Thursday, September 30, 2010

CSN Stores Upcoming Review Teaser

I am a CSN Preferred Blogger for CSN Stores so you will be seeing a lot more reviews and giveaways for you from them. I am grateful to all that commented on my last giveaway from them. Thanks so much!

I was recently looking at their website for some designer furniture and other items for my home and ran across an ottoman coffee table that I really like at allcoffeetables.com. CSN Stores has over 200 other stores too ranging from housewares to pet stores online. So, there probably isn't anything you won't be able to find there and if you can't find it now they are always adding stores to their website so you might just find it down the road.

Since they have so many stores it is going to be hard for me to pick something to review, but I have my eye on a number of things :) Since this is a teaser I am not going to tell you what I am going to be reviewing just yet, but keep your eyes on the lookout for the post. Thanks.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Free Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling With Heart Tote Bag Offer


Get a free Homeschooling with Heart Cranberries & Cream colored tote bag from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! This limited-edition tote bag is a beautiful cranberries & cream flavor--very festive for Fall and the upcoming holidays. This is the same tote as the brown/blue and brown/pink bags you may have received in the past. Made of sturdy canvas, these bags snap on either end to prevent the contents from falling out. Each bag is a rich, cranberry color with warm, creamy accents. They make gorgeous gifts, too! The Cranberries & Cream bags ship in mid-November and will arrive in time for Christmas gift giving or to enjoy yourself during the holiday season.

Time Sensitive!!! Read On...

1. Before midnight PST on Saturday, October 2, purchase a two-year subscription for just $19.95, and you'll also receive:

The new Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag --- FREE!
The Fall 2010 print issue --- FREE!
TOS new ebook: Cranberry Christmas: Cranberry Christmas: packed full of everything cranberry! Includes recipes, fun cranberry information, and activities for the children, including napkin rings and place cards for your Thanksgiving and Christmas table. --- FREE!

The sooner you subscribe the more issues you receive. Plus, you'll guarantee you get one of the festive Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bags.

2. From Sunday, October 3 through midnight PST on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 you will only get a one-year subscription for the $19.95, but you'll still also receive:

The new Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag --- FREE!
The Fall 2010 print issue --- FREE!
TOS new ebook: Cranberry Christmas: Cranberry Christmas: packed full of everything cranberry! Includes recipes, fun cranberry information, and activities for the children, including napkin rings and place cards for your Thanksgiving and Christmas table. --- FREE!

UPDATE OCT. 2, 2010:
If you tried to order the $19.95 Cranberries & Cream subscription special early this morning, you may have noticed a pricing issue in the Schoolhouse Store Because of this they're extending the $19.95 for 2 years of TOS special!
You have an extra day to grab this great deal--that's midnight PST on Sunday, October 3!


All subscriptions begin with the Winter Issue. But you'll also receive the bonus Fall Issue in October!
New and renewing subscribers, U.S. and Canada please go to the link below to subscribe...
http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=460

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Because I am a support leader for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and posting for posting about this Cranberry Christmas special I am getting my choice of a TOS Planner--including The 2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner or any one of the Student Planners for free. This information is from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's email to me. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this post.

Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish written by Jenn Kelly and illustrated by Ariane Elsammak FIRST Wild Card Tour Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish

Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zonderkidz for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jenn Kelly lives in Ottawa, Canada, but her heart lives in Paris. Or Hawaii. She hasn’t decided yet. She is an undercover garden guru, painter, and chef, which has absolute nothing to do with this book. She won a writing award in grade 4, failed English Lit in university, spent many years writing bad poetry, and then decided to write a book. This is it. She is married to her best friend, Danny, and is mom to a five-year-old boy and a dog who worries too much. She embraces the ridiculousness and disorganization of life.


Visit the author's website.

Ari has worked as a freelance illustrator for a variety of projects, mostly in children’s media. Her specialty is character design and she most enjoys illustrating humorous and wacky predicaments.

She studied editorial and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the DuCret School of Art in New Jersey. She uses a variety of media to create my images both traditional and digital.


Visit the illustrator's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310720796
ISBN-13: 978-0310720799

PLEASE CLICK THE BROWSE INSIDE BUTTON TO VIEW THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Penguins of Madagascar Giveaway Winner


The winner of the Penguins of Madagascar Prize Pack is #42 nightowl! She said the consensus at our house is Skipper.

Congrats again to all the winners! I will contact each winner by email. If you did not have your email posted please post it here so I can email you! Thanks to all those who participated and don't forget to enter in my contests/giveaways that are going on now! I will also be adding more posts and giveaways soon so stay tuned!

*All winners are chosen by my True Random Number Generator.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy National Coffee Day!

It is National Coffee Day and what better way to celebrate than free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate from Boca Java!! Just spend $10 or more and get $10 off with coupon code: cheggoff PLUS you will get free shipping on your order TODAY ONLY!! The free shipping requires no coupon. This is an awesome deal I found out about from my friend Erin @ Connected2Christ Blog. Be patient with the website. It is being a little sluggish.

You can also send a FREE "Take a Coffee Break" eCard from PunchBowl.com

Also, many local and national coffee shops are offering specials today, while some are even giving out free coffee so let me know by commenting on this post if you know of any coffee deals going on today!! Thanks!

Wordless Wednesday I Am A Little Flower


Here is Teela and a song she made up (she sings quietly, so make sure you turn up your sound)...


If you are participating in Wordless Wednesdays, click on the Mister Linky image, enter your name and URL in the form, and press Enter. Please also leave comments on this post! I love reading them!

Monday, September 27, 2010

HEXBUG Nano Review

I first heard about the HEXBUG Nano through MomSelect. I dislike most creepy crawlies, but these are really neat! The HEXBUG Nano is a robotic toy that acts like a bug. They vibrate to move on rubbery legs and use a single AG13/LR44 battery. They can flip themselves over and back again. They come in 3 sets (Newton Motion, Newton Orbit and Newton Gravity) that each come in 5 collectible colors. You can also purchase Habitat Sets that the HEXBUG Nano's can travel on. Each set comes with 2 extremely rare HEXBUG Nano mutations that all the kids will be envious of. On the Battle Bridge Habitat Set you can also battle two bugs together in the arena until one falls off. You can collect them all and play games online with a code that comes with the bugs.

We received the HEXBUG Nano Party Pack which included: 30 HEXBUG Nano test tubes (enough for my children and all of our guests to keep 3 of their own), 1 HEXBUG Nano Habitat Set in retail package (contains two extremely rare Nano mutations, four easy connect curved pieces, three easy connect straight pieces, and three easy connect hexagon pieces), 1 HEXBUG Nano Bridge Battle Habitat Set in retail package (comes with 29 easy connect pieces and two rare HEXBUG Nanos), 1 Spiral Ramp (5 orange track pieces that snap together to form a spiral), 1 extra Battle Bridge piece, 30 Standoffs, 20 Straight Bridges, 30 Curved Bridges and 12 Hex Cells!

We really enjoy watching these go through their mazes. The Habitat Sets are simple to set up which is a big plus. My boys love setting them up in all different kinds of configurations. They can use their imaginations to create new and distinct variations of the mazes so the bugs can go through totally different ways. Although for $8 a bug it gets a bit expensive and you do go through the batteries fast. I think the concept for the bugs took a lot of engineering to produce them and this is possibly why they cost so much.

We also made some of the recipes they suggested we make for the party. All were a hit especially the Caterpillar Kabobs which were gone in a matter of minutes. Here are some of them in case you want to try them out too:

Scary Spider (Veggies and Dip)
Ingredients:
One round loaf Pumpernickel bread
Veggies for dipping: celery sticks, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, green/red pepper slices, broccoli, etc.

Directions:
Hollow out a pumpernickel loaf and fill it with veggie dip of your choice or "Grasshopper Dip". Create "legs" using 8 large celery sticks stuck into each side of the bread. Using 2 toothpicks attach half a green pepper as a head. Place 2 cherry tomatoes on the top of the toothpicks for eyes. Surround with the rest of the veggies for dipping.

Grasshopper Dip
Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 ripe tomato
garlic salt
onion salt
ground black pepper

Directions:
Slice each of the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Scoop the inside of the avocados into a small bowl. Add lemon juice and blend. Sprinkle garlic salt, onion salt and black pepper to taste. Carefully mix in one chopped tomato. Serve immediately.

Snail Shells (roll up pinwheel sandwiches), Beetle Juice (green juice made up of lemonade, ginger-ale, ice and green food coloring...we put gummy bugs in it), Caterpillar Kabobs (melon balls threaded on skewers...toothpicks and blue berries make the antennae), Ants on a Log and Worms and Dirt dessert.

We played some fun games that were included with the party too and when the party was over we sent the guests home with their HEXBUG Nano and my kids had fun a little while longer to play with the sets.

Here you can watch them in action:


DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to MomSelect and BSM Media and Innovation First Labs, Inc. for giving me information about the HEXBUG Nano and for providing me a Party Pack for free to test and review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Canine Calm Review and Giveaway

Canine Calm is an aromatherapy misting spray that has calmed jittery dogs for 10 years. It is supposed to be for dogs that have problems with loud noises like fireworks or thunderstorms. It is also supposed to work for dogs that don't do well with travel, bath time, clinic or kennel visits, or other unsettling times. It is created by Vicki Rae Thorne, herbalist and certified aromatherapist and is recommended by groomers, trainers and veterinarians.

I received a free 2 fluid ounce spray bottle of it from Earth Heart, Inc., the company who it is made for. I thought I might give it a try on my large hyperactive dog. I thought it might work for his hyperactivity to calm him down a bit, but it really didn't do the trick for him. Prince didn't really seem calmer and I don't think he really liked the spray either. Maybe if Prince were nervous instead of hyperactive it would work better. Although when I tried spraying it on my hands and massaged Prince's ears and back he loved the attention he was getting :) The Canine Calm has pure essential oils of bergamot, tangerine, lavender, geranium, ylang ylang, and marjoram to make it smell really good and it did make Price and whatever I sprayed it on good smelling to me. It is also all natural, so shouldn't harm your dog if used as instructed.

BUY IT:
You can purchase Canine Calm and see if it works for your dog at Earth Heart, Inc. for $11.98 for a bottle of 2 fl.oz. / 60 ml. Also, they carry other aromatherapy products for dogs as well.

WIN IT:
We have been generously offered another Canine Calm aromatherapy spray to one of my readers to win.

Mandatory:
1. Go to Earth Heart, Inc. and tell me by commenting on this post something else you learned.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by feedburner or by email and let me know which way. (2 extra entries each)

2. Fan/Like me on facebook and write something on my wall. (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Earth Heart, Inc. in your blog entry or it won't count. (2 extra entries)

4. Grab My Button (see sidebar to the left) AND/OR Put My Blog URL in Your Blogroll - Leave Your Link. (1 extra entry)

5. Technorati my blog and let me know your link. (1 extra entry)

6. Fave me on Momfaves. (2 extra entries)

7. List this giveaway on any giveaway listing website or blog giveaway linky and tell me where you listed it. (2 extra entries)

8. Post this on your Facebook wall, Kirtsy, and/or StumbleUpon. (2 extra entries for each)

9. Comment on one of my regular (not giveaway) posts. (1 extra entry per post you comment on)

10. Follow me on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

11. Tweet this: @finamoon WIN Canine Calm Aromatherapy Spray for Dogs #giveaway http://bit.ly/9Zpbo3 (Daily Extras are Available)

Make sure you leave me your email in all posts so that I can contact you. If you subscribed, blogged about this, listed it, commented on another post, or faved me on Momfaves leave 2 entries saying you did. This contest ends on Friday October 08, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to all 18 years and over in the U.S. Only!!

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to ChicExecs, a company which was created to promote small business campaigns, I was able to let you know about this product. Earth Heart, Inc. provided me with the Canine Calm for free to test and review. This giveaway is also provided free from Earth Heart, Inc. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

CSN Stores, Wubbzy, IntelliGender, FairHaven Health, Yoplait Splitz, Precious Moments, Ecostore USA, Just Boys & Girls, Passion Spice, and Rosemary Wells Giveaway Winners

The winner of the CSN Stores $65 Gift Code is #199 shirley! She said she needs to get one of the oil-filled heaters they have, don't know which one to get.

The winner of the Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Wubbzy Goes To School DVD is #36 ✿Heαther✿! She said she would love to win this for her sons! Her 5yo and 2yo love Wubbzy!

The winner of the IntelliGender GPT Prize Pack (has one GPT and a gender neutral receiving blanket) is #6 Lindsey! She said she would love to try the Peace of Mind Flower Essence, and she just found out Friday that I'm having a boy. :) But she would love to try this anyway and see if it works.

The winner of the FairHaven Health Tea-for-Two pregnancy tea is #9 Angie Vinez! She said she loves tea, and she'd love to give this a try! After checking out their website, she'd also like to try the NURSING TIME TEA since I know I'll be breastfeeding this baby.

The winner of the Yoplait Splitz Picnic Prize Pack (includes: coupon* for free Yoplait Splitz, an insulated carry tote, and a roll up fleece picnic blanket) is #3 Laura Lowe DeLuca! She said she likes the Strawberry Banana Split.

The winner of the Precious Moments Baby Boutique blue plush hippo crib toy is #18 nightowl! She said she likes the Blue Lamb Plush Blanket.

The winner of the Ecostore USA $25 Gift Certificate is #21 Lindsey! She said she would get the baby sleepytime bath, the Coconut and Vanilla Body Wash, and the Orange and Patchouli Body Wash. :) Thanks for the giveaway! Love EcoStore USA!

The winner of the Just Boys & Girls Ghost pillowcase dress or a Pumpkin pillowcase dress is #46 Laura Lowe DeLuca! She said she loves the Halloween Boys top handmade and she would like the ghost dress.

The winner of the Passion Spice $25 Gift Certificate is #19 Ashley! She said she'd love to get the Jola Babydoll!

The winner of the Rosemary Wells Collection DVDs is #18 Jennifer T.! She said she thinks her toddler and her would most like to watch Max's Chocolate Chicken because her daughter asks to watch 'Max and Ruby' all the time and she loves Max's antics.

Congrats again to all the winners! I will contact each winner by email. If you did not have your email posted please post it here so I can email you! Thanks to all those who participated and don't forget to enter in my contests/giveaways that are going on now! I will also be adding more posts and giveaways soon so stay tuned!

*All winners are chosen by my True Random Number Generator.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know by Rachel Olsen FIRST Wild Card Tour Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rachel Olsen is a writer, editor, and speaker on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of their online devotions, “Encouragement for Today,” with a readership of more than 375,000. She also writes for and serves on the editorial board of the P31 Woman magazine. Olsen is a national women’s speaker who enjoys interacting with audiences at women’s retreats and conferences from coast to coast.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765377
ISBN-13: 978-1434765376

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Always RSVP

Revealing the Secret to Responding to God

Everyone has a story. Everyone chooses to ignore God, (re)define God, or search for God and respond to Him as He truly is. I’ve done all three.

When I was growing up, my family attended church in a brown brick building with stained-glass windows and bright red carpet. The sanctuary smelled faintly of wood. I’m surprised I remember the smell; we weren’t there often—a few times a year.

I don’t remember much about going to church other than feel­ing embarrassed by my mother’s singing. We rarely went, but each time we did Mom sat us front and center, and then she sang as loudly as she could. She sang with passion, but she couldn’t carry a tune with a U-Haul. Being from the South I’m required to follow that criticism with “bless her heart.” (So let it be noted here that I blessed my momma’s can’t-sing-a-lick heart.)26 It’s No Secret

I listened to the pastor’s sermons, but I didn’t understand much about the subject matter. From what I could gather, God was good and He didn’t do bad things. So I concluded that if I wanted God to like me I, too, needed to be good and not do anything bad. Being a proper Southern girl, I very much wanted God to like me.

I thought believing in God and trying to do the right thing was what church was all about. I didn’t realize that—because Jesus lived, died, and rose—I could have a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe and He would delight in empowering me to live well. Instead, I assumed it took willpower. Like a diet or a marathon.

Glimpses of Revelation

When I was twelve, my mother called me into her room and patted the edge of the bed. I sat down beside her. With an unsettled look on her face, she revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The room started to spin, splintering my carefree world within its centrifugal force.

She explained something about cells and masts. Then she braced me for the likelihood that the treatments would cause her hair to fall out. That did it. I ran from the room crying inconsolably. My momma, sick, without her pretty auburn hair? It was too much for a tweenager to take in. I might have been only twelve at the time, but I understood the importance of big hair to Southern women.

During the months of cancer treatments that followed we went to church more often. About this time our church employed a new minister, and I really liked him. I understood more of his sermons, perhaps because I was desperate, or maybe because I was growing Always RSVP 27

up. All I know is I sensed something stirring in a dormant chamber of my heart.

I asked Mom to buy me a Bible; she did. I sat on the floor one Saturday, sunlight streaming through my window, and read through Genesis. (OK, I might have skimmed a little bit.) Then I skipped to the middle—because I’d never read a book this long—and read through Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke. Then I skipped to Revelation to find out how the book ended.

I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Revelation, but it isn’t exactly light reading material. Challenging concepts make it difficult to grasp, especially for a clueless tween with no decoder ring. I closed the book, remembering the stories about Jesus. He lived doing good, which reconfirmed my notion that I had to be good and do good to make heaven’s invitation list. I’d finally made a Jesus-sighting, but I was still missing His point. I didn’t hear His message of mercy.

I set out to be and do good. I unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I invited less-popular kids to sit at my lunch table. I even said “yes ma’am,” and “no sir” to my teachers. But inevitably something would happen to throw me off my good game. Someone would insult me, something would depress me, or some boy would pass a note my way.

After a year or so of mastectomy recovery and radiation treat­ments, my mother’s cancer went into remission. Things returned to normal around our home. Sadly, the preacher I liked so well left to pastor another church, and my interest in the things of God faded as my interest in the things of my peers grew. I didn’t give God much thought during my high school years, preferring to focus on fashion, sports, boys, and music.28 It’s No Secret

Halfway through my freshman year of college, my brother called to tell me Mom had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was a brain tumor. His words sank into my own brain, creating a mass of stress and fret.

One night, I lay alone in my dorm room trying to sleep when I thought I saw Jesus standing in the corner. He didn’t say anything; He just looked at me, His arms extended toward me. He looked just as He did in the statues you see in old churches—long brown hair and white flowing robe. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinat­ing, but I decided it meant that my mom was going to be OK.

Turned out, the tumor was inoperable. The doctors resorted to chemotherapy and radiation, but I could tell they didn’t think it’d work. I spent my spring semester driving the two hours back and forth between college and home. By exam week I was sick with a sinus infec­tion, probably stress-induced. I’d take an exam, drag myself back to my room and sleep, then stagger—coughing and sniffling—to the next test. At the end of the week, I lugged myself home.

Hope Deferred

That Sunday, Mother’s Day, I visited Mom at the cancer center, determined to keep a smile on my face and do my best to cheer her up. I didn’t want her worrying about me. I purchased a sweet card and wrote, “Thank you for being my mom.” When I arrived, the nurse told me I couldn’t enter her room because I was sick.

I still remember the sterile feeling of the cold, hard floor in the hall outside her room, where I sat and cried. But it’s Mother’s Day, my mind protested between sobs, but she’s dying anyway…. Even today, the memory stings my eyes with tears.Always RSVP 29

A few days later I was better, but Mom had worsened. She came home from the cancer center with hospice care. A couple days after that, she couldn’t respond to me beyond raising her eyebrows at the sound of my voice. Panic set in as I realized I was losing contact. She was sliding away, and I was powerless to stop the inevitable.

Later that evening, my dad and I went out to grab dinner, leav­ing Mom under my grandmother’s watch. As we returned, I spotted a police car parked out front—and I knew. I ran to the bedroom to find my beautiful, vibrant mom lying lifeless.

She was gone. I was seventeen.

That night my life passed before me. Not my history with my mom, but my future without her. Where my prospects once looked promisingly bright, I now saw a haze of uncertainty.

I cried on the shoulder of a family friend. Gasping for breath and wiping away tears, I questioned, “What will I do when it comes time to graduate and my mom isn’t there to pin on my cap and clap? Or when I set out on my own and I don’t have my mom to advise me? What happens when I get married, and have babies, and I don’t have a mom to help me?”

Placing her hands on my trembling shoulders, she stared into my moist eyes. “When those times come, Rachel, God will make sure you are taken care of.” She spoke the words with enough cer­tainty that I resolved to believe her.

Filing that promise away in my heart, I held on to the hope that God would somehow become a mother to me. I had nothing else to cling to. My dad and brothers argued over Mom’s will, then went their separate ways. I didn’t just lose my mom; I lost my whole family that May.30 It’s No Secret

Coming Undone

In the fall I headed back to college, where I majored in journalism. I spent weekends trying to drown my sorrows at fraternity parties. I recall stumbling home one evening and walking into my closet, where I caught sight of one of my mom’s sweaters. My knees buckled beneath me as heavy sobs ensued. I realized the party life wasn’t fixing anything; it was an insufficient distraction. But I didn’t know how else to find relief.

My junior year I met a corduroy-clad young professor with uncommon wisdom and peace. He taught two of my classes, sched­uled back-to-back. As the weather turned cool and leaves crunched underfoot, we’d walk across campus together from one class to the other. I learned he was a Christian. He felt like a safe place. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that way around anybody.

I found myself telling him about my mom, my fractured family, and my uneasiness about the future. I asked him questions about his faith. He answered convincingly, and when the semester ended, he invited me to his church.

Inside that prefab metal building I witnessed vibrancy. Those people possessed hope, joy, and peace, all of which I coveted. I learned about Jesus and how His shed blood washes away my sin and unites me with God—even though I don’t deserve such kindness.


I discovered God doesn’t just want me to be good, He wants me to be in Him—hand in hand, heart to heart. I realized it isn’t just a matter of willpower and proper performance He’s after, but a grow­ing relationship through which He’ll shoulder most of the burden to make me vibrant. Yahweh so desires that I bear His image, I learned, He will transform me into His likeness through His Spirit. He can Always RSVP 31

make the most tarnished Southern belle glorious. In fact, in Him my purpose is found and fulfilled. In coming to Him I’d become a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a bride. All in Him, and all to Him.

After attending church two Sundays, I responded to this divine truth. I walked to the front, acknowledged my need for Jesus, and handed Him the jumbled mess of my broken heart. I asked Him to forgive me, clear the haze, and untangle my knotted-up hopes and dreams.

Inside a priceless decoder ring, God inscribed my initials with an eternal beam of light. In the instant I responded to Christ’s call, I became a beloved daughter of the Most High God and a member of His Yahweh Sisterhood.

The Favor of a Reply Is Requested

You and I need a jeweler’s loupe of sorts to see the secrets Yahweh wants to reveal to us—indeed to see Yahweh Himself. Our basic eye­sight needs some spiritual amplification. We need a divine ointment to anoint our eyes for the task.

Remember that Greek word musterion, meaning a sacred secret revealed by God? Its root word is muo, which means locked up or shut, as in eyes that are closed. In Revelation 3:17–18 Jesus told the people of the church at Laodicea that, although they didn’t realize it, they were spiritually blind. Their eyes were locked shut and could not see God. They were neither seeing nor responding. Jesus counseled them, “Buy from me … salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (v. 18 ESV). Jesus affords us the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to God. Only Jesus can provide that divine salve we need.32 It’s No Secret

In Matthew 5, we find Jesus perched on the side of a moun­tain near the ancient city of Capernaum to preach. Massive crowds gathered to watch and hear what He had to say. Some in the crowd followed Jesus; they had already opened themselves to His teach­ing. Others desperately sought a miracle or healing. A few counted themselves Jesus’ enemies. Others showed up out of curiosity. They’d heard the rumors and came to decide for themselves if Jesus was a fake, a prophet, or a Savior.

Jesus gazed across the mountainside at the congregation of people. Many eyed Him skeptically, wondering if they would see something that proved a connection to God. He told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). A pure heart; an authentic heart; a humble, believing heart open to Jesus’ teaching—that’s the currency that buys the salve to allow our eyes to see God. That’s what enables us to respond to God. Lacking it, many heard Jesus’ words without understanding Him or watched His moves without realizing they were staring into the face of Yahweh.

God’s gals understand that only Jesus can open the eyes of a woman’s heart, cleansing them pure enough to see and respond to Yahweh. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Did you catch the secret Jesus reveals here? He said He’s the only way to God, the full embodiment of truth, and the only source of vibrant, lasting life. Jesus is the way we want to go, the truth we need to know, and the eternal life that we crave. You just can’t get to God without going through Jesus. Jesus is our way to God, and God’s way to us.

Jesus is who God wants us to respond to.Always RSVP 33

All religions do not lead to heaven, despite popular opin­ion (John 3:3). God is wise beyond wise and has a purpose for everything He does, and He designed salvation in such a way that believing in God is not sufficient. We must also believe in His Son, who ushers us to Yahweh and shows us how to live His way.

So our membership in the Yahweh Sisterhood—our becoming a daughter of God—happens at Christ’s invitation to follow Him. You cannot buy, earn, or bluff your way in. You must be invited—and you have been. God’s own hand addressed your invitation some two thousand years ago, at the desk of the cross, on the parchment of Christ’s body, in the ink of His blood.

Have you RSVP’d?

A year of high school French enables me to inform you RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît.” It means “please respond” … don’t put it off … don’t wait and see … say you’ll join me!

If you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to God through Him, now is the time. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put it off until you get your act together—RSVP right now through prayer. Receive the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus, and ask God to take charge of your life and future. Receive your divine decoder ring. Tomorrow may be too late. Be Jesus’ guest today.

Guest List

In Jesus’ day, a person throwing a soiree sent out servants to issue invitations to the guests and gather their responses. Invitations noted the day of the gathering but not the hour. The hour depended on when everything was ready. 34 It’s No Secret

Once everything was ready on party day, servants again went out to call in the guests. Those who’d said they’d come were expected to be dressed, ready, and waiting that day. When the ser­vant knocked on their door, they were to head immediately for the banquet room.

This scenario mirrors what happens in the spiritual realm. God sent His Son and Servant Jesus to issue our invitation on the cross. Those who accept are born anew spiritually—then expected and empowered to live in such a way that they are ready for the day Jesus will return, calling us to God’s heavenly banqueting table.

Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we will be ushered to a great wedding feast, the marriage banquet for Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ bride is the church, meaning you and me—all who have RSVP’d to His invitation.

I read about this feast in the book of Revelation that day in my room. What I couldn’t grasp fully back then now sets my heart aflutter in a way that nothing else can. I am loved, chosen, adopted, prepared, and betrothed—to the King of Glory. You are too! The wildest thing about this Yahweh Sisterhood? We’re all engaged to the same Man—Jesus—yet no one seems to mind.

You and I must RSVP and ready ourselves for our heavenly wed­ding day. The rest of the divine secrets in this book will purify and prepare us to take our Groom’s hand as He replaces our decoder ring with a wedding band. I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to get there and find myself underdressed and unprepared.

Understanding and responding to the twelve divine secrets that follow—internalizing and enacting them—will keep us dressed Always RSVP 35

and ready for the future party. While simply responding to the cross secures our seat at the grand banqueting table, keeping these secrets assures us that our heavenly Groom will look on us with utter delight.

My fellow belles, have you saved the date? Because a wedding feast looms on the celestial calendar. It’s part of your story. And savvy Yahweh Sisters are always dressed and ready for a party!

A Garden Wedding

Twenty days after I graduated college, I had my own wedding feast. I married that young professor, Southern style, in a garden surrounded by azalea bushes in full bloom, three-hundred-year-old oaks drip­ping with Spanish moss, and swans swimming on the lake behind. It was gorgeous.

God not only adopted this lonely girl into His heavenly family, He placed me into Rick’s earthly family. He presented me with three sisters-in-law and countless Sisters-in-Christ. I learned the truthful relevance of Psalm 68; it became the story of my life:

Sing praises to God and to his name!Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.His name is the LORD—rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

God places the lonely in families;he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (Ps. 68:4–6) 36 It’s No Secret

He’s a Father to the fatherless, and I can testify He’s a mother to the motherless as well. God has guided me, protected me, com­forted me, taught me, and provided for me. He also untangled my hopes and fears and brought me the joyful desires of my heart.

So now you’ll find me in church each week, singing praises to Yahweh and His great name. Oh, and I sing rather quietly when I praise Him in public. It’s not that I’m not extremely thankful—I am. It’s not that I don’t like to sing—I do. And it has nothing to do with embarrassing memories from my church past in that brown brick building with the red carpet.

Truth is, I sing every stinkin’ bit as off-key as my momma did.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Sisters stick together, right?

But you can go ahead and bless my heart over that vocal deficit. I need all the help I can get.

BIBLE STUDY

1. Check out this parable Jesus told about a man throwing a feast:

A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, Always RSVP 37

he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’” (Luke 14:15–24)

What struck you when the people in Jesus’ story made excuses for not being prepared to attend? List the things that preoccupied them.38 It’s No Secret

What excuses do you make for not responding to Christ, or not living “dressed and ready”?

2. Read about the coming wedding feast in Revelation 19:6–10. What does it say about the bride (you) and her wedding dress?

3. Next time you throw a bash at your plantation, Jesus offers this advice for planning the guest list:

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12–14)

That’s precisely what God did when He created the Yahweh Sisterhood. He sent out invitations welcoming every one of us to His supper club. The glass slipper fits each gal here. Everyone gets the rose. The King of Glory doesn’t require Always RSVP 39

designer gowns or shiny black limos for us to dine with Him. What a relief!

In the space below, write a thank-you note to your King.

Dear Jesus,

_____________________________________________


Foodie Friday Tostadas

Tostadas

Ingredients:
A package of Large flour, corn, or wheat tortillas (about 12)
2 15 ounce cans refried beans
1-2 lb(s) ground beef
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped or 2 cans of drained diced tomatoes
1-2 chopped or sliced peeled and pitted avocados or guacamole
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese or other cheese of choice
2 cups of salsa or 1/2 cup sliced jalapeños or diced green chiles
A handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1 large tub of sour cream

Directions:
Drain the refried beans, then add them to a skillet mashing them as you heat them. Add water to them as necessary to keep a creamy consistency.

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large skillet and drain well. Stir in spices and heat all throughout.

I make my tostada shells from large tortillas in Tostada/Tortilla bowl/shell bakers/makers. These are a lot healthier that frying the tortillas in oil and they make the tortillas a great bowl shape (just follow the instructions on the box).

To serve, place toppings in separate bowls, with a larger serving dish for the beans and meat. Spread equal amounts of the beef and bean mixture in each tostada shell. Layer and spoon in toppings as desired. Don't load the tostada too much or you might find it difficult to eat.


I am participating in Foodie Friday and contributing to this weeks Foodie Friday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kiki's Fashions Review

I have my own clothing fashion style that I just absolutely love. I have talked about it briefly on this blog. I have kind of a hippie/boho style. I love clothing that has a ethnic flavor from a different country. I have been looking around the web for maternity clothing I like since I am pregnant and one of the stores online I came across had a lot of clothing I love. Kiki's Fashions has some very trendy maternity clothes at some absolutely fabulous prices!

They carry maternity: short sleeve tops, long sleeve tops, tank tops, dresses, and bottoms. They even have some that are for that transitional stage in your pregnancy. Their clothing is not the droll boring maternity clothing found in most stores. They are cute and highly fashionable.

I really don't want to spend an arm and a leg on clothing I will only wear during my pregnancy...who does? Kiki's Fashions prices range from $9.99 to $29.99. They also have sweet Under $10 and Clearance sections!!

I picked the Jade Embroidered Short Sleeve Maternity Shirt from their store to try and review for free from Kiki's Fashions. I love this shirt! It reminds me of the Orient and I love the color! It has a tie in the back that enables you to cinch it up if needed and gorgeous embroidered accents that make the shirt more wonderful! The only real downside is that this shirt is made from 100% Rayon so it wrinkles easily and is more difficult to clean. Also, the front comes a bit low for me so I am more comfortable wearing a shirt under this. I picked the small because I am petite even when I am pregnant and it fit very nicely even though I am now 36 weeks. These shirts come in other colors besides this pretty jade (which is actually more of a teal): olive brown and light plum.

BUY IT:
Buy the Jade Embroidered Short Sleeve Maternity Shirt for $23.99. Also, for a limited time you can get 20% off of $100 with coupon code SAVEMORE20, 15% off off $75 with coupon code SAVEMORE15, 10% off $40 with coupon code SAVEMORE10.

Fan/Like them on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Kiki's Fashions for providing me with the Jade Embroidered Short Sleeve Maternity Shirt for free to test and review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Teela and the Rainbow

If you are participating in Wordless Wednesdays, click on the Mister Linky image, enter your name and URL in the form, and press Enter. Please also leave comments on this post! I love reading them!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Costume Supercenter Review

Halloween is coming up really soon and the hunt for great costumes is on. The Costume Supercenter is a great website to find a wide assortment of costumes. They have everything from silly to scary to pretty to anything else imaginable. They have baby costumes all the way to adult in a wide range of sizes to try to accommodate just about everyone.

My daughter Teela loves playing dress-up and imaginative pretend play. I believe this is an important part of learning that I love to nurture while my children are young. I was able to test and review the Plum Pixie Toddler Costume off of the Costume Supercenter website for my daughter Teela for free. It is sized to fit from 2T-4T so she still has a lot of growing room in it. It is a beautiful shade of plum purple and comes with gossamer wings, a wand and flowered headpiece. These accessories are an added extra bonus because you usually have to purchase them separately. Both wand and dainty flowered headpiece have ribbons cascading from them. The purple wings have reddish glitter swirls on them instead of the golden glitter ones shown in the picture on the site. The dress itself is made of a two-tone chiffon with a velour bodice and chiffon sleeves. The dress that we received has only white flowers decorating it even though the picture and description says that the the bottom of the dress and neckline are adorned with both white and purple flowers. Even with the discrepancies the costume was lovely and I was very happy with it. The whole ensemble is the perfect thing for playing dress up, attending a fairy fair or ball, or any Halloween festivities.


Fan/Like the Costume Supercenter on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter.

BUY IT:
The prices for costumes range from $9.99 on up and they have free shipping on exchanges. Their shipping prices are also fairly reasonable.

The Plum Pixie Toddler Costume is $26.99 on the Costume Supercenter website. They also have the same costume in a child size for $23.99.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Costume Supercenter for providing me with the Plum Pixie Toddler Costume for free to test and review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Best Pals Review and Giveaway

My daughter Teela received two dolls, a tea set, and a music CD from Best Pals for free so that we may test and review them. Best Pals was created by Kathy and Janet Lennon, of the Lennon Sisters because of their lifelong friendship and love for a pair of handmade ragdolls they had as kids. Not only do they sell the newer versions of their childhood friends, but they have other wholesome dolls, toys and music CDs in their store as well.

I love the vintage looking fabrics and attention to detail the dolls have. The two dolls I received are exact replicas of the handmade ragdolls Kathy and Janet got as children. The 16" dolls have embroidered facial features, re-stylable yarn hair, and removable clothing. Each doll is also numbered as a limited edition and has its very own "Best Pals" baby bead bracelet. I love the nostalgic feel of the dolls. Ever since Teela got these dolls, they have been her favorites to carry around and give her hugs and kisses to.

One of Teela's favorite things to play with her dolls is her tea sets. The dolls love being her tea drinking companions. Teela loves playing pretend. The Best Pals Tin Tea Set she received she absolutely loves! This 15 piece tea set comes with a travel case that holds 4 plates, 4 saucers, 4 cups and a serving tray.

The Best Pals CD that we received Teela lovingly calls her "Tea Party Music". Kathy and Janet sing these 14 wonderful songs that were their favorite when they were young.

Songs included are:
1. We Are Pals
2. Won't You Come Over to My House
3. Dear Little Dolly
4. Rock-A-Bye Baby
5. All Aboard For Blanket Bay
6. Little Lady Make Believe
7. Christopher Robin
8. Are My Ears On Straight
9. Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra
10. Shake Me I Rattle
11. Kentucky Babe
12. Love Is A Very Light Thing
13. Lullaby Of Love
14. All The Pretty Little Ponies (Hush A Bye)

BUY IT:
You can buy original Kathy or Janet dolls at $24.95 each. The Best Pals CD is $16.95 and the tea set is $29.95 in the Best Pals Gift Shop. They also have other CDs, multicultural dolls, Danny doll, mini dolls, other playsets, paperdolls and doll clothing.

WIN IT:
Audra from Best Pals PR has generously offered another Best Pals Prize Pack which includes: Best Pals Dolls – Kathy and Janet, Best Pals CD and the Best Pals Tin Tea Set to one of my readers to win.

Mandatory:
1. Go to the Best Pals website and tell me by commenting on this post something else you would love to get.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by feedburner or by email and let me know which way. (2 extra entries each)

2. Fan/Like me on facebook and write something on my wall. (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Best Pals in your blog entry or it won't count. (2 extra entries)

4. Grab My Button (see sidebar to the left) AND/OR Put My Blog URL in Your Blogroll - Leave Your Link. (1 extra entry)

5. Technorati my blog and let me know your link. (1 extra entry)

6. Fave me on Momfaves. (2 extra entries)

7. List this giveaway on any giveaway listing website or blog giveaway linky and tell me where you listed it. (2 extra entries)

8. Post this on your Facebook wall, Kirtsy, and/or StumbleUpon. (2 extra entries for each)

9. Comment on one of my regular (not giveaway) posts. (1 extra entry per post you comment on)

10. Follow me on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

11. Tweet this: @finamoon: @BestPalsToys WIN A Best Pals Dolly Prize Pack #giveaway http://bit.ly/c6P0jU (Daily Extras are Available)

12. Fan/Like Best Pals on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

13. Follow Best Pals on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

Make sure you leave me your email in all posts so that I can contact you. If you subscribed, blogged about this, listed it, commented on another post, or faved me on Momfaves leave 2 entries saying you did. This contest ends on Friday October 08, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to all 18 years and over in the U.S. Only!!

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Best Pals for providing me with the products for free to test and review. This giveaway is also provided free from Best Pals. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Virgin Coconut Oil by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy Review and Giveaway

I received the revised edition of the Virgin Coconut Oil book by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy for free for reading and reviewing from Tropical Traditions.

This book has over 85 previously unpublished recipes that all have some form of coconut in them. It also has testimonials from over 100 different people that are using virgin coconut oil. This book is very informative and had a lot of things I just didn't know about coconut oil.

I learned that virgin coconut oil is processed differently from refined coconut oil. Because of the purity, virgin coconut oil is supposed to be better for you than refined. These refined coconut oils are hydrogenated, meaning they contain "trans fatty acids" (TFAs), which are toxic substances that enter cell membranes, block utilization of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and disrupt cell functionality. TFAs also cause a rise in blood cholesterol that could increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Non-hydrogenated virgin coconut oil does not contain harmful TFAs. Not all saturated fats are bad for you. Fats are categorized as short, medium or long chain regarding the number of carbon molecules they have. About two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil is made up of medium chain fatty acids. Both short and medium chain fatty acids are easily digestible and converted into quick energy, thus less likely to cause obesity. Other plant-based oils usually consist of the long chain fatty acids which are stored in the body as fat. Since medium chain fatty acids are also very resistant to any change via heat the heat when cooking with the coconut oil does not destroy enzymes and other beneficial nutrients. Also, nearly 50% of the fatty acid in natural virgin coconut oil is lauric acid, which changes to the fatty acid monolaurin while in the body. Monolaurin helps support your immune system since it is antimicrobial and antiviral. It is also an active ingredient found in breast-milk!

I found this book interesting and was particularly drawn to the part about virgin coconut oil and thyroid health in chapter 6 because of the fact I know of so many people who are all plagued by thyroid problems. It is so true that many, many people are. This book made some very captivating points and facts that I just didn't know about this topic.

BUY IT:
You can buy this book HERE at $14.99 or $9.99 for the ebook version.

WIN IT:
Tabitha from Tropical Traditions PR has generously offered another Virgin Coconut Oil Book by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy to one of my readers to win.

Mandatory:
1. Go to the Tropical Traditions website and tell me by commenting on this post something you learned about their Virgin Coconut Oil.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by feedburner or by email and let me know which way. (2 extra entries each)

2. Fan/Like me on facebook and write something on my wall. (1 extra entry)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Tropical Traditions in your blog entry or it won't count. (2 extra entries)

4. Grab My Button (see sidebar to the left) AND/OR Put My Blog URL in Your Blogroll - Leave Your Link. (1 extra entry)

5. Technorati my blog and let me know your link. (1 extra entry)

6. Fave me on Momfaves. (2 extra entries)

7. List this giveaway on any giveaway listing website or blog giveaway linky and tell me where you listed it. (2 extra entries)

8. Post this on your Facebook wall, Kirtsy, and/or StumbleUpon. (2 extra entries for each)

9. Comment on one of my regular (not giveaway) posts. (1 extra entry per post you comment on)

10. Follow me on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

11. Tweet this: @finamoon: @Troptraditions WIN A Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil Book #giveaway http://bit.ly/db21c8 (Daily Extras are Available)

12. Fan/Like Tropical Traditions on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

13. Follow Tropical Traditions on Twitter. (1 extra entry)

14. Sign up for their email sales newsletter. (3 extra entries)

Make sure you leave me your email in all posts so that I can contact you. If you subscribed, blogged about this, listed it, commented on another post, or faved me on Momfaves leave 2 entries saying you did. This contest ends on Friday October 08, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to all 18 years and over in the U.S. Only!!

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Tropical Traditions for providing me with the Virgin Coconut Oil book by Brian and Marianita Jader Shilhavy for free to read and review. This giveaway is also provided free from Tropical Traditions. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

The information provided on this blog post is, at best, of a general nature and cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional (for instance, a qualified doctor/physician, nurse, pharmacist/chemist, and so on). I am not a medical professional, just a mom with a opinion. Coconut oil is a food, not a medication. It is not supposed to "cure" anyone's ailments and I am not suggesting or claiming that it does. I am only suggesting that according to this book virgin coconut oil might be a better, healthier alternative to other oils.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Aladdin Do The Reuse Challenge

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Aladdin. All opinions are 100% mine.

Aladdin, the company who is well known for their reusable food and beverage container products, is giving all of us a challenge. They call it the Do The Reuse Challenge. It’s a 30-day commitment to give up disposable paper cups, water bottles, or food containers. Everyone is welcome to participate (the more, the better!), and 9 families will be blogging about their experience on their website. These bloggers are families and people just like me and you.

The Aladdin products make it easy to reuse because of their fantastic reusable food and beverage containers! You will save money and be helping save the environment by being eco-friendly and reducing waste, reusing, and recycling what waste you have already made! By accepting one of the Do the Reuse Challenges you’ll be able to get discounts and free shipping on selected Aladdin products through their website, www.shopaladdin-pmi.com. That way you can save a little on Aladdin mugs, water bottles and snack containers, which will in turn help you save even more.

So go ahead, accept the Do The Reuse Challenge! Save money and the environment! You can even blog or share this information and your own personal experience doing the challenge on your website or anywhere you can share it. Make an impact! One person can do so much...spread the word!

Fan/Like Aladdin on Facebook!

Here are some interesting facts:
● 7 million barrels of oil are used to produce the disposable bottles that Americans go through in only one year.
● In the USA, fifty billion disposable water bottles are used per year. That is 137,000 per day and 1,585 per second!
● It costs about $165 a year to make drip coffee in the comforts of your own home versus $636 to purchase drip coffee at your local coffee shop.
● Unless we do something about this, twenty-three billion paper coffee cups will be thrown out in 2010.
● Pack a lunch instead of eating lunch out and you will save money and not be creating so much waste! $9 will generally cover a decent lunch out...that is about $2,350 a year if you buy rather than pack a lunch five days a week!

My garbage collection facility here where I live never told us about their recycling program...even though they have one in place. We were creating about three trash cans full of trash just from my family in only one week! Now that we know about it we are recycling and two of the trash cans are filled instead with things that our garbage collection will take to recycle. We are down to one trash can now of items they won't take except on regular garbage days. My family is trying to do its best at reducing, reusing, and recycling where we can. I love to have my kids use things like toilet paper tubes and egg cartons to make art, planters, etc. I am planning on cloth diapering again with my new baby once born. I am disgusted by all the waste people produce and just throw away since so much can be reduced, reused, and recycled! My family will be trying out the Aladdin Do The Reuse Challenge and seeing what we can contribute. We love to be eco-friendly when ever we can!


Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, September 17, 2010

Foodie Friday Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups (3-4) mashed overripe bananas

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Mix banana mixture and flour mixture together until all flour mixture is mixed in. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60-65 minutes. Check center of loaf with a toothpick to see if done. If toothpick comes out clean it is done. Let bread cool in its pan for 10 minutes and then place on wire rack out of pan to cool more.

Makes one loaf.

I am participating in Foodie Friday and contributing to this weeks Foodie Friday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eucerin Plus Lotion Review and Giveaway

I received a 2.7 fl oz bottle of the Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Hand Creme and a 16.9 fl oz bottle of the Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials Lotion from Eucerin for free to try out and review.

The Fall/Winter season is upon us and air gets drier, especially inside. I have problems with my hands getting really dry and chapped. My hands are loving this Eucerin Plus lotion! It doesn't make my hands sting when I use it and gives them the moisture they need to stay soft.

Eucerin is one of the leading companies for skin care products. They use high quality ingredients that are safe for the most sensitive skin in their wonderful line of products. These are clinically-proven and trusted by dermatologists. Eucerin Plus lotions are a mixture of intense moisturizer and exfoliators for dry to the very driest skin.

Both the Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Hand Creme and the Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials Lotion are moisturizers that definitely made my hands feel smoother and since both are fast-absorbing they didn't leave my hands greasy feeling. Both have the ingredients of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and urea that gently exfoliate your skin and intensively moisturize. Just beware that when using these lotions you wear sunscreen and protective clothing while outdoors because the AHA may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. These both are hypoallergenic and don't make anyone in my family's skin break out.

This month is National Skin Care Awareness month. Here are some tips for National Skin Care Awareness Month to help strengthen and protect your skin:

Tip #1 – Cleanse Gently
Skin feel a little too tight? It may be a sign that you have not cleansed properly. Clean skin is the first step to healthy skin. What ever your skin type, dermatologists recommend using a mild, non-irritating cleanser rather than a harsh soap. You don't want to strip your skin's natural oils away. If you do, this can lead to overly tight-feeling skin.

Tip #2 – Moisturize Properly
Moisturizers help attach water to the skin so that it doesn’t evaporate as quickly. They can also bring the correct pH balance to your skin and enhance its natural defenses, strengthening your skin's protective barrier against external elements like pollution and climate changes.

Tip #3 – Take Time to Relax
If you’re under a great deal of stress your skin is probably stressed too. Stressed-out skin can eventually become thin and less able to regenerate itself. This can be by prevented if you take time to relax every day. This will help your mental, skin and body health as well.

Tip #4 – Feed Your Skin Right
"You are what you eat" is so true especially with your skin. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums have high antioxidant levels that can help neutralize free radicals that can damage collagen and elastin, proteins that help maintain skin’s elasticity and tone.

Fan/Like Eucerin on Facebook and get more information on skin health! You can also get a free complimentary product by taking the Skin FIRST pledge on their Facebook page through the Skin FIRST tab. For each pledge submitted, Eucerin will be making a donation to Healthy Women.org

WIN IT:
Craig from Eucerin PR has generously offered another bottle of Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials to one of my readers to win.

Mandatory:
1. Go to the Eucerin website and tell me by commenting on this post what other product you would love to try.

Additional entries:
1. Subscribe to my blog by feedburner or by email and let me know which way. (2 extra entries each)

2. Fan/Like me on facebook and write something on my wall. (1 extra entry)

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DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Eucerin for sending me a free 2.7 fl oz bottle of the Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Hand Creme and a 16.9 fl oz bottle of the Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials Lotion for free and information about the products and an extra bottle of Eucerin Plus Smoothing Essentials Lotion to give away for free. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.

Petra: City of Stone by T. L. Higley FIRST Wild Card Tour Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



B&H Books (September 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to T.L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the series continues.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (September 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433668564
ISBN-13: 978-1433668562

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



The streets of Rome lay barren and empty, sucked dry by the colossal Flavian Amphitheatre that had swallowed seventy-five thousand Roman citizens in a single gulp, and would hold each one captive until they had enjoyed the horrors that Julian now raced to prevent.

More time. He needed more time. Already the crowd inside the four-story rim of stone cheered for the first event.

Julian’s sandals smacked the black basalt road that led toward the amphitheatre. The blistering Roman sun pounded the moisture from his skin and left him panting. He had run most of way, since an old servant in Vita’s house had pointed a gnarled finger toward the east, toward the Forum, toward the arena of death.

Eighty arches ringed the outside of the theatre on each of its first three stories. The bottom arches provided access to the public, and the second story’s niches held statues of the gods and emperors, who now looked down on Julian as he sprinted across the large travertine slabs that paved the arena’s edge.

He ran toward one of the four main entrances and fumbled for the tessera, the stone tile he wore around his neck. The designatores at the entrance would insist on examining it, to see the sector, row and seat to which he was assigned.

Indeed, the usher at this entrance was full of his own importance, and held a palm to Julian’s oncoming rush as though he could stop him with only the force of his arm.

“Too long in your bed this morning, eh?” His smug smile took in Julian’s hastily-wrapped toga and sweat-dampened hair.

Julian thrust the tessera before the man’s eyes. “Here, here, look at it.”

Still the amused smile. The usher opened his mouth to speak again.

“Look at it!”

Daunted, the man let his eyes travel over the tile, then took a tiny breath and stepped back. His grin faded to a look of regret over his own impudence, and he bowed his head. As if that were not enough, he bowed at the waist and extended a hand to invite Julian to enter.

Julian did not wait for an apology. He pushed past the usher and under the vaulted entrance, then straight through the arena’s outer corridor and up a ramp that led to the cavea, the wedge-shaped sections of marble seats. This main entrance led directly to the central boxes reserved for the elite.

He exploded from the dimly lit ramp onto the terrace. The morning sun slashed across half the seats, the height of the amphitheatre leaving the other half in shade. The red canvas velarium, the awning used to shade the spectators, would be raised before it got much hotter, but for now, thousands of bleached togas on white marble blinded the eye and the smell of the masses assaulted the nose.

Julian crossed the terrace in two strides, slammed against the waist-high wall that separated him from the arena, and saw a figure dash at him from the shadows.

His mother’s hands were on his arms in an instant. “Julian, what are you doing?” Her words were frantic, as clipped and terror-filled as his every movement.

“They have Vita, Mother!”

She wrenched his body fiercely to face her. Julian stood nearly a cubit taller than his mother, but Ariella had retained all the strength of her youth, along with the beauty. “There is nothing that can be done, my son.”

He yanked his arms from her grasp. “Do not say that!” Julian searched the cavea behind him, full to overflowing with the purple-edged togas of senators. “Where is Father? Is he here?”

“Julian, think! You must think.” Ariella’s voice was urgent and low and her clutching fingers again slowed Julian’s restlessness. “You will bring more harm – “

“I do not care!” His voice snagged with emotion, and he fought to harden the feelings into action. “I must end this.”

“You cannot, son.”

He turned flashing eyes on Ariella. “It is my fault! Do you not understand? I should be down in those cages.”

Ariella’s eyes misted. “I would not lose both my son and his betrothed on the same day.”

Betrothed. The word washed more guilt over Julian’s stricken soul.

A senator, one of his father’s friends, walked past and paused to hold out an arm in greeting to Julian. “Fine day for the games, is it not?”

Julian straightened at once, resuming the noble bearing trained into him since childhood, and returned the man’s grip. He nodded once in agreement, but did not speak. The senator moved on, and Julian dropped his shoulders, ashamed that he had not made a statement.

Ariella seemed to read his thoughts. Her dark eyes held his own. “It will take more than a day to change the Empire.”

Julian looked out over the yellow sand of the arena. “But this day, Mother, this day we must!” He slapped a hand against the top of the marble wall. “I am going to find Father.”

“Julian, you know that he can do nothing – “

He spun on her. “No. I am tired of both of you, always moving about your circles quietly, behind closed doors, the truth spoken only in whispers.” He lifted his own voice as an example. “There is a time to speak!”

Ariella’s nostrils flared, but she said nothing. Turning from her, Julian stalked to the nearest break in the seating and ascended the tiers alongside his father’s section. Here, the nobility did not sit on wooden planks as the rest of the citizens, but were given cushions or even chairs for comfort. He scanned the rows of seats for his father’s graying head, and instead met his dark gray eyes.

Julian shook his head and opened his mouth to shout across the intervening seats, but his father held up a hand, then stood and excused himself from his colleagues. He slid along in front of a dozen other senators, and emerged at the end of the row beside Julian.

Quietly, he spoke into his son’s ear. “I have just now heard. It is outrageous.”

Julian’s hands balled into fists at his side. “You must do something.”

“What can I do, Julian? The emperor has ruled, and Trajan is not a man to be defied.”

Across the arena, Julian watched as a trapdoor slid upward and a huddled band of men and women were prodded onto the sand at the end of Roman spears. Julian’s heart pounded with the shortness of the time left and he turned on his father with the frenzy of desperation. “She is out there, Father!”

But his father’s eyes held only grief, not anger. Not the fiery anger that could change the future, even now.

Julian pushed past him, down the steps. If his parents would do nothing from their positions of influence, then he would stop this madness from a position of strength.

It had been his fault, all of it. Trajan had made his stance clear. As long as they kept to themselves, did not flaunt their disagreement with imperial policy, did not take a public stand, they would be left alone. But that had not been enough for Julian. Passionate about the truth, eager to show himself a leader and foolish enough to believe himself invincible, he had spoken too loudly, in too many places.

And now this. Vita and the others arrested, convicted, and sentenced without his knowledge. Julian had brought this on them all, but he had escaped their fate.

At the terrace level he circled the arena toward the imperial box. The amphitheatre was one of the few places where the public had access to the divine emperor. Julian grasped at the thin hope that he could get near enough to plead for Vita’s life.

He had not loved her. Not like he should, though he had tried. He had never known a more virtuous woman. The arranged match between them was a good one. But Julian had never felt more than the flame of admiration and respect for her, and he saw nothing but the same in her eyes. Still, they would have been married.

We will be married.

The foot-stomps of the crowd rose around him like a hundred thousand drumbeats. The cadence resonated in his chest and pushed him forward. He knew that sound. It was the sound of a mob hungry for blood.

Terror drove his footsteps. He could not look to the arena. Not even when he heard more trapdoors rise and the low growl of beasts begin.

The crowd screamed as one, and their shouts lifted to the pale blue sky like a puff of evil smoke from the underworld. Julian’s bones seemed to turn to water. He raced on. The emperor’s raised box was in sight.

But then they were beside him again, both his parents this time, grasping at his arms, pulling him backward.

“It is too late, son.” His mother’s voice held the grief of both the present and the past, for she had seen much sorrow in the arena in her day.

His father turned him to the wall to face the sand. “You must say goodbye, Julian. You must say goodbye.”

He let his parents hold him there at the marble wall. He scraped his hands across the top, then gripped the white stone.

Lions. Six of them. Circling, circling the knot of friends in the center of the bright yellow sand that had been brought from one of the hills of Rome and spread on wooden planking to soak up the blood of gladiator, beast, and the condemned.

The lions charged at once, but for Julian, the moment stretched out, like a thread of silk spun from a slow-turning wheel, and though the crowd still bellowed, in his head all had gone silent and he saw only his group of friends, crumpling in on themselves like sand flowing into a sinkhole.

The lions must have roared before they pounced, though Julian heard nothing, and felt only the relentless scraping of his own hands across the stone wall. He scraped until his hands were torn and bloody, wanting to bleed with her, wanting to bleed with all of them, as he should have.

The sun had risen to pour its rays into the center of the arena, and the yellow sand beneath them turned to molten gold in the light, an oval of liquid gold with Vita and the others drowning in the center of it. He saw her face for a moment, lifted to heaven.

His mind disconnected and drifted strangely, then, to the words at the end of the Apostle John’s Revelation, and his vision of the New Jerusalem with its streets of pure gold.

Would Vita fall asleep in this golden sand and wake to streets of gold?

The beasts did their job well and quickly, and when it was over and the mutilated bodies of his friends lay scattered across the sand, Julian woke from his stupor and felt the guilt of every lost life bear down on him as though the stones around him had collapsed on his head. He tasted bile rising in his throat, and turned away from the wall to retch onto the paving stones.

His parents held his arms as he emptied the contents of his stomach. He heard the jeers directed toward him. When he stood, the tear-streaked faces of both his parents matched his own.

But he found no solace in their shared grief. They did not have to bear the guilt of it as he did. As he always would. He pulled from their embrace and escaped the amphitheatre, running back the way he had come, running like a haunted man.

Days later, when his guilt and grief had hardened into bitter anger, he tried once again to change the minds and policies of the Roman government. But in the end he brought only more disgrace, and more danger, upon his family.

In the cool of the evening three days after Vita’s death, he stood at the terrace wall of his father’s lavish villa in the Roman countryside, looking down into the flowered gardens his mother had commissioned, and listening to the fountain that trickled night and day into the central pool. He inhaled deeply of the night air, dragging in the scent of roses.

His guilt over Vita’s death had not abated, and he had added to it with his actions in the days since. His brazen words in the Senate House, and later the Forum, had identified him as one who should have also met his death in the arena that day.

Perhaps that was his wish. To be arrested himself, to be thrown before the gaping yaw of a dozen lions, to be given what he deserved.

But his family. He had not wanted the same for his family. His only brother, long since stationed in some military outpost, had never embraced the family’s beliefs, but even he could be reached by the long arm of the empire, and brought back to face condemnation with the rest.

Behind him, slaves stirred to prepare the evening meal and lit torches on the veranda. His parents would appear soon and they would all pretend that their privileged life continued.

But Julian had made a decision. His life in Rome was over. To protect his family, he must disappear.

He thought of his brother’s stories of the provinces that lay at the edges of the Empire. Of Britannia, of Judea. But even there the Roman army could search out a man. No, he must go further east than even Judea.

There was a place, a hidden city he had heard tales of since he was a boy. Stories that had sparked his imagination and given him the desire to travel across the desert sand to discover the city tucked between the rock cliffs of Arabia.

Petra. Capital of the Nabatean kingdom, wealthy center of the east-west trade route, and beyond even the Roman Empire’s reach.

Julian rubbed his hands together, palms still raw from being torn open the day Vita died. Yes, it was a good plan.

He would flee to Petra.