Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Grace Unplugged" the novel & "Own It" Review & GIVEAWAY!! (10/9)

*Disclosure:  I was provided the following books in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.

About Grace Unplugged the Novel:
Grace Trey is an 18 year old singer as passionate about her Christian faith as she is her phenomenal, God-given musical talent. Both traits come from her father, one hit wonder Johnny Trey who found Jesus after losing his chart success two decades ago.

When Grace encounters her own music break of a lifetime, the sudden dive into the "real world" puts her deeper beliefs to the test. Pop superstardom is just within reach but appears to require some spiritual compromise. Will Grace reject her faith, or will she own it?

"Grace Unplugged" is based on the motion picture of the same name starring AJ Michalka (Super 8) and Kevin Pollak ("A Few Good Men") with performances by award-winning artists Chris Tomlin and Jamie Grace.
About the Grace Unplugged Author:
Melody Carlson has sold more than five million books. A professional writer for twenty years, she recently received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Melody has two grown sons and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest.
GRACE UNPLUGGED, the movie, releases October 4th!!
Check out the trailer!  I can't wait to see it! :-)

About Own It, Discover Your Faith in God:
The movie "Grace Unplugged" tells the story of Grace Trey, an ideal Christian teenager who is also a phenomenal singer. But when she is pushed into the “real world” at the tender age of eighteen after getting the music break of a lifetime, her faith is put to the test.

"Own It" mirrors the film by asking what it means to really “own” your personal faith rather than just automatically following in the footsteps of parents, friends, or other influencers. Best-selling authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco help readers understand what to do when faith meets real world challenges.

Without solid beliefs, poor choices are likely to follow. You must take the time to really know who you are, who you are becoming, and who God made you to be. It's your personal faith . . . own it!

About the Own It Authors:
Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than thirty books including "Dateable, Marriable, Mean Girls", and "The Woman of Mystery". She has been a featured speaker at Women of Faith, Precept National Women's Conference, and MOPS Intl. among others and has consulted on the creation and enhancement of some of the largest stadium events for teens and young women in North America.

Michael DiMarco is a skilled communicator and teacher who has authored more than a dozen bestselling books including the 2010 Christian Book of the Year for Youth, "B4UD8" (Before You Date). He and his wife, author Hayley DiMarco, have one daughter and live in Nashville, Tennessee.

My Review:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Grace Unplugged.  I found myself sneaking in time to read it whenever I could.  Although I knew the story would have a happy ending, I still wondered what was going to happen along the way and wanted to keep reading to find out! :-) 

One thing that stood out to me in the Grace Unplugged, besides the main message of the story, was Grace's parents.  When Grace left them for her music career, they hurt that she had deceived them and were scared for her safety being on her own.  I think I would have reacted in a similar way, but for them to ultimately let go and hand her care over to God, knowing there wasn't much they could do, really showed a very strong faith!

The message in Grace Unplugged is an important one that many of us need to hear.  And the book, Own It, takes that message even further by discussing what it means to own our faith in the same kind of way that we take pride in owning material things.  That when we know something 'ours' we take better care of it, and even love it, because it matters to us.  I haven't had a chance to read the whole book, but that analogy really struck me as I had never thought of it in that way before...I definitely plan to finish Own It soon!

I highly recommend reading both these books!  Or make sure to see Grace Unplugged in select theaters October 4th...and then read Own It! ;-)

Buy It!:
Both books can be purchased through B&H Publishing Group.  Grace Unplugged can be purchased for $15.99 and Own It for $14.99.

Thank you to FlyBy Promotions and B&H Publishing Group for providing me these books to review and for another set to give away!

Congratulations to comment #2, mail4rosey!
One of my readers is going to win their own copy of Grace Unplugged AND Own It!

To enter to win, please leave a comment below. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so that I can contact you if you're the winner!

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Open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. Giveaway will end Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 11:59 EST. Winner will be chosen shortly after and contacted via e-mail. The winner will have 48 hours to respond otherwise I will have to choose a new winner.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: More of Mattie

Wet dog.
Stylin with some shades.
For more Wordless Wednesday, visit Go Graham Go and the WW HQ.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Red Shirt Kids" Blog Tour, Review & $75 Gift Card GIVEAWAY!! (10/10)

*Disclosure: I received a copy of Red Shirt Kids in exchange for my honest review.  In posting a review, I also have the opportunity to win an gift card.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are my own.

About Red Shirt Kids:
Sixth-graders Mike and Amy must learn to use their special powers to save other children

Mike and Amy Smith are nervous about moving from their nice house in Boston to a dilapidated old mansion in Falton, New Hampshire. They know they'll have to start the sixth and seventh grade not knowing anyone, and their new house is just plain creepy.

While searching their dusty attic, Mike and Amy uncover an old wooden chest with a mysterious lock. Inside, they find magical red shirts that give them special powers. Together with a new friend, Sam, Mike and Amy must figure out how to harness their newfound gifts while keeping them secret from their parents. As their powers grow, they begin a search for two kids who had gone missing in the summer, pitting them against a powerful adversary with mystical powers of his own. Will Mike and Amy be able to unlock the ancient mystery of the shirts? And will they be able to find the missing children before it is too late?

About the Authors:
Bryce Clark wrote and directed the independent dramatic comedy, Ben Banks. He has also written for the children's show, Yo Gabba Gabba and is a partner in the production company, StoryLand Entertainment. Bryce and his wife live in the Salt Lake area with their five children.

Kim B. Clark is the former dean of Harvard Business School, and is the president of Brigham Young University-Idaho. He and his wife live in Rexburg, Idaho.

My Review:
I have been reading Red Shirt Kids to my kids and it is definitely a page turner!  Each chapter leaves you hanging and wanting to read the next.  We've been having a terrible time (in a good way) stopping our reading time so the kids can get to bed!  I always hear "One more chapter, pleeeeaassse!" and, of course, I want to keep reading too, but I have to be the adult and get the kids to bed. ;-)

We only have a few chapters left to read, but so far I really enjoy that the majority of chapters are short.  I love how the plot just keeps getting thicker and the mystery of it all is just exciting. There are good values mixed within all the excitement too that I can tell the kids are picking up on. 

The only thing that I don't care for are the words that we don't allow in our house and I have to either change them as I'm reading, or I stop and tell the kids how those words are not nice.  There was also an instance where boys were giving each other 'the finger', which I didn't care for. The instances where these are all used tend to be the 'bad' kids in the book though, so it's not being portrayed as 'okay' or 'good'.

Buy it!:
Red Shirt Kids is written for kids aged 8-12 and is 192 pages.  The book can be purchased on for $13.67 (Hardcover), or $8.69 for the Kindle.

One person will win both a hardcover copy of Red Shirt Kids AND a $75 gift card for!  Please follow the rules in the Rafflecopter form below.
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Giveaway open to U.S. and Canada. See Rafflecopter form for official rules.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stitchin' Up a Storm!

I started a cross-stitch for a friend that was a larger project than I realized.  I wanted to make something for her little one that she was due for a day before Blake's birthday so, at the time I started, I had a little less than 3 months to get it done.  Anyway, I took pictures as I went and sent them to my mom and sister...kind of a way to make myself accountable for the work I had to do.  I did most of the work after the kids went to bed, since the days were too busy.  The first picture is exactly one week's worth of stitching and the rest are either one or two weeks depending on if I remembered to take a picture ;-)
June 10th
 June 17th
 June 24th
 July 8th
July 16th
 July 29th
August 12th
August 19th
August 27th
Later August 27th (finished stitching...or so I thought)
So, on August 28th, I planned to take the cross-stitch and have it matted and framed.  I got up that morning and checked facebook at which point I noticed new pictures of the baby (who is beautiful, by the way) taken by the pros.  On the side of the pictures I noticed that the weight was different than what was announced...and what I had already stitched.  Panic set it.  Turns out the hospital got the initial weight wrong...  I had to tear out that portion of the backstitching and restitch it quick, so I was still able to have it matted and framed that day.
And here it is!  The finished picture.  The cross-stitched portion is 12"x12", so the whole picture, framed, is about 16"x16".  I didn't want to take the plastic off of it, because it was protecting the frame and glass, but I think you get the idea of how it turned out. :-)
I haven't cross-stitched that much through the summer since I was a kid and used to cross-stitch for 4-H.  As an adult, I think I'm going to be saving my stitchin' time for winter time from now on. ;-)

Friday, September 20, 2013

First Day of School 2013

The kids had a great first day of school a couple weeks back and they love their teachers.  Rich usually likes to see them off their first day, but this is the first year he missed.  He had been so busy at work, he forgot to ask for the couple extra hours off that morning.  I know he was really bummed, but I'm sure he'll be with us again next year. :-)

 They're in the same school again this year.  They were in separate schools last year, so they're enjoying seeing each other at times throughout the day.

 Blake settled into his seat and ready for the first day!
 Morgan was a bundle of nerves, which made it hard to leave her.  It also made me emotional, but she did great!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Labor Day Weekend 2013

Some friends of ours invited us and another family/friends to their lake house over Labor Day weekend.  I was feeling stressed with needing to get things done at home (canning/freezing veggies), plus I had to get a bathing suit (I hadn't gotten one since 8th grade!), but we made it and couldn't have been happier to have gone!
We enjoyed some great rides on the pontoon boat.
 The kids even took turns steering.

 We saw some cool wildlife in the swampy area...a Great Blue Heron.
 Did a little tubing...actually a lot of tubing.
 Played in the water looking for shells and other cool stuff.
 Practiced swimming.
And even did some fishing, which I regret not getting pictures of. :-/

The best part was relaxing and spending time with some great friends.
I didn't ask permission to post the kids' pictures, so I covered their faces...and of course all the faces actually facing me weren't my own kids!  LOL!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The Drive-In

We try to make it once each summer.  They were showing Turbo and Wolverine...of course the kids had to promise to lay down in the backseat and sleep when Wolverine came on.  It's a tradition of ours to get Dairy Queen first and take outdoor toys to play with while we wait, so we kicked around a soccer ball.  As simple as the night was, it was a very memorable, wonderful night with my family.

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit Go Graham Go and the WW HQ.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blake's 6th Birthday

We celebrated Blake's 6th Birthday a few weeks back.  He requested a Hulk/Avenger birthday.  He also loved the Zucchini Brownies, so he got that instead of cake this year.  (Which was awesome because we could make brownie sundaes!!  Yum!)
 I tried to find a few Hulk decorations, then Blake took matters into his own hands and made some decorations himself!
 The treat bags for all the kiddos.
 Blake getting help from his buddy opening presents.
 Putting on his super cute smile for pics with his brownies.
 Blowing out his '6' candle.
 Because we had Blake's birthday party on a different day than his actual birthday, we still tried to make his birthday special.
We started the day with birthday pancakes.  He wanted chocolate syrup with dino sprinkles.
 Then I tried my hand at making a longneck dino pancake...kinda scrunched up his neck when I flipped him though.
We built one of his birthday presents from his party.
Then we went to McDonald's for lunch and met up with my mom.  It happened to be the day of the open house at school where the kids could meet their teachers and see their classrooms, so we went there after lunch.  Morgan's teacher gave Blake a special sticker to wear so everyone would know it was his birthday.
We then headed to a nearby city, since I had something to get done there, and Blake got to shop at Hobby Lobby...definitely a fun place to look around for a creative little guy!  I hoped to take a ten cent trolly ride in the city after I got done with what I had to do.  We went to the other end of town and actually followed the trolly to it's stop, but as we parked and got out of the truck, the trolly TOOK OFF! 
Since we missed our trolly, we went down by the nearby river and waved to a tour boat, which then honked back at us (kinda neat!) and took off again to try to see a movie.  (We were REALLY trying to make it a fun day!)  So we get to the closest theater and they weren't playing anything we were remotely interested in seeing for at least an hour.  I happened to bring up showtimes on my phone at the other theater and the were showing Planes...and it had JUST started!  The girl at the first theater reassured us that we wouldn't miss anything because the other theater has super long previews.  We actually drove over, bought our tickets and popcorn, got seated, and still had a good 5 minutes to spare.  (CUTE movie by the way!)
After we got home, we ate Blake's favorite for  Then he opened a present that we had saved for him from his party.
 His favorite was this fire power water squirter thing....boy can it shoot water a ways! Both he and Morgan were SOAKED! :-)

 Despite a couple setbacks in the day, Blake's birthday turned out to be super fun and I think he'll remember it for a long least until next year! :-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bash and the Pirate Pig Review & GIVEAWAY!! (9/29)

About Bash and the Pirate Pig
Bash and the Pirate Pig, by Burton Cole, is the story of a cranky city kid named Raymond "Beamer" Boxby who must spend summer vacation at his younger cousin, Bash's, farm.

Beamer prefers air conditioning and video games. He can't see what good can come of this so-called country fun that includes riding cows, river rafting with a pig, or playing with skunks.

But hang tight, Beamer, because Bash's zany adventures with his "Fishin' and Farmin' book" (The Bible) just might lead to the coolest discovery of all.

About the Author
Burton Cole is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist with thirty years of experience and more than fifty humor writing awards to his credit. He grew up on a farm in northeast Ohio and attended a small-town church with a slew of cousins and buddies. That same boyhood inspires his colorful stories today.

About the Illustrator
Tom Bancroft has more than twenty years of experience in the animation and illustration industry and worked with Disney on films including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin. Other clients have included DC Comics and Big Idea Productions.

My Review
As I read Bash and the Pirate Pig to my kids, there were times that they burst out into their cute little laughs and they couldn't stop laughing.  I have to admit this book was hilarious!  I'm pretty sure my husband and I laughed more than the kids because we caught onto certain little jokes and schemes easier than they did.  My husband compared it to the one-man plays "Wingfield Farms", which we also thoroughly enjoy.

Not only did we have fun laughing at the adventures that the boys came up with, but we also enjoyed how Bash, despite his scheming ways, was always focused on God.  Bash's lighthearted spirit, although it bothered Beamer at times, also made Beamer realize that he was missing something within himself....something that he then seeks to discover with Bash's help.

I'd highly recommend Bash and the Pirate Pig to kids of ALL ages.  It's fun, suspenseful at times, and has a great message that everyone should hear. :-)

Buy It!
Bash and the Pirate Pig is 224 pages and recommended for 8-12 year olds.  It can be purchased for $12.99 at B&H Publishing Group.

Thank you to FlyBy Promotions for providing me a copy of "Bash and the Pirate Pig" to review and another one to giveaway!!

Congratulations to comment #5, Alexis AKA MOM!
One of my readers is going to win their own copy of Bash on the Pirate Pig.

To enter to win, please leave a comment below. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so that I can contact you if you're the winner!

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Open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. Giveaway will end Sunday, September 29th, 2013 at 11:59 EST. Winner will be chosen shortly after and contacted via e-mail. The winner will have 48 hours to respond otherwise I will have to choose a new winner.

Fair Projects and Fun 2013

This is Morgan's 2nd year in 4-H and Blake's 1st.  They're both too young to compete, but they can still take projects in the 'Clover Buds'.  They're still interviewed and their projects are displayed at the fair.
Blake's projects this year:

 Morgan's projects this year:

Since the kids have projects at the fair, they can get in free all week, so we made sure to make it on the last day.  Morgan thought this was a pretty place to get their picture taken. :-)
And the kids also get one day to ride the rides for free as 4-Hers, so of course we had to take advantage of that!  I love their faces as they're riding this one! :-)

We usually try to make it to the fair that I used to show at, but it didn't work out this fair was enough fun to last us until next summer anyway. ;-)
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