Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review - Walk To Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne

This is my last book review, but if I had to go out with a bang, this would be the one to choose!

This book changed my heart.

Walk to Beautiful is a true account of Jimmy Wayne's life as a neglected, sometimes battered child, who was abandoned by his mom several times.  The stories that are told are almost unbearable, when you think of them through a small boy's eyes.

The hunger that Jimmy and his sister endured, while drug users and human leeches ate their food, makes you want to go rescue them, right then.

As you read the horror of some of the things Jimmy witnessed during his life in trailer parks and in shady neighborhoods, you are amazed that this child was able to maintain a soft heart, which God would put to good use later on.

As the story unfolds, Jimmy is homeless at the age of 16, once again abandoned by his mom, but God had better plans and he meets the elderly couple that would change his life.

By the grace of God and the love of this couple, Jimmy went on to be a success in his life and his career and later in the lives of foster children and the laws that govern them.

To raise awareness for kids in the foster care system, Jimmy walked from Nashville to Phoenix and records that journey in this book.

This book will rip your heart out in the beginning, but in the end, you will be cheering Jimmy on and be a fan for life, after that.

In case you didn't know, Jimmy made it into the country music business and his songs are heartfelt and very telling of his experiences, which of course, is what makes a great song!

 This book will open your eyes and your heart and help you to see foster children in a true light.

It's a must read!

***This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.  Go to BookLook Bloggers to sign up to review books for free!***  (see sidebar for BookLook Bloggers)

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's Time To Say Goodbye

I knew this time would come sooner or later.  Honestly, I've been praying about this decision for over a year now and I was truly just waiting for the Lord to let me know the right time.

I started this blog many years ago, as a way to write about homeschooling, my kids, our home and the lessons God was showing me in my own life.

I have shared my heart here, in hopes to be authentic and with the hope of inspiring other women to live the life that God has given them.

I've shared my family here, as my boys grew, and as we trekked through our homeschooling journey. We've had deaths, lay-offs, weddings and even a grandchild, all while writing for A Million Skies.

So, as it might seem trivial to be sentimental about a blog, this place has held my heart for many years, and it makes me sad to say goodbye.

I have made so many great "friends" here and have enjoyed reading about your lives, as well.

THE GOOD NEWS is......

While this is goodbye for A Million Skies, this is a new beginning for a topic that has really become the bigger picture for me, over the last few months.

As a mom of one married and one finishing high school, I can feel the Lord transitioning our lives into a new season, sure to be marked with new adventure.

David and I are focusing this year on finally finishing our old farmhouse and as I've introduced you to The White Front Porch already, that's where you will find me from now on.

I will still be sharing our lives, but from a new perspective.

The Lord takes us to new places every so often and I can't wait to continue on this journey with Him and with you, if you so choose.

Please join me over at The White Front Porch, where you can subscribe by email or join my Facebook page for the blog.

I'm looking forward to sharing the journey of the old farmhouse with you, as well as some everyday happenings around the farm.

I hope to see you soon!

Much love,

Monday, January 18, 2016

The White Front Porch

Sometimes you have something burning in your mind and heart, that you want to share with others.  It's a story that needs to be told and it deserves a place all it's own, because it's that important to us.

Well, it's time to share that story - past, present, and more to come - concerning our old farmhouse and the life it lives and has lived.

Over at  The White Front Porch I'm sharing some history from the grandparent days, but mostly the stories from our lives, after we got married and first moved into the old house.

I hope you'll take some time to visit my new blog and tune in each week for the continuing story.

See you over on the porch......

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review - Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine

I was so happy to get an opportunity to review Crystal Paine's latest book - Money Making Mom.

I had no doubt it would be just as great and informative as her previous books and it definitely did not disappoint!

Crystal packed this book with lots of information.  In fact, when you read it, you feel like you need to run really fast to keep up with all the ideas - not only the ideas that she gives you, but the ideas that immediately start popping into your head, on how to make money or start your own business.

But, mixed with business ideas and actual testimonies from real moms who have stepped up to get creative, she tempers all the "go get 'em" topics with real advice on how to maintain focus on what you're really trying to achieve.

From writing a mission statement, a business action plan, goals and strategies, to taking little breaks to play with your kids......Crystal really covers everything a woman might have to consider, in order to maintain a good work ethic on all fronts.

I think that is one of the aspects that makes Crystal's writing so believable, is that she is speaking from the perspective of a business woman who is still right in the middle of balancing her family and life.

I love the testimonies from other women, on what kind of business they started and what did or didn't work for them.   I certainly enjoy Crystal's own testimonies, as well.

Hearing from other women and gleaning wisdom from their experiences, helps to narrow down business ideas and likewise, build bigger ideas in your head.     It's really all a matter of finding something you're passionate about and making the reason for doing it, bigger than money and fame.

Although Crystal certainly shares many encouraging words in Money Making Mom, she also cares enough to warn the reader about setting boundaries, looking at failure as a good thing and planning but maintaining flexibility.

Overall, this is another great book from Crystal Paine!

***Thank you, BookLook Bloggers for giving me this book in exchange for an honest review! ***

If you would like to review books for FREE, click on the sidebar or click HERE to fill out an application and start receiving great books in exchange for reviews.

Off To A Good Start!


Hey friends!
It seems like it's been a while since I've just written about my life, so today I wanted to sit down and catch up on what I've been doing since Christmas.

First off, I started on my new stack of books I'm hoping to read this year.

I kind of choose my books according to moods, so this one looked interesting to me and it definitely did not disappoint.

It's a great story about one lady and how a tragedy leads her on a journey, which intersects her life with many other people, who were inadvertently affected by the same tragedy.   Trust me, it's worth the read!

I'm currently on my 2nd book for the new year and also trying to finish another one from last year, that has to be reviewed.   Needless to say, I'm running a little behind.

The weather has been pretty chilly here in Texas, but when the sun comes out, it's beautiful!   Cool and crisp and begging for you to take your camera and try to find some color still peeking through all of the brown.

The squirrels are running rampant in the yard every morning.  I guess they are busy collecting what they need for the next few months.

Here's one!  Can you spot him?

David and I have committed to completing our house this year and one of the first things we decided to work on, is building our own farm table.

Although I am mostly the assistant, David is the mastermind behind what we need and how to put it all together.

The table is actually built and waiting on sanding and paint, which will happen over the next week or so, as our schedules allow.

I will definitely be sharing the finished product with you all!

I'm so excited to finally have a long farm table that actually fits in our dining room!

We've decided to tackle each room, one by one, until every room in the house (and the outside too) is totally completed.

Some days I'm up and ready to go and then other days, I think about it all and I want to collapse on the couch with a good book and more coffee :)

But, it's a great goal for 2016 and I think we can accomplish it, if we stay on a steady schedule.

Speaking of schedules - we started a Family Dinner Night, which we do every Monday night.  (More on this in another post).   So far, we've stuck to our commitment and it's been such a blessing to have that one night set aside and not open for interruptions (unless we need to grand-baby-sit!)  It's sad how you have to schedule family time and put it on the calendar!  But, if that's what it takes, then so be it!

We have a lot in the works this year, as far as home and property go, and my plan is to document much of it here.

I guess after living here for over 10 years (raising two kids, parents, animals, etc.), we're finally getting serious.    (Oh, and let's not forget 2+ hurricanes we had to recover from!)

So, stay tuned for Farmhouse Updates and progress reports!

In the meantime, I have to finish my coffee.....

Have a great week and many blessings, I hope!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hello Fresh - Meal #3

Well, as promised, I want to tell you how my trial run with Hello Fresh is going.

I've tried three recipes so far and I have to say, I'm impressed!

I was honestly a little worried about the recipes falling into that situation that I've encountered with other "food" type programs, which is, that everything starts to taste the same.

But so far, that hasn't been the case with Hello Fresh!

All the ingredients are fresh and well packaged and I'm finding the spices all unique to each recipe.

Last week I cooked Jamie's Salsa Spaghetti, which I wrote about in my last post  I also made Sage-Butter Pork Chops (with Roasted Broccolini and Citrusy Potato Salad), which was delicious (no pictures) and over the weekend I cooked Spiced Swedish Meatballs (with Roasted Mushrooms and Egg Noodles).

If you're an organization fanatic or love containers, you'll love getting everything in one box and knowing that you don't have to search for what you need.   On second thought, those who aren't organized will love that aspect too!

You'll also appreciate the nice recipe card that gives step by step instructions (on the back side) and literally tells you what order to do the steps in, so that each component of the meal is ready just when it needs to be.

What I did learn after making the Sage-Butter Pork Chops, is to completely read the recipe card instructions before starting, making note of any prep I needed to do beforehand.

I'm not one for surprises and don't work that well under pressure, so if I need to grate, peel or chop something, it benefits me to go ahead and know that BEFOREhand, so I don't get sidetracked by the broccoli that needs to be checked on or the pork chops that need to be seared or the potatoes that are boiling.

So, if there was any tip at all that I would give when using Hello Fresh meals, it would be to check the entire set of instructions BEFORE getting started and do the simple prep steps that might slow you down later.  

Yes, the steps are well laid out and no, they are not hard.  But, when you've got multiple dishes going all at once, it can get a little hairy, so why not do the simple steps first and focus on the big stuff later?

Here is a look at the Spiced Swedish Meatballs and just looking at that picture makes me want some more!

What I loved about this dish is that it caused me to use mushrooms, which I NEVER use and boy, were they delicious!   They were roasted in the oven before mixing them into the sauce, and the flavor was so surprising.  

Another plus to this recipe was that it fed all three of us for lunch the next day!  Now, that's a bonus!

So, I would have to say that Week 1 of Hello Fresh meals, was a complete success.

My next shipment of meals is scheduled for tomorrow (did I mention that you can choose which day you want your meals to arrive?) and I'm really excited to try three new recipes.

So come back in a few days and see what's cooking this week!

Oh, and don't forget to use this referral code for $40 off your first order!


And, by all means.....come back and let me know what you think!

See ya next time!

Have a great week :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hello Fresh!

I love trying new things, so when I saw the commercial for the Hello Fresh meal service, I knew it would be something I would want to try, at least once this new year.

The process goes like this:  Go to their website, decide on a meal plan size.

They offer three Boxes (meal plans):

Classic (for Omnivores)
Choose from 3-5 meals per week - for 2-4 people
Price is $9.90 per person

Veggie Box (for Vegetarians)
Choose 3 meals for 2-4 people
Price is $9.08 per person

Family Box
3 meals for 4 people
Price is $8.75 per person

Now, the catch is that you only get to choose your meal recipes when buying the Classic box.  They will give you 5 recipes to choose from and you get to choose 3, 4 or 5 meals, depending on the size of the box you buy.

The other two Box plans choose 3 meals for you and you do not get a choice of which recipes they send.

This deterred me from buying the Family Box because I don't eat seafood and I noticed that each week (at least what I could see), they include seafood for one of the meals.

I opted for the Classic Box (3 meals for 4 people), hoping to stretch the meal for lunch or leftovers.

So, Monday I received an email that my box had been shipped and by Tuesday morning, it had arrived.

It came nicely packaged in a strong, sturdy shipping box packed with dry ice and the contents were perfectly cold when it reached my house.

Inside the shipping box were three individual boxes - one for each meal.

As you can see from the picture, each box has the name of the meal on the outside and everything you need, on the inside.   The meat was actually not in the meals boxes, but separated in the shipping box, next to the dry ice.   Like I said, it arrived very cold.

The package also included a recipe booklet, with complete instructions for each meal, including nutritional values, and a picture of the finished product.

The only thing I feel it lacked was an introduction to the plan, with some guidelines for storing the meals during the week.

I guess they assume everyone would know how to store the ingredients until they were used, but that's a big assumption, in my opinion.

I think they should have supplied the customer suggestions on what to refrigerate and what to stick in the pantry until cooking day.

Here's a look at the first meal I chose to cook, which was called Jamie's Salsa Spaghetti (as in, the famous chef, Jamie Oliver).

The only misleading thing in this box is the package of ground beef, which I stuck in there for this picture.

Only after reading the complete recipe, did I realize this was a meatless dish and the meat was meant for a different meal box.   Again, this is an area where they might have labeled the meat to let you know what box it goes with, instead of just including the recipe and hoping people figure it out.

This is the finished product - Jamie's Salsa Spaghetti - and it was delicious!  It tasted very fresh and was a simple recipe to cook.

Of course, being a number cruncher, I couldn't help but add up the price of the ingredients in the box, based off my best guess, and came up with about a 50% markup in their price.   This was a little unsettling, especially for a meatless meal, but this is a luxury afterall, so what can you expect?  

They shop, package, and ship it to your front door and you didn't have to spend an hour making out the dreaded meal plan or an hour at the grocery store, so only you can decide if that luxury is worth paying the price.  

Plus, we have enough for lunch today, so it technically fed about 6 servings, instead of 4, which is a plus and technically brings the price down to about $7.00 per person.

Overall, I'm happy I tried Hello Fresh.    I still have two more meals to cook for this week and I have today to make my meal selections for next week.   I think I'll give it one more try before deciding the final outcome, as far as subscribing or not.

Which I forgot to mention - the subscription can be canceled at any time and there are multiple coupon deals available for your first delivery, so trying it doesn't have to cost the full price.

In fact, if you use my referral code (www.hellofresh.com/raf-helloshare/?c=5N672V) you will receive $40 off your first box!!  That's a great deal!

So, if you're like me and you dread the planning of meals each week, I would recommend you give this a try.

You have nothing to lose and hey, the more you stay out of the store, the less you spend and the more books you can buy!  (Oh, that's another post entirely.)

Have a great week and happy cooking!

Monday, January 4, 2016

How To Make A Date Out of Setting Goals!

Well, it's 2016 - a brand new year - and the week of everyone trying to "get it all together".... again.

I'm no exception.

Although I sound skeptical, I'm really rather optimistic this year because I feel like the Lord is leading us down some exciting paths and I'm glad to be focused on some specific goals.

To start off our year, David and I took a day to get away and have a goal-setting session.

We jumped in our old truck and headed down the road to a little country restaurant, where we had a great lunch.  Afterwards, we took advantage of their quiet, upstairs seating and grabbed a table, ordered some coffee, and got to work on our Goal Sheet for the new year.

We discussed goals in these five areas:


We both took time to write out our goals in each area, then we discussed them with one another, to make sure we were going in the same direction.

This is so important!

Communication is such an important factor in any relationship, but mostly marriage.  And, when it comes to setting goals, it's important to make sure husband and wife are valuing the same things or they could end up moving toward different goals and away from one another.

Ain't nobody got time for that!

So....after we had some clear goals for the upcoming year, we came up with some specific steps to take, in order to reach those goals.

This is where the rubber meets the road, because without specific steps, we would most likely go home, put the list away and fall back into our old ways; never reaching new goals or making any real progress.

In other words, it's great to have a goal of losing weight, but only if you follow through with how you're going to get there.

This means you have to take that goal and put the action step to it, such as committing to walk every night after dinner.   That's how you reach your goals!

Without those plans of how to get there, your goal is just words on paper.

So, with all of that written down and a good meal to go along, we headed back home with more vision and clarity than we've had in a while.

In fact, we were so impressed with how great this goal-setting date went, we decided to make it our yearly tradition, the first weekend after New Year's Day.

I'm already looking forward to 2017's date!   It will be fun to look back at those goal sheets and see what we've accomplished and what we still need to keep working on.  

Either way - we get to spend time with one another, looking toward our future.

Now that's a great goal to have!

Have a great new year and happy planning!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Word of the Year

I can't remember how many years I've been participating in the Word of the Year campaign, but I know it's been at least the last three.   The process is not very scientific or profound and this year absolutely confirmed that, but it does help to grab a hold of a certain theme for the year and use it to bring you back down to Earth, when need be.

So, at some point, in the past few weeks (I'm still in that holiday blur), I was thinking about some things I want to focus on in 2016 and this word popped into my head:


It's the perfect word to describe my goals this year!  

Tangible is something you can feel, touch, actually get to and interact with; at least that's my description for this occasion. 

Tangible means I want to be more hands-on - actually working on things - be it my own home, a ministry, doing for someone else or whatever the Lord puts out there for me to do.  

So many times, I let my "good intentions" go undone.  I think about doing something for someone and have every intention of following through and then life gets busy and I don't act upon my intention.   Can you relate?

Tangible means I want to be more face-to-face - actually investing in people - not social media.  

Personally, I'm so sick of seeing people on Facebook and not really knowing them or actually having conversations with them.

Sure, I know they like scripture, memes, recipes and other things that are copied and passed around, but I don't know their dreams, goals, desires, or anything personal about them.

Is anyone else bothered by this?

Tangible means I want to create things that are real and usable - not just words on this screen.  

I've been writing on this blog for years, but this year I want to create some things that are long-lasting and tangible.   I'm still working out the process of what that might look like, but it's exciting and scary, all at the same time.  Stay tuned.

For me, tangible is getting the ideas out of my head and into real life, where they can touch and be touched.

I hope you have some goals and dreams for the New Year.   
You know - the whole "fail to plan = plan to fail" thing!

One thing I've learned is that goals don't have to be unreachable, unrealistic, and life changing.

Goals can be as simple as deciding to get up off the couch more, vowing to keep up with the laundry more, eating at home more, etc.

I mean, really, a goal is just a plan to try a little harder and accomplish a little more.

Don't set your goals so outrageously high that you are destined to fail.   You can go higher at a slower pace and get a lot farther than the person that gives up on lofty goals.

The idea is to grow every year.

You should always be seeking to grow - that's what goals are all about.

So, think of at least one area where you need to see some change this year and set a realistic expectation for yourself.

Write it down on your calendar, your journal, your handy-dandy iphone gadget or a sticky note on the fridge.   It really doesn't matter!

Don't let the planners and spreadsheet people scare you away from goal-setting!  

Just do it your way and go for it!

You can do it.   I believe in you.

Happy New Year!   2016 is going to be a great one!

(Have you chosen a word for 2016 yet?   If so, I would love to hear about it!  Leave me a comment)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is It Time For You to Move?

I know some people are still sitting in front of their Christmas trees, sipping coffee and wishing that Christmas would last indefinitely.   That would not be me!

I love Christmas, but I look forward to the new year with just as much excitement and anticipation, because I love new beginnings.

I like to set new goals for myself, challenge myself, and I like to imagine new adventures and directions.

I also enjoy saying "goodbye" to the old year and whatever hardships there were, any mistakes I made, the grievances that might have creeped in, and though, hanging on to the lessons learned - say good riddance to all the rest.

I love to start over!

So, this morning when I opened my Bible and the page fell on Deuteronomy 1:6, I knew it was the perfect verse for welcoming a new year and a new beginning.....

"You have stayed long enough at this mountain." 

In this verse, the Lord is saying to his people that it's time to move on - time to start something new.

And to that I say - Amen!

Do you feel like you've been stuck in one place for too long?  Maybe by your own choice or maybe under circumstances that were not of your choosing, but whatever the reason, you can make a decision to do something different.

You may not be a risk taker and that's ok! You can still choose to do something different than what you've been doing.

Start small and make a plan.

Or, jump in with both feet!

Either way - pray about it first and ask the Lord what the next step is for you.   Seek his wisdom and his direction, but when he says "it's time", be willing to obey.    It's the only way you'll fulfill your purpose here on this earth.  

Here's wishing you a great 2016!

Happy New Year!