Wednesday, December 12, 2018

End-of-the-Garden Vegetable Mix, a treasure to savor

It's not the right time of the year to talk about gardens and the delicious goodies gleaned from those rows of veggies. But the thought of "end of the garden" pot of goodies came to my mind as I saw an advertisement from a major vegetable cannery touting their veggie and bean combinations.

During the gardening and harvest season, we cook our peas, butter beans, snaps, crowders, and corn separately. Even okra is stewed, fried, ,etc. But at the end of the season, a few of each of these plants refuses to completely die, still yielding a little bit of their goodness. Not enough for a pot of peas. Not enough for a pot of butter beans. Just an ear of corn. A few string beans.

You don't want to just let it those brave few stay on the vines or stalks to wither and die, yielding to the summer bugs that proliferate.

No. You pick them. Take them into the house. Shell, snap, cut. Wash. Rinse. And then....

You put them all into one single pot.

You season according to your preference. A bit of salt. A shake of pepper. Some fat - a ham bone, butter, or oil. And you cook until the flavors merge into a savory taste that you only get to enjoy once or twice a year.

It is that "End-of-the-garden" flavor rich vegetable medley that is so rich, so tasty, so undeniably good.

And it is a treasure to savor, indeed.

And that reminds me of life in general. When the summer of our youth and middle age is past. We lack the quantity of strength. We lack an abundance of activity and fruitfulness. Our yield is quite limited.

We have grown older. And are easily left to wither and fade into the existence of shadow keeping to the background.

But there is still wholesome goodness in us. We can still yield a savory goodness to the pot that is life. We are not all used up. So.....

Pick from the limited yield we have to offer and see if you can find there, too, .....

............ a treasure to savor.

Good Earth Beauty has lovely holiday products and offers a Discount Code when you order. Plus a Giveaway hosted here on Chat With Vera open to USA entries

The holidays are almost upon us and much gift shopping has already happened; and for many of us, there is much still to be done. The folks at Good Earth Beauty (online all natural beauty products shop) are working diligently to fill all orders in a timely manner. 

Holiday flavors warm vanilla, candy cane, cocoa and sugar cookie

It is a delight to cruise their pages to see the products available. They put together a little goodie box of samples and full sizes in products suited for the holidays and sent it along to me. It isn't really "on the market" as shown, but it gives you grand ideas for ordering for yourself or someone special.

Shop the Gift Shop on Good Earth Beauty - click here

And Good Earth Beauty has said we can treat one of Chat With Vera's  readers with the fantastic prize of a little burlap bag of five of their all natural, vegan lip balms. I use the Pumpkin Spice lip balm and it is absolutely fabulous. "Tastes" wonderful and the effect on my lips is wonderful. I can easily say this is probably the best lip balm I have EVER used

5 Delightful lip balms. My favorite..... Pumpkin Spice - Value at $28.00

Product information: HOLIDAY GIFT-LIP BALM NATURAL VEGAN SET OF 5: Vegan - natural -  soothing and moisturizing - helps heal chapped lips. Lip Balm Natural Vegan set of  5 fun, original scents - Candy cane mint, chocolate mint, vanilla mint, vanilla marshmallow or pumpkin pie! Comes in small burlap gift bag shown. Made by Good Earth Beauty - Ingredients: Meadowfoam oil, olive oil, avocado butter, candellia wax, vitamin E, natural flavor oil

Go ahead and shop right now and use this DISCOUNT CODE - HOLIDAY10 - which will discount your total order by 10% and there is always FREE SHIPPING in USA. Click here to shop

Little burlap bag of 5 lip balms, set value -$28 - Find it Here
Begins December 12
Ends January 7 at 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary products to facilitate my opinion review of these products. Opinions are my own and given only after using the product myself or a family member using it. I was not compensated for this product review. #sponsored

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

365-day devotional journals from Ellie Claire: Peace Begins With Me, The Earth is the Lord's and Everything In it, and Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Beautifully crafted devotionals / journals will help you turn your heart toward God on a daily basis.

Three beautiful journals that will take you through the entire year ahead. Each has a different "theme" or focus that allows the user to select the devotional journal that appeals visually but more importantly on the focus of the thoughts delivered.

Any of these would make cherished gifts for those on your list. Seek them out online or at your favorite store.

The Earth Is the Lord's, and Everything In It: 365-Day Devotional Journal (Devotional Journals) 

ISBN: 978-1633261709
My thoughts:  Each daily read begins with a Scripture selection and a titled devotional thought for that day. Beautifully written to lead our thinking and assist in our grasp of the Scripture, the text concludes with a prayerful thought asking for God's help to achieve the day's lesson.

These thoughts on our Lord's beautiful Earth and His being the Creator of it all are expressed so well.

After reading, thinking, and praying over that day's message the reader has an opportunity to use the few blank lines to record their thoughts, goals, and prayer.

This makes a beautiful (isn't the cover absolutely stunning?) gift for someone to use who loves God's creation - this beautiful world we live in.

About the book: A devotional journal exploring God's magnificent creation.

From the small whisper of a snowflake to the large circumference of a baobab tree, all of nature is the creative expression of God. When we embrace His creative nature by taking the time to stop, notice, and connect, our hearts are encouraged and souls refreshed. Respond to the devotions, add your own creative writing, or keep track of prayers on the journaling lines.

Peace Begins with Me Journal: A 365-Day Devotional Journal (365 Devotional Journals)  

ISBN: 978-1633262072
My thoughts:  A few years back there was a song "Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me....." A lovely song but really not expressive of the peace that is given to us by our Lord. In the Peace Begins With Me devotional journal the reader has the opportunity to mentally engage with Scripture and thoughts that lead to true peace.

The simple, uncluttered cover is peaceful and graceful and very classic. It exudes peace. There is such a lack of peace in the world and in our own lives. To seek peace and to find it is a gift from God.

This makes a wonderful gift for someone you know who wants to find peace.

About the book: We pray for peace. We beg for it from others. We make speeches about it. But in the end, the only peace most of us can control is that little portion we display for the world to see. If we are at peace, the chaos around us seems to calm down. Our peace affects others. And the Giver of peace awaits to give us the gift that can change our world. It begins with a prayer. It begins with me.

• Archive quality, non-bleed paper
• Acid-free paper and ink
• Daily devotional with lightly ruled space for responses, lists, or journaling
• Full-color interior design
• Presentation page for personalization
• Lay-flat binding
• Foil, ribbon
• Closure band


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (365-Day Devotional Journals) (Lifestyle Journals)    

ISBN: 978-1633261808
My thoughts:  In this beautifully crafted devotional journal, the goal is to direct one's attention, heart, thoughts to Jesus.  This journal uses well crafted text and Scripture to lead the reader in the goal of setting their sights on Jesus.

What better way to either begin one's day or to end the day than to turn your eyes upon Jesus. This sweet journal can help you do just that.

The lovely rose floral design of the cover is repeated as small decorative touches inside the book. Pleasant to your eyes just as the joy of turning your eyes to Jesus is pleasant.

A lovely gift for someone who wishes to pursue a closer walk with Jesus in their daily lives.

About the book: A 365-day devotional journal to help you spend time with Jesus through quiet time, prayers, and reflection.

When life gets busy, it's easy to forget to spend time with God. This 365-day devotional journal offers encouraging meditations to help you spend a few moments turning your eyes on Jesus before your hectic day begins. After short devotions and Scripture for each day of the year, you will also find light journaling lines and ample space to record your thoughts, hopes, and prayers -- just what you need to start each and every day with the reminder that God is always by your side.

In this "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" devotional, the reader learns about protection from the storms of life that Jesus provides. "God is our stronghold - our rock, fortress, and deliverer. No matter how fierce the storm appears, we can trust in Him."
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies of the three devotionals from the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Children of Jubilee by best selling author Margaret Peterson Haddix [3-Book Series Giveaway]

Welcome to the Children of Jubilee Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of The Children of Jubilee (Children of Exile #3) on December 4th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from author Margaret Peterson Haddix and 10 chances to win the complete trilogy!

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

One of the joys of being a writer is that it means I have a good excuse to do all sorts of random research that might otherwise look like a waste of time.

And… this is where the practical side of my personality kicks in and forces me to admit: Okay, actually, sometimes a lot of the research I do is a waste of time. But I usually don’t know beforehand what is and isn’t going to be useful, so most of the time I approach research the way a puppy might approach a mud puddle: I jump in and roll around, and some mud/information sticks and some doesn’t, and either way, I’m delighted to be there.

For the Children of Exile series—which is concluding this winter with the third and final book, Children of Jubilee—I cast a very wide net with my research. For past series and standalone books, I’ve gone into the research phase with specific historical or scientific questions I needed to answer. But for Children of Exile, I wanted to think more broadly: What makes humans the way they are? What factors shape civilization? Is violence an innate part of humanity, or only a learned response? How would somebody raise kids specifically to avoid violence? How would somebody design a culture specifically for the good of children, not adults?

Those are all deep questions, and ones that scholars spend entire careers pondering. I could have looked for my answers in any number of academic disciplines—theology? Philosophy? Sociology? Education and early-childhood development? Psychology? In the end, I found the most help in a field I’d somehow overlooked when I was in college: Anthropology.

Two books in particular made me think about the questions I was asking in new ways, and so now I’ve been telling lots of people, “You should read this, too! It’s really interesting!”

The first book was THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED, by Steven Pinker. His premise was that, despite the idea many of us get from recent news coverage, we may actually be living in the most peaceful time in history. Pinker’s approach partly was to remind us exactly how violent the past was, through examples such as 1950s advertisements for coffee that essentially endorsed domestic violence.

The second book was THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES? by Jared Diamond, which looks at lessons from societies that for various reasons have not modernized and/or have managed to stay totally disconnected from the rest of the world’s influences. The book did not make me want to live off the land in, say, the Amazon or the Kalahari—I appreciate modern plumbing, modern medicine, and WiFi access way too much for that--but it did make me re-examine a lot of my automatic assumptions. At times, reading both of these books, I felt like I was flipping my brain inside out, viewing the world in a completely new way.

I don’t think anyone reading the Children of Exile series would ever be able to proclaim, “Aha! I can tell exactly which books the author read while she was researching this!” At its best, writing fiction is alchemy—it’s more like trying to spin straw into gold than following a formula. It’s not “research plus plot plus character plus setting plus skillful writing plus lots of revision” as much as all that multiplied by a lot of intangible epiphanies that I can’t explain except to say, “It feels like magic.”

Once, years ago, I attended a literary dinner where I happened to sit next to a man who admitted from the very beginning that he knew almost nothing about fiction, and even less about books for kids. He made an effort, though, and began asking about the book I was there to represent, Among the Hidden. He asked what the book was about, and after I was finished giving a quick description, he mused, “Wow, it must be really nice, having your job. Writing something like that for kids, you wouldn’t have to do any research at all.”

And I was instantly furious. In actuality, I had done so much research for Among the Hidden that I kind of thought I deserved a graduate degree in Population Control Issues. I’d read everything I could find about the One-Child population control effort in China; I’d studied lesser-known programs in Africa and elsewhere in Asia. I’d examined graphs and charts showing population statistics across centuries. Did I cite a single one of those statistics in Among the Hidden? No, of course not. I was writing a book for kids, not a graduate thesis. But did I feel I owed it to my readers to know that background information? Absolutely. If anything, the fact that my book was for kids made me feel an even greater obligation to do the research and be as accurate as possible in my depictions. Adults bring both life experience and lots of previous reading experience to any book they pick up; for kids, one of my books might be their first exposure to a topic, and so I feel that responsibility intensely.

With the research I did for the Children of Exile series, I don’t feel that I deserved any sort of new graduate degree in anything. I didn’t feel that I gained knowledge as much as more questions to ask. At the end of my research, I was still wondering:  What makes humans the way they are? What factors shape civilization? Is violence an innate part of humanity, or only a learned response? How would somebody raise kids specifically to avoid violence? How would somebody design a culture specifically for the good of children, not adults?

But that was okay. The research gave me a foundation for passing those questions on. If readers finish the series also wondering about civilization and violence and the nature of humankind, that’s great.

My research will have been worth it. Sometimes wondering is an ends in and of itself.


Blog Tour Schedule:

December 3rd — Beach Bound Books
December 4th — Ms. Yingling Reads
December 5thChristy's Cozy Corners
December 6thCrossroad Reviews
December 7th — A Dream Within A Dream

December 10th — Book Briefs
December 11th — Chat with Vera
December 12th — Bookhounds
December 13th — Java John Z's
December 14th — Unleashing Readers

Follow Margaret: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Kiandra has to use her wits and tech-savvy ways to help rescue Edwy, Enu, and the others from the clutches of the Enforcers in the thrilling final novel of the Children of Exile series from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.

But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.

About the Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at


  • One (1) winner will receive the complete Children of Exile trilogy: Children of Exile, Children of Refuge, and Children of Jubilee
  • US/Canada only
  • Begins December 11 and Ends January 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLAIMER: Blog tour article material provided by the author and MMPublicity. Giveaway is hosted singularly here on Chat With Vera and books are provided by the author and MMPublicity and will be sent by them directly to the winner.

Tilbury Publishing's Kid-Friendly Dinosaur Tour of Art History and a Bedtime Book about Endangered Species - 2 book giveaway "If da Vinci Painted A Dinosaur" & "Mother Earth's Lullaby"

If da Vinci Painted A Dinosaur by Amy Newbold and illustrated by Greg Newbold

My thoughts:  This is a cute book and the little hamster that is the artist is perky and fun. Essentially the "story" is a journey through the works of various artist's styles and what their work of painting a dinosaur might look like.

At the back of the book, a short bio of the artists is given which is nice for families that expose their young children to art. But for those families that don't, this is just a cute story and the kiddies will miss the actual points of reference to artists and their distinctive styles.

Still, it is a cute book and one to choose to read from the library.

About the book: In this sequel to the tour de force children’s art-history picture book If Picasso Painted a Snowman, Amy Newbold conveys nineteen artists’ styles in a few deft words, while Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Edgar Degas’ dinosaur ballerinas, Cassius Coolidge’s dinosaurs playing Go Fish, Hokusai’s dinosaurs surfing a giant wave, and dinosaurs smelling flowers in Mary Cassatt’s garden; grazing in Grandma Moses’ green valley; peeking around Diego Rivera's orchids in Frida Kahlo’s portrait; tiptoeing through Baishi’s inky bamboo; and cavorting, stampeding, or hiding in canvases by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Franz Marc, Harrison Begay, Alma Thomas, Aaron Douglas, Mark Rothko, Lois Mailou Jones, Marguerite Zorach, and Edvard Munch. And, of course, striking a Mona Lisa pose for Leonardo da Vinci.

As in If Picasso Painted a Snowman, our guide for this tour is an engaging beret-topped hamster who is joined in the final pages by a tiny dino artist. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works, completing this tour of the creative imagination.

Mother Earth's Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals by Terry Pierce and illustrated by Carol Heyer

My thoughts:  First of all, I don't hold to the theory or concept of a "mother Earth" but still can enjoy the story or pictures of endangered animals and the onset of evening and bedtime stories.

Each animal tucks away for the night and their rest. And each of the animals is an endangered animal. This presents opportunity to teach young children the fragility of the environment and specifically those animals whose existence is at peril.

A sweet book.

About the book: Mother Earth’s Lullaby is a gentle bedtime call to some of the world’s most endangered animals. Rhythm, rhyme, and repetition create a quiet moment for children burrowing down in their own beds for the night, imparting a sense that even the most endangered animals feel safe at this peaceful time of day. In successive spreads, a baby giant panda, yellow-footed rock wallaby, California condor, Ariel toucan, American red wolf, Sumatran tiger, polar bear, Javan rhinoceros, Vaquita dolphin, Northern spotted owl, Hawaiian goose, and Key deer are snuggled to sleep by attentive parents in their dens and nests under the moon and stars. Brief descriptions of each animal appear in the back of the book.
Begins December 11
Ends January 7 at 12:01 a.m. EST
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of each book to facilitate this post. Any opinions expressed in review are my own. I was not compensated for this post. Giveaway copies are provided by the publisher and sent by them directly to the winner.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A is for Australian Animals by Frané Lessac [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA - 5 winners]

ISBN: 9780763694845
Hardcover $16.99
Picture book Ages 7-9
My thoughts:  Usually an ABC book is for preschoolers but since this book features a different assortment of animals and critters than is normally encountered in the Americas or Europe and given the information provided, the book is more suited for elementary school age children. "Down-Under" is a different kind of place and the animals are unique to this particular part of our Earth.

Drawing of the animals and made more interesting by the nuggets of information that is provided and which is fascinating about these critters. For example the Platypus is one of only a few venomous mammals with the male having poisonous spurs on back legs.

The Sugar Glider  is a small possum that can glide through the air.

The illustrations by Frané Lessac are unique just as the animals of Australia are unique. The information provided about the  various animals is interesting and demonstrates their unique features.

Got a trip planned to Australia? Taking the kids? This is a great lead-in for the trip. Or if you just want to learn a bit about places different from where you live on Planet Earth this is a good book to obtain.

About the book: There are so many amazing animals to be found in Australia — and many of them are found nowhere else in the world.

Discover thirty-eight of the weird and wonderful creatures of Down Under — from the iconic kangaroo to the puzzling echidna; from the tiny crusader bug to the enormous saltwater crocodile; from the adorable quokka to the terrifying Tasmanian devil. Did you know that lyrebirds can mimic almost any sound? Or that an oblong turtle has the longest neck of any turtle in the world? Vibrant paintings and fascinating facts introduce readers to a wide array of incredible animals in this vivid celebration of the fauna that makes Australia unique.


Candlewick Press is generously providing giveaway copies for 5 winners
Begins December 10
Ends January 6 at 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA and CANADA addresses.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Candlewick Press to facilitate this review of my own opinions which are freely given.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Searching for You (Orphan Train Series book #3) by Jody Hedlund [Giveaway - USA]

About the book: Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

~~ Read a preview ~~

My reviews of Orphan Train Series:  With You Always #1     Together Forever #2
My review of "Searching For You" soon to come.

Begins December 8
Ends January 5 at 8:00 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
Disclosure: Prize for giveaway is provided by author and/or publisher who will send the book directly to the winner.