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Dec 26, 2012
An Uncertain DreamAn Uncertain Dream by Judith McCoy Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've read the first two, you must read this one to see how it all ends. These books should be read - in order - to make any sense to the reader. Again, fascinating history about the town of Pullman and that social experiment gone awry. Leans heavily toward the pro-union sentiments, but still well written. Well worth the read for the history alone. No spoiler in here. :)

Dec 21, 2012
Whispers Along the RailsWhispers Along the Rails by Judith McCoy Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Olivia Mott and the town of Pullman continues. Olivia has settled into her job as assistant to Chef Rene when Mr. Howard assigns her to go out on the trains and spy for the company. Although she'd rather stay in the hotel kitchen, Olivia fears losing her job if she doesn't do as she's told.

The relationship between Olivia and Fred heats up as trust is rebuild. But the town's troubles are also heating up and with so many uncertainties, their future is far from settled.

Lady Charlotte finds herself in dire straits until she winds up a the home of Mrs. Priddle. Forced to work for the first time in her life, Lady Charlotte learns more about life - and God - under Mrs. Priddle's no-nonsense tutelage.

A nice second book in this series, it continues the story of Pullman and builds on the relationships of the people there.

Dec 17, 2012
In the Company of SecretsIn the Company of Secrets by Judith McCoy Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Historically interesting look into the town of Pullman.  George Pullman not only invented things like the Pullman railroad car, he also invented the "perfect" town.  Smacking of socialism, it was seated just outside of Chicago.

As with so many social experiments meant to improve things for all mankind, with no saloons, no independent newspapers, strict codes to adhere to for the public good, etc., Pullman was far from perfect under the surface.

Into this town comes Olivia Mott.  Newly escaped from a bad situation in England, Olivia helps her former mistress, Lady Charlotte, settle into Pullman.  Their life - built on lies - gets off to a shaky start.  When Olivia meets handsome Fred DeVault, the lies hiding her past and the tempers simmering under the surface of the town of Pullman collide.


Dec 6, 2012
Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken PluckerAnyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker by Herrick Kimball

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is great!  Seriously, step-by-step instructions on building your own backyard chicken plucker written with enough humor to keep you turning the pages.  Okay - I admit - it's a niche market book, but it's extremely well done.


Dec 2, 2012
Why are some traditions so difficult to let go? We’d often rather lop off an arm than part with deeply held family traditions. Especially when it comes to our holiday comfort food. More than one family brawl at the holidays has resulted from an errant comment about Grandma’s dry-as-toast turkey or Aunt Martha’s triple-bounce cranberry salad mold.

Take the Christmas fruitcake. Please. Take it. Nobody actually eats that thing anyway. Yet all across our country are thousands – dare we even consider tens of thousands – of ovens being cleaned in preparation to keep this holiday tradition alive. Some die-hard fruitcakers have theirs already baked and aging – a thought that chills the fruitcake-adverse among us.

In case anyone of Scandinavian descent missed the memo, we now have refrigeration. I mean really, pickled fish? “Here Johnny, have a candy cane and one of Grandpa’s pickled herrings to go with it.” I’m convinced you have to be born Scandinavian, or at least first generation, to appreciate a holiday platter of pickled fish staring back at you.

Then there is the haggis from Scotland. Loosely explained, so as not to frighten the children, a haggis is a type of sausage made from the parts of a sheep not likely to be found in the meat department of a grocery store. It’s then boiled for about 72 hours and served with mashed turnips and potatoes. It’s just my guess, but I’d be willing to bet more people eat the turnips and potatoes than actually eat the haggis.

Times change and taste buds change. Deep fried Twinkies are no more, and some other gastronomical traditions may need to go that same route. Happy eating this holiday season and pass the haggis. . .right out the window.
Nov 29, 2012
Promise BridesPromise Brides by S. Dionne Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to average this review out to a four star rating. This is a collection of 3 stories set in Pennsylvania during and shortly after the Civil War.

I'll give the first story, Promise of Time, 4 stars. A love story grows out of conflicting backgrounds when a widow from Gettysburg who helps on the Underground Railroad meets up with a Confederate defector.

I'll give the middle story, Promise of Yesterday, 5 stars. Wonderful post-Civil War tail of an ex-slave and a woman who helped slaves escape into the north. It was easy to fall in love with the characters in this story! I wish S. Dionne Moore had turned this one into a full-length novel.

I'll give the last story, Promise of Tomorrow, 3 stars. But to be fair, it had a very hard act to follow. Twenty years after the Civil War, a dam is breached and an entire town is swallowed. The love story is less dramatic than the first two, but the characters very likeable and easy to cheer for.
Nov 26, 2012
As the fiscal cliff approaches, it's disconcerting to watch our elected officials scramble around like water on a hot frying pan to get "something" done.

I'd rather they slow down and get the right answer instead of the harried one.  I'd rather pay some taxes while they work out the issues than see another Band-Aid slapped on a cardiac patient.

Let's take some time and see what's happening over in Greece, shall we?  Let's learn from someone else's mistakes before we crash in and make our own.

Taxing the rich will not fix our financial problems.  We don't have enough rich people.  Let's be honest.  The middle class will have to pay for the spending orgy we've been indulging in.  It's always been that way and it always will be. 

Most of the wealth in this country is held in the middle class.  It's spread thin among many more people, but it is where the money resides.  And it's where the government will have to go to pay off the obscene debt we now owe.

My question is this, before they raise our taxes - and they will - are our elected officials going to do anything to stop their irresponsible spending and rein in the unsustainable government programs that are sucking us dry?

I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes and know that I handed them an America as great as the one my WWII era grandparents handed me.
Nov 22, 2012


Fall arrived with colorful leaves, crispy apples – and mice. On the farm, battling mice without a good barn cat is like trying to lose weight on an ice cream diet. I almost got used to seeing the little rodents zip across the beams and dart around corners. At least I stopped jumping each time I saw one. Then one morning I reached into a feed bin and a mouse ran up my arm. After executing a dance never seen before or since, I got in the truck and headed to town.

Still rubbing my mouse scaled arm, I told the nice lady at the animal shelter I wanted to adopt their most ornery cat. She looked at me like I was nuts. (I get that a lot.)

At their floor-to-ceiling cat cage and she pointed out a Siamese wedged in one corner with her ears pinned to her head. “That one has bitten everyone who works here.”

“I’ll take her.” (I got that look again.)

I learned long ago that ornery cats do better in a barn setting than timid or lackadaisical cats. They aren’t afraid to stand up to the occasional raccoon or opossum, not to mention the farm dogs and an equally ornery ram or two.

“Will you get her out of the pen?” the nice lady asked me, casting a wary eye between the growling cat and me. I’m not sure who she was more worried about.

I grabbed a pair of leather gloves from the truck and gathered up the hissing cat. The ride home was punctuated by a variety of pointedly unhappy feline sounds. It occurred to me that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I’ve tamed a lot of critters, but this snarling Siamese spitfire might prove my undoing.

Miss Kitty fit in our barn like a turtle in its shell. She pressed herself up under the eaves and poked her nose out just far enough to hiss at me. Earning her trust would not happen overnight. Even though I was the person who freed her from the cage, she didn’t look at me as her savior. If she could have spit in my eye, I’ve no doubt she would have. Fortune was on my side since cats can’t actually spit.

At chores both morning and night, I climbed the side of the barn – it was a single-story structure – and talk to her up there under the eaves. At first I’d just talk until she stopped making threatening noises. Gradually she allowed me to stroke her face, then her neck, and then her back. Each new inch was a victory in trust. It took weeks before I could pull her out from her hiding place and hold her. Finally the breakthrough day came when I heard her purr.

Trust came hard for Miss Kitty. Life had knocked her around a few times. Once she learned it, however, she never looked back. For years she greeted me at chore time with a head-bump against my leg. Safe, happy, and full of mice, she became a valuable partner on the farm. Never again did a mouse run up my arm – not in Miss Kitty’s barn.
Nov 10, 2012
Horseradish roots are not a thing of beauty. Those twisted, gnarled, dirt-encrusted tubers do nothing to entice salivation. In fact, until a sharp knife peels away the grotesque exterior and exposes the snowy white core, there is nothing about a horseradish root to suggest it may be edible.

In the obscurity of our human past, someone brave – or foolish – held one of those rugged roots and thought to himself, “I wonder what this tastes like.” If you’ve ever put a chunk of raw horseradish in your mouth, you know his thought processes slammed shut with the first crunch. It’s hard to think while gasping for air and mopping the flood of both eyes and nose.

While I have no evidence, historical or otherwise, to back this up, here is my imagining of what happened next:

Pranksters being nothing new, this individual probably dared another poor soul to take a bite. The process doubtless repeated itself as more unsuspecting people wandered by. After an unknown number of prank victims spent their time gasping and draining, one of them had a light bulb – or flint flash – moment.

This nasty looking root proved useful for clearing out the sinuses and exercising the lungs. Being humans, they undoubtedly foisted a vile concoction of the root on their children for “healthful” purposes. But somewhere along the line, one of them discovered how good it tasted smeared on a grilled burger, and the rest – as they say – is history.

When we accept Christ as our savior, we are washed cleaner than the white core of the horseradish root. He peels off the twisted, gnarled, sin-encrusted parts and leaves us fresh, sharp, and clean. We’re transformed into something useful for seasoning our world for His glory.
Oct 29, 2012
I have never used this blog for anything political and I hesitate to do so now - except - this was such an eye-opener for me that I felt the need to share it. The Gospel Coalition published an excellent article asking why only pro-life candidates are questioned about their stand on abortion. They suggest in the article 10 thoughtful questions that pro-choice candidates should be asked. I'd love to hear the responses. I think they would tell us much about the candidates. Why should only one side of a debate be required to justify their stance on any issue? Bravo to The Gospel Coalition for making us think!
Oct 25, 2012
The Marshal's PromiseThe Marshal's Promise by Rhonda Gibson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book because the premise is good, the conflict is good, it should have been a good story. Instead the writing is flat, the characters are flat, the dialog was modern, and the facts are... not well researched. Does Love Inspired have an editor anymore?

For instance, the struggling town seamstress has 2 sewing machines in New Mexico Territory in 1885. Household sewing machines were not marketed in the U.S. 1889. They certainly weren't available in the territories before then. Even one would not have been in the budget of a struggling town seamstress. I only made it about 40 pages in. One of the few books I won't finish.

It has been pointed out - nicely - to me that some home sewing machines may have been out west during this time frame. My sources were admittedly old, so I did a very quick Internet search. If they were out there, they would have been very expensive so a struggling seamstress owning a pair is still exceedingly unlikely - but technically possible.
Oct 22, 2012
The Widow of Saunders Creek: A NovelThe Widow of Saunders Creek: A Novel by Tracey Bateman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gripping story! If you enjoy a love story woven through with some spiritual warfare... here's your book. I couldn't put it down - except for the night my husband wasn't home. I was getting creeped out by the spiritual warfare going on in the story and had to shut the pages for the night. He was home the next night and I finished the whole book! Creepy? Yes. Realistic? Yes. Happily ever after? Yes!
Oct 17, 2012

There comes a point in each parent’s life when their precious little boy or girl becomes – a teenager. It should be pointed out that “teenager” is not necessarily a chronological age. It can be more correctly defined as a growth-induced attitude. Everyone who has experienced a teenager under their roof understands this.
During this time of teenagerism, thoughts enter the parent’s head, swirling in previously uncharted gray matter. “Is this what the human race has been reduced to?” “Our future is in the hands of. . .this?” “Perhaps humans should no longer be allowed to reproduce.”
Such thoughts – rest assured – are completely normal. They are a healthy response to the particularly annoying stimuli introduced during teenagerism. After all, when we were that age we never. . .(fill in the blank and stuff your memories in the drawer).
When we are forgiven our sins and washed clean by the blood of Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God. We become His children. His children. Not His adults. And every child must progress on into teenagerism.
When God asks you to step up and clean the church, do you whine about taking out the garbage? When God asks you to help a neighbor mow their yard, do you whine about how hot it is? When God asks you to take a meal to a hurting family, do you whine about the afternoon spent cooking instead of relaxing? Or do ignore His voice altogether? Ever wonder if God looks down and yearns for the day when we no longer reproduce?
When our teenagers behave at or above our expectations – how our parental pride soars! Make your Heavenly Father’s pride soar this week. (Don’t make him count to three!)
Oct 12, 2012
Veil of PearlsVeil of Pearls by M.L. Tyndall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Veil of Perils is MaryLu Tyndall at her best! Very deserving of a 5 star rating. MaryLu tackles the difficult subject of slavery in an innovative way.

Adalia Winston is a slave, but only 1/4 black, she can pass for a white person. When she escapes from Barbados and sails to Charleston, she does just that. She is content to work as a physician's assistant and enjoy her freedom until Morgan Rutledge enters her life. Charmed by both Morgan and the lifestyle he lives, she craves acceptance. When her world comes crashing down, she learns the meaning of faith.

I highly recommend this one!

Oct 6, 2012
Critical CareCritical Care by Candace Calvert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book.  I don't watch doctor TV shows or read many books about doctors, but this one intrigued me enough to crack open the cover.  Inside I found a delightful romance surrounded by some heart-stopping drama, deep character issues, and a one-eared cat.  No spoilers here, but if you like romance with a thread of faith, you'll like this story.
Oct 3, 2012

Have you ever asked a teenage check-out girl at a convenience store for directions? I did recently and it went something like this:

“You like, go down this way and like, no wait. Let me think. You can go that way and. . .I don’t know, like I haven’t been there in ages. Wait a minute, now I remember,” she flapped her hands erratically around her head. “You don’t turn, just like, go straight until you see this old building.” She stopped and stared at me, as if to discern my ability to comprehend.

“Which old building?” I asked.
 
“You know.”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking.”

“But, like, everyone knows that one,” she said with a huff and an Olympic 10.0 roll of the eyes.

Defeated, I walked out and spied an older gentleman in worn denim jeans and work boots. He leaned against a faded blue pickup truck, filling it with gas. I asked him for directions. He pointed down the street and said:

“Two blocks down, take a left, and it’s half a mile past the fire station.”

Simple. Clear. Helpful.

The ways of the Lord are impossible for us to understand. His ways are higher than ours ways in all ways. So Christ made it simple. He pared down His sacrifice and gift of redemption into something our finite minds could comprehend. Bread and drink. We understand that without bread and drink we can’t survive. His body, His blood. . .without these we can’t survive for eternity. What a simple way to explain the unexplainable.
Sep 26, 2012

After acceptance as a resident dorm advisor during my second year of college, I attended a class on empathy training. The class was taught by senior RAs in bell-bottom jeans with perhaps an entire year of authority under their hip hugging belts. We sat cross-legged on the grass and contemplated how we’d use our new empathy skills to further world peace.

A common phrase we collegiate sages tossed around back then was, “What does this mean to you?” It was a handy tool for helping those struggling to “find themselves” on campus. 

Screaming that same phrase at a drunk and belligerent hockey player bent on gaining access to the girl’s dorm by beating down a locked steel door. . .accomplished very little. He had already found himself.

Meanings of things are interpreted by the personal filters we view them through. A warm and fuzzy kitten means comfort and love for one person, while the same kitten represents sneezing and watery eyes to another. A chocolate malt with whipped cream is comfort food for some, and seen only as a hip widener to others. The same tow-headed little boy is viewed as a surrogate grandson by one neighbor and a potential window breaker by the next.

But the Bible is very clear that no prophecy of Scripture is ever open to personal interpretation. We don’t have to worry about what it means to us because the meaning is immovable. We can beat on that door all day and it won’t change a thing. Rock solid. Take-it-to-the-bank reliable. Praise God for His unchanging truth in a world full of variables. . .and reoccurring fashions.