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Book Review: The Shack

I just finished reading The Shack by William P. Young. Wow. This is the type of book that keeps you thinking long after you’ve finished it.

Mr. Young tells the story of how Mack finds his way to God. Mack has gone through a huge (unimaginable) tragedy and – understandably – turns away from God. This is the story of how he journeys back.

The way Mr. Young describes God, Jesus, and everyone else involved is – in a round-about way – how I have pictured God…without really knowing it. I mean…if I were able to write this well and put my thoughts together, THIS is how I think God is. (I can’t really explain any more without giving too much of the book away…)

The emotions you go through while reading this book are just incredible. More than once I had tears just streaming down my face…and not always because I was sad.

Once you’ve finished the story, I highly recommend going back and reading the Forward again. It makes a lot more sense the second time around and I think it pulls the entire story together.

I found myself fairly emotional while sitting in church today…choking up while trying to sing songs about Jesus. It’s happened before – just getting overwhelmed by what you’re singing or hearing…but it seemed even more deep than before since I was reflecting on the things I’d read. I also think I was moved more than normal because this book was recommended to me by my brother … someone I’d never really thought to label “religious.” (Not that I would now either…)

The Missy Project was created to help get the word out about this incredible book. I’m more than happy to link up.

Review: ORGANICALLY GROWN Toddler Clothing

Emily from Organically Grown sent a super cute outfit to Logan. They recently added Organic Toddler Clothing to their collection and wanted a few moms to try it out.

We received a two-piece outfit: a blue shirt with Nature Boy written on it and Khaki colored shorts. Oh my GOODNESS they’re so incredibly soft!!

Since I put this on Logan on a 90 degree day, the outfit took quite the beating. He was outside for most of the day playing in sand, water, dirt, grass, chalk, everything! At one point, I looked at the outfit and thought, “well, it was good while it lasted…there’s no way it’s going to get clean!” Boy was I wrong. Everything came right out – perfectly clean and still as soft as when we received it.

I’m told that at some point in the near future, I’ll receive some coupons for Organically Grown. Stay tuned because I’ll be passing some along to you! I’d highly recommend the Organic Clothing!!

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:

Organically Grown recently added Organic Toddler Clothing to their collection. The collection is comprised of adorable two-piece outfits for boys and girls in sizes 12-24 months, and 2T-4T. With the cute and eco friendly slogans on each of the setsโ€™ t-shirts, your toddler can wear their heart on their sleeve with a new message every day of the week!

INFANT: Also, be sure to check out our Infant Collection! Some of their best sellers include three-piece sets with baby gowns, body suits, jackets, pants, blankets and hats, all on padded hangers and priced between $12-38.

WHY ORGANIC?

As the awareness of the effect that pesticides and toxins have on the environment and individual health grows, more and more families are realizing the importance of choosing organic products. Making this choice is not only good for our earth; it is good for all of us. With your help, organic textile production will increase, becoming more of a standard in the clothing industry.

If you havenโ€™t already, now is the time to choose organic fabrics for you and your family. Organic cotton has all the high quality, soft and cuddly texture with none of the harsh chemicals to irritate your childโ€™s delicate skin. Organically Grown’s products are not only breathable and cuddly; they are also recyclable, renewable, and biodegradable. With products by Organically Grown, there is no need to compromise between your budget and your conscience. As well as being ECO-FRIENDLY, their clothes are AFFORDABLE and STYLISH.

Nature Boy

Makes My Monday: Free Stuff!

This is actually a product review for the Calphalon Removable Plate Grill.

Because I’m a member of BigTent (for my mom’s of twins group), I received an email a few weeks ago asking me to join another BigTent group and I’d receive a free Calphalon product in exchange for an honest review put up on their site. Thinking “ya, right…I’ll see THAT product.” I joined anyway. What could it hurt? BigTent already has all of the information that this new group wanted. On Saturday, my Removable Plate Grill showed up at the door. Can you say Happy Dance? ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, come on – you have to admit receiving free stuff would Make your Monday as well ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheryl over at Twinfatuation hosts this one. Head on over to see what else makes peopleโ€™s Mondays (there are always some really good ones!)

Below is the review I put up on their site … with a few extra pictures, and a few extra links.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Calphalon
Removable Plate Grill

As a member of a family that grills outside year-round, I was skeptical about this product at first. Until I read the Panini tips in the user guide. Panini! Of course! The Removable Plate grill is *perfect* for creating delicious paninis.

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Just to test it out, I grilled some chicken on it – marinated in Italian dressing – and those turned out nice and juicy. The burgers weren’t a great hit with my kids, but they’re used to the charcoal flavor, so that might have had something to do with it. The hot dogs were well received though.

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The grill itself is wonderful! I have owned two George Foreman grills in the past, and this one far out-reaches either of those. The grill is HUGE – perfect for a family of 5.

I love that the grill plates are removable – and SUPER easy to clean off. It’s nice that they go in the dishwasher, but if you’re grilling anything messy, it’s just easier to wash them up in the sink.

It’s wonderful that there’s an up-end storage option … just remember to clean out the internal drip tray first! (Luckily, the folks at Calphalon put a permanent reminder on the bottom grill plate.) The drip tray is great for scraping scraps into before a second round of grilling as well.

My only complaints are that the arrows on the temperature and timer dials are VERY hard to see. If these arrows were black, or outlined in black, it’d be much easier to tell which end indicated the correct temp/time.

And it’s nice that there is a height selector (although, I didn’t actually use it since I like the squishy grill marks on my food), but it seems rather cheap. Every time I move it and close the lid, I’m afraid it’s going to break! (It hasn’t yet though, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.) …this is actually the reason for the 4 stars instead of 5…

The first time I used it there was a LOT of smoke. I was afraid that this would be the case every time, but it was simply a matter of getting all that “newness” out. There was little-to-no smoke the second time I used it.

Overall, a GREAT product. If we didn’t grill outside year-round, I’m sure we’d use this all winter for burgers and stuff. We’ll just have to use it year-round for paninis instead!

Disclaimer: Calphalon sent me this grill for free to review for *their* website. I’m just putting it up over here too.

Book Review: The Given Day

I read The Given Day by Dennis Lehane for my book club.

I think, if this hadn’t been for a book club, I might have put it down a few times and never picked it up again. It was really cool to read about some of the history of Boston and the way Lehane wove personal lives into what happened way back when – even with someone famous like Babe Ruth. (Funny story about that…more later). It would be neat to do a little research to see if indeed Ruth was in a slump at the time period…no way to know if the reason he was in the slump was what was written in the book, but my guess is that the slump actually happened.

When I first started reading it, I was intrigued by one of the main characters (Danny) and not the other (Luther). And then about 1/2 way through, it flipped and I was bored with the first character and more interested in Luther. There were scenes that made my stomach turn though, and that’s not normally the type of book I enjoy.

I was definitely entertained, but I don’t think I’d recommend this book to just anyone. It was brutal.

So…funny story. I was reading along and BOOM there’s a chapter about Babe Ruth. And I’m thinking to myself, “Geez, that was out of nowhere. Why’s this guy all of a sudden writing about Babe??” Turns out that since I read it on my Kindle, and the publishers decide where you start when you download a book…I MISSED the entire first chapter!! (It was a prologue of maybe 15 pages that totally ties in a whole part of the story!)

Review: Amazon Kindle

Mike gave me an Amazon Kindle for Christmas (the 6 inch screen version). Can I tell you how AWESOME this thing is?!

First of all, it looks just like a book.

Handle with Care: Kindle and Paperback

Well, while you’re reading, the text on the pages looks the same. If you get a cover for it (which I HIGHLY recommend), it feels like a book because you can open it. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you get a clip-on light so you can read in bed while your significant other is sleeping, the cover is the perfect place for you to clip it to (and yes, I did get the purple light, thank you ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). The cover also helps protect my Kindle when I throw it in my purse…which is where it lives when I’m not reading or charging it.

I haven’t run out of batteries yet, but I also haven’t read it on a long trip yet either. It really doesn’t take very long to charge anyway. A few hours tops. (And I think I read that you can still use it while it’s charging.)

And it’s so light! I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to “curl up” with it, but I really can. I can hold it with one hand – either hand as well since there is Next Page button on both sides of it. There’s no glare and it’s easy on the eyes.

I just love the fact that I’ll always have a book to read – no matter where I am (as long as I have the Kindle). If I’m about to finish up one book and start another, I don’t have to lug two books along with me (hello Airplane reading!!)

There are a few down-sides to it…when reading in the presence of my kids, they’re drawn to the buttons, so I’m constantly shooing little hands away from my Kindle. ๐Ÿ™‚ But then again, they were always playing with my bookmarks when I was reading paperbacks, so I suppose it’s always something ๐Ÿ˜‰

When you purchase a book, you don’t know the size or feel of the book. I’m guessing that I’ll get better at judging the size after I’m used to theย  key along the bottom of the screen. There are indications for how far into the book you are – percentage-wise, the ‘location’ of where you currently are, and the total number of locations in the book. I just don’t know, exactly, what these locations equate to. (For example, I’m currently reading The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. The key on the bottom tells me that I’m 43% through the book, I’m at locations 5102-9, and there are 11623 locations. See? I don’t know.)

I also received a few gift cards for Christmas that I thought would be perfect for purchasing books. Ya…it was a slight nightmare. Luckily, it’s super easy to ‘return’ books through the Kindle if you’ve accidentally purchased them! LOL!ย  I mistakenly thought I’d be able to enter the gift card number after purchasing the book through the Kindle (as opposed to through the Amazon website)…nope. So then I tried purchasing a book through the Amazon website figuring I’d enter the gift card number at checkout like you would for a ‘regular’ purchase. Ya…nope. Turns out that you have to enter the gift card number into the redemption page before purchasing anything on the Kindle and it will automatically use the gift card money. So…it worked out, it was just a bit of a learning curve (with some frustrations) on my part.

Cool features:

  • A built in dictionary. If I don’t recognize a word, I can click down to it and it automatically pops up a definition!!
  • It goes right to where you left off in the book…no fumbling around for where you were.
  • You can create manual bookmarks if there are spots you know you’d like to return to.
  • I’m sure there are a bunch more, but I’ve been too busy reading to go exploring ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the things I’ve really been enjoying is the free sample. You can download a free sample (usually a chapter or two) of any book available for Kindle and then decide if you want to purchase it…a simple click from the Kindle, of course! But the reason I’ve enjoyed it so much is that if someone recommends a book, you can immediately download the sample and not forget about it! There have been millions of times that someone has recommended a book and I’ll think “okay – next time I’m at the book store and I have nothing to read…I’ll pick that up.” And then when I get there, I’ve totally forgotten what that book was. I don’t have that problem any more!! And I don’t have to worry about spending a whole bunch of cash if I don’t have any at that exact point in time.

Another cool thing I discovered..? FREE BOOKS!! (Okay, I didn’t discover them, my friend at Lit & Laundry pointed the way…) Some of them are like, $1, but there are a whole bunch that are free. And not just ones that your next-door-neighbor probably wrote (although, watch out for those ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) You can search for the free ones on Amazon as well, but the link above points you in the right direction.

I’m now the proud owner of a crock pot cook book, a whole bunch of classics I was supposed to read in high school but never did (like The Scarlet Letter and a bunch of Jane Austen books), The Angel Experiment by James Patterson (the bugger made the first book in this series free so you’d buy the rest of them LOL!), and a romance novel that my mom suggested. My mom also sent a few other links to freebies, but I haven’t tried them out yet (again, too busy reading!). Always one to pass along information, here are the links if you’re interested:

Anything else I should know about my Kindle? Anything else you’d like to know?

Book Review: Handle With Care

For my book club, I read Jodi Picoult’s Handle With Care. I’ve never read anything by her before – although I’ve heard of some of her books (like My Sister’s Keeper). I have mixed feelings. Are all of her books so freakin’ emotional??? I’m not sure I can handle that ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh my goodness the tears.

The first thing I noticed was that the book has recipes in it! And yummy-looking ones at that. How can you not like a book that includes information about how to bake something tasty? ๐Ÿ™‚

The second thing I noticed was that each chapter is set up as a different character talking (or writing a journal entry) to one specific character in the book, Willow. It feels really, really personal because you know they’re talking to Willow, but it totally feels like they’re speaking directly to you. Another neat thing Ms. Picout did (that I probably noticed right away because of my tech writing background)..? Each character has their own font. So each chapter is a different font! I thought that was a nice touch.

However, since each chapter is a different character and they’re all talking in the first person – it is sometimes a brain “ka-thunk” to remember who is doing the talking. Not a huge one, but it’s still there. There were a few times that I had to page back and look at the chapter title again (the title is the name of the character). Also, even though knowing the character is talking to Willow, when I switched from one chapter to the next, I had to remind myself that the new character wasn’t talking to the previous character; s/he was talking to Willow. Again, not a big deal … but it was there.

The way Ms. Picoult puts you through all these different – and very strong – emotions is amazing. And the way she makes you think “Yikes. What would *I* do in that situation??” is incredible. She just grabs you and makes you read until you can no longer keep your eyes open. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very engaging.

I do have to say that I didn’t really like the ending. I’m not sure, exactly, how I would have wanted it to end…but definitely not the way it did. Or if the ending had to happen that way; perhaps it shouldn’t have been the ending because we need more information about how those events impacted the other characters. Perhaps I was just left wanting more…

I’ll definitely be picking up another book by Ms. Picoult – but I need to read a few not-so-freakin-emotional ones first! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m Flippin’ Out!

(A review of my new Flip)

I received a gift certificate from my Brother and sister-in-law for Christmas. This made it possible to purchase my Flip. And OHMYGOD, the thing is wonderful.

It’s super light – almost to the point where you might think it’s cheap, except that it’s anything but.

It fits right in a coat pocket for easy access, and is only slightly bigger than my cell phone.

The biggest button is the one you press to record video and then stop the recording. You can zoom (a little).

You can play back the video or delete it.

The thing is called a Flip because the USB connection arm flips out to connect it to your computer – no cords to lose!!

When you plug it in for the first time, it automatically loads the software that it comes with. Then, each time you plug it in after, it recognizes that you’ve connected and automatically pulls up the software.

Here’s where things get easy as well. FlipShare is super, super easy! You indicate the videos you want to save to your computer, or to a “Flip Channel” – where you can share the video with friends and family, or to a place online (Facebook and YouTube are just a drag-n-drop away!). You can edit the video by snipping it from the front or back, and you can string a few videos together. You can create a greeting card or – my favorite part – grab a snapshot from anywhere in the video!

The screen is a bit small, so it takes some getting used to the distance you need to be away from your subject. It’s just slightly different than a regular camera, but easy to get used to with some use. My only complaint is that it doesn’t zoom much at all. But … since I know that, I won’t try to shoot video of things that are far away ๐Ÿ™‚

Some samples for your viewing pleasure.

(49 seconds)

And a snapshot from that video

Maggie After Singing

(27 seconds)

And a snapshot from that video

Burke After singing

(39 seconds)

And a snapshot from that video

Hello?

I did not receive this Flip from an outside source to review.
I purchased it on my own with my hard-earned Christmas gift card ๐Ÿ˜‰