Thursday, December 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.

We recently bought a large flat screen monitor that we use as a movie screen and have been looking for nice areas to put it in our house and I ran across some tv stands that I really like at tvstands.com. This is part of the CSN Stores. 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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Christmas Pajamas

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!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Emerson Creek Pottery Artisan Bakeware Review

All Emerson Creek Pottery is Eco-Friendly: Made in the USA, Non-Toxic, Lead-Free, Made by Humans, Made of Natural and Earth-Friendly Materials, Packed in Eco-Friendly Cornstarch Peanuts, Shipped in Recycled-Fiber Boxes, and they Never Mass-Mail their Catalogs! Their pottery is safe for daily use, serving, baking, storing, dishwasher use, microwave use and oven use. Their pottery is completely and lovingly crafted, handmade and hand-painted using non-toxic, natural materials, right here in the USA in Virginia since 1977. Read more about their non-toxic, eco-friendly pottery here.

Emerson Creek Pottery Artisan Bakeware is one-of-a-kind among their entire pottery catalog because, unlike their other lines of handcrafted ceramics, these pieces are unglazed. Unglazed ceramic pottery is perfect for your best professional-quality baking. These pieces are hand-painted with a beautiful creeping thyme pattern. Their complete line of handcrafted artisan bakeware pieces include their: unglazed oval baking dish, unglazed loaf pans, unglazed pie plates, and unglazed bread pots. Their unglazed pottery is priced well below many import ceramics!

When you just want to bake a small loaf of scrumptious artisan-quality bread, give Their small unglazed loaf pan a try! This is a simple, less expensive ceramic bread loaf pan that bakes up beautiful homemade breads. It makes a beautiful showpiece for your collection and is 3" x 5" x 3". You can purchase it at $11.00 online.

I received one of these small unglazed loaf pans for free from Emerson Creek Pottery and I had trouble finding a recipe I could use it for because of the very small size. I, however; love the beautiful scalloped edges and simple painted design. It is lovely and if I ever do find a recipe to use this loaf pan for I will not hesitate to show you all how I used it. I have used unglazed pans before and I love them! Just remember you'll get best results from your unglazed bakeware if you lightly grease it before each use with olive oil.

Like their small loaf pans? See their full line of small ceramic loaf pans for even more variety to choose from!

Fan/Like them on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cinch! by Cynthia Sass Review

With New Years just around the corner it is the perfect time to make New Years resolutions. My New Years resolution is to eat healthier with my new Vita-Mix blender and to actually do my daily aerobic workout.

One of the biggest resolution made on New Years is to loose weight. The obesity crisis in America costs the nation as much as $147 billion and an untold number of lives every year. Nearly two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese and childhood obesity is triple what it was a generation ago.

I just read an article about how one-third of 9-month-olds are already overweight or obese even before starting on solid foods! This to me is outrageous! I feel strongly that my choice to breastfeed exclusively has helped my children not be obese or overweight. I feel that formula is not as safe or as healthy for babies. Past and present recalls for formula make me even more thankful I don't use the stuff. I know not every woman can breastfeed exclusively or safely, but if given the chance should if circumstances allow. Formula is not the only thing that could lead to obesity. Not feeding your family a healthy well balanced meal and not exercising certainly does contribute also.

There is a book out that is being released soon called Cinch!. I received an prerelease of this book for free to read and review. This book has fabulous sounding recipes and a diet plan that doesn't involve irregular meal schedules, pills, binge eating, or undereating followed by rebound overeating. No more starving, restricting, or depriving yourself! This book will help you loose weight while still feeling energized, nourished, and satisfied. The recipes in this book like the Mediterranean Broccoli Couscous Platter and Zesty Cinnamon Basil Berry Tea are divine and so delicious!! I love the daily chocolate escape and the plan is so simple to follow. This is such a better, healthier way to diet!

The books author, Cynthia is appearing on The Early Show January 3 and The Rachael Ray Show January 5. Be sure to tune in to listen to Cynthia talk about the Cinch! plan.

Like Cynthia on Facebook. Follow Cynthia on Twitter.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to One2One Network for sending me a free book to read to and review and the information to share with my readers. My post is also eligible for a gift card via random drawing by One2One Network. 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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inspired by Finn Baltic Amber Teething Necklace Review and Giveaway

Sponsored by Tomoson.com
I received two different Inspired by Finn Baltic Amber Necklaces to test and review for free. These beautiful necklaces are made with beads made out of amber, fossilized tree resin, that date back tens of millions of years ago. This particular type of amber comes from the Baltic region, the area surrounding the Baltic Sea. This region is home to the largest known deposit of amber. These necklaces just glow with gorgeousness.

Contrary to popular belief when the Baltic amber necklaces are use for babies and toddlers for teething they are NOT supposed to be chewed on. Instead they are supposed to be worn so that the healing oils can be absorbed through their skin. My youngest daughter Zari will be teething soon and when she is I want to be ready with as many natural remedies as possible because teething really is a miserable time. Babies usually get their first teeth around 4 to 7 months, but some may start teething as early as 3 months of age. Teething can include a number of annoyances including: drooling (which can lead to a facial rash), gum swelling and sensitivity, irritability or fussiness, biting behavior, refusing food and sleep problems. I want to ease Zari's suffering. I also wanted something to help me and my sinus headaches and I thought this might do the trick.

Apparently when wearing Baltic amber close to the skin the warmth releases small amounts of healing oils from the amber that contain succinic acid and are absorbed into the skin. Baltic amber and its succinic acid has been used in Europe as a folk medicine remedy with healing properties of a natural antibiotic, natural analgesic (pain reliever), anti-inflammatory, and general curative for centuries. Succinic acid occurs naturally in plant and animal tissues, and it's presence in the human body is beneficial in many ways. Baltic amber is very special because it has some of the highest concentrations of succinic acid found in nature.

Succinic acid is the most beneficial component of the amber. It is scientifically accepted that the darkest colored amber generally contains less succinic acid than lighter colors. The more cloudy or opaque amber is, the more succinic acid it contains (and usually the more cloudy amber is the nearer to the color white it becomes). The translucency of amber depends on the amount of air bubbles contained within a piece of amber and their distribution. Some believe the color is related to the type of tree source.

Inspired by Finn's necklaces are handcrafted and are made of authentic Baltic amber, the most treasured type of amber in the world. The necklace fastens with a screw clasp, and the necklace cord is knotted in between each bead as a safety feature so that the beads just don't all slide off if the necklace happens to break. Warning: Necklace does contain small parts. Children should always be supervised when wearing this jewelry, and it should be removed when the child sleeps. Measure the proper length so there is no strangulation or choking hazard. The length of the necklace should not be too snug or too loose, just somewhere in between. *Of note: I didn't get to measure the necklaces I received from Inspired by Finn, they were just given to me for free as is for the review.

I felt that the necklace helped reduce my sinus migraine headaches significantly. Especially if I wore the necklace around my forehead. I read the closer proximity the Baltic amber is to the pain the better it will help it. I read also that the amber acid fights toxic free radicals, is a natural stress reducer and helps strengthen the immune system. It is my own belief that the Baltic amber did help me. However I am not a medical professional by any means and so I would advise you to try it for yourself instead of taking my word for it. Even if they just worked for me because of the placebo effect I am happy with the results and the necklaces are beautiful all on their own so still very much worth purchasing! Since my results for myself worked fairly well I am excited to try them out for Zari.

BUY IT:
Inspired by Finn runs 40% off sales from time-to-time which they announce on Facebook. You can save up to 20% off an immediate purchase by doing the following:
http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=102544519787403&topic=339. They also have anklets, bracelets, nursing necklaces, Hazelwood necklaces, back pain amber strands, knee pain amber strands.

WIN IT:
Inspired by Finn has generously offered a Baltic Amber Teething Necklace to giveaway to one of my readers.

Mandatory:
1. Fan/Like Inspired by Finn on Facebook.

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 Inspired by Finn 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 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 An Inspired by Finn Baltic Amber Teething Necklace #giveaway http://bit.ly/gxOIu6 (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 January 28, 2011 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to all 18 years and over Worldwide!!

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

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. Baltic amber is not supposed to "cure" anyone's ailments and I am not suggesting or claiming that it does. I am only suggesting that you should try it for yourself and see if helps you. People are all different and outcomes could vary drastically.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Merry Christmas




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, December 20, 2010

Progresso Soup Review and Giveaway

Progresso now has new varieties of soup! These soups are so convenient and yummy! They are also wholesome and encourage good food choices too. This is very important these days as fast nutritious choices are not everywhere! Progresso is both satisfying and nutritious.

Have you seen the hilarious Progresso Soup can commercials? Progresso wants to see what you and I have to say about the soup too! Progresso provided me with my own Progresso soup can prop so I could make my very own Progresso Soup can commercial. You can create one too! Let the camera roll and your imagination run, and let Progresso know what you think of the these great Progresso soup varieties.

Progresso New World Recipes - Inspired by Mexican recipes, give Progresso New World Recipes line a try. Made with authentic Mexican ingredients and seasonings, four new Progresso soups will be hitting grocery shelves near you - Chicken Tortilla, Meatball & Rice, Black Bean Jalapeno and Chicken & Vegetable.

Progresso Light - America´s number one Light soup just got better, as all 13 existing Progresso Light varieties are now packed with bigger pieces of white meat chicken, more tender pieces of beef or added vegetables. Need even more to talk about? Progresso Light New England Clam Chowder is the first creamy Light ready-to-serve soup that holds true to the Progresso Light name with just 1 Weight Watchers® POINTS® value per serving!

Progresso Reduced Sodium - With 49 percent of shoppers concerned about high cholesterol1, Progresso understands the importance of soluble fiber and reduced sodium diets. New Reduced Sodium Tomato Parmesan soup is one more tasty option that has a delicious blend of flavors and carries the "May Help Lower Cholesterol"2 benefit. In addition, five additional Reduced Sodium soups also carry the "May Help Lower Cholesterol"2 benefit.

Progresso High Fiber - With 9 out of 10 Americans not getting the recommended Daily Value of fiber, Progresso High Fiber line of soups are packed with 7 grams per serving. Giving you one more thing to talk about, Progresso brand´s first Chili Soup just joined the High Fiber family!

I received a prize pack that included one can of Chicken Tortilla Progresso Soup and one can of Light New England Clam Chowder Progresso soup, a spoon rest, soup can rack, soup mug with matching spoon, and a Progresso can phone - just like the ones in the commercials. I love soup and could eat it everyday! These new soups were so yummy! My family and I enjoyed every bite! The can rack was awesome and holds a lot of cans in my pantry. I just wish I had about 4 more of them! I use the spoon rest all the time now when I am cooking and the soup mug and matching spoon set is the perfect size for soups!

WIN IT:
MyblogSpark has generously offered a Progresso Soup prize package that includes: VIP coupons for two cans of Progresso soup, a spoon rest, a soup can rack and a soup mug with matching spoon to giveaway to one of my readers.

Mandatory:
1. Go to the Progresso website and tell me by commenting on this post which soup 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)

3. Blog about this giveaway on your blog and provide me with the link. Make sure you have the link to this post and Progresso 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 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 Progresso Soup Prize Package #myblogspark #giveaway http://bit.ly/h0DaHw (Daily Extras are Available)

12. Fan/Like Progresso on Facebook. (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 January 28, 2011 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: The Progresso Soup prize pack, information and the prize package for giveaway were all provided free by Progresso through MyBlogSpark. 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.

1Health Focus Int., 2009
2Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors.

WEIGHT WATCHERS for services and POINTS are the registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and are used with permission by General Mills.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Organically Grown Review

Organically Grown has launched their new holiday apparel line. Their new winter collection is here. They have clothes for baby, kids, women and men. They also have accessories and infant room decor. Their items are stylish, affordable, and made of 100% certified organic cotton, making them the ideal gift.

I received the Organic Cotton Girls "Penguins &; Ruffles" 3 Piece Set from Organically Grown to test and review for free. This outfit is also made of 100% certified organic cotton making it very eco-friendly, soft, and safe for baby's skin. Free of toxins and chemicals to keep baby safe. Zari looked so very cute in the outfit we were given and it was a bonus 3 piece set. The stripped pants were totally adorable with built in booties and frilly ruffles on the behind :) I liked the hat, but wish it had some sort of strap to keep it on her head. The long sleeved bodysuit was so cute with a little embroidered penguin on it and the ruffles by the decorative buttons. The outfit also came with a decorative padded hanger.

Did you know that over 456 million pounds of pesticides (according to the Organic Exchange) are applied onto regular cotton each year and seven of these are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the top ten pesticides which are known, probable, or likely carcinogens? Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, making it healthier for the environment, the farmers, you and your family. Organically Grown's products and prices make it simpler to choose organic.

Fan/Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter.

BUY IT:
This season, their baby collection includes soft and snugly outfits at great prices! Their three-piece organic bodysuit sets are the perfect shower or holiday gifts, at only $20! They also have gown, hat, and blanket sets, and a wonderful variety of outfit sets for both boys and girls. They also carry apparel for kids, women and men. Shop Organically Grown now and save 15% off all orders using code: ORGANIC WINTER

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Organically Grown for sending me an Organic Cotton Girls "Penguins &; Ruffles" 3 Piece Set and information about the clothing 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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pear Tree Greetings, Hello World, and My Baby Clothes Boutique Giveaway Winners

The winner of the Pear Tree Greetings $30 gift card code is #21 justicecw! She said she'd like the kid's address labels. The Vrooom ones would be cute for her son!

The winner of the Hello World Clothing SmartZip Sleeper is #64 karenmed409! She said she'd like the Blue Me Away Collection in size 3 months.

The winner of the My Baby Clothes Boutique $25 gift card code is #19 justicecw! She said she'd like the turquoise tutu set.

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!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ebeanstalk Alex Color & Cuddle Washable Bear Review

Looking for toys for your kids can be overwhelming! Ebeanstalk is a toy website that can help you sort through the madness. They have a team of moms that have picked out the some of the best to provide great baby toys, toys for 1 year olds, toys for 2 year olds, and toys for all other ages! Ebeanstalk also has a panel of child experts that have matched each toy to the specific age of your child, so you know that your child is getting the most out of playtime!

I received the Alex Color & Cuddle Washable Bear from Ebeanstalk to test and review. This toy is a soft bear that can be drawn on with markers, washed and drawn on again. It has preprinted patterns to color in and includes four washable markers with easy washing instructions.

I see the charm in a toy that also can be colored on to a child, but be warned that you should make sure that your child is old enough to understand that other toys or items should not be colored on unless specifically designed to be colored on. I would also recommend supervision for younger kids with this toy so they will not draw on other things with the markers. Although not quite a blank canvas because of the preprinted designs this bear is still a lot of fun to doodle on and it helps fuel creativity and imagination. The colors of the markers weren't really as bright as the pictures, but still worked well for coloring with on the bear. Because the bear is washable, your child will enjoy decorating the bear over and over again. It also can be a learning tool about colors and shapes. My daughter Teela had a lot of fun coloring this bear with the help and supervision of her older brother Jaedan and I. She loved how there were so many different ways to color it and after it was washed it was ready to color all over again.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Ebeanstalk for sending me an Alex Color & Cuddle Washable Bear and information about the toy 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.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Host A Healthy Child Healthy World Healthy Home Party

Host a Healthy Child Healthy World Healthy Home Party this year and start the year out green! With the tools and information provided in the Healthy Home Party Kit, you can educate your family, friends, school, and community to protect children's health and development from common toxins. YOU can make a difference!

This is an awesome opportunity is for bloggers or anyone willing to pay $20 tax deductible for a kit to get some awesome eco-friendly products and have a home party that will help you get you or keep you on the road to a greener life.

The Healthy Home Party Kit includes a ‘Creating Healthy Environments for Children’ DVD, a 5 Easy Steps guide, one set of pocket guides, Healthy Child brochures and 5 Easy Steps flyer, ‘Creating Healthy Environments for Children’ fact sheet, 5 Easy Steps on ‘How to Host a Healthy Home Party’, and product samples and collateral from Healthy Child Healthy World sponsors. The sponsors and partners include awesome companies like: Activeion, Baby Soy, CleanWell, BamboNature, Dapple, Earthbound Farm, Earth Friendly Products, Episencial, gDiapers, Happy Baby, Klean Kanteen, LUNA, Mohawk, Naturepedic, O.N.E Drinks, Organic Valley, Eat Cleaner, California Baby, Plum Organics, Revolution Foods, Seventh Generation, Weil Baby, and Yes to Carrots.

If you are on a budget and can't afford the $20 for the kit you can download free resources and materials You can also apply for a Healthy Home Party Scholarship. Every month Healthy Child Healthy World gives away 10 kits. Fill out the form to apply.

*Due to limited resources, they can only give out ONE Healthy Home Party Kit per household, per year. Please note: they do not ship outside the U.S. or to P.O. boxes, so please provide a valid U.S. street address.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: In entering and not being selected to host a Healthy Baby Home Party I was chosen as one of 300 people for their ongoing Healthy Home Party Kits for free so that I can host a party of my own soon. I posted this information for my readers to let them know of this great offer to host a party of their own. 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 post.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mamas & Papas' New Lightweight Strollers

Mamas & Papas, a baby gear brand in the UK brand that recently was launched in the United States, has created a fleet of lightweight strollers that are perfect for situations where flexibility is important. All Mamas & Papas lightweight strollers also feature an over-the-shoulder carrying strap for when the stroller is folded and in transit.

Mamas & Papas has 29 years experience in baby transport and a design team that has evolved the quality and style to a new performance to bring you these new lightweight umbrella strollers.

  • Trip – This stroller offers vented side panels and is the must-have getaway product.
  • Tour – Increased seat padding and a deeper recline will ensure comfort during longer journeys
  • Voyage – Features an integrated sun visor and sun canopy, quilted seat and removable toddler pillow and chest pads for extra comfort, this stroller is the highlight of the new Mamas & Papas lightweight stroller range.
  • Cruise – Perfect for everyday use, this stroller features a five-position recline, adjustable foot rest, easypeek canopy window and additional storage pockets.
  • Trek – Featuring a simple seat recline system, little ones have the option to nap while on the move.
I absolutely love the Trip in Apple or Blueberry, the Cruise in Purple and the Trek in Blueberry or Raspberry!

    BUY IT:
    You can purchase these strollers on Babies R Us.

    Like Mamas & Papas on Facebook and Follow Mamas & Papas on Twitter to stay up to date on all their happenings.

    DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: By posting this post I am automatically entered for a chance to win 1 of 5 Mamas & Papas lightweight strollers that the Mom Bloggers Club is giving away this month. They will randomly choose 5 winners on December 16. Over 1000 moms expressed interest in this opp. and it was narrowed down to a much smaller team of 100 of which I am proud to be a part of.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell 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:


    City of Tranquil Light

    Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010

    ***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Bo Caldwell’s short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. Born in Oklahoma City in 1955, she grew up in Los Angeles and attended Stanford University, where she later held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing and a Jones Lectureship in Creative Writing. She has received a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County, and the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation. Her personal essays have appeared in O Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and America Magazine. Her first novel, The Distant Land of My Father, was one of The Los Angeles Times’ Best Books of 2001, and was selected for community reading programs in Pasadena, Santa Clara County, and Claremont. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer Ron Hansen.



    Product Details:

    List Price: $25.00
    Hardcover: 304 pages
    Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0805092285
    ISBN-13: 978-0805092288

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


    Shepherd-Teacher

    Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool. Late afternoon, when the sun nears the horizon and turns the sky into a watercolor of pastels. It is beautiful, as though God is showing off. As you approach the city you first see its wall, an immense gray brick structure that is as solid as it is imposing, nearly as wide as it is high, some thirty feet. If you are coming from the east, it will be in sharp silhouette against the lovely changing sky. Near the city the air begins to smell of smoke, but mostly it has the sweet, clean scent of the ripening winter wheat in the surrounding fields.

    From a distance the city may not look like much; only that dark wall is visible, and what can that tell you? Some say the cities in the North China Plain are by and large alike, one indistinguishable from another; to them this one might look like any other. But it is not; I can testify to this, for it is the place on this earth that I love the most, the city in which my wife and I lived for nearly twenty-five years among beggars and bandits and farmers and scholars and peasants, people whom we deeply loved. The name of the city is Kuang P'ing Ch'eng—City of Tranquil Light—and although I now reside in southern California and have for many years, that faraway place remains my home.

    And it is often in my thoughts. Above my bed hang three Chinese scrolls depicting New Testament scenes, painted by our most improbable convert and given to me when we left China. In the first, the prodigal son kneels at his father's feet as the father rests his hands on the young man's head. The son's pigtail is disheveled and his blue peasant's tunic and trousers are dirty and torn, while the father's violet silk robe is immaculate. In the second, an oriental woman lovingly washes our Lord's feet with her tears and dries them with her long black hair, her own bound feet tucked beneath her, and in the third, a slight but sturdy Zacchaeus, wearing a gray scholar's robe and with his long braided queue hanging down his back, climbs a persimmon tree for a glimpse of Yeh-Su, Jesus. A Chinese lantern of bright red silk—red is the color of happiness—hangs over my writing table, and a small carved chest made of camphor wood holds my woolen sweaters. My Chinese New Testament, its spine soft and its pages worn, sits on the table by my reading chair, with a strip of faded red paper, a calling card given to me long ago, marking my place. I still read the Scriptures in Chinese; I find I am more at home in it than I am in English, just as my Chinese name, Kung P'ei Te, given to me at the beginning of this century, seems more a part of me than my legal name, Will Kiehn.

    On my dresser is the photograph taken on our wedding day, November 4, 1908. Katherine and I were married at the American Consulate in Shanghai, and we are wearing Chinese clothes in the picture; our western clothes were too shabby for the occasion, and by then we had dressed in Chinese clothes for two years. Next to the photograph is my wife's diary, a thin volume I never read while she was alive but whose pages I now know by heart. Reading her sporadic entries is bittersweet, for while they bring our years together to life, they also show me my flaws and the ways in which I hurt her, unintentional though they were. But her pages make it seem that she is near, and if the price I pay for that closeness is regret it is a bargain still, albeit a painful one. I was her husband for over thirty-seven years, during which the longest we were apart was thirty-one days. She taught me the self-discipline I lacked, believed I was capable of far more than I did, and loved me as a young man as well as an old one. She was the one and only love of my life.

    When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we had come to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.

    Last week when I was sitting in the small reading room of the retirement home in which I live, a man selling Fuller brushes visited. It was a hot day, and the man was invited in for a glass of water. He looked to be about fifty years old. There were several of us in the reading room, and as the salesman approached and awkwardly began to show us his great variety of brushes—nailbrushes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, scrub brushes, whisk brooms—I heard his difficulty with English, and because he was oriental I asked if he spoke the standard language, Mandarin. He nodded and I began to speak in our shared tongue, and when he asked my Chinese name and I gave it, he stared at me in wonder.

    "Mu shih," he said urgently, Mandarin for shepherd-teacher—pastor—"you baptized me and took me into church fellowship when I was a young man. I am your son."

    I am retired now, and while at the age of eighty-one I know this is as it must be, it is strange not to be involved in active ministry; gone are the responsibilities that filled my life for so many years. I continue my work by praying for those who still serve, which I am able to do as my mind is sound. My physical health is also good; my nephew, John, a medical doctor, keeps careful watch over me, and I am well taken care of in these years, measured and monitored as never before. My niece, Madeleine, and my great-nieces and -nephews and their children also visit, and I am doted on by these younger generations.

    I am also in the good company of many who have placed the Great Commission foremost in their lives. I live at Glenwood Manor, a home for retired missionaries in Claremont, California, a small town some thirty miles east of Los Angeles. With its parades on the Fourth of July and Homecoming Weekend, its parks, and its tidy downtown, Claremont is wholesome and wholly American. From my room I look out on a small vegetable garden that thrives despite my come-and-go attention. Beyond the garden are the city's eucalyptus-lined streets, and beyond them citrus groves and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy. Each morning I walk to Memorial Park and the Public Library, and afterward I answer letters and read a daily Chinese newspaper and books to which I had no access during my years in China. Once a week I read a newspaper in German, the language of my parents and my childhood. At the start of the day when I read the Scriptures, I see truths I have never seen before, even after several decades of preaching the Gospel. And I dream of Chung-Kuo, the Middle Kingdom: China.

    I am an ordinary man and an unlikely missionary. The talents I have been able to offer my Lord are small and few and far outnumbered by my faults. I am often slow in getting things done, and at times I exhibit a marked willingness to avoid work. I have never considered myself an intuitive person, and I am inexperienced in many of the ways of modern life. I have, for example, never learned how to drive—I gave up after twice failing the required test—and I know little about the world of finance. I am absentminded and I often misplace things, and while I struggle with pride, I am rarely angry. Nor am I greedy, for which I have my heritage to thank; I am the son and grandson of Mennonite farmers who came to America for religious freedom, and I was raised to aspire to a simple life of farming the land and following Christ. But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life. This is God's grace, His unearned favor.

    When I was twelve years old, a missionary spoke at the small schoolhouse in Washita County, Oklahoma, where my three brothers and two sisters and I were taught weekdays for six months of the year. We spoke English at school, but at home and in church we still spoke the mother tongue, low German, though our parents had been in America for more than twenty years. German must be God's language, my uncle told me with great seriousness, because that's what the Bible was written in. He did not see the humor in this.

    The missionary was from India and he said he was returning there the following month, which I found startling, for he was old and frail. He told our class that in foreign lands the need for those to share the Good News and to care for people's bodies and souls was great, and that a missionary could be a doctor in the mission field as long as he had a good strong brush and plenty of soap and water. "A missionary brings light to the darkness," he said. "We are called to go where there is little light, and where there are people in need of help."

    It seemed he was speaking directly to me; my face grew hot and I felt a pull somewhere inside. At the end of class when the offering was taken, I gave all I had—the quarter I had earned for work on the farm, plus six pennies.

    At that time, I had not yet been baptized. As Mennonites we believed that faith comes not as an inheritance but as a personal decision; it is a gift freely offered and up to each individual to accept. My parents worked hard to help their children be ready to receive that gift; my mother knelt and prayed with us each morning, and in the evening my father read to us from Scripture. I was taught that faith should be apparent in every area of one's life, and I saw evidence of my parents' faith in their actions. They shared what they had with those who had less, they never turned a stranger away, and they showed me that loving our neighbor often meant feeding and clothing him, even if that involved less comfort for us. These things were as much a given in our home as taking your hat off when you were spoken to.

    While faith was not my inheritance, it was my heritage. My German ancestors were people who lived apart from the world and much to themselves in Prussia, preferring not to unite with the state and its church. They wanted no part in government affairs and refused to take up firearms, for doing so would violate the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Czarina Catherine II of Russia, hearing that the community was skilled in building dikes, offered its members a deal: she would give them large tracts of virgin farmland in Polish Russia and the freedom to practice their beliefs, in return for which the people would improve the land.

    Mennonites believe in the dignity of labor, and they accepted Catherine's offer. Six thousand souls left Prussia for Polish Russia, where they built their own churches and schools and were exempted from military service. They were allowed to substitute an affirmation for an oath—swearing of any kind was forbidden by God—and they were allowed to bury their own dead. They began to work the swampland along the Vistula River, where they built dikes high enough to keep the river's overflow from the lowlands, eventually transforming vast expanses of swampland into thousands of acres of wheat. They continued to speak German and they thrived for many years.

    Until 1873, when Alexander II, Catherine's great-grandson, revoked their special privileges, causing the community to look once more for a place where they would be free of the demands of an aristocratic government. The United States seemed to be the answer; its Constitution promised equal rights to all, and Congress had passed a bill that excused conscientious objectors from bearing arms. The community sent a delegation to America to spy out the land, and they returned with good news: fertile farmland could be had for very little, and the state of Kansas exempted Mennonites from military service. The Santa Fe railroad sent an agent to Russia to offer free transportation on a chartered steamer.

    Thus in October of 1874, after selling their land for a fraction of its value, it was to America that everyone went. With their families and friends, my parents traveled by rail to Antwerp and from there to New York on the Netherland. The group settled in Kansas, but my parents soon found that their one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm was too small to support a family of six. In 1885, the year I was born, they traveled to the western part of Oklahoma territory and leased a section of land that had never been cultivated.

    Again and again, my ancestors said yes to God, and as I grew I saw those around me say yes as well. Over the months then years I watched one person after another in our community walk forward at Sunday services. At times I looked wistfully, even enviously, at the new church members and wished that I, too, could say the words, could produce the faith. But I could not; I was suspicious of God and was afraid that, if I said yes to Him, He would change me in ways I would not like and ask of me things I did not want to do. I thought of the visiting missionary, and of what I had felt as he spoke. What if God should ask me to leave home? That I could never do. So I tolerated the restlessness that dwelt in my heart and decided that faith could wait.

    Which it did, for four years, until early one morning in late summer when I was in the fields. I was sixteen years old and farming was what I loved. I knew how to prepare seedbeds, plow the fields, plant and tend our crops, and harvest wheat and fruit at the optimal time, and I felt a deep satisfaction in watching things grow. Our property was bound by a creek to the north and a line of dogwood trees to the south, with the Washita River running through the center of our land. To the south of the river we grew wheat and to the north was grassland for cattle, with orchards on either side. We harvested more grain and fruit than we could haul to market, and nearly everything on our table came from our farm: cheese and sausage, bread and eggs and jam, apples and peaches and corn.

    That morning I fell to my knees behind the plow to pray before I began the day's work, just as I did every morning, for while I was unable to surrender myself to God, I was equally unable to turn my back on Him, and I could not discard my habit of cautious prayer. The day was already hot and the sun warmed my back as I knelt in the cool red dirt and thanked God for my life and asked Him to help me plow a straight line.

    I was about to stand when something stopped me. It was the quiet, a deep calm that I did not want to leave or disturb. I stayed very still, and as I gazed out at the wide expanse of rich red earth, my mind and heart grew still as well. I felt a Presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a Presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief. As I remained kneeling in the red soil, it seemed that the gift of faith was being offered to me. I whispered, "Help me to believe," and a feeling of great relief came over me as I realized how I had been longing for enough faith to give myself over. From somewhere inside I felt a yes, and an unfamiliar peace replaced the restlessness in my soul.

    Two weeks later, I gave my testimony at our meetinghouse. As I looked out at the congregation, my face grew hot and my voice trembled and I felt myself perspire, but I persevered. Four Sundays later, with our congregation gathered around me, I walked into the clear rushing water of the Washita River. As I knelt, our pastor cupped his hands behind my head and I lay back in the water and felt it rush over me. Then I was up, gasping and wet and cold, and I felt new.

    When I finished school three years later, my father sent me to the Gemeinde Schule—community school—a small Bible academy established by the church in nearby Corn, Oklahoma. The younger members of our church community were trained to take on the work of the older ones; my father hoped that when I finished at the academy I would attend the church's Bible College in Hutchinson, Kansas, then return home to become superintendent of our Sunday school.

    But that is not what happened. On a Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1906, a few weeks before I was to leave for Kansas, we had a visitor. His name was Edward Geisler, and he and my father greeted each other with a holy kiss, the custom among members of our faith. He was nearly family, my father said; Edward had left Russia in the same group as our family, and he had given himself to God's service. He had traveled to China in 1901 with five other young volunteers as part of the South Chihli Mission, and a few years later he and his wife and another Mennonite, the first Mennonite missionaries in China, had formed the China Mennonite Missionary Society. Now he had come home from China's interior to seek an increase in support for their work and to take new recruits back with him to China. "Our friend is following the Great Commission," my father said. " 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.' "

    The next morning Edward spoke at our church. What God asked of us, he said, was nothing less than absolute surrender. "The Gospel tells us this clearly: 'Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' The question we must ask ourselves is, What are we holding back? What is it that we will not give up?"

    I felt found out, as thoroughly convicted as if Edward had addressed me by name. Something tightened in my center, a tense feeling that stayed with me the rest of the day, and at dinner that night I did not speak. My mother asked if I was ill and whether I wanted to leave the table. A part of me did, but I stayed where I was.

    I was sitting next to Edward, who seemed to single me out from my siblings. He asked me kindly about school and farming and my baptism, and he said he could see that I loved God and that my faith would bless me all my life. I said no more than what was required, not because I disliked Edward but because I was so drawn to him. He was tall and thin and awkward and not handsome—unexceptional, like me, I thought—but when he spoke of China, I could not look away.

    He talked of Keng-Tze Nien, the Boxer Year six years earlier when thousands of Chinese Christians and 186 missionaries and their children had been murdered for following Christ by members of the secret Society of Righteous Harmonious Fists. But Christ's message would not be stopped, Edward said; the people's needs were too immense. They suffered from ignorance about hygiene and lack of medical care. Many infants died at birth, and fewer than half of those who lived survived to their first birthday. Mothers fed their children rat feces to cure them of stomach ailments, men applied the bile from the gallbladders of bears to heal their children's eyes, and opium addicts and beggars slept in the streets.

    Yet Edward made no capital of what he had seen. "The suffering is great, as is the need for help, physical and spiritual." He paused, and his expression softened. "But the rewards are also great. The people are the kindest and most generous I have known. They are wise in many ways, and there is much to learn from them and to admire. They have the right to hear the Gospel."

    Toward the end of the meal, Edward turned to me. "I return to China in a few weeks. My wife is there, caring for our children and carrying on our work. We need helpers, for the harvest is great, the laborers few. Why don't you come with me, Will? The Chinese language is difficult, but far easier when you are young. Perhaps this is your calling."

    I saw my siblings trying to stifle their laughter. Of all our family, I was the least likely to leave. I wasn't good at speaking in front of people; I became nervous and I stammered. I was quiet and shy, I wasn't a good student, and I disliked being away from home.

    "I'm needed here," I said, my voice cracking. "I haven't any training or gifts of that kind."

    Edward said, "The Giver of those gifts may feel otherwise," and he looked at me, his blue eyes bright. "A torch's one qualification is that it be fitted to the master's hand. God's chosen are often not talented or wise or gifted as the world judges. Our Lord sees what is inside"—Edward touched his chest—"and that is why He calls whom He does." Then he turned to my father and they began to talk about wheat.

    In the morning Edward left to visit other churches; he would return in a week. During those days I struggled, for while I felt pulled toward Edward's work, the idea seemed too foolish to even consider. I couldn't imagine leaving home; I suspected I was unfit for anything but farming, and I thought surely God would want me to remain where I had been planted. I decided I was being proud to think I might be remotely capable of meeting the challenges that must face a man like Edward every day, for in the few years that had passed since I joined the church, I did not feel I had made much progress spiritually. I yearned to walk more closely with God, and while I did experience moments of joy, they were often followed by days of despair. I told myself that surely God would not ask me to do work that was so clearly beyond me, and I fervently prayed that China was not my calling.

    The night before Edward was to return, I woke suddenly in the night. When I couldn't fall back to sleep, I crept out of bed and down the ladder that led from the attic bedroom I shared with my brothers. I sat down at the table my father had made from the elm trees that edged our land, and for a while I just listened to the nighttime sounds of our home—the even rhythm of my father's snoring in the next room, the soft rush of the wind outside, the neat ticking of the kitchen clock—sounds as familiar as my own heartbeat.

    As I sat there, I suddenly knew I would go to China. The realization was as simple and definite as the plunk of a small stone in the deep well of my soul, and despite the fact that it would mean leaving what I loved most in the world, I felt not the sadness and dread I had expected but a sense of freedom and release. The tightness in me loosened like cut cord, and I was joyful.

    The next morning I stood nervously in our kitchen, my hands gripping the rough wood that framed the door, as I waited to tell my father of my decision. I was worried about his reaction; I expected disappointment and anger and dreaded them equally. I had not disobeyed my parents since I was a small boy, and the thought that God might ask me to do so now made my heart clench.

    I saw my father coming toward me from the chicken house. He had barely entered the yard before I hurried to meet him.

    "I have something to tell you," I said. "I feel that God is calling me to serve Him in China. I know it makes no sense; I know I'm unqualified and I'm needed here and my decision must seem all wrong to you. But yes seems the only answer I can give."

    I had braced myself for my father's objections, but none came. He stared at me without speaking for a long moment; then he put his arms around me and embraced me tightly. "Will," he said, "you have chosen the better part. How could I refuse you?"

    Edward was to leave for Seattle from his family's home in French Creek near Hillsboro, Kansas, in two weeks. My parents went with me to the farewell meeting, which was held at the home of fellow Mennonites, where, with the friends and relatives who were able to join us, Edward, myself, and three other recruits sat outside at rough tables and benches under shade trees while Edward read Scripture and prayed for us and led us in the four-part singing of a few hymns. A few of the group gave their testimonies; then we shared a fellowship meal, and our families and friends wished us well.

    At the end of the meeting, my mother took me aside. "Will, do you have money to travel?"

    I felt instantly foolish and ashamed, for I hadn't even thought about money; I had somehow thought Edward would take care of it. Out of pride and embarrassment, I said, "I hadn't worked it out. Edward invited me. He'll pay the bills."

    My mother shook her head. "Here," she said, and she took my hand and pressed a roll of bills into it, more money than I had ever seen. She smiled at my amazement. "It's my inheritance from my parents, two hundred dollars. Edward says it will cover the train to Seattle and the steamship across the ocean." She held me close for moment. Then she said, "My sweet boy—I will miss you more than you know."

    At the railway station, my parents and I stood together awkwardly. When it was time to board, my heart pounded and I suddenly wanted to change my mind; it seemed that doing something right shouldn't hurt so much. But the conductor called out and waved his small flag, and I knew I had to go.

    I embraced my mother and father a last time. None of us could speak. I walked to the train and climbed aboard, then hurried back to the last car and watched my parents until I could no longer make them out in the distance; even my father waving his broad-brimmed felt hat was gone. I worked at committing this last sight of them to memory, so I could call it up at will, and I tried to console myself with the idea that I would return in five years. But it did not ease the ache in my chest.

    My mother had never sent me off anywhere without food, and this departure was no exception. Packed in a small basket were homemade sausage and biscuits, apples from our orchard, spice cake, and tea, all of which I shared with Edward and the three other recruits, whom I found intimidating, for at twenty-one I knew I was the youngest and least experienced. Jacob and Agnes Schmidt were a married couple who had met at the Salvation Army, and Ruth Ehren was a deaconess, which meant, Edward explained, that she had completed a two-year nurse's training program at an orphanage and hospital in Berne, Indiana, so that she could devote herself to the care of the poor and sick. The long black dress and black bonnet she wore signified her training and position. A fourth recruit, another deaconess, would join us in Seattle.

    After three days on the train we reached Seattle, where we would spend our last night in America with friends of Edward's. At the railway station Edward asked me to stay with the luggage while he took the others to our hosts' home. While I was sitting on the trunks, a young woman passed by. She wore the same type of black dress and bonnet that Ruth did, and when Edward returned for me, he brought this young woman with him and introduced her as Katherine Friesen, from the Deaconess Hospital in Cleveland. "She's also my wife's sister," Edward added, and I heard the pride in his voice. She smiled fondly at him but seemed to ignore me, which was fine by me, for I could not speak. Although slight, she was so sure of herself and so imposing in her black dress that I was in awe of her from the start.

    October 3, 1906

    I am far away from home tonight, the farthest I have ever been, sitting in the comfortable parlor in the home of strangers in a rainy city I do not know on the edge of this continent. Tomorrow at this time I will be even farther away, miles out to sea—I, Katherine Friesen, who have spent my life in the middle of this country with not so much as a glimpse of the ocean, will be in the middle of it! I have surprised myself this evening, for while I thought I would be anxious or afraid, I am neither. Although I love my family and will miss them, and although I have no idea what to expect of the days, weeks, and months ahead, here is my secret: I am happy. My heart beats strangely; I feel more like I am returning home than leaving it.

    These giddy feelings seem wrong. Shouldn't a good daughter, a good sister, a good deaconess, be ambivalent about leaving home? But I'm not, which amazes me. I'm amazed that I've made it to Seattle, amazed at my good health, amazed that one obstacle after another concerning money and the details of the journey has been overcome. Here I am, sitting at this cherrywood table by a warm fire, "en route to the Far East," as our hosts put it; how glamorous it sounds!

    The other recruits don't seem to share my high spirits; they already look homesick. The married couple appears to be aware only of each other; I haven't seen them more than two feet apart all evening. Young love, I suppose. Ruth Ehren, the other deaconess, is as somber as if our journey were a punishment. She's what people often envision when they hear the word missionary—a serious soul who travels to faraway lands to turn heathens into Westerners. I don't understand her; being morose seems like such a loss.

    Then there is Will Kiehn, who strikes me as awkward and dreamy, but Edward certainly sees something in him; his strong encouragement is the reason Will is going to China. I can see that Edward loves this clumsy boy, for he already favors him every chance he gets; tonight at dinner he passed Will extra crescent rolls (the boy seemed ravenous—I kept wanting to ask if anyone had been feeding him) and afterward he made sure Will wrote a letter to his parents. Edward says Will reminds him of his younger self, that when he talked to Will about China, Will's expression of wonder mirrored his own feelings when he was starting out. That's how I felt too when I began to sense the idea of China in my soul, a kind of irrational certainty that I would go, even though it made no sense. Edward says that when Will told him of his decision to go with him to China he felt a bounce of joy inside; he was certain he'd met a like-minded soul. This is high praise, for while my brother-in-law can be impetuous and unorthodox in his ways, he is as wise as he is kind, which makes me believe there must be more to this Will than I see. Perhaps he isn't as bothersome as he seems.

    Edward's excitement is a dramatic contrast to the somber mood of the others. His eyes are bright as he talks of leaving in the morning, and I see the energy in his step and his movements, as though this tidy home in which we are guests constrains him. Of course he really is returning home—to Naomi and the boys and the new baby, all of whom I'm eager to see—so there is reason for his joy. But I think it is more than a homecoming. He is excited about the work.

    As am I. I have no idea what this life will be like, nor can I guess whether I'll be gone for five years or fifty. I know only that I am happy—in my heart and mind and soul and even my body, which feels strong and sturdy and healthy. I'm weary too, but I don't mind the fatigue; I am on my way to China, and that is enough.

    Early the next morning we left for the Seattle docks and for the S.S. Minnesota, which was to depart shortly before noon. Edward settled us on board then went to secondhand stores to purchase a few last supplies he knew he couldn't get in China. Noon came and he hadn't returned, a problem because he had the tickets. The whistle blew once, then a second time, and finally Edward came charging up the gangplank, awkwardly carrying a load of folding chairs he'd bought at what he excitedly said was a most reasonable price.

    The thick ropes tethering the ship to the dock were untied and we were under way. I stayed on deck, and in my mind I said goodbye to my family once again as I watched Seattle and America recede.

    Edward joined me, and for a while we were silent. Then he said, "Perhaps it's time to learn your first Mandarin phrase."

    I was immediately anxious; I did not feel at all up to tackling a new language. But when he spoke again, I was so drawn to the sound of what he said that I couldn't help asking its meaning.

    He smiled and repeated it. "Tsaichien mei-kuo," he said. "Tsaichien is goodbye, mei is beautiful, kuo is country. That's the name for America: Beautiful Country."

    I tried to repeat it. Then I asked him the word for China.

    "Chung-Kuo," he said. "It means Middle Kingdom, because of the people's ancient belief that their country was at the center of a vast square earth, surrounded by the Four Seas, beyond which lay islands inhabited by barbarians. That's us." Edward turned and faced the front of the ship, and the expanse of ocean spread before us, so that America was behind us. "The strange part," he said softly, "is that after you've been there for a while, it truly does feel like the center of the world. It becomes a place you never want to leave."

    I nodded, willing to be convinced. For at that moment, despite the homesickness that had accompanied me like a stowaway since I'd left home, I had a dim hope that, given time, I might come to feel the same.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    HunBaba Mei Tai Baby Carrier Review and Giveaway

    I received the Purple Dream HunBaba Mei Tai Baby Carrier for free to test and review and when it arrived it was even more gorgeous in person than in the pictures. Coming all the way from Hungary it only took two weeks to get to me. HunBaba was so kind as to updating me about where the package was because the tracking number wasn't auto updating and gave me a status of "Origin Post is Preparing Shipment" throughout its shipping.

    I love babywearing! I also love trying out and having different baby carriers. I couldn't wait to try this one out! Since this is my very first Mei Tai carrier I was not familiar with putting it on or how to use it. It came with a very helpful DVD with a powerpoint slide show to walk me through the process of both front and back carry. These carriers are based on traditional Chinese soft baby carriers that can be used as front packs, back packs, and hip carriers. Unlike the traditional carriers though this one has a hood that folds up and over the baby's head so that it is protected from the elements and also supports the baby's head while it sleeps. The Ergo baby carrier has a similar hood they call a sleeping hood. This is an awesome feature that is especially wonderful for here in Oregon where it rains a whole bunch in the winter months. It can also be used as a shade to keep out the sun. I would be careful though that you check on your baby every once in a while while the hood is up to make sure baby is safely breathing. The hood has beautiful embroidery on it and can be adjusted as baby grows with the extensions with snaps.


    I tried out the front carry with my daughter Zari and the back carry with my daughter Teela. This carrier is exceptionally comfortable both ways and distributes the baby's weight evenly. I love the front carry the best because I could kiss Zari's head and it was very much like she was hugging me. Zari loves this carrier and fell asleep in it right away. Teela wanted to be in it again once she was out :) She thought it was a wonderful way of getting a piggy back ride. I am very petite, but was still able to back carry my two and a half year old daughter comfortably in it. It was fairly easy to put on both ways although I thought the front carry was easier since you can see what you are doing. I also liked the front carry better because the straps didn't feel like they were going to slide off. I tried a different way of tying them for the back carry and since I am small I crossed them in front and it worked better for me and was still holding Teela securely. In the picture above I have the Hunbaba the way the CD told me to wear it.

    There are only a few downsides to the HunBaba Mei Tai baby carrier that I have found. It is pricey costing $99 plus roughly $25 shipping from Hungary. Also, the straps are very long and the whole thing can be a little cumbersome especially when trying to pack it for trips in a diaper bag.

    It is; however, constructed very well and has reinforced padded straps for sturdiness and durability. The shoulder straps are 200 cm+ long for differences in body types. The waist strap can be rolled up to shorten the body of the carrier for little babies and the body is contoured instead of square like some Mei Tais. All in all, it is so worth getting and the craftsmanship is superior than anything I have tried before! The HunBaba would be a great baby shower gift or Christmas gift for someone.

    Here is someone doing the Lexi Twist with the Hunbaba Mei Tai:


    WIN IT:
    Marti has generously offered a HunBaba Mei Tai Baby Carrier of the winner's choice to giveaway to one of my readers.

    Mandatory:
    1. Go to the HunBaba website and tell me by commenting on this post which HunBaba you like the best.

    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 HunBaba 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 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 A HunBaba Mei Tai Baby Carrier #giveaway http://bit.ly/esXAmE (Daily Extras are Available)

    12. Heart HunBaba on Etsy. (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 December 31, 2010 at midnight (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada). This Giveaway is open to all 18 years and over Worldwide!!

    DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: Thanks to HunBaba for sending me a Purple Dream HunBaba Mei Tai Baby Carrier, information about the carrier and this giveaway 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.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Baby Bible Christmas Storybook by Robin Currie 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; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)

    ***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

    MY THOUGHTS:
    This is a beautiful board book of the telling of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is wonderful for Christmas time to teach the true meaning to little ones. Since it is a board book this will last longer and the wonderful illustrations will keep your little one occupied. My Teela loves this book and wanted me to read it over and over to her.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.

    Visit the author's blog.


    Product Details:

    List Price: $9.99
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Board book: 36 pages
    Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0781403685
    ISBN-13: 978-0781403689

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):