,
involved a bubble machine.

What a cool thing.
It was like watching & playing in a waterfall of bubbles.


I started out taking pictures from "outside" of the crowd.
Before long, I was in the midst of the bubbles with the kids
taking pictures, splashing and well, just having fun.


We can learn a lot from watching kids play.
They play with gusto, abandon.
They don't sit back and assess the situation.

They simply dive into the mess.
(or in this case the bubbles)

My childhood may be over, but that doesn't mean playtime is. ~Ron Olson

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spending time with the girls

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons. 
~Author Unknown

Life is cool when you get to hang out with an amazing group of kids - including those who were in my cabin (both sides) and the girls who came as part of the St. James crew.

Some how, hanging with these gals just made the day brighter.

PS...I did remember to take 12 photos today (12 on the 12th)
-- I've forgotten the past two months -
I'll post those pics later.

The best thing about today
- one of the girls in my cabin turned 10 -
I told her it's not every day you turn double digits.
So we celebrated in random ways.

In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out.  
In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in. 
 ~Robert Brault,   

I hope we made some memories worth looking back at camp.
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