Monthly Archives: September 2016

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra Bricker



Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the Book:

Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters.

Never mind a pony. The Tucker girls have inherited their father’s horse farm for Christmas. Make that . . . a run-down horse farm. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again?

One thing’s for sure—nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart.

Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas?


My Review:

I am generally not a huge fan of novellas or novella collections. They tend to feel choppy or too short to me. However, this one hits the mark. It is fairly seamless between the stories about the four sisters. You get to continue each of their stories, yet told from four different points of view. I think the only thing I missed was hearing more of their dad’s letters to their mom and daughters. I know it would have added a lot of length, but I desperately wanted to read what he wrote.

If you are looking for a fun, easy Christmas read, this heartwarming story of forgiveness, love and family will give you something to warm up to by the fire. It would be perfect to go with Christmas cookies and hot cocoa. The book will have you hunting down your own recipes for cookies, looking in the attic for vintage dresses and hugging your children a little closer.

The book is released on Oct. 14th, but is available now from Amazon

Sleigh Bells Ring 

If you are looking for an enjoyable Christmas read, this is a fun one!

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The Need For Community

Independence. It is something we all strive for.

We want to teach our children to be independent, strong, confident people. We want them to be self motivated, investors in their futures.

I have seen talks, articles, and many friends say how they don’t have time for friendship. I myself struggle with making the time for what is important.

But as I watched a talk by Maggie Doyne this morning on Love, I was reminded of some of the cliches we have been taught or teach our children.

“You can do it by yourself.”

“You don’t need me.”

“You don’t need anyone else to make you happy.”

While in a sense, they might be true, those same words rob us of community.

I know that in times past, many people were isolated for months out of the year. Some people died from the lack of companionship, support and just being alone.

I am an introvert. I thrive off of being alone. My most refreshing moments are when  I spend the day not talking, just reading, writing or in disengaging activities. I feel revived and as though I can take on the world. So, you know I am not talking about running around, making sure your social calendar is booked to the max. I am talking about community.

When you have something bad that happens to you, who can you turn to?

Who have you invested in that would be there for you, if you needed it?

Who have you been there for?

I remember a time when I felt like there was no one I could call. I wanted to go to a cooking show with friends as it is more fun if you go with someone. I realized that outside my family, I had not developed friendships. It was not a priority to me. I felt I was better off on my own. It was painful to open your heart to love. I mean, you could get hurt. It was stressful for me too. I often stumble on my words, have times where I don’t know how to maintain a conversation and struggle with the basics. (I have improved, but it still happens.)

I sat there wishing I had someone to go with, and on a whim called up two people that I knew in passing and asked them to go. They are two of the most amazing people, and it was so worth it to take that risk (for me), and step out of my comfort zone to build some community.


Fred, myself and Tiffany

You know, how not easy it is to build a friendship and lose it? When you love someone, it hurts when you lose them. It hurts when they have pain.

12 years ago, my husband was in a hospital four hours away. I had a new baby, and three other little active boys. My community that I had worked hard to build had mostly turned their back on me. I left a cult group that a few wanted to support me, but were prevented. One woman sacrificed a lot to come and be by my side when I gave birth. I was ashamed to tell anyone what was going on with my husband. Those I did tell, felt it was too much, too messy and were hesitant to even have me as a friend. Who wants to take on a friendship with a family where the husband has a severe mental illness and four very active boys?  It was a lot of work to be my friend.

So, I remember, sitting in my home, encumbered by depression, thoughts of things I would not want to admit aloud, and decided to make a change.

I lacked community, but I was going to seek out how I could be community for others. It might be too much for them to be there for me, but I could see how I could be there for them.

MOPS was a stepping stone for me in this. I was able to reach out by cooking breakfast for other moms, helping with clean up and set up.

Last night, I met with several other moms to discuss the best ways we can support our community of homeschool moms. I sat there realizing that my journey, from someone that could barely string two-three words together in a coherent sentence, I was discussing being a speaker, setting up speakers and plans for reaching others.

I don’t want to need people. I want to be able to do this on my own.


Instead, I have been shown that we need community. We need older women to encourage us and come alongside us in the journey.

We need someone to say, “It was really hard. Here is a hug.”

My son had surgery about two weeks ago now.


Instead of feeling like I was going through it alone, I was not. I not only had family, but someone dropped off a meal for me, I had a friend come by the surgery center and drink a cup of tea with me while waiting. I was surrounded by the thoughts  and prayers of many, and many that know my son.

I don’t say this because I want others to say, “Oh, that is nice for her, but I have no one. I have no family, no church, no community here. Why is she bragging on what she has?”

It is because I have been where I had no one. I had no one to turn to and nothing to live for. I felt worthless, and wondered if others would be better off without me here many times.

I made a choice to work hard to build community. It is not easy. I have not always become fast friends with everyone I come in contact with. Most friendships are still shallow or surface. Many people still do not realize what my life is like on an everyday level or some of the daily struggles that cause me to have to look for community.

Honestly, it would be easier to stay home, read my books, write, and even stay in my bed all day, most days.

I realize though that we were not created as individuals to survive without companionship, much as I wish we could. And as I said, I thrive off of being alone! But serving others and offering support to others, is a tiring, but also reviving way of living.

I watched as many families sought an isolationist lifestyle. They cut off contact in many forms. Some do this to a certain extent with “cutting out Facebook”, “reducing screen time”, “focusing on their family” and other things that sound good on the outside. Other families push themselves into so much social activities they never have the chance to actually build community when they need it. No one really knows them, but everyone knows them. Neither one is right.

If we want our children to want to stay near to us, we need to foster a sense of community that makes them believe they are loved and belong where we live. They need to know that we are there for them, the community is there, and they have friends wherever they go.

If they look back at their childhood, they should have people that meant something to them. They may not marry who they are around exactly, but most people marry someone similar to a counterpart close to them. The people you are around will define your life. If it is only the people you see in the grocery store, those are the people that will define your life.

My encouragement to you, is to take time to foster community. Take time to build friendships. Take the chance. Invite the semi strangers to the cooking shows or to have PB and J sandwiches in the park. The worst they can do is turn you down. Sometimes it still means you cannot leave your home. Sending a card, donating $5 to a cheer box for someone, or a kind FB massage or text can really make someone’s day and build community.

But, in the meanwhile, you may find community deeper than you realize. Your life can be changed when you need help and you ask for it, you might just have someone to ask.

I am a strong, independent woman. I know I can do things on my own, but I know I can do better if I work with others and let them be my community as well.


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The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck


Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It’s the 1930s, and Cora is taking the reins at her family’s wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee. Brides come from far away to be doted on by Cora and her family while they find the perfect wedding dress. Meanwhile, Cora has found her true love, Rufus, a riverboat captain. Cora counts the days until his return from the river, and she continues to wait for him as days turn into months and months turn into years. When he finally returns, she receives the shock of a lifetime: he is married to another. Nursing her heartbreak, she must find a way to continue pouring her heart into the hopes and dreams of the brides who visit her shop, all while wondering if she will ever find true love or if it has passed her by.

In present day, Haley has finished her time as a soldier, and suffering from PTSD, wants nothing to do with the heartbreak of this world. She sets off for Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, and in order to honor the memory of a fallen friend, she takes on the task of reopening an abandoned and long-forgotten wedding shop. Perhaps through helping others, she can forget the pain and disappointment in her own life.



My Review:

I think I decided that this wedding series should be one that doesn’t end. I was thinking maybe a caterer should be in the next series. They could start a catering company that has ties to the past. That said, that is how much I enjoyed this book. The previous books tie in a bit with this one, so you will want to read them in order, but you will not be lost if you do not.

I loved Cora’s story. She was so real, and you could totally see her as real. I felt like I was in the wedding shop. Rachel, once again, gives you the realization of flawed characters with mistakes in their past and healing from that past. The hope portrayed in these pages will warm your heart as you read. This book is both light and in depth. It is one that will have you thinking.

You can buy it here for $9.31 for paperback.

The Wedding Shop


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Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette


Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

In the Depth of the Storm’s Shadow, Only Truth Can Light Her Way

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?

My Review:

I read a lot of books. It is not always that I love a book anymore. I really, really loved this book. The depth of the writing reminded me of a mix of Mesu Andrews and Tessa Ashfar combined with her own twist on it.

I am generally very, very critical of midwifery scenes in books. In this one, a woman that has never given birth, managed to describe the feelings of someone that was an assistant so well. I have assisted and been a doula at many births, am the daughter of a midwife and I felt like I was in the birthing room with Shira. I felt her pain and the healing as she became a strong woman. It was amazing.

This is the second book in the series and you will want to read the previous one before this one. Shadow of the storm is released Oct. 18th, so go and pre-order it along with the first one so you are ready when it comes.

Counted with the Stars

Shadow of the Storm Only $8.56 in paperback for pre-order

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Love’s Faithful Promise by Susan Mason

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


About the book:

When her mother suffers a stroke, medical student Deirdre O’Leary makes the difficult choice to put her career on hold to care for her. Dr. Matthew Clayborne is renowned for his amazing results with patients, but when Deirdre approaches him about helping her mother, she finds him challenging and surly. Deirdre has had enough of complicated men in her life. After her fiancé left her, she vowed never to give a man that kind of power again.

Widower Dr. Matthew Clayborne is devoted to two things: his work with wounded soldiers and his four-year-old daughter, Phoebe. He won’t abandon either of these priorities to care for one older woman. However, when Phoebe suffers a health scare, they’re offered respite at the Irish Meadows farm, where his daughter’s weakened lungs can recover–but only if he cares for Mrs. O’Leary.

My Review:

I enjoyed this story, even though I had only partially read the previous books. You will enjoy it more if you have read the first two in the series.

This book discusses a lot of the issues that soldiers, medical personnel and women faced in the time period where they were encouraged to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps”, more than seek help.

The story was intriguing, although the father in the story was tough for me to figure out. Over all, great character development, but it bothered me a bit, some of the references to her figure and beauty, more than Deidre’s brains. It was in keeping with the time period, for sure, but it felt unenjoyable for me.

The horse training and secondary story in the book was one that really pulled me in! I loved Conner and Jo.

You can find this book for purchase here as well as the rest of the series.

Irish Meadows

A Worthy Heart 

Love’s Faithful Promise 

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Catching Heat by Janice Cantore

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


About the book:

Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind–the governor’s wife–behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where Alyssa Rollins grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.

Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

My Review:

This fascinating cold case file story caught my attention when I saw the cover. However, it only merited three stars instead of four stars as I felt like it had too many cases. It took me awhile to keep them all straight. When I got to about the middle, suddenly, I was really into it and I wanted to finish and solve the mysteries.

They all seemed to interconnect and closure being sought has it’s own merits. It was good, but just not great.

I received this book for review from Tyndale Blog Network. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Together at the Table by Hillary Lodge

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


About the book:

Three months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love?

My Review:

She did it again! I loved the redemption of this beautiful series, which will make you want to spend time cooking and baking. You cannot read this book and not get hungry.

I loved the letters sprinkled throughout as you work to solve the mystery from the past with her, as well as the love story that comes to a close finally in this conclusion of the series. Who will she choose?
You can’t miss this if you have read the previous two.

You can find them for purchase here.

A Table by the Window 

Reservations for Two 

Together at the Table

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Using Games in your Classroom

Are you tired of the same old math drills? Phonics worksheets got you down? Your students can’t figure out how to tell time because they can’t sit still long enough to do it?


Try some of these ideas to spice up the school day!


It can be a fun thing to add something to your school day with games. It doesn’t always make it easy, but it can add some diversion in a mundane school day. Another thing that it can do, is teach lessons to reluctant learners without them realizing they are actually doing school.

There are many ideas on the links as well as several of my own.



Math Fact Race

Materials Needed[shopmaterials]

  • chart paper
  • markers or crayons

Lesson Plan

Before the Lesson

Create on the board or on chart paper a grid numbered across 1 to 9 and down 1 to 9. The grid’s squares should be large enough for students to write a readable number in.

The Race

Arrange the class into two or more teams and provide each team with a grid sheet. Decide whether you want students to practice addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts in this game of speed. When the chart is set, say “Go!” One person on each team races to the board and fills in any square on the math facts grid. For example, if you are reinforcing addition facts, the student writes the number 6 in the square at which the 4 column and the 2 row meet (4 + 2 = 6).

Emphasize that it is important for all members of a team to watch what their teammates write. If any student on either team sees a mistake made by a teammate during the game, he or she can use his/her turn to correct that error.


If you make this a “quiet game,” it will hold down the “ooooo’s” that are sure to signal an error, and also further emphasize the importance of team members paying close attention to one another.

The first team to fill in all the squares on their grid is the winning team if all the answers on their chart are correct.

Extend the Lesson

Use the completed charts to reinforce the concepts being taught. For example, if you use this game to reinforce multiplication facts, you might emphasize how the charts show the pattern made by the 5 tables or 7 tables.


The first team to fill in all the squares on their grid wins — if every answer on their chart is correct.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

Multiplication Bingo

Brief Description

Adapt the BINGO game to reinforce multiplication table skills.


Students will

  • play a game of BINGO that requires them to accurately compute math facts.


multiplication, multiplication tables, times tables, BINGO, game

Materials Needed[shopmaterials]

Lesson Plan

Provide each student with a Multiplication BINGO card. Provide students with the answers to the multiplication fact cards you will show them and let them arrange those numbers randomly on their BINGO cards.


Alternate Idea: Involve Some Critical Thinking

If your students have a fair grasp of the multiplication tables, tell them which times tables the game will be based on and let them write on their cards the numbers that might be called out in the game. For example, if you tell them that the Multiplication BINGO game will be based on the 4, 5, and 6 tables, then they will have to figure out which numbers they should not write on their cards — numbers such as 2, 3, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 17, 19 since those are not solutions to any of the math facts that comprise the 4, 5, or 6 tables.


As you can see, the game gets more interesting as students learn more math facts. Eventually, you might plan a Multiplication BINGO game in which the entire range of math fact families — from the 2 tables to the 12 tables — is included.

Prepare a set of cards containing the math facts you’ve based this game on. Write one math fact problem on each card. Shuffle the cards. Draw and read or show the cards to students, one card at a time. As you show a card, students must do the math and put an X through the number that represents the answer if it appears on their Multiplication BINGO card.

Who will be first to call out BINGO? Verify that student’s victory by checking the math facts called out against his or her card.

After a player calls out BINGO, you might keep the game going until you learn which player will be the first to fill up his or her entire Multiplication BINGO card.

File Folder Math Games for Middle SchoolIMG_3980.JPG

Grab a deck of flash cards. For every answer they get right, they get to shoot a basket in the basketball hoop.


Ask questions and have the answers in chalk on the fence, have them use a water gun to shoot the answers off the fence.


Draw a big clock on the driveway, use sand tools to make hands. Count by fives by jumping from number to number. Have the children manipulate the hands and set the time for you as you read them to them.


Multiplication Hopscotch can be a fun way to practice facts when they need to move and learn. Do skip counting. 6, 12, 18, 24 etc.


Tape the skip counting numbers for multiplication on pieces of paper with a hand print on them, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35 and so on. Then tape them going up on stair steps so they can place their hands on them as they walk up the stairs.


You can learn on the trampoline as well. You can use it as a clock, or write on it with sidewalk chalk the letters of the alphabet. Spell words and have them jump to the correct ones that spell the word. No trampoline? You can use tape with the letters on them or pieces of paper in the living room.




You can fill plastic cups and mark it with fractions, 1/3. ¼, ½, and the like. Make enough of each to equal a whole of each fraction and have them match them up.


Lego Games for Kids



Math Game Stations


Fraction Game similar to Spoons


Equivalent Fraction board Game


Skip Count with Legos

What you need is two different color Lego’s, about 10 of each color. If you have more of one color than the other that’s fine. Take your Lego’s and place than in two piles separated by color. For our lesson, we used green and white. You can substitute for what color you want.


Take your Lego’s and stack them green/white/green/white/green/white. First count to six while pointing at your individual blocks. Then count again but only pointing to the Green utilizing the skip count method. Explain to your child the white blocks are still there but since we are counting the green, we are counting faster. We know the blocks are there but because of that we can count twice as fast!


Parts of Speech bag game. Make two paper sacks with Nouns, Verbs etc. on the outside and then write nouns and verbs on cards and sort them in the bags.


Card Game flip- Use any pack of cards and flip over two. You can add or multiply them times each other. You can have a competition over how many they can get with a timer.

I suggest to make a Math tub, Reading tub, and others for the age groups you need. I had one for preschool, K-2 and one for 2-6th grade etc. Then when you need games to add to your learning, you pull out those tubs with your supplies ready to go and it requires less brain power from you.



Decks of cards – Dollar store



Yahzee pads

Game markers can all be found at the Imagintion Station

Laminator from Amazon or Paper Chase laminates large file folders for game boards.

Laminator for $25-

Laminating pouches- $12.50 for 100

Games you can buy:


Great States Scramble


Junior Boggle


Scrabble Junior



Sum Swamp Game- For K-1


Rory’s Story Cubes



Money Bags Game 5+


For Spelling:


Scrabble- Ages 7 +


Yahzee – 5+


Busy Bag Ideas for K-2 Math and Reading

These were like the ones I had in the large box that I brought to class. Remember that the easiest way to collect a bunch of these is to do an exchange. You can use these plans to set up your own. There are hundreds of ideas for busy bags, boxes and file folder games online though.


Pinterest Board with Game ideas:

I have many other boards with lots of homeschool ideas as well to browse.


Organizing – Life as a Mom Planner


The top one for $9 is the regular organizing planner and the second one is the Homeschool add on pack.


Educational Apps

If you would like them on Apple devices, go to the app store and look them up by name and you can find them as well. This is only the tip of the iceberg, all you have to do is put in math learning, or phonics and hundreds pop up.



Stack the States


Math Apps



Reading Eggs



Monopoly on Kindle


Blank foam dice


Minecraft Math Coloring book


Those are just a few of the things we discussed in our class on games for learning! I hope this inspires you to go home and make or utilize some of the games you have to teach your children.


Here is a link to some more technology based resources as well.

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Told you Twice by Kristen Heitzmann


Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the book:

Alexis Murphy is done messing with the wrong kinds of men. She could not be happier planning a personalized Grace Evangeline wedding with her fiancé, Jeffrey, who is so…right for her. Or is he?

Stage star and spokesmodel, Bo Corrigan, could be the ultimate disruption. Alexis—Exi—is caught by his talent and sexual magnetism. Yet under the glow, she senses trouble, not only danger from Bo’s past mistakes, but something inside tearing him apart.

From the moment Bo sees Exi, he knows she’s special, but not only that—she’s real. Unlike the theater scene he’s been immersed in, she sees the man he is and won’t stop until she’s reached inside and brought that person from despair to life … if only they have time. With violent forces against them, can they get beyond the damage to love that heals and restores?

My Review:

If you are looking for Kristen Heitzmann’s Bethany House published books, this is going to be a little different. Bo did remind me of a few of her previous character’s, but he is all on his own in many ways.

Exi is planning the perfect wedding with the perfect guy. But when Bo throws the wrench in her plans, I think I didn’t really know what to think.

There was something raw and beautiful about this story, but it is a bit more on the gritty side for Christian fiction.  Redemption and repentance fill these pages, driving you to the point where you will not be able separate that from the story, even though topics like drug abuse, sexual abuse, and other facts of life hit you in the face as well.

Throw in a couple of mobsters and you will be set!  I loved this story, and even though it was not what I would always expect from Ms. Heitzmann, I would say she outdid herself. I would highly recommend it.

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