Book Review: Refining Fire

#2: Refining Fire  -     By: Tracie Peterson<br /><br />

Refining Fire is the second novel in best-selling author Tracie Peterson’s Brides of Seattle series. (Read my review of Book One, Steadfast Heart.)

Like the first novel in the series Refining Fire takes place in 1889 Seattle, at a live-in Bridal School where young women learn homemaking, entertaining, and housekeeping skills. Three very proper old ladies run the school. From the synopsis of this novel, we expect to learn about the relationship between Militine, an abused runaway who enters the school as a safe haven, and Thane, a young Seattle firefighter volunteer with a troubled past of his own. However, like Book One of the series, it soon becomes clear that the redheaded, spitfired Abrianna steals the show, and Militine and Thane become secondary characters much like Lenore and Kolbein in Steadfast Heart.

Abrianna continues her mission to help the poor of Seattle as she did in the first novel.

The relationship between Abrianna and Wade really strengthens in this book, and we begin to wonder if they will eventually forge a romantic interest, despite attention from ne’er-do-gooder Priam Welby who wants to court the young lady for his own selfish purposes.

I enjoyed this novel moreso than the first in the series as it had a lot more action, but I do wish the synopses would just start mentioning Abrianna and Wade as the main characters, since they obviously do drive the plot. Also, while I’m sure it’s how proper ladies spoke back in that day, it got kind of old hearing every other sentence begin with “Goodness”, or “Honestly”.

Despite the occasional dragging, I think I will probably read the next book in the series, just because Abrianna and the old ladies are so likeable, and I want to know what happens next in their lives.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Cookbook Review: The Soup Club Cookbook

When I first got married, I couldn’t cook a thing. The first meal I ever made for my husband, (a lime chicken with baked potatoes), turned out so raw we had to go out to eat. (That evening still lives in infamy.) A few months into our marriage, I blessedly realized that soup was the perfect dish for new cooks to take on. They’re utterly forgiving and often fool-proof. This began my love for soups. Fast forward 10 years and a couple of kids later, and I still make some version of soup at least once a week.

So, I was excited to get my hands on The Soup Club Cookbook, a new cookbook written by four New Yorkers who turned their love for soup into a weekly soup exchange. Each week, one of the four ladies makes a soup (along with any sides or garnishes) and delivers it to the other three families. It’s a wonderful premise…who doesn’t love a good homemade soup you didn’t have to prepare?

The Soup Club Cookbook gives instructions on setting up your own soup club, shares soup recipes (obviously), side dishes/garnishes, “Big Food” (aka non-soup food), and snacks. The recipes are very diverse and interesting, in other words, not your typical family cookbook of basic chicken soup. Also, each recipe makes about 2 gallons of soup, but can be scaled down for one family.

Some of the soup recipes include: Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Soup, Winter Corn Chowder, Watermelon Gazpacho, Borscht, and Roasted Winter Squash and Sweet Potato Soup. Some of the recipes my family would probably eat (Winter Minestrone), and some that even my usually adventurous eaters wouldn’t touch (Curried Apple Celeriac Soup). But, this cookbook is more about the nuance of the Soup Club than it is about the recipes, and it was a fun read. I could see adapting the rules of the Soup Club to a different tastes, such as turning the concepts into a Freezer Cooking Club or a Casserole Club.

The only thing I would like to have seen were more photos of the finished soups. There are a lot of photos of ingredients and prep work, but not many pictures of the recipes. Also, I would have liked a chapter of easy prep recipes.

*I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Book Review: God Made You Special

I’ve always loved The Berenstain Bears, and am very happy that Mike Berenstain is carrying on his parent’s legacy with the “Living Lights” series which still features Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister Bear, along with baby Honey. The newest “Living Lights” book is entitled God Made You Special. This book begins talking about the reasons why Brother and Sister Bear know that God loves them, such as because their parents tell them, because the Bible tells them, and because there are good things in the world. Then, it asks the rhetorical question of if God loves all the other cubs in the world as well.

The Bear family’s friends, the Bruins, come over for a backyard cookout. The Bruins bring their cousin Tommy along for the cookout. We learn that Tommy has special needs, but the cubs are not aware of this right away. Tommy doesn’t understand how to participate in the cub’s baseball game, and instead chases after a butterfly with baby Honey Bear. Sister asks Mama Bear about Tommy, about why he’s different.

Mama Bear and Mrs. Bruin explain that God made everyone special with their own unique talents. They explain that Tommy’s gift to others is his happiness and joy, and that everyone can learn from Tommy, even if he is a little different. His difference is his strength.

As the mom of a child with a disability, I was happy to see The Berenstain Bears tackle the subject of special needs. I think the book did a good job of exposing kids to differing abilities, but didn’t get into so much detail that singled out any one disability. I have read books where the person with special needs comes across as someone to be pitied, but God Made You Special did a fine job in showing kids that everyone grows and learns at their own pace, and even people who don’t grow and learn at a typical pace still have gifts and talents to share. I recommend this book for any 4-8 year old.

*I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz Publishing and BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Kid’s Craft…Felt Funny Faces

I love doing art projects with felt. It’s cheap, colorful, and you can do just about anything with it. When Stinker was little, I made Felt Cookies for her to decorate, and she still pulls it out to play with on occasion. Since Junior has been learning the body parts in speech therapy, I thought it would be fun to make a felt face game for him to practice naming facial features.

You’ll want to get a bunch of different colors of felt…each piece is only about $0.20, and different colors makes it more fun, I think.

Start by cutting a head shape out of a light colored piece of felt…I just free drew it, so it’s a little off, but the kids shouldn’t notice =) 

Then, cut out a bunch of shapes for the eyes, nose, ears, hair, mouth, and miscellaneous (eyebrows, earrings, mustache, etc). I did a half dozen of each body part in various colors. The mix and match is fun. Divide each type of facial feature into different baggies if you want, or just put them all in one big bag and let the kids design away! The results are fun…and sometimes a little creepy…but I love watching my kids be creative!

After they’ve designed their face, encourage your child to name his or her character, and tell a story about their character.

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Book Review: Love and Respect in the Family

I remember my sister-in-law recommending a book called Love and Respect when my husband and I were first married. I have since read, and re-read Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s book about the importance of respect and love in a marriage. It opened my eyes to some concepts and ideas that really helped me see things from my husband’s perspective. 
Recently, I was excited to get word that Dr. Eggerichs was going to be releasing a new book called Love and Respect in the Family, a parenting book that explores a parent’s need to feel respected by their children, while balancing the need of their children to feel loved and safe.
The “Family Crazy Cycle” begins when a child does something that feels disrespectful to a parent. The parent then reacts in a way that feels unloving to the child. The child, feeling unloved, acts out in disrespect. The parent, fed up and exhausted by this point, responds in a way that is perceived as unloving. Ad nauseum. Love and Respect in the Family gives solutions and strategies to help parents bring out the best in a child, and to give them coping skills to help them respond in a more respectful manner. It also gives parents insight into their child’s thought patterns, encouraging parents how to act in a way that feels loving to the child.
The one area that resonated most with me was empathizing. Too often, when Stinker does something that I had warned her about (like “If you run in those flip-flops, you’re going to fall”), or does something obnoxious (“It’s your own fault your brother hit you. You shouldn’t have taken his toy while he was playing with it”), I often lack the patience to respond with empathy. After reading this book, however, I have tried to make a conscious effort to respond with more patience. 
Now, instead of “I told you so,” I try to say something like “I’m really sorry you fell. That must have hurt. What shoes could you wear instead to make sure you don’t fall next time?” Stinker has really been responding, because she feels like my reactions to the situations are loving and caring. 
The only thing that I didn’t really like about the book is minor, but at the end of each chapter there are follow up topics that are only available on the Love and Respect website. I haven’t really utilized these “bonus answers.” I would rather they were in a separate index in the back of the book, or something instead of being exclusively online. Other than that very minor gripe, I found this book to be down-to-earth, useful, and an easy read, and would recommend it to other parents.
*Thank you to BookSneeze for providing me a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions and ideas are my own, and have not been swayed in any way.