"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." -- Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Books: Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy

Finished listening to Against All Enemies this morning while working shipping out a jewelry order from my Etsy shop - love audio books!

Clancy gets a lot of negative reviews and this one is no exception. I didn't like the last couple of his books that I read. But I liked this one. I think it's a good reboot with a new hero and keeping current with the times.

I especially enjoyed the narrator, Steven Weber. While he'll always be Brian Hackett from Wings to me, he is an excellent narrator with a pleasing voice.

One thing I will say - I think Clancy's torch passed on to Vince Flynn. He's the best political thriller writer out there today, imho. Brad Thor takes a solid second place.

I give AAE 4 stars out of 5.

Next up in the player: Full Black by Brad Thor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Random Bits

1. Saw Captain America on Saturday. Awesome. 4 stars out of 5.

2. My kids are the sweetest and most hilarious people.

3. There's a bunch of stuff I'd love to say about politics, but I'm keeping mum. It's hard to remain mum. Really.

4. That said, I have to say that I heart Allen West.

5. Folks who know me know that I abhor bureaucracy. Today I am bringing the red tape bureaucracy to my peeps at work. It's horrifying and satisfying all at once.

6. I married the best guy ever and I adore him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Food Stuff: Apple Nachos

Take a look at the picture. That is some yummy goodness right there. You can find the recipe here.

Some friends at church have a pool in their backyard. They have been hosting weekly gatherings for folks on Monday afternoons/evenings and it includes finger foods since it occurs during the dinner hours. Beau and Jesse wanted to go yesterday, so I went on the hunt for a fun finger food they could take.

These apples were a hit, especially with my kids before they even left the house. Jesse was calling it apple candy. And I have to admit that I ate that plate in the picture all by myself after my dinner last night. I had planned to share with Molly, but she was more interested in plain old marshmallows.

I used the caramel apple dip to save time. It worked well enough. I plan to make them again using Nutella. Also, I think the marshamallow cream needs to go on last because when I did it first it ended up in a sticky puddle on the bottom of the plate. A gooey, yummy, slightly nasty looking puddle of marshmallow cream, caramel, and chocolate. Mmmmmmm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Snap Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

I was crazy enough to go see the last Harry Potter movie on Saturday night. I went by myself to the 9:30pm showing, which if you know me, is way past my normal bedtime. I paid for it yesterday, as did my family. I don't think I'll do that kind of thing again.

In a nutshell, I thought it was a strong finish and I enjoyed it thoroughly. 4 stars out of 5.

I have to add two things:

1) Ads before the movie are always annoying. However, there was one commercial that was surprising and totally inappropriate given the target audience of Harry Potter. Cynical Nymph over-analyzes the commercial just a tad (in terms of the overarching theme of it), but sums it up pretty well. From the Facebook comments (and the comments at the CN's post) I've seen, it looks like this ad was shown at all showings of HP. Bad form.

2) This is awesome. The pictures/captions accompanying it are fantastic. Hilarious.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The First Movie: Winnie the Pooh

We took the kids to see their very first movie in the theater this morning: Winnie the Pooh.

Jesse found me in the basement at 6am this morning, "I'm ready to go to the movie!" He was just a little excited. Molly was excited about the popcorn.

We got to the theater, bought our requisite jumbo bucket of popcorn (the gal behind the counter gave us little trays, "I've worked with kids, you'll need these." Awesome! I got one for me, too), Twizzlers and a too large soda for Beau and I to share.

We wondered how full/empty the theater would be for the first showing of the day. Turns out it filled up to about 3/4 full. We were in one of the smaller theaters in the multiplex, though. I'm sure the larger rooms were all Harry Potter-ed.

We saw a few cute trailers and then the magic happened. The movie started and Jesse moved to the edge of his seat, where he stayed for most of the short movie. Molly was enthralled for longer than I expected given that she's only 2. I think she matched Beau for popcorn consumption, too. That girl loves popcorn.

As for the movie, it was the ultimate in sweet and perfect for the littles. I love that it was true to the books in look and spirit. The voices were perfect. The musical numbers were fun. Judging from the reaction of the other kids in the theater, I think they enjoyed it. I know that my kids did.

I give Winnie the Pooh 5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bible Study: The Last Days

I'm in the final days of my study of Daniel (by Beth Moore) and I have to say it lived up to my expectations and hopes. First, I have to say that I was fortunate to be able to borrow a copy of the DVD set (the Leader Guide came with it, but I never opened that since I was doing this by myself). I bought the workbook since it's a workbook and it's expected that the participant will do the homework and actually write in it. I did. I'm grateful, because it's expensive and also because the DVD sessions are crucial for getting everything out of the study. There's so much that Moore speaks about in each week's session that to try to do this study without the DVDs is kind of ridiculous.

As for the work, I expected it to be a little harder, to be honest. Not that it wasn't challenging, but I expected it to require a bit more time each day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the self-study homework days only took about 20 minutes. I broke up the DVD sessions into 2 parts of 30 minutes each. It made it very manageable from a time perspective, but also content-wise.

The content is good, in-depth study of some complicated prophecy. What I most appreciate is that Moore carefully broke up the book into two halves - looking at Daniel's life of integrity and then looking at the prophecies revealed to him. And then she broke things up into each chapter and within each chapter she tackled the smaller nuggets. She used commentaries and historical documents to open up the prophecies revealed to Daniel as the history that it is for us (except with regard to the end times, which is still prophecy for us).

I'm grateful for what God revealed through His Word and Moore's teaching. I'm reminded of His overwhelming power and His loving grace.

I highly recommend this study, whether for personal Bible study or for a women's small group.

On deck is Abide by Jared Wilson. I was fortunate to receive a leader's kit for this study. I plan to do the study myself and then donate the kit to my church as a resource for our small groups ministry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reading with Jesse: The Hobbit

Now that Jesse is closer to 5 years old than 4 years old and starting to learn how to read, I thought maybe it was time to try reading a chapter book to him at bedtime. A friend posted on FB that she's been reading The Hobbit to her daughters (who I think are ages 6 and 4) and that they were loving it.

I had already downloaded the Kindle version some time ago, so a few nights I ago after getting Jesse into bed I went to get my Kindle and sat down to read. I explained that I was going to read a book that has no pictures and he said OK. That particular night he was very tired, so I attributed his quiet while I read to that. However, in the nights since his quiet when I read the story of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard, and the 13 dwarves has been remarkable. Usually he fidgets and mutters, playing with some toy or his blanket while a story is read. But with this story, even with the lofty prose and poetry, he seems fully engaged.

I knew he was hooked when he asked me to read "the goblin story" to him last night after he finished brushing his teeth. I almost ran to get my Kindle in my excitement.

I'm so looking forward to enjoying Bilbo's adventure with Jesse, to revisit this great story through the eyes and imagination of my son.

By Wire

This is a long story, but I'm going to try to keep it concise. Our office ships a lot of expensive equipment around the country. A couple of months ago, a pallet was shipped and when the pallet arrived at the destination the plastic wrap around the boxes was ripped and one box was missing. The value of the stuff in the box is in the 5-figure range, so we filed a claim with the shipper for the loss and they initiated an investigation.

Turns out they couldn't recover the lost box and because the federal government is self-insured, the shipper is not going to reimburse us for the lost goods. We did receive a small reimbursement for the pro-rated shipping amount (less than $10).

I emailed our HQ to inquire about what we need to do to recoup the loss and I was told that there is a fund for this kind of thing. In researching how to go about filing a claim, I was reading some of the federal regulations about shipping losses. I'm wondering when this code was last updated because nothing resembling our equipment was in the lists of items deemed "valuable" by the government. Also the instruction said to send the claim report by wire.

By wire?

My first thought was that I could hitch up my pony and hand deliver the report. Let's bring back Pony Express.

Nowhere in the instructions was there an email address, phone number, or fax number. A PO box address was listed, but were telegrams ever delivered to PO boxes?

I'm half tempted to send this to my Congress-critter as an example of inefficient and wasteful government.

I later found a phone number on this agency's poor website. I plan to call today to get more information about filing our claim.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Reviews: A Test of Wills and Unbroken

I managed to finish two books last week. One was a paperback that I had been reading (a page or two at a time at bedtime) for MONTHS. The other was an audiobook that I finished early because I ended up with a stomach flu on Friday-Saturday, which allowed me to have extra listening time.

First is the paperback - A Test of Wills by Charles Todd.
In 1914, Ian Rutledge left a brilliant career at Scotland Yard to fight in the Great War. Now, in 1919, he is back, burdened with a heavy secret: he is still suffering from shell shock. With him almost constantly is the cynical, taunting voice of the young Scots soldier he was forced to have executed on the battlefield for refusing to fight.

In a desperate gamble to salvage his sanity, Rutledge takes up his duties at Scotland Yard. But a colleague, jealous of Rutledge’s pre-war successes, has learned his secret and maneuvers to have him assigned to a case that promises to spell disaster no matter what the outcome. In a Warwickshire village, a popular retired military officer has been murdered, and the chief suspect is, unhappily for the Inspector, a much-decorated war hero and a friend of the Prince of Wales.

Rutledge, fighting his malady and the tormentor in his head (who is the personification of his own doubts and guilt), doggedly goes about his investigation. He digs into the lives of the villagers: the victim’s ward, a young woman now engaged to the chief suspect; a local artist shunned because of her love for a German prisoner; the reclusive cousins whose cottage adjoins the dead man’s estate. But the witness who might be able to tell him the most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realization that if he loses control of himself, he could become this man.

I have read Charles Todd's Bess Crawford novels and enjoyed them very much. As such, I thought I'd go back to read the Ian Rutledge series, too. The story was interesting, the characters were fully developed, the dialogue believable. I like that Rutledge is deeply flawed, yet determined to find the truth.

If you like a good mystery, this will work. I plan to read all of the Ian Rutledge mysteries at some point. 3.5 stars.

The second book completed was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.

Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
This is my favorite book of 2011 so far. I can't say enough about it - the true story is compelling - at times unbelievable, harrowing, depressing, informative, and inspiring. Having it read to you is amazing. (Aside: I'm finding that the books that are narrated by actors are more enjoyable - not only do they read well, they act the parts.) You MUST read this book. 5 stars.