"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, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I finished listening to Delirium by Lauren Oliver this morning. It's another in the long list of dystopian YA novels, but this one is different and it is very good.
"Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't."

That is the very short blurb at Audible.com. Imagine a world where love is considered to be a disease (deliria) and when you turn 18 a prodecure is done to remove it. And then you're paired with your mate and you're allowed 2 kids only and your life is very regimented in this sterile world. Kids are segregated with girls schools and boys schools and they have no contact with the opposite sex until they have had the procedure.

Lena is our protagonist and she is 95 days away from her procedure. Things are going according to plan and then she had a chance encounter with a boy.

I wasn't sure I was ready for another YA book, much less another dystopian YA book. But Lauren Oliver's writing is so good that I was quickly sucked in. Sarah James as narrator was excellent. I was annoyed with her boy voices in the beginning, but she is so good as Lena that my annoyance at the other voices diminished. I really felt that Lena was telling me her story - I heard every bit of pain, anger, and joy in her voice as she read. Incredibly good.

Anyway, I could try to explain what I loved about the book, but author Veronica Roth (Divergent series) already did that in her review.

It may be one of my favorite books of this year. 5 stars.

Warning: mild profanity and violence.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Handmade - Product Endorsements

I thought I would share some of the products that I now almost exclusively buy from handmade sources rather than large commercial vendors/manufacturers. I didn't plan to become this organic, buy from small business only champion - I still buy most things from the big box stores and Amazon.com. But in the past few years there are definitely some specific products that I prefer to buy from handmade sources and because I love them I thought I would share them with you.

First up is soap. I love handmade soap. Aside from the commercial liquid soap in the charming vintage jar turned dispenser at my kitchen sink, I use handmade bar soap for everything - for my hands, in the shower and even for my face (which I will detail later when I talk about the other products I use on my face). (Beau and the kids use the liquid stuff. Beau prefers it. The kids destroy the bars when they insist on playing with them in sinks full of water. I do have bar soap in the powder room, though, so guests are forced to use those lovely soaps.) Here are a few links to my favorite soapers on Etsy. I try to spread the shopping, but I have listed them in order of preference with my favorite at the top:

Sweet Petula - Cordelia's soaps are awesome. Her fragrances are subtle and wonderful and the soap is long-lasting and lovely. Her soaps are a bit spendy when compared to others, but I think they are well worth the price, especially the big bars.

Beautiful Soaps - Heather also has awesome soap. I use one of her soaps for my face. So I will explain my love of it later.

Fairy Bubbles - Amanda has great soap. My favorite is Summer Cottage, which I buy a lot. I also like Apples & Oak, which is in the soap caddy in the shower currently. I have bought a lot of soap from Amanda - her prices are very reasonable.

Anderson Soap Company - Dennis runs one of the largest soap companies on Etsy. And there is a reason why - his soap is fantastic. My favorite of his is the Calendula Wilderness, which is a small bar. I really need to see if he would do some large bars for me. I also have some of his lip balm, which is great. I actually have two of the same kind - one in my bathroom and one in my purse. It is used daily and often.

There are a lot more, but they are the ones I buy from the most. If you like handmade bar soap, please visit their shops and give them a try.

Next up is cosmetics. Yes, I buy handmade cosmetics - mineral. I started with a sample foundation and blush from one seller years ago. I liked them, but they weren't quite right for my skin tone (very pale). So I started hunting around. Yes, I could have tried Bare Minerals, but the rebel in me didn't want to hop that bandwagon and also it is spendy. Now, I realize that I may not be saving money buying my cosmetics from Etsy sellers, but at least I'm helping small businesses. Not all of the cosmetics I use are handmade - I still buy commercial moisturizer (Oil of Olay), mascara (Maybelline), eyebrow pencil (E.L.F), and lip gloss (Mary Kay). But everything else actually is handmade.

I'll start with my skin care. As I said earlier, I use handmade bar soap as my cleanser. When I was diagnosed with rosacia last year, I did some research and discovered that some ingredients in commercial face soap can cause it to flare up. So I decided to see about using a handmade soap that is completely natural and contains no alcohol or SLS. I found Beautiful Soap's Carrot and White Kaolin Clay bar. (She now sells them by the loaf, which works well for me as I buy them in bulk now.) I love this soap. From the first time I used it I could tell a difference in my complexion. My skin was soft, not dried out, and my occasional breakouts were diminished. I loved it so much that I ordered several bars to have in stock. Now, when I unwrap the second to the last bar in my stash, I know it is time to reorder. I actually just received my latest reorder - 6 bars that should last me about 8-9 months. Each bar lasts about 6 weeks, maybe longer, but that seems to be the average.

I do use Oil of Olay as my moisturizer, as I said. I've used it for years. I'll stick with it for now, but I am tempted to switch to a handmade moisturizer because I received a sample of a really lovely one when some other items that I bought recently, but I'll get to that in a second. To my Oil of Olay, I add a Vitamin C powder. I have officially jumped on the anti-aging train. I don't know if this stuff will actually slow the aging in my complextion. What I do know is that I like how my face feels by adding the tiny bit of this powder to the OoO before I apply it. Then before I apply my make-up, I apply a silicone primer. (NOTE: I linked to the sample listings rather than the full size listings.)

I used to use SmashBox Photo Finish (because I read that it helped to smooth out the skin for mineral make-up to adhere to better, which is true. It works.), but then I found Rtisan's primer on Etsy and decided to give it a try. I like it better. A smaller amount works better and I like that it's handmade. Sharon sent me a sample of one of her moisturizers in my last order and I'm so tempted to buy a larger pot. I loved how velvety my skin felt on the days that I used it and like her primer, a very small amount went way further than the dime to quarter size dollop of OoO that I use every day.

Now, let's discuss mineral make-up. I heart mineral make-up. All of my make-up is in loose powder form from my concealer to my eye shadows. I have a lot of eye shadow in lot of fun colors. I buy almost all of my mineral make up from Simplicity Cosmetics. Her foundation is fantastic - great coverage without being cakey and the Ivory shade is perfect for my very light skin tone. I use her Primrose blush. As I said, I have a lot of eye shadows from Sarah, but my nearly daily go-tos are Wheat on the lid and under the brow, Moonlight in the crease, and Espresso as my liner. I also use Plum in the crease on occasion - today I used Plum. Other colors that I use a lot include Blossom, Glimmer, Stone, Ashes, Petal, and Ocean (a great denim blue color). I also have her lip balm in Blossom (love it) and the lip gloss in Blossom (not currently stocked) as well.

Nail Color - I have bought handmade nail polish, too. I bought some awesome polish from a seller who is no more - Doctor Who themed polish that I love - Don't Blink. Recently, I bought a couple polishes from I Love Nail Polish - Animal Cookie and Bella. Yes, I like glitter nail polish. I haven't received them yet, but I'm excited to try them out when I do.

And with that I'll end the product endorsement post. I hope that you'll consider trying handmade. I think it's worth the trying, maybe additional expense, to support small businesses. I know that I appreciate each of my buyers and with every sale I try to improve my products and service. I can attest that each of the sellers mentioned here offer quality products and excellent service.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Things Of Note

This is a long post. You've been warned.

1. I realized the other morning as I was blow drying my hair that it was 10 years ago that I started to blog. At the peak of my blogging career, I think I averaged about 50-60 consistent readers. Today, I'm down to 2 or 3. It's a sad, sad state of blogging affairs. I should just give it up already. But I can't. I need a different outlet than Facebook. I guess.

What I can say about the blogging life, it that I developed friendships with some pretty cool people. Some of whom I know in real life, or met once in real life, or have yet to meet in real life. Here's the list of the people I would not know today if not for having a blog (in no particular order):

CalTech Girl (and her hub, GmTroJan) - Beau and I (and Jesse) met them when we went to California for a family reunion with my in-laws. We are "friends" on Facebook now, where we spend a lot of time liking each others status updates and random links and whatnot.

Sleepy Beth (and her hub, Tim) - I can't remember exactly how we decided to meet in person. I know that it was after Beau and I were married. I think they invited us over for dinner or maybe we invited them over for dinner? Either way, about once or twice a year, we try to get together for dinner. And it is always a fun time, lots of laughs, and fun for our kids, too. We're overdue for having them over for dinner. An invitation is coming, Beth!

The Thinklings - It has been so long that I do not remember how I found this blog. I do know that things got personal when I got an email from Bill asking me to opine on this post. We have all on our separate blogging ways, but I love and appreciate the online brotherhood of these wonderful, Godly men. Over the years there were some really excellent theological debates, discussions about books, movies, and TV, and general silliness. They were with me when I was single, encouraged me when I started dating Beau, and were thrilled for me when Beau and I got married. Today, I am "friends" with Bill and Jared on Facebook as well. I can't wait until the day that I get to meet these men, whether it is in this mortal life or in eternity.

Phil - I think I "met" Phil through The Thinklings. A fellow book lover, we are "friends" on Facebook as well and follow each other on GoodReads, too. I have read books I otherwise would not have considered because of Phil's excellent recommendations. He is another Godly man whom I look forward to meeting one day, be it in person or in eternity.

Robbo - Back when he was a Llama Butcher with his pal, Steve, they organized a blogger meet up. Beau and I went and it was great to meet in person these two smart and witty guys. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Robbo, who is charming and lovely. Steve was as nutty in person as in his writing, so there were many laughs along with the intellectual talk that often went over my head.

Amy - I first met Amy at a Christmas party at my sister's house. She is sweet and lovely and her husband is super nice. We have similar interests and one thing I cherish is our 90-Day Bible Challenge together along with a group of other women. We have done it twice now and I think it will probably happen again in the future. I am glad that I have met Amy in person and I wish we lived closer so that we could hang out.

There are others - folks with whom I am "friends" on Facebook but have never met in real life, folks whom I met in real life and have since lost touch with completely. But all of them have had an impact on my life in the past 10 years and I am grateful.

2. That was a long random note. I'm sorry.

3. Television - remember when I used to post my TV watching schedule and it was this long elaborate explanation of what got watched live and what was recorded and watched later? Yeah, my TV viewing habits are much simpler now. If it's live TV, it means it's on Disney Junior and my kids are awake. Except for Redskins football - I watch that live as much as is humanly possible with two kids who just. don't. get. it. and why aren't we watching Disney Junior?

By the way, have you seen Honest Toddler? I follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. I have a problem. Although he is making so many things so much clearer.

Anyway, TV. There are exactly 3 shows that get recorded for me these days. They are Doctor Who, Copper, and The American Bible Challenge. At some point, I'll set the DVR for Once Upon a Time and Top Shot when they come back, but that's it for now. I used to think it was sad, but now I'm kind of happy. I'm reading more and I'm not watching crap. Note: Doctor Who is not crap. It's actually much smarter and interesting than I expected and it is why I'm fully Whovian now. Copper is great - even Beau likes it.

Oh yeah, I can't forget Downton Abbey and Sherlock, but they won't be relevant topics until 2013, so we'll discuss them later.

Do you see the pattern, though? Almost everything I watch anymore originates in the UK. They make way better TV than we do in the US.

4. Books - Since the last books post, I have completed the following:

The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure by James Dashner - the 2nd and 3rd books in The Maze Runner Trilogy. I didn't hate the trilogy, but I do think it is way too long. It is also rather violent and gruesome. Interesting premise, though, and that's what kept me in the story. 3.5 stars for the entire series.

Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Maher - This book was recommended by Hugh Howey. It is self-published and actually was a series of short stories, but Maher compiled them into one volume. The premise is very intriguing and the ethics were thought-provoking. That is what kept me reading to the end. It ended on a huge cliff-hanger. My initial feeling upon finishing it was frustration because I was pretty sure I was ready for it to be over. However, maybe with time I'll have renewed interest for the continuation of the story. Who knows? I think I gave this one 3 stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley - I finished this one last night. It was enjoyable, but I liked Kearsley's other novels better. 3.5 stars.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - I finished listening to this one on the commute this morning. This is the funniest book I have ever read. There is a lot of profanity so if you're sensitive to that do not read this. Really. 5 stars.

Currently Reading: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (audio book) and No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Kindle).

5. The House and All That Entails - We are mostly unpacked. That said, there are still a lot of random boxes scattered around the house. I think maybe half of them are my books. We have a bookcase shortage, so I think those boxes are headed for the basement until we figure out where to put some additional bookcases.

I have always told my mother that when we had a large enough house that we would host Thanksgiving. Guess what? We're hosting Thanksgiving this year. And because I'm completely nutso and I often feel guilty that we spend the major holidays with my family every year, I told Beau that we were going to invite his family to join us, too. By my count I think we're having about 20 adults and 9 children. Um, is it OK to start panicking now? I kid, I'm not panicking. Being the planner that I am, I'm already working out logistics for all of the food (pot luck, sort of) and the sleeping arrangements for those who will need to spend some nights with us (Beau's cousin and his wife have a son a year younger than Jesse and twin girls who will be about 1 year old by then and they live in New Jersey. There is no way that is a day trip for them. I mean, she is an incredible wife/mother, but no way.)

Also, by then Beau's mother should be with us for an extended stay through the holidays/winter. I have worked hard to get the guest room ready for her. There's some clutter that needs moving to other places and then that room is completely finished. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

6. Family Vacation 2013 - We're going to Disney World! Molly calls it Disney Junior. So cute. I am very excited to take my kids to The Happiest Place on Earth. They are going to love it. I labeled a jar The Disney Fund and called the kids over to explain to them that we needed to start saving money for the trip to Disney. Whenever I have spare change, I give it to them and they very carefully drop the coins into the jar. I seeded it with a few dollar bills. Beau laughed and said, "If this goes like the baby bottle fundraiser for the crisis pregancy center, then just write a check and stick it in there." What's the fun in that?

And that is it for now. My fingers are tired of typing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years: Remembering

This beautiful Tuesday is much like that beautiful Tuesday 11 years ago. The skies are cloudless and brilliantly blue. There's a breeze mingling with the bright sunshine. The air is brisk with the promise of the coming autumn.

It's eerie.

I remember and will never, ever forget.