Monthly Archives: February 2010

Desert Fire

My Review: My review of this book is not complete as I have been trying to keep up with my reading and this one is next. I was supposed to take it with me when I took the boys bowling yesterday and it got left, along with the camera on the counter! Anyhow, I am very excited to read this as it just so happens, I just watched several episodes of E.R. that were in Darfur… this is very interesting to me to find this book! I will a a complete review later…
Finished the book! This book combined with the episodes of ER, I saw, just sort of shocked me at how awful it really is over there. This book is an incredible work of art! Julia- a young reporter is assigned to a IDP camp in Darfur. She meets a missionary couple working there, a midwife and nurse, who are giving their time and lives for these people. Intent on exposing the real evil about the people responsible for the genocide, they go "undercover" in burqa’s to record and tape an interview with a leader of the responsible group. The result is kidnapping and murder, but in the midst of it, Julia is called to wonder how the Christians can trust God when everything is so horrible. She is trying to deal with her past, a father in prison, writing from the grave, a mother who is loser…drifting from man to man, and yet it all seems so small when she is facing children who have lost limbs, parents, entire families.
This book will challenge you to look beyond yourself, to wonder if there is more you should be doing for the world out there. This is for sure more than just a novel!!! – Martha

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:

Desert Fire

Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Shannon Van Roekel has volunteered on the mission field in both Africa and Mexico and much of this novel is influenced by her experiences. She published works in Guideposts 4 Teens and The Upper Room and now lives with her husband and five children in British Colombia.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825439221
ISBN-13: 978-0825439223


Dear Julia,

I want to die better than I’ve lived. So I ask you, please read this letter to the end.

It’s the only one I’ll send.

Cold, fluorescent light shone down on the metal desk where Fred Keegan sat. His hair was closely shaven along a massive neck between a pair of muscle-bound shoulders. He hunched over white notepaper, his right hand engulfing the pen.

A sigh escaped him, a moment passed, and then the pen scratched its way across the paper again:

If you receive this, it will mean I am gone from this world—so you can relax, I won’t come and disturb your life.

There are some things, however, that I’d like you to know about me.

One is that I’ve always loved you. I guess your mama didn’t spend much time talking about the father you probably had no trouble forgetting. I don’t blame either of you for having nothing to do with me. I was a real jerk. I was guilty, as charged, for the crimes I committed. That life, I am ashamed of, and I paid a high price. Thirty years in the slammer. And counting. I won’t bore you with the sorry-old-me stuff. Mostly, I want to tell you about the last eight years. Something important happened, and you should know not just who I was, but who I got to be and the Treasure I found. This is why I write to you.

I’ve got a picture of a cute kid taped to my wall. You’re missing your front teeth and have two of those pony things. You’re a cute gal and no mistake. Pretty, like your mama. The picture came in the last letter with the divorce papers.

Fred stopped, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut. The memories of that day still filled him with remorse. The rage he’d felt and his inability to control it. Two guards had taken the brunt, both of whom still carried scars marking the event. Two weeks in solitary was his punishment. Regrettably, not long enough to cure him of his anger-management problem.

Picking up his pen again, he gazed at the photo. The tape had yellowed with age. The girl never aged. She smiled back with sweetness and youth.

I guess you were seven in that photo. That means you’d be thirty-three now. I wonder if I’d know you if I saw you today. Can a man walk past his own kin and not feel the bond of blood that connects them? Recognize the spirit in the other who shares his same history, ancestors, and perhaps God? Maybe that’s why we get goose bumps. Maybe I’m a crazy old fool who’s had too much time to think about the inner workings of this thing we call life.

“Keegan, you got a visitor.”

Fred looked up as the guard unlocked the steel door and stepped aside, allowing a tall man access into his cell. His frown at being interrupted from his writing smoothed immediately into a grin when he recognized his guest.

“Mr. Lawyer, good to see ya.”

“Good to be seen, Keegan. How are you feeling today?” Joel Maartens returned Fred’s grin with one of his own.

“Feeling? I guess I’m fine. I’ve got things to do, and that helps keep my mind off the pain.” Fred tried to ignore the pity in Joel’s eyes.

“Let me guess, you’ve got new books?”

Fred followed Joel’s gaze as he glanced at the bookshelf on the opposite wall. His cell was compact: bed, desk, chair, toilet, sink. But the bookshelf reaching from floor to ceiling was the focal point.

“Nah! Not books this time. I’ve got a letter to write, and it’s not an easy thing to do, Mr. Lawyer.” Fred folded his large frame into a sitting position on the edge of his bed so Joel could take the chair. “That’s why I asked to see you. I need some help with its delivery.”

“You need a letter mailed?” Joel asked.

“Not mailed, delivered,” Fred explained.

“Got an address, Keegan?”

“Well, no. No, I don’t. But it’s to my daughter.”

Fred watched Joel, wondering how his lawyer would respond to his proposal. They had known each other for the last five years, and during that time, he had learned to value the man’s opinion. Joel seemed less like his lawyer and more like a nephew.

Joel leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees and his fingers laced together as he spoke.

“I wouldn’t think it should be too difficult. There’ll be a marriage certificate if your ex remarried—would she be the type to remarry?” As Fred nodded and grimaced, Joel continued. “And of course, school registration forms. Maybe with some help from the Web, I could find an address or addresses where you can send the letter—”

“No,” Fred interjected. “I don’t want to mail it. It’s taken me a long time, Joel, but now that I have something of value to offer her, I want to know that it’ll get put into her hands. I don’t know who else to ask. I thought this thing through till my head feels like I’ve got two tumors, not one, and I keep coming back to you. I need you to do this.

“My daughter, Julia, will be my only heir, and you will be the executor—if you agree to it, that is. This search shouldn’t be complicated, but if it is, you can take any funds you require for it from the inheritance provision that you will write up with my signature and a third-party witness. I’m not a rich man, but I’m not a poor one, either, thanks to some of the investments you’ve helped me with.” He stopped. His outburst had winded him.

Fred prepared himself for disappointment as he watched Joel struggle with the ramifications of his request. Things that should be simple and straightforward were sometimes the opposite. For a lawyer to take on the unknown with no guarantee was a leap, and Fred knew it.

Joel hesitated for a moment, then gave a quick nod.

“I’ll do it, Keegan,” he told him.

As they shook hands over the agreement, Fred sighed with relief. He knew Joel would see it through. It was enough.

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Why do I read?

I know sometimes people will wonder why someone reads so much? I tend to read more when I would like to think about something else, but why do I read? It is a $100 question!!! <p> When I was 5 years old, I remember the moment I learned to read.  I do not know if everyone has a "moment" but I did! I remember my teacher trying to explain things to me and then she handed me  a book about a frog I think, and I read it. I felt like my world opened to me! By the time I was 6 years old, I remember being given an oral reading test and reading up to 5th grade level. I remember being embarrassed over the fuss they made and stopped reading. Life was no longer just what I saw, I could see all over the world, I could live all over the world through other people and learn their lessons so I did not have to learn them myself. <p> My mom struggled to keep up with me and my reading habit. But some of my fondest memories are being curled up on the couch, just me and my mom, as she read me the "Love comes Softly" series by Janette Oke. She read to me other series too and  I read everything she bought for me! <p> then one day heaven opened up and  I found out about libraries and used bookstores! Every weekend in Seattle we could, we would go to used old bookstores and spend hours and hours! It was so nice!! <p> When I was 10, I remember we started spending alot of time at the library. However, mom told me fiction books were bad and I remember wondering curiously how that was since Pilgrim’s Progress was over there. Since we read other fiction at home, I think it was just mom’s way of trying to keep ahead of me!  I think I read every young adult biography that library had! We again, would sit around and mom read about J.C Penny and we learned how to quilt and we folded clothes. <p> So, why do I read? Some of my fondest childhood memories are related to reading.  It is not just the reading, to me, it meant my mom loved me, she was there for me and she cared enough to want to know what I was reading.  Even later when I read my own books, she carefully taught me how to look for good books and put down ones with content I did not think was good. Those lessons were invaluable! When I was about 12, she pretty much let me make my own decisions about reading and I read some of my favorites like "Nearby" by Elizabeth Yates, "The Singing Boones"  and "The Beany Malone series". They were companions to me that are as real as my friends I grew up with. <p>
I know many people do not like fiction books, and I know there is alot of bad stuff out there. But for me, when I read a true story, it is true. There is no black and white about it. If the person had a bad life, they just did. In a fiction story, often I can decide that it is not a real person, their lesson they learned was only for the story and helping me learn, I can relate to their problem and take away from it. <p> I know many people speak about romance in books and how horrible it is. I know for many people it may be, but I have learned so much from it. There are the sappy, cheesy, romantic books, but  I love a story with romance in it that is real life romance. I think if we all had to live without any love in the world, we would be a sad place. <p> If anyone knows me well, they know I am not a cheesy, romantic type of girl….this is someone who got frustrated with Anne Shirley…… I am very practical, no-nonsense type of person who likes to be in control of my emotions. So, for me, it gives me hope that maybe in this world where so many things are wrong, that out there, somewhere there are people who do love in spite of bad things. They live through hard things and love each other. <p> These are just some of the reasons I read! I thank God for good authors who work hard to supply us with good reading material. I wish more people would take the time to drop them an encouraging line sometimes.  Or if they are not writing the type of books you want, let them know what you want!

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Deep dish egg bake

I made these for MOPS this morning and it turned out really well! I really liked it and it was not too eggy so I could eat it too!!!

Deep Dish egg bake-

5-6 peeled boiled potatoes, grated

1 c. grated cheddar cheese

4 eggs

1/2 c. milk

1 green pepper diced

5 green onions diced

1 c. cheddar cheese grated

1 c. diced ham or sausage

Oil a 9x 13 baking dish, mix the grated potatoes and 1 c. cheese together. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Press into greased pan. Mix everything else together. Pour on top. Bake at 350 for 45-50 min.

It was fast to put together and easy! I think even my family would like it who is really picky about breakfast casseroles. I will have to try it for them sometime!!!  I cooked the potatoes the night before and just grated them in the food processor this morning and threw it in the oven while I  showered!!! It was pretty too, I would have taken a picture, but there was no time!!

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Sunny, warm, Saturday….

Yesterday went well!!! My arms are aching from all the rolling out, but it kind of feels good, you know like when you really give hem a workout? The kids I think, had fun, and we had tons of food!!!Our little Foreigners

All our food!!! We had mashed potatoes, bread, Montay, Variniky, Empanadas, crepes with cream cheese and jam, Kung Pao chicken  and lots of other stuff
Little boy from Africa……
P. is listening to Redwall in the other room, I am not terribly familiar with it, but another homeschool mom recommended them. He loves audio books, but I am making him read real books too!!!<p> It has been sunny here the last three days, I guess I did not realize how long it had been of gray days. They don’t usually bother me, but the sunshine has been so nice! I just want to lay on the rug in the living room and read in the sun…..yeah. It is not happening, although I have had some time to read. I have been keeping track this year and so far this month I read 21 books……most of them longer than 300 pages. I just re-read the series by Kristen Heitzmann Diamond of the Rockies!!! I really like that series and the one after it in modern times. I love the food descriptions. She makes it so you can almost taste the yummy italian food and smell the garlic……it is so amazing!!  They make me want to drag out each book for as long as possible as I do not want the story to end.  It is a story of danger, redemption and love though as  they learn about true love and sacrifice in marriage, while dealing with past pain and being longsuffering in pain as well. <p>
I have been trying to get tax info sorted out, which is not too hard as my sister handles most of it…..which I should be paying her for…..then I am trying to think about school next year and if I should continue homeschooling everyone or not….so many decisions. It is really tough to be a parent. I really like homeschooling, but I am trying to see what is best for the children too.
<p> I need to get some new clothes, but I went to some of the stores and in my size they have like 4-5 things on each different type of clothing. If you do not like them, you are just stuck……it is not fun. It is easier to buy book or decorations. I bought a plaque to hang on my bedroom wall instead that says "Welcome to the beach" eventually it will all be decorated and have wall hanging things to look more beach like…..or retreat like, I suppose. <p>
I have some pictures I took, I should upload, but instead my camera is upstairs and alas…..I am downstairs!! No pictures for you! <p>
My sister Mishael is very recently found out she was suprisingly pregnant…. it was a surprise as her baby is fairly small yet. She decided to defy the odds a bit more and got pregnant with triplets we found out….pray for her as she needs every bit of prayer she can that she can keep them and it goes well as well as dealing with high risk pregnancy and all. She is alot like me in pregnancy, very hands off and I know this would not go over well with me. <p>
I had to take dinner to a family whose mother is in the hospital. She may not make it very long, we do not know, but she seems to be doing better right now, which is amazing. I made Spaghetti, meatballs (I froze them earlier) and sauce….instead of baking a bunch of stuff, I stopped and bought a loaf of French bread, grapes and half gallon ice cream… was only like $3.50 and was so much easier. They seemed to appreciate it! <p>
Well, I think I am going to finish off my lazy saturday….well, not altogether lazy. We ran a bunch of errands, we order F. a new pair of glasses, not too expensive ones, but nice, got birthday party invitations at the Dollar tree and walked through a bunch of other stores, the library etc too. H. had a $5 gift from a toy store so we went there and the mall too, just him and I, and had a nice time choosing a sketch pad, a whistle and a fun pad to draw on and a new jacket at the mall for his birthday.  He is alot like my family, not the russian side, in shunning coats!!! A lightweight jacket even when it is really cold is more to his liking. This was a Osh Kosh jacket though and only $6 so that was a good deal. <p>
So, I had better either go finish laundry or my exercise routine or maybe just read another book…..or all three!!!

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Meals and more

Sometimes homeschooling different levels can just be overwhelming!!! I mean, does everyone have children who misplace books partway through the year? We have been doing pretty well this year, although you might not agree if you saw my schoolroom, but I now have an English book and a math book misplaced!!! What is that about? <p> On Monday and Wednesdays usually we have a preschool/kindergarten co-op class. I teach every three weeks. Every time, I end up feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and generally stupid by the time the lesson is planned and done. Usually it is not so bad, but I am sure looking forward to it being done! Tomorrow, I am supposed to have a whole unit on Russia though, for 3,4 and 5 year olds and  a couple 7 year olds. I am supposed to not only be cleaning, but cooking and planning activities! Yeah, should be a blast!!! <p>
Yesterday, my lesson is all planned, but I forgot to print something until the morning. Instead, my printer decides suddenly it cannot communicate with the computer and it no longer exists. After futile attempts to get it to work, I decided we had to go! My 5 year old was not dressed yet, in spite of being told to, so I told him he was going in his PJ’s…which caused wailing and frustration generally all around! Our lunch ended up being thrown together at the last minute and I had to make an emergency stop for copies at Staples on the way to class! Amazingly, I was less than 5 minutes late!!!! My head was pounding though and I thought I  would not get through the day, but I did!!!
<p> So, meal planning… life saver of the week!

Wednesday: Leftovers- Chicken chili over rice and potato soup
Thursday: Variniky, salad
Friday:  Lunch will be food from many lands, so anything that is left will probably be for dinner.
Saturday: Pasta, sauce/meatballs, garlic bread
Sunday: Chicken noodle soup, bread
Monday: Baked chicken thighs, rice pilaf, salad
Tuesday: Scalloped potatoes and ham, steamed broccoli<p>

I have birthdays for the boys coming up and I am supposed to be planning those as well. Do you think I have? No….I wish I did not feel like my head was rolling pell-mell, helter-skelter down a hill…..but it does!! Maybe I will forget cleaning, cooking and just go crawl back into bed with a book? Sound good? No, I will be responsible and go work now!!! Anyone who reads this who is local, is welcome to drop in and help me, but expect a mess!!

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Songbird under the German moon by Tricia Goyer

Songbird under the German moon
By Tricia Goyer

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko<p>

Rebuilding after the war….like you never saw it before. This shows a time in history I have not read about many times. After the war ended, there were many soldiers in Germany dealing with all the rebuilding of the government, the displaced people from all over. There were still danger lurking in people who were disheartened over losing the war as well as people who were simply misguided and out of their heads with grief. <p>
This story shows the life of the young women who worked to cheer up the soldiers who fought so hard for their country and some of the dangers even they faced. Betty is a singer with a songbird voice…she works to entertain and keep them smiling in the darkest times. But danger lurks around every corner  in the shadows and in the woods, it seems a little creepy sleeping in one of the same places Hitler possibly slept. When tragedy strikes, Betty tries to make sense of it all…plus could she maybe find her true love among the soldiers?
<p> I really liked this book! It was history with a hint of mystery. Tricia loves the historical facts and you cannot read any of her books without learning something.<p>
You can go to Tricia’s blog
to read about some of the other amazing books she has written and published. This book is available for purchase from your local booksellers as well as Amazon as well as others!!! Check it out!!

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Pajama School by Natalie Wickham

Pajama School
by Natalie Wickham

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

The story of a  homeschool graduate and how she made a difference!!! <p>
I found Natalie’s story very encouraging and interesting. She really brings the point across that homeschooling is much different looking on the outside than traditional schooling, but it can be a success, in spite of many barriers. you read the things that happened in her life with her bi-polar grandma living them, premature birth of her sister, deaths of friends and family that often caused problems with  schooling, yet she explained how it did not really cause issues in their education! <p>
This quirky book will be an encouragement to the homeschool mom who wonders if this is really going to work and if those 10:00 suppers are harming their children for life.
Natalie will inspire your daughters that you can honor your parents, live a biblically, God honoring life and still enjoy life, while growing up homeschooled! Her many friends mentioned in the book, some of which I know from being well known bloggers, speakers, writers, show that she was not isolated or lacked in social interaction!!! Great book for anyone who wonders what it is like to be homeschooled…or just for a great read!  <p> This book is 336 pages long and retails for $14.99
It is available for purchase from Amazon
You can also visit Natalie’s blog

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I am going up to the WK with a friend to help her to do some research on a book series she is writing. I am so nervous!! I hope I set up things right. We are going to explore and visit some families homes….so I really hope it goes well and all the boys do okay while I am gone too!
<p> I have always wanted to write, but have been terrified of not doing good enough. The more books I read and authors I get to know, I realize I need to try. I  wrote out one of my ideas for a story and  who knows, if I will ever write it…..but we will see!!!

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Menu for the week

Wednesday: Orange chicken thighs, rice, steamed vegetables
Thursday: French toast, peaches, eggs and Roasted red pepper and tomato soup….
Friday: Sausage potato soup, rolls, dessert
Saturday: Chili, cornbread
Sunday: Baked potatoes with leftover chili on top
Monday: I am not sure, something in the crockpot…
Tuesday: Leftovers

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Skating pictures and other misc

Working in the kitchen…….seems like my life lately.

I took this through the window, so it is a little weird, but H. is outside playing in the little snow we have gotten this year.

I have been trying to find active activities to keep everyone busy the last couple weeks, so we went ice skating, roller skating, lego club,  now swimming, and who know what else I will come up with.
A lego creation…..we joined a lego club here locally full of lots of other, mostly boys, but a few girls, as crazy about lego building as my boys are. It was alot of fun for them. They divided into groups and played with legos. There will be certain lessons and buildings they will have to build and snacks, although only 2 moms brought snacks, one of them was me, so next time I will have to bring more as that was a hit….

That is H. in the tan coat….he is great at skating!!!
T. skating along with a push cart….he is doing okay even without though!
L. skating along!!!

Eric clinging to the side…..T. warming up! I was babysitting Shawn…..he is so happy!!!

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