Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Dozen Cousins by Lori Haskins Houran, illustrated by Sam Usher

ISBN: 9781454910626
About the book: What's life like for one little girl with TWELVE male cousins? Not easy! "They read her secret diary. They used up all her paint. They put a lizard in her hat to see if she would faint." Loaded with infectious humor, this rollicking, rhyming picture book features a happy heroine who adores her big, boisterous boy family.

My thoughts: A Dozen Cousins is a cute, silly book that focuses on the abundance of testosterone when there is a bunch of boys – albeit, little boys – around. Sweet little Anna  is the only “girl” cousin amongst 13. No playing with dolls in this group. It is full of mischief, energy, worms, lizards, rockets, and used up paint supplies.

Anna manages to cope with all this boy-stuff by being a good sport.

Delightfully silly story written in short rhymes brought to life by the colorfully sketched illustrations that show us the full-throttle-all-boy messes and playfulness.
Illustration © 2015 by Sam Usher (image source)

This fun book encourages tolerance and lessons in how to get along at play time.

Look for it in libraries everywhere.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Sterling Books to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Monday, November 30, 2015


Are you as tired as I am of children playing with toys that are simply not age-appropriate?  Check out my reviews of "Lottie" dolls!

And Shop
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Vera's Reviews:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Midnight Visitors by Juliet David & Illustrated by Jo Parry

ISBN: 9781781282335
$14.99 - Hardback
About the book: Miriam was glad to be warm and cozy. There were so many people in the town but it was nice and peaceful inside her cowshed. Little did she know that she would soon be joined by Midnight Visitors . . . and not just any old visitors!

Snuggle up and enjoy the warm, soft feel the art and narrative bring to this delightful Christmas picture book with a difference.

My thoughts: This is a sweet book with soft, lovely pictures that tell the story of Miriam, a cow. Miriam is settling down for the night in her cozy barn when first a family of rabbits and then a fox seek shelter for the night inside Miriam's barn. Then more visitors are ushered in - Mary and Joseph.

The Christ child is born and "Miriam moves from her warmed spot in the hay to make room for them."  Miriam hears beautiful music (no angels are seen).. Then three shepherds visit.

So Miriam's barn sees Midnight Visitors.

This is definitely a story to categorize as folklore and definitely a diversion from the Biblical record of the Birth of Christ the Savior. Juliet David and Jo Parry have teamed up to create a sweet story. Many will enjoy it. Purists will not.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publication to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet My Best Friend by Sheila Walsh [Review & Giveaway]

Buy it at Family Christian
About the book: The Bible is not only a book, but it can also be a friend—the best friend we have. This engaging picture book is a must-have because it allows kids to see the Bible as a friend they can trust and rely on. It’s a fun read that entertains and also tells the story of how much God loves them. 

My thoughts: This is a really cute book as the twins in Scotland greet newcomer, Abby, to their neighborhood. The McDougal twins invite Abby into their home to play. While there, the twins want to introduce Abby to their best friend so they play a game of hot and cold to see if Abby can find their best friend.

The "friend" is finally located and it isn't an individual; it is a book. Not just any book, it is the Bible, God's Holy Word.

I like the story line and the game the three children play. The two dogs are adorable and in side remarks carry on their own story line.

I personally believe that our best friend is Jesus, the Christ of the Bible. Our Savior. Our Redeemer. One with the Father. So personally I think presenting God's Written Word as a best friend is presumptious. It is very true that the Bible is sacred and is the Word of God; and the Bible comforts the hurting and lonely. But it is not a personage.

So the story is cute, the illustrations quirky-cute and fun. It will provide a good read.
Begins November 25
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DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Family Christian to facilitate this sponsored review. The giveaway copy is provided by Family Christian and will be shipped directly to the winner by Family Christian. Opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memories of Thanksgiving Past as Pertaining to Sweet Potatoes

Sometimes memory fails us. Sometimes memory eludes us. Sometimes it simply gets muddled up with other occasions and clear definitive memories simply don’t exist.

However, memories are still a part of who each of us is and have helped to shape us into the person we are today.

As I reflect back on Thanksgiving Day through the years, my growing up memories and my grown up memories have somehow coalesced into one big blur. But tidbits of memories do exist.

I remember mother making her wonderful candied sweet potatoes. These were made from fresh, peeled, uncooked sweet potatoes.* After peeling the potatoes, she sliced them lengthwise into flat pieces which she then arranged in overlapping layers in her baking pan. It was very important to slice them lengthwise rather than across them. She then prepared the sugar and butter ingredients. I don’t have a recipe for this, and maybe she didn’t either. Good cooks sometimes just simply put together these wonderful foods from their own mental storehouse of recipes. I do remember that she always added vanilla. This was a key ingredient! These were baked until they were almost translucent. Marvelously delicious!

In later years sweet potato casserole consisting of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, vanilla, sugar, egg/s, and orange juice & grated rind seemed to take the place of candied sweet potatoes. She also topped this with marshmallows. Again, fresh sweet potatoes were used in this, not canned.

And then much later, the sweet potato casserole changed a bit. The orange was left out and the potato mixture was baked and then topped with a mind-blowing delicious topping of sugar, butter, and chopped pecans.

All-in-all, sweet potatoes are a big memory of Thanksgiving from my growing up days and on into my own grown up days. Now the sweet potato cooking is relegated to a daughter, daughter-in-law, or granddaughter and most of the time the dish is the pecan-topped version.

How will you serve your sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving?

*Have you ever tried to peel a raw sweet potato? It is hard to do and the sap of the potato leaves your hands stained.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs

ISBN: 9780529120670 $14.99
About the book: For nearly twenty years, Liz Curtis Higgs has made the holidays a little brighter throughout the year with her Parable Series. In a lovely padded hardcover format, the Gold Medallion–winning books from the Parable Series will include:
  • "The Pumpkin Patch Parable," which focuses on the harvest season and shows that we can let God’s love shine through us
  • "The Pine Tree Parable," a heartwarming tale of the farmer and his family, who nurture tiny seedlings into fragrant Christmas trees.
  • "The Parable of the Lily," which helps children understand the power of grace and forgiveness and the true meaning of Easter.
  • "The Sunflower Parable," which helps children discover the value of planting seeds, not only in the ground but also in the hearts of those around us.
With simplicity and creative storytelling, this is sure to be a family favorite.

My thoughts: While this is an absolutely adorable book of four stories – one for each season, and while it is a collection of stories that are well done and make for good read-aloud stories for the kiddies, there are a couple of issues that I find disturbing.
  1. The Spring story is about a lily. This is a gift from the farmer (who in the parable represents the giver of all good gifts – God) but it is not a good-to-look-at gift. It is a box of dirt containing a bulb. At one point in the story the child is disturbed and throws the bulb out the window. It lands in the farmer’s flower bed. Then behold, on Easter, there is a beautiful lily.

    Now why would I object to this? The truth is handled loosely here. Lilies – specifically Easter Lilies – despite their “name” do not bloom in a garden on Easter.
  2. The other issue is in regard to the Fall story about the pumpkin seed being planted in the ground, growing, being harvested. Then the farmer (again a representative in the story/parable of the giver of gifts, the molder of lives, etc.) cleanses the soiled pumpkin, cuts the top off, scrapes out the insides and tosses them away “never to be seen again” (picture of sin?). Then the farmer skillfully carves a beautiful smiling face into the pumpkin and inserts a light which shines forth for all to see (depicting a cleansed, redeemed individual's light shining forth). While the imagery is nice, the use of a Jack-O-Lantern, which is a totally Halloween symbol, is inappropriate in any Christian work. I realize the author has stated it was not meant to celebrate Halloween.
I do like the book and the concept of these four parables. I do like the illustrations. I do like the stories. I am just concerned with these issues.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

How will your Cranberries be served this Thanksgiving?

On today's version of the Thanksgiving table, there are many choices for adding that bit of red that decorates our plates and tantalizes our taste buds. Versions of cranberry sauce.

At one time, the tradition called for a cranberry sauce made simply with cranberries, sugar, and water. The recipe was on the bag of cranberries and in the tried and true Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Of course, somewhere along the timeline, canned versions of this traditional cranberry sauce as well as a pureed and jelled sauce were available. But nothing quite matched that cooked at home from fresh cranberries sauce served in Grandma's pretty glass dish.

Through the years, I've varied my own home cooked sauce adding peeled and minced apples, orange rind (I choose to put big chunks rind and remove it prior to serving), pecans, and perhaps even spices. Just whatever strikes my fancy or I happen to have in the 'fridge at the time.

And then there are many versions using jello congealing the sauce for a lovely jeweled presentation at table. And Mom's where she actually ground the fresh cranberries with oranges (this was a grinder fastened to the table and cranked by hand) and pecans. This was mixed with sugar and perhaps jello. I don't know the recipe nor can I find it. But it was made several days in advance and allowed to sit in the 'fridge for optimum flavor merging. This was a culinary delight! Of course, it seems that anything about food that my mother set her hand to the task of preparing was always a culinary delight.

But what will Vera do about cranberry sauce this year? I have a bag of cranberries. I have sugar. I have some apples. I may buy some oranges. Who knows? Will the sauce be plain this year or will Vera choose to add a bit more for flavor variety?

TIP: I usually use a little less water than the recipe calls for. This makes for a sweet and less runny sauce.

TIP #2: Cranberries are a very healthy food.

NEXT DAY NOTE - AFTER COOKING: Well, the deed is done! Sadly when I opened the bag of "name brand" fresh cranberries, over 1/2 cup were very bad, so I didn't have a "bag" of cranberries. Never-the-less, I used less water, about the amount of sugar for a bag, 1/2 orange (not just rind), and 1/2 peeled and finely chopped apple. Cooked until berries all popped, then a wee-bit more. Removed the orange (this is pretty good to nibble on later). Sauce is Delicious!