Friday, December 29, 2017

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

My thoughts:  Having grown up in a southern town that played a somewhat important role in the Revolutionary War, (or should we say, the War for American Independence?) and that was also steeped in pre-revolutionary war and later the Civil War history, I grew up fascinated by history. I have also read previous publications by the author Laura Frantz and found her writing style a joy to read and her attention to historical research and detail impeccable. So the opportunity to read The Lacemaker was met with much anticipation.

From the beginning of this story I was able to visualize the streets of Williamsburg where much of the story played out. The scenes were easily imaginable based on a visit I made years ago to Williamsburg and the author's apt descriptions.

Now the story...... This is a work of fiction though there is of necessity a sprinkling of real people involved in the story and the staging of the story is pretty much true to the history of the area and time. It is the cusp of the American Revolution and Williamsburg, Virginia, is about the explode. The Patriots and the Tories seethe with the fervor of their cause - be it King and Country, or Freedom and Liberty. Our heroin is a lovely Tory lady who is left, deserted by her father, friends, and fiance on the eve of their wedding. Then her home is trashed and confiscated by the Patriots and she is left bereft of home, protection, fortune, and livelihood.

She determines not to be defeated and seeks employment - unheard of for a Lady - but she does have the lady-like skill of lacemaking and needle-work that she begins to market.

Not trusted by Tories or Patriots, she is in danger. Her rescuer is a Patriot, a gentleman, a protector.

The story unfolds amidst the conflicts of the time and war ensues and with it the dangers to each person. Lady Elizabeth who becomes known as Liberty and Noble Rynallt are both strong, believable characters. Their faith shines through strengthening them for what they have to endure.

Laura Frantz has penned a wonderful story and one I highly recommend.
Watch for a Giveaway soon!

About the book: When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth "Liberty" Lawson is abandoned by her fiance and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Revell a division of Baker Publishing House, to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

With Love, From Me to You by Dr. Mary Manz Simon Published by Zondervan

My thoughts: This lovely little board book presents the concept of being loved and showing love in a light-hearted, gentle, sweet, and fun method using the tried and true rhyming text that helps to imprint the ideas and words on the  mind and heart of the young "reader" and listener.

While the "mail-bear" appears to have a mail pouch stuffed with valentines, love is a message that is appropriate anytime and all the time and therefore this book is not just a "Valentine" book. The book's publication launch date was December 26, 2017 which is timely for the upcoming Valentine holiday. But as I said, the message to extend love is appropriate at all times.

Cute, friendly, smiling animals populate this charming book. The little train that traverses the countryside is adorable and just begs to be played with. Alas, it stays ont the pages. The flitting birds, fluffy clouds, and floating dandelion puffs lend airy happiness. But the sharing of love with those around is the  message and it is clearly stated in the text and images. A joyful, delightful book to present to a young child to help them get beyond the "me" stage to the "you" stage.
A red heart sends a message
that says "I so love you,"
but we can send those same words
in what we say and do. 
If I see someone crying
or looking very sad,
I'll stop to show some kindness
and he won't feel so bad.

About the book: With Love, From Me to You is a board book for little ones that will remind them how important it is to love and be loved. With adorable illustrations and sweet, rhyming text by bestselling author Dr. Mary Manz Simon, this book shows children how important their actions and words are in expressing God’s great love with one another. Parents will enjoy reading this book on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year to encourage their children to remember that love is more than gifts and candy; it’s about doing for others and sending love to everyone who’s near.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blogger Review Program on behalf of the publisher, Zondervan, to facilitate an honest review of the book. Opinions are my own, alone, and are freely given.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived In...Viking Europe by Carole P. Roman & illustrated by Mateya Arkova

My thoughts: As 2017 winds down and we look forward to the restart of school in January 2018, it's time to focus a bit on educational items. Carole P. Roman is a former school teacher with emphasis on social studies. She has produced a plethora of books on countries across the globe and introduced young readers to cultures and geographical information about the countries.

Venturing into the ancient world to continue her "If You Were Me and Lived in....." series the author looks at life in Viking Europe and the year is roughly 890 A.D. While ideal for elementary students those in the early middle school grades will find them interesting and profit from inclusion in their studies. Readers can immerse themselves into the story imagining what it was like to actually live during the period about which they are reading.

Geographically, the Vikings traveled far distances to plunder, enslave, trade goods, and to resettle. Their life style is described by the author examining that of the wealthy, those of low station, and the captured and enslaved populace.

The illustrations by Mateya Arkova use soft-toned colors which for an historical period of rugged, barbarian, seafaring and waring peoples is interesting. I think of browns blacks, greys punctuated with the blue of sky and sea and green of landscapes but not pastels or reds. The illustrations provide an interesting perception of the time and peoples.

The back pages include descriptions of gods and goddesses worshiped by these Viking, Scandinavian, Norsemen as well as some actual known historically important men and women of this long ago era. The pages of words defined and with pronunciation guide are abundant.

Hard bound copies would provide good resource material for classroom as well as school libraries. But the soft cover book I reviewed is durable and well suited for the home library.

About the book: Hop in our time travel machine and join Carole P. Roman as she visits a Viking settlement in the year 890 AD. Learn what your name could be and the kind of food you might eat. Read about the different levels of society, how they affect where you would live, and the type of clothing you might wear. Mateya Arkova's beautiful illustrations illustrate what Vikings ate and their children did for fun. If You Were Me and Lived in.. Viking Europe is an exciting trip that shows a colorful culture through the eyes of a child.
5 Winners each 1 Copy
Begins December 26
Ends January 17 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the author to facilitate this review of my own opinions which are freely given. Winner's copies will be sent by author directly to the winners.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What would Christmas "eats" be without a chocolate dessert?

A year or so ago I discovered using canned pumpkin in cake mixes. I read through quite a number of recipes online and had the opportunity to enjoy some prepared by other cooks who graciously shared their bounty.

I found recipes that used a box of cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Stir together and bake. Pretty good, but I thought to myself, "I think it is missing something." So I ventured into the kitchen armed with a can of pumpkin, a chocolate cake mix, eggs, spice, butter and sugar. Now cake mixes have their own fat ingredient but some have you add some oil. But folks are saying the pumpkin takes the place of the oil.

In my seeking for the right recipe, I came across one that called for some Hellman's Real Mayonaise. I recalled many, many years ago that there was a time when folks made cake using mayonaise instead of eggs and oil. Kind of a frugal cake because mayonaise was pretty cheap then.

But I digress..... I decided I wanted to make this nifty cake rich in the vitamines and fiber of pumpkin and deliciously chocolate. So.... Here we have it.

Vera's Chocolate Spice Pumpkin Cake

1/2 cup Hellman's Real Mayonaise
1 can Libby's pumpkin (not the pie filling, the unadultrated pumpkin)
4 eggs
1 box Betty Crocker (or other quality brand) chocolate cake mix
1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (McCormick's)
small amount of melted butter
scant 1/4 cup white granulated sugar plus a couple if tabkesoiibs for the pan

Combine mayonaise, eggs, butter, then add pumpkin. When thoroughly blended, dump cake mix on top of mixture and then spice on top of the dry mix. Slowly blend with your mixer until thoroughly blended. Add about 1/4 cup white granulated sugar to this mixture and blend in.

Melt about 1 T. butter in the microwave. Spread it in the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons white granuilated sugar in the pan and shake to spread evenly. Pour cake batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake 350 F. 30 minutes.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

1 stick butter melted in heavy saucepan
2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
3 cups 10X powdered sugar
orange juice
half and half
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in saucepan and then add cocoa. Use handmixer to blend well. Add powdered sugar alternately with orange juice and half and half. Note: I "eyeball" the liquid. It doesn't take much. This icing is prepared in the saucepan atop low heat on the stove top. I like to use some orange juice in the chocolate icing as it gives a bit of zing that cuts the sweetness a bit. I also like half and half (or evaporated milk) because it renders a richer icing. I use the mixer throughout the process of preparing the icing which is warm and thick and pours and spreads nicely onto the cake. Finish off the cake with the chopped pecans.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Christmas treat: The scrumptious fruit of the East done up in delectable date-nut balls

Memories of past Christmas time meander around my mind of home as I grew up and later when I had an established home of my own. The foods and treats of the holiday season are forever imprinted on my mind and conjure taste pleasures that only these treats can produce.

Recently, my oldest child that is no longer a child herself brought to my recollection those delectable date-nut balls made with succulent dates that we only enjoyed during the Christmas season.

My mother made these and in later years I did. My family through the years made short work of the small abundance that was these small, rich, delicious orbs. So I thought...... "Why not give the family, and now the "grands," a taste. So the grocer reaped a harvest as I sought out dates, sugar, eggs, nuts, butter, coconut, and Rice Krispies. Only top grade ingredients will do for this treat, though store brands might suffice.

I measured, stirred, cooked, cooled, and hand-rolled the mixture. As I finished I couldn't resist tasting the scrapings of the pot that the mixture recently vacated. Just a wee taste. Well, I tell you, this is so good, so rich, so absolutely delicious.


I didn't take the time to rifle through my hodge-podge of accumulated cards and scraps of paper that hold family treasures. I went online as modern cooks do and found three.

No sure I wanted to use either, I sort of used bits 'n pieces of each calling to mind that "my recipe included...." and that doesn't see like enough.....

These are pictures of  the work in progress. Sorry I failed to snap a picture of the pot of bubbly goodness while it was actually in the process of becoming itself.

Oh, I'd love to share with you, but I'm afraid there might not be enough for my family and you.

Enjoy your own Christmas treats and make memories that last through the years.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Remembering Christmas past. . .

Things I remember about Christmas past......

  • The tinkling of a child's music box as the tiny ballerina twirls in pink splendor.
  • The joy of seeing my children in new pajamas I had made for them.
  • The thrill on their face as they sing at the top of their voice during the church Christmas program.
  • The bedraggled child-shepherd walking down the aisle toward the babe in the manger as only a little one can do when robbed in a too big, plaid bathrobe with a towel wrapped around his head.
  • The high school student performing in "Who Stole Baby Jesus" and being so proud.
  • The cold of caroling at the grandparents after a three hour drive to get to their house.
  • The joy of small children opening mysterious packages wrapped with love and tenderness.
  • The weariness of  being a parent and still wrapping, in the middle of the night, those secretive treasures for her beloved children to receive on Christmas morning.
  • The twinkle in a grandfather's eyes as he watches his grandchildren unwrap a gift.
  • The small gift from a Sunday School teacher.
  • Singing in the choir as a high schooler and being so thrilled with the music.
  • Opening hymnals to the few pages of Christmas carols each year and singing the beloved favorites.
  • Hearing silly songs on the radio.
  • Hearing beautiful renditions of beloved, traditional Christmas carols.
  • Receiving a bike for Christmas as a child.
  • Looking at photographs, black and white of course, of Christmas as a child.
  • Stumbling into the train at the base of my parent's Christmas tree when I crept into the living room  under cover of darkness on Christmas Eve to try to peek.
  • Maturing and realizing that all the wrapping and all the glitz and all the sparkle is nothing compared to the joy that was brought to the World by the birth of this wee babe in a manage who is Christ the Lord and who came to Save us from our sins.

Dear friends, yes, I wrote this a year ago. But I wanted to share these memories with you once again and perhaps provoke you to dive deep into the recesses of your own memories to recall, recollect, and reminisce a bit. If you wish, share those memories in the comments...... 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Warm socks [think Heat Holders®] are always a "given" gift at Christmas for stocking stuffers or just plain gifting

Tucking warmth into the stockings hung by the chimney with care.....

When my children were growing up (many years ago) and cold weather came - especially on those snow days when we North Carolinians were ill prepared to weather, I worried that my children's feet would remain warm and dry. Today's parents can rest their minds knowing that with the fabulous Heat Holders® socks their children's feet will remain warm.
Warm, toasty socks for girls of all types and ages all ready for stocking stuffing (pun intended!)

When I found the brand "Heat Holders®" thermal socks, I was amazed that these soft, cuddly, and even pretty socks could be so serviceable and provide such warmth and safety for feet. Cushiony soft with varying thermal values, these socks are suitable for cold to intense cold temperatures. 

And just where can you find them? Well, of course they are online at Heat Holders® and, but you can also shop for them in a plethora of brick 'n mortar stores such as Kohl's, J.C. Penny's, Walmart, Target, Cabela's, Grainger's, and wherever you want to get your "outdoors stuff."
Big girls, little girls, "girly" girls, and plain Jane girls
all can find the socks they love for warm feet
Today we're looking at a few of the children's socks. Yep! Fun and warm socks for the kiddies. Perfect stocking stuffers. And perfect for my young grand-girls. They live where it gets pretty cold (much colder than North Carolina) and these will be welcome additions to their "keep warm" stuff and they are pretty, too! See assortment of children's socks - click here.

But Heat Holders is not just about a pretty pair of socks. There are some serious needs for socks that actually perform well in the bitter cold and protect one's feet and these qualify. Heat Holders has an entire line of socks for men, women, and children that will take you from mucking out the barn to snowshoeing in the Rockies to sitting in a deer stand or trudging along that 10-mile run. Your feet will be comfy warm. Why?......

Got a girly girl that loves all things pink? Got a little Princess?
Heat Holders® has the socks for her.

How do they feel? They feel wonderfully soft, fluffy, cushiony. Wonderful for lounging around the house on a cold evening. Or comforting to tuck into those winter shoes or boots and keep your feet nice and warm.

How do they wash? You can wash them by hand or in the washer and can air dry (line dry) or toss in the dryer.

Warm, happy feet
on Christmas morning
after unwrapping sock/gifts.
What about the "thermal rating"? According to the manufacturer, "TOG means Thermal Overall Grade. It is a scientific test that measures the thermal (heat retaining) capacity of fabric. Heat Holders® thermal socks, when tested using this standard, rate TOG 2.34*. This is 7x warmer than cotton socks and almost 3x warmer than ordinary thermal socks! *Heat Holders® LITE™ socks rated 1.6 Tog" (from product website) Please note in the information image above that the weaving technique and brushing also are a source of their high TOG rating. Note, too, the moisture breathing abilities.

Where can you find these products? Online for best variety: Heat Holders (Tip: sometimes there is a percentage discount and there is free shipping with a $25 order) or simply "Google" it and you'll find a bunch of brick-and-mortar stores that have them - even the mega stores totally geared for the outdoorsman. Awesome!

The socks I received are girls' and are varied, but not nearly as varied as the plethora of socks for kids, ladies, and men that they have on their website. Such a variety! Cute socks. Pretty socks. No-nonsense socks! You name it.

I love it! What a great idea for Christmas gifts and everyone needs new socks at Christmas time.

Want to try and win a set of 4 pairs of children's socks? Use the entry form below. One of Chat With Vera's readers will receive these lovelies.
1 Winner will win 4-pair-prize
Choice of Boys' or Girls' Styles
Begins December 16
ENDS January 8, 2018 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA/CANADA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a set of four pairs to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and gladly and freely given. I was not compensated for this review not required to post positive remarks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Bishop Needs An Alibi by Vannetta Chapman [Review & Giveaway]

In a book I previously reviewed for author, Vannetta Chapman, the following quote really stood out to me...... and I came across it toward the end of When The Bishop Needs an Alibi when the Amish bishop and two others were in the midst of dire danger. It bears repeating.

"Courage is fear that has said it's prayers."
(pg. 129 A Wedding for Julia by Vannetta Chapman)

My thoughts: We met the Amish bishop, Henry Lapp recently in What the Bishop Saw and we learned that he is a gentle, kindly man who is the over shepherd and leader of the community of Amish. He also has quite an unusual talent of being able to subconsciously recall and draw in minute detail scenes he has visited or witnessed. This is because he is an "accidental savant."

Previously the Bishop was involved in solving a mystery using this unusual talent and now he is again embroiled in the terrible situation where a young woman loses her life.

The story locale is the beautiful Colorado San Luis Valley and Bishop Henry is an avid "birder" who loves watching the cranes that frequent the area that has marshes, mountains, and huge sand dunes. But all is not beautiful in this lovely place.

As the kindly and gentle Amish folk gather in the local diner for coffee or a meal or as they gather at the local bakery run by three Amish widow ladies, they pursue clues with their chatter, curiosity, and somewhat meddlesome way. But though fraught with danger, it's all good on their part and the outcome is good. You see, much is afoot in the world of evil and crime and these dear folk seem to get themselves stuck right in the middle of it.

You'll fall in love with the bishop because he is insightful, kind, and full of wisdom which he graciously shares with any and all. Even though falsely accused, he holds no animosity. Even though a pacifist, he knows when to act to protect. And dear Bishop Henry has a precious dog by his side, Lexi which we met in the first book about the Bishop.

I highly recommend this new book by Vannetta Chapman and you can always depend on her books to be clean reads that are "full of grace."

About the book: A Terrible Secret Hides in the Bulrushes

Amish bishop Henry Lapp eagerly awaits the annual arrival of 20,000 sandhill cranes to the San Luis Valley of Colorado. But his visit to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge reveals more than just a miracle of God's creation. Hidden among the bulrushes and cattails is the deceased body of a young woman.

As the local authorities attempt to unravel the mystery, Henry feels God's calling to use his extraordinary talent to aid in the investigation. His ability to draw from memory in photographic detail could help solve this puzzling case.

Henry's closest friend, Emma Fisher, has always urged him to embrace his gift. As their relationship deepens, Henry realizes his involvement could put him and those he loves in the direct path of a killer, one who is willing to do anything to cover up a brutal crime, including framing the bishop.
When the Bishop Needs an Alibi is a compelling story of faith, friendship, and finding courage only God can provide.
GIVEAWAY - eBook or Print Copy
Begins December 12
Ends January 5, 2018 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the author and Harvest House Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given. Winner's copy is also provided courtesy of author and publisher.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wonderfully clean and shinny hair with Good Earth Beauty Exclusives Shampoo & Conditioner [Review & Giveaway]

I've already introduced Chat With Vera readers to the lovely online company that produces natural products one small batch at a time and with love. You've met their beauty boxes which are delightful treats packaged with a variety of products and themed in various manners. I've told you about their delightful pumpkin soap, toner, moisturizer, and skin cleanser and lastly, the wonderful fragrances.

Now I want to share with you a little about their hair care products - the Good Earth Beauty Exclusives shampoo. and conditioners. I received small sample bottles of four of the products and all I can say is ----- WOW!
Sample sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner from Good Earth Beauty Exclusives.
Wonderful Pumpkin Chai, beautifully fragrant Bamboo Flower, and beguiling Cranberry Citrus.

These are lovely. The fragrance is subtle and so very pleasant. The way my hair shines after using them is absolutely gorgeous. And the hair is so manageable.

All I can say is good about these all natural products.
My favorite of the samples:
Pumpkin Chai

Now as my readers know, I'm particularly fond of the Pumpkin spice scented products that Good Earth Beauty Exclusives produces and the shampoo and conditioner was simply wonderful! I love the scent plus the shine and the feel of my hair after using these.

Chat With Vera readers may use the discount code of GEB10 to get a 10% discount on their entire order. And orders for USA addresses ship FREE!
Shop for Christmas gifts before it is too late & use the 10% discount code!

Now my readers also have the opportunity to participate in a short-run giveaway for a set of shampoo and conditioner samples. Good Earth Beauty Exclusives will provide the winner with a set so you have the wonderful opportunity to try these for yourself.
Begins December 11
Ends December 21 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received the pictured samples to facilitate a review. Opinions are my own and given after actively using the items. I received no compensation for this review. Prize will be sent directly to the winner by

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy from Bethany House Publishing

My thoughts:  Mary Connealy brings her trademark style of writing about cowboys, ranching, thieving orneriness, and sweet romance to this conclusion of the Cimarron Legacy series. The Cimarron Ranch (or CR as it is referred to) is the abode of the Boden family who herd cattle and also mine the land.

The land's story is one of the Spanish or Mexican land grants and the New Mexico land grants and the disputes that individuals carry with them over perceived slights.

The book opens with a blast of rock as the mines are ripped apart by explosions set by an unknown source. The  story follows the clues as the Boden family tries to get to the rock bottom of this meanness.

As the conclusion to the series, the book may be read as a stand alone story. However, it is better to read the series in the order in which they are written to better follow the plight of the Bodens and the machinations of those dead set at ripping the Cimarron right out from under them.

As always, Mary Connealy's books are fun to read, give a glimpse into the old wild west, and good clean stories.

About the book: When an explosion at the mine kills workers and damages the CR Company, the Boden family is plunged deep into the heart of trouble yet again. As they try to identify the forces against them once and for all, Cole Boden finds himself caught between missing his time back in the east, and all that New Mexico offers—namely, his family and cowgirl Melanie Blake.

Read an excerpt
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group to facilitate a review of my own opinions. These are my opinions and are freely given.