Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mindset List - a few surprises

Do you know about the Mindset List, created each year by Beloit College?

It's really interesting, because each year, since 1998, the school has released the "Beloit College Mindset List" to provide a list of touchstones that shape the culture of the college students.

It shows how quickly "outdated" our cultural references can become. For the entering class of 2016, I'll admit, it shows a few surprises. (Well, at least they were things that took me by surprise.....here are a few selections.

--They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”

Um, considering I just had supper with two friends, and we couldn't go the full meal without someone checking their phone, Facebook or email, why should college freshman be any different.

--The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.

Really. This makes me think, as a children's minister. The Good Samaritan surprises and saddens me.....

--Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.

Well, except for those who want the Disney channel on the mission trip (a younger set) - but this shouldn't surprise anyone.

--Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.

Wow... I still remember sitting at the kitchen table writing a report using the encyclopedias that my parents had. Considering Google and Wikipedia, this shouldn't surprise any of us.

--Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

I still struggle with this one..... but it's the truth.

--A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

Considering the iPods and how "plugged in" this generation is - this shouldn't surprise us...it's just a wee bit sad.

--They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.

Paris Hilton anyone?

--There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.’

I had to ask a friend tonight when did they get rid of the tan ones? File this under oblivious.

--Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.

Absolutely. I see this in all of the students I work with....college age and down.

--Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.

Wow.... things have changed since my college or even seminary days. But what happens if the electronic device crashed.... does that work the same as "the dog ate my homework?"

--Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television.

This just made me laugh.

--They watch television everywhere but on a television.

Yep. Yep. Yep.

--Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.

Hum..... said the girl with three (or four) cameras (iPhone, pocket point and shoot, big Cannon - and even the iPad) now.....

--Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes.

Just sad.

Copyright© 2012 Beloit College
Mindset List is a registered trademark
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Epic Pinterest Fail: Glow In The Dark Mountain Dew

I should have known better.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.....But I really wanted it to work.

Glow in the Dark Mountain Dew.

Come on, be honest, take a look at this picture.

It makes you want to try making it.

If it had worked, it would have been a WAY cool alternative to a camp fire, this weekend at the Bible Boot Camp. - A burn ban is keeping us from having a "real" camp fire.

We (my partner in crime, Laura and I) tried it tonight.

According to the Pin, it takes three simple ingredients.

It said you needed to leave 1/4 of a bottle of Mountain Dew in the bottle - we put it into a smaller bottle for the "test."

Next you add a bit of baking soda - which really does make the Mountain Dew "bubble up."

Then it calls for adding three cap-fulls of hydrogen peroxide. At this point, according to the video, the bottle should be glowing.

Obviously, it didn't work.
Duh right.

Another pinner said they added some glow in the dark paint to the mixture - and it reacted like the original picture.

Obviously, the person who made the original post/video wanted to see how far the fake post would go. Judging by the pins, it has spread amazingly fast. A modern day Urban Legend in the works.

The final word
I should have paid attention to the post on Snopes. They also tried it, and decided the person who started this "rumor" some how slipped glow paint or glow in the dark sticks into the bottle - while the YouTube video was angled in a different direction.
You can read the Snopes Report here.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blog Tour: Live To Give (Review)

Austin Gutwein is an inspiring person.

Not only has the 18 year old written several books, but he has created a non-profit ministry called "Hoops for Hope" the largest free throw marathon organization in the world.

At least 40,000 people in more than 25 countries have raised at least $2.5 million to build schools, medical clinics, dorms for orphanages and the only computer lab in Zambia.

In his newest book, Live To Give, Gutwein challenges teens to find a way to make a difference - regardless of their age or talent.

I found this book to be an easy read. Using a friendly writing style, Gutwein has found a way to explore developing a lifestyle of giving.

Each chapter has personal antidotes, along with inspiration, as well as a series of questions - all designed to help students explore the benefits and joy of giving.

I think this is a book I could give to the teens in my life, in order to challenge them - and to encourage them to have a missional outlook. Honestly, I think this book could be used either as a personal study (it's really easy to read), or even in a small group setting - the questions at the end of the book could provide a great jumping off point for discussion.

More About This Book
Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle!

Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, "Live to Give" delivers a message of hope that we all have something to give. Written in the down-to-earth, candid voice of the gifted young man who as a kid founded a relief ministry that has saved and improved countless lives in Africa, "Live to Give" is the message that every teen needs to hear: You are more special than you know, and you can do big things.

Jesus proved that no gift is too small when He used five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands. And if no gift is too small, too ordinary, or too random, there is no limit to what the youth of today can accomplish!

A teenage philanthropist who has built a high school, two medical clinics, and a dormitory in Africa—all before the age of 16—Austin Gutwein shares how to take what may seem like the simplest of talents, gifts, and interests and use them for something Jesus can use to move mountains.

More About The Author
As founder of Hoops of Hope, Austin started what is now known as the worlds largest Free-Throw marathon. Austin's Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5M to help orphan children in Africa. Austin also serves as Co-Chair of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's Youth Council. As a highly sought after speaker, Austin has spoken and shared his heart in venues around the world. In 2009, Austin was selected into the Caring Hall of Fame as one of the top 10 most caring Americans.

Austin's first book, "Take Your Best Shot" shared stories that captured readers hearts and won a Moonbeam Award. For information on booking Austin or general inquiries, please visit austingutwein.com.

Online Resources
Buy this book: http://ow.ly/cMKFm
Follow the tour: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13528976/livetogive 
Download the first three chapters here: https://www.facebook.com/
Like him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/austingutwein
Follow his tweets on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AustinGutwein 

It's A Contest
"Get and Give" Campaign!
Win a Kindle Fire from @AustinGutwein and have $250 donated to the Charity of your choice!

Austin's new book Live to Give is about "Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles"! Celebrate with him by entering his "Get and Give" Campaign - you could win a Kindle Fire for yourself AND Litfuse will donate $250 to the charity of your choice!

See what people are saying about Live to Give.

One winner will receive:
  • A Brand New Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Five copies of Live to Give by Austin Gutwein
  • $250 donated on the winner’s behalf to the charity of their choice
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on the Live to Give Landing Page!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Austin's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

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.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekend Humor: The Ants Are Boss....

Wonder if these ants were related to the fire ants
that hang out at Camp Tanako....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blog Tour: The Haven (Review)

Sadie Lapp has a protective nature - and that nature is about to be tested, as she arrives home from a trip to Ohio with an unexpected "package."

What is the story behind what Sadie arrives home with? How does it impact her relationships with her friends and family?

Enter into the picture school teacher Gideon Smucker, who is in love with Sadie - but her choice impacts his life in an unexpected way.

Sadie's unexpected friendship with Will Stoltz, a college student who ends up working on the family farm, is also full of twists and turns.

Who will Sadie fall in love with? How will her decision - made at the beginning of the book - impact her life?

With The Haven, Suzanne Woods Fisher has crafted an unexpected (gee I'm using that word a lot) Amish novel - filled with the angst of a girl stuck between two men - Gideon and Will.

The story is surprising with its twists and turns. It's a nice companion to the first novel in the series, The Keeper.

In all, I really enjoyed The Haven (and have already passed The Keeper on to a friend). Fisher's books have an air of authenticity and are well written.They are enjoyable and full of family and faith. 

On the scale of one to five, I give this series a solid three and a half. I can't wait to see what book three - The Lesson - highlights when it's released in 2013.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
When Sadie Lapp steps off the bus in Stoney Ridge after being in Ohio for the winter, she is faced with a decision–one that goes against her very essence. Yet it’s the only way she can think of to protect a loved one.

Schoolteacher Gideon Smucker has been crazy about Sadie since boyhood. But his response to her surprising decision undermines his own reputation–and his relationship with Sadie.

College student Will Stoltz is spending the spring at the Lapp farm as a guard for a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons–courtesy of the Lancaster County Game Warden. Will needs to get his life back on track, but his growing friendship with Sadie threatens his plans.

The lives of these three individuals intertwine, and then unravel as unexpected twists create ripples through the town of Stoney Ridge . . . and through Sadie’s heart.

Once again, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigues and delights with a story that explores the bonds of friendship, family, and true love. Readers will enjoy every surprise in Sadie’s story as they search for the truth hidden within these pages.

More About The Author
Suzanne Woods Fisher’s interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles–simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily– into your life.

When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

To Suzanne’s way of thinking, you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth. Suzanne can be found on-line at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

Online Resources
Read my review of The Keeper (book one, with an interview with the author!)

It's A Contest!
Win a Kindle Fire or Nook Color from @SuzanneWFisher in "The Haven" Giveaway! RSVP for Live Video Chat on 8/30!

Celebrate the newest book in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series with Suzanne by entering her 4 eReader Giveaway and Facebook Party and RSVPing for the Live Video Chat on 8/30! 

Four grand prize winners will receive:
  • A Brand new Kindle Fire or Nook Color 
  • $25 Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com Gift certificate 

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 29th. Winner will be announced at Suzanne's Live Author Chat Party on 8/30. Suzanne will be hosting an author chat (party will start on Facebook AND then be Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and several Burt's Bees® Nourishing Radiance Kits!!

So grab your copy of The Haven and join Suzanne on the evening of the August 30th for a fun chat (both on Facebook and via Live Video), trivia contest and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 30th!

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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pausing to pray

I really like the tweets that Weavings sends out periodically each day.

Tonight they posted the following:

RT @Weavings: Pause to Pray: Quiet my heart, O God, that I may hear your still, small voice. Amen.


RT @Weavings: Rest in Prayer: Put a new song in my heart, great God, that I may lift your praises all my days.

So how do you listen to God's still, small voice?

How do you let God put a new song in your heart?

Just the thoughts rolling around in my head thanks to Weavings tweets.

No answers. Just rambling thoughts to ponder.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 13, 2012

Living life

I love quotes. I ran across this one over the weekend and thought "I've seen it before."

Yep. It was one my aunt gave me several years ago.

It has a message I am trying to recapture into my brain.

Live the life you've imagined.

Although, my thoughts really center around this:

Live the life you imagine God wants you to have.

Maybe it's a milestone birthday in a few days, or maybe it's just been the reflective mood I've been in for a while.

I'm praying God continues to show me the Life I need to Live - and maybe shows me something in a new and unexpected way.

Just something to think about as I put this manic Monday to bed. (Sorry for the 80s flashback - lol I've been singing the song all day thanks to a gal pal who closed an email with it as the tag line).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Thoughts: Fresh Start

Ahh... the smell of new crayons.

Come on. Admit it.

Regardless of how you felt about starting school again each fall - you looked forward to having a new box of crayons.

Ok, at least I did.

There's something about the feeling of anticipation you get when you open up a new box of crayons.

The smell of freshness, the crisp look of untouched crayon tips, and the amazing possibilities of everything you could create with those 24 (or more) waxy sticks of colored loveliness.

School starts in the next two weeks for most of the kidlets in my life (and for my teacher pals).

Even amid the groans that come with the waining summer, there's an excitement in the air. Teachers are anticipating the new learning adventures around the corner. Students (ok, mainly the kindergarteners in my world) are looking forward to what's ahead at "big kid" school.

My prayer for the kidlets and teachers - and for everyone in fact, is that you open up a new "box of crayons" either literally or figuratively this fall and discover the new beginning or fresh start God has in store for you.

Who knows. Maybe you'll create something new and lovely - and unexpected & God will use that idea to touch someone's life in an amazing way.

So here's to new beginnings and crayons - may we always have an abundance of both!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A few splash-tastic scenes

A few scenes from this week's kidz ministry swim party.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Blog Tour: Shattered Silence (Review)

Cody Jackson moved to a smaller town for a variety of reasons - to get his son out of the dangers of Houston, and so solve the attempted murder of his mentor.

The first day proves one thing: Life is definitely not quiet in a small, boarder town.

As Jackson and local police officer, Liliana Rodriguez, work together to investigate a series of murders, they discover that villain in an unexpected place.

This is the second book in the "Texas Rangers" series by Margaret Daley for Abingdon Press. It opens with a murder and keeps moving until it's final page.

What I like: Daley is good at combining mystery, suspense and romance in a novel. The book has just the right mixture of the three elements.

I like how she keeps the villain a surprise - and a wee bit unexpected (it's not someone you first imagine.) She is good at building characters and creating interesting and unique situations.

Another plus: even though it's book two, it truly is a "stand alone" book. If you didn't read book one, you won't find yourself lost trying to catch up with missing dialogue.

What frustrates me: In both this novel and in the first book, Saving Hope, the book moves at a "warp" speed as we find out who the serial killer's identity. But then, it "drops" off. It just ends. The conclusion seems rushed and as if there's something missing.

Jackson is in the town for two reasons - to pull his son away from the influences of his stepfather, and to solve the attempted murder of his mentor. Neither of these two story lines came to a satisfactory resolution.

On the scale of one to five, I give this book (and series) a solid three. The novels are interesting and solid. While they are a wee bit predictable, they are a good read - especially if you are looking for something with the twist of suspense.

More About The Book
A serial killer is targeting illegal aliens in southern Texas. Texas Ranger Cody Jackson is paired with a local police officer, Liliana Rodriguez, to investigate the murders.

While the case brings Cody and Liliana ever closer, the tension between Americans and Mexican Americans heightens. As Cody and Liliana race to discover who is behind the murders and bring peace to the area, what they uncover isn’t what they expected. Will Cody and Liliana’s faith and love be strong enough to survive the storm of violence?

About The Author
Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. One of her romantic suspense books, Hearts on the Line, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Contest.

Recently she has won the Golden Quill Contest, FHL’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest, Winter Rose Contest, Holt Medallion and the Barclay Gold Contest.

She currently writes inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines.

Online Resources
Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Net Galley's blogger program. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blog Tour: The Stars Shine Bright (Review)

What would you do to re-start your life and redeem your career?

Would you put aside your family - your mom who is in a mental institution and your new fiance - in order to go undercover to determine who is fixing thoroughbred races?

Could you live alone, with only your only true contact being an agent that goes from "jerk to genuine friend on any given day?"

What happens when your own life is threatened?

Who will you truly rely on?

In the book description, it's said that book five (this novel) lets Raleigh Harmon walk "through the darkest night of her soul" as she searches for a "place where the stars shine bright."

I think that is a strong description of Raleigh and Sibella Giorello's writing style.

In book five (I've read the last three novels), Giorello continues to craft a strong novel around her central character - Raleigh Harmon - an FBI agent who is learning to live life as a Christian, even as she works through the rough edges of her life.

I said in my last review that Raleigh seems like a "good wine," who was either "aging well as the series progresses, or I'm just enjoying watching her solve crimes and continue to grow in her faith."

I think that's true with this newest novel. It's not easy to read - Sibella's life is not all unicorns and rainbows.

Instead, I think she's a character that many people will identify with. She struggles to live out her faith in the midst of trials. She wants to follow God's plan, but finds it hard to live up to the expectations which swirl around her life.

In all, I think Giorello continues to develop Raleigh as a mulch-diminsional character. This would definitely be a series I would pass along to someone looking for a "clean" alternative to James Patterson's Women's Murder Club.

On the scale of one to five, I give this novel a solid three. It's probably not a novel that I'll read more than once, but I'll definitely pass it along to others.

About The Author
Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism. 

She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories.

In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out, the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

Visit Sibella Giorello online at www.sibellagiorello.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Online Resources
Visit Sibella's website here.
Buy The Stars Shine Bright @ Amazon
Read more about The Stars Shine Bright @ The Publisher

My Review of Mountains Bow Down
My Review of Clouds Roll Away
Follow the blog tour here.

It's A Contest!
Win a Kindle Fire from @SibellaGiorello in "The Stars Shine Bright" Giveaway!

Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the latest book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire! 

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Sibella's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pixar Alphabet

I think i should file this under makes me laugh

I stumbled across this on Pinterest. Somehow, this person took images from Pixar's work and made an alphabet.

I can't name them all (can you?) but I can name more than I should admit. We will just blame it on those monthly movie nights - right????

Source: the original, original post (not the pin).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blog Tour: Lethal Legacy (Review)

Kelly Warren is a determined woman.

She knows, deep in her heart, that her father did not commit suicide.She just has to prove it to the authorities.

Taking new evidence in hand, Warren lands in front of Detective Cole Taylor's workload. While he is skeptical at first, further inquiries and some revealing evidence about Warren's past unpack evidence that is surprising and unexpected.

In a style I thoroughly enjoy, Irene Hannon has once again "hit it out of the ball park" with her newest mystery/suspense novel, Lethal Legacy.

Book three in the Guardians of Justice series, this book follows the story of Cole Taylor, the third and final Taylor sibling.

Hannon has crafted this novel with some surprising twists and turns. It pulls in a variety of legal themes - and I'll admit, the ultimate villain was a surprise.

It's a novel based upon the strength of one woman, and the guy who believes her, even when things seem like they are stacked against her.

I really like how Hannon has linked the storyline of the three novels through the siblings, yet each can stand alone as a solid manuscript. (So many times trilogies market themselves as stand alone, but the dialogue contains too many references to the first books to live up to the claim.) 

If you are looking for a solid book to read, that combines suspense, mystery and a wee bit of romance, I thoroughly recommend this book and series. On a scale of one to five, I give it at least a four and half.

More About The Author
Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series.

Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Booklist also included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011.

She lives in Missouri.

Online Resources
Read an excerpt of Lethal Legacy here.
Visit Irene Hannon's website.
Buy Lethal Legacy at Amazon
Read my review of book 1 - Fatal Judgement
Read my review of book 2 - Deadly Pursuit

About 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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blog Tour: Almost Amish (Review)

Sometimes life is like a fast moving merry go round (or at least tea cup ride).

It seems like it is spinning out of control as we rush from one activity to another.

For some women - especially Julie, a busy wife and mom of two teenagers - life can seem overwhelming.

Enter a proposition by Julie's sister-in-law, Susan. She wants to appear on a reality show that follows an "ordinary" modern family as they leave behind modern conveniences and instead, become 'almost Amish.'

The only catch, Susan and her daughter, can't do it alone. So Julie and her children become part of the social experiment (also known as a reality TV show), and move to the Amish country in Tennessee for the summer.

The family - everyone from the teens to Julie and Susan - get more than they bargain for, as they learn to let go of the things that weigh them down, and instead focus on the things that truly matter to them, family, faith and friends.

This novel is different - in a good way. Kathryn Cushman has created a novel that is truly unique - yet pulls from the two "hot topics" in today's culture - the Amish and Reality TV.

I'll admit I was wary about this novel. I accepted the chance to read it on a whim. It's the first book that I've read by the author.

I'll be honest, I read the entire book on the day I got it.

It was an easy read, but engaged my brain (which is quite an accomplishment since I'm still a wee bit tired from my recent, massive VBS program.)

I found myself rooting for both sisters, hoping Julie would find her backbone and Susan would put aside her inner "Martha" and learn from what Jesus said about "Mary" and rest.

I also loved how EVERY major character in the family - including Julie's husband, who stays home in LA for the summer - learns something that changes their life in a good way.

Ultimately, this was a good introduction to a "new to me" author. On the scale of one to five, I give it a solid three.

If you like the Amish genre, or if you are a fan of reality TV, this novel will give you something to enjoy.

About The Author
Kathryn Cushman is a graduate of Samford University with a degree in pharmacy. She is the author of five novels, including Leaving Yesterday and A Promise to Remember, which were both finalists for the Carol Award in Women's Fiction.

She is also the co-author of Angel Song with Sheila Walsh. Kathryn and her family currently live in Santa Barbara, California. Visit her Web site at www.kathryncushman.com

Online Resources
Find it on Amazon
Download a Reader's Group List of Questions
Read an excerpt of Almost Amish
Read more about the book at the publisher
Read a Q & A with the author.

About The Publisher
Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, has been publishing high quality books for 50 years. Recognized as the pioneer and leader in Christian fiction, Bethany House publishes nearly 120 titles annually in subjects including historical and contemporary fiction, Christian living, family, health, devotional, children's, classics, and theology. Bethany House titles are often found on the Christian bestseller lists. For more information visit: http://www.bethanyhouse.com/

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Bethany House, 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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

DIY: Kool-Aid Playdough

Getting ready for a teacher training - where I'm going to walk them through a Sunday School lesson - I decided toss in a "how to modify" the activity example.

The lesson calls for using pieces from nature to explain about creation.

Ok, let's face it - after multiple days of 100 degree weather, our nature examples are a wee bit, well, dry.

So I wanted to show them how you can keep the spirit of the lesson - talking about creation - using an artistic style (the focus of the other idea) while trying something different.

So I decided to make Kool-Aid Playdough.

I first made this recipe in the latter-1990s, while working as a "girl friday" volunteer at Nicholasville UMC. It was a youth group favorite (I'm not sure why we made it - probably a gal small group activity) - and we even included it into the church's 200th anniversary cookbook, sponsored by the church.

I knew the kool-aid part of dough would engage the user's 'smell" sense, while the "dough" would let them "create something."

Since I couldn't remember the recipe - and I was standing in a store when I thought of this idea - I googled the words "Kool-Aid playdough."

When I got home and dug out the original recipe, I found that the online idea was basically different by only one ingredient - Cream of Tarter. (The original recipe didn't call for it.)

So I made two batches - the orange (top photo) is the original recipe, while the pale yellow (bottom photo) was made with Cream of Tarter.

Anyway, the dough is made with five easy ingredients.

Flour, Salt & Kool-Aid

Water & Cooking Oil

And the optional sixth ingredient - Cream of Tartar.

What I Learned.
The one with the Cream of Tarter blended into a smoother consistency. Both blended well - using boiling water makes the salt dissolve (unlike regular salt/flour dough).

Additionally, in my original recipe notes, I said the dough doesn't hold its color as it dries - and that it doesn't dry well.

Obviously, from the picture above, Lemonade Kool-Aid doesn't "pop" with yellow color. It also doesn't have a strong scent - if I remember right, Grape and Cherry made amazing dough, but since I couldn't remember if the color 'bled" onto the user's hands, I decided to stick with non "red dye" colors.

Anyway, I also "kneaded" it with my Kitchen-Aid using the dough hook - WOW that was amazingly easier than I remembered, because it lets you mix it up while hot, without burning your hands.

In all, both batches made 10, 1/3 cup balls of play-dough. I divided it into ziplock bags, so it would be easy to pass out during the lesson.

(For adults - and kids - who don't want to get their hands "gooey" with the dough, I'm also going to pass out pipe cleaners. Ultimately, the user will be able to "create" something - while using some of their five senses - with an artistic twist.)

Next time, I might double the amount of Kool-Aid, to see if it increases the color and the smell factors.

FYI: I stuck with a veggie-based oil, just in case a nut-based oil might give someone an allergic reaction.

Kool-Aid Playdough
3-1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Salt
2 pkgs., unsweetened Kool-Aid
3 Tbsp. Cooking Oil (I used Canola)
2 cups Water, boiling.
Optional: 1 tsp. Cream of Tarter

Boil the water. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

When the water has boiled, mix in the ingredients together, until well blended. (If you don't have a mixer with dough hook attachment, you'll want to use your hands to kneed it until smooth.)

Store in an airtight container.
(It made approx. 11, 1/3 cup balls of dough.)

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