Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Twelfth Imam

The Twelfth Imam, by Joel C. Rosenbarg, is an end times thriller with an interesting twist.  As in many of his other novels, Rosenberg synthesizes his knowledge of biblical prophecy about the "Last Days" with current political situations to create a fictional, yet plausible scenario.

In this case, a young CIA agent and son of Muslim refugees to the US, David Shirazi, finds himself confronted head on with the question of what he really believes as he attempts to uncover a nuclear arms stash and searches for truth about the Twelfth Imam, the Muslim messiah whose coming signals the end of the infidel and the reign of Islam throughout the world.

According to Muslim prophecies, the Twelfth Imam will only appear when the Muslim world has either completely destroyed the infidels, specifically Jews and Christians, or is prepared to do so.  In Rosenberg's scenario, that means the secret creation of enough nuclear weaponry to destroy Israel and the US.  In an interesting twist, Rosenberg's novel posits that the Twelfth Imam and the Antichrist are one and the same.

Not only is this book a great read, but is educates readers about the plight of Muslims around the world, confronts them with the reality of what the Muslim beliefs really mean for a non-believer, and forces readers to think about their own faith.  If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think, I highly recommend Rosenberg's The Twelfth Imam

***Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary advance reader copy of this book in return for my honest, unbiased review.***

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We have successfully contained all the mess to the garage!  I am so happy, although Ryan is now ready to get the garage organized.  YUCK!  I know that means more boxes to unpack and more things to try to squeeze into the cupboard space I have left.  Thankfully the many dresser drawers we now have opened up a LOT of storage space.  I think we'll be able to get the majority of the "important" stuff inside.  It's amazing how wonderful it feels to have everything all organized and have a 'home' again! 

I took some pictures today for you...

Here's the Kitchen:
I love the pot rack Ryan hung up--it opened up two shelves in my cupboards!  To the right of the pot rack is a door into the boys' room, which you already saw, and the dining room:

Ryan went a little crazy with the pictures on the far wall.  He says it's modern and cool; I think it looks a little busy.  I'm letting him have his way, for now.  ;-)  To the left out of the picture is the hutch and a french door into the living room.  To the far left is another french door into the living room and the hallway to Megan's room.
I need to get a queen sized quilt for Megan's bed, but this one has great colors for the room.  Lucky Megan has a bathroom in her room, but she does have to share with the boys.  Down the hall from Megan is our room:
And through our room is another door into the living room:
(The door to our room is to the left of the piano.)  And behind me is the breakfast room/school room:
I love all the windows in this room--it's so bright and sunny!  I'm looking forward to working/sewing in here, too. 

And that's the house.  :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Settling in..

The past week has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.  Putting furniture together and reorganizing rooms is a lot of work.  BUT having a couch to sit on, a beds to sleep in, and our own pretty stuff back has been pretty amazing. For the kids, it's been like Christmas.  Opening up their long lost box of stuffed friends was one happy reunion after another!  Megan has been pining for her Bitty Baby since we left AZ, and her baby, in June.  The boys are super excited to have a new bunk bed, skillfully crafted out of their original captains beds by my awesome hubby.  ;-)  

From this: 

To this:

The drawers, Ryan stacked to make steps (on the right).  Gave us so much more room--and a lot of fun for the boys who have always wanted bunk beds! 

Megan has a 'grown-up" room now, with a queen bed.   She LOVES it!  Josyan, apparently, does, too, as he sneaks in her room every morning.  Tristan was very proud of himself this morning though, that he slept in his bunk bed all night long.  ;-) 

It's amazing how well our 'stuff' suits our new house--sort of like it was meant to be.  I was so worried that our furniture would be too large for our home here, but it just seems to fit perfectly.  I feel very comfortable and at home.  It's a nice feeling.  :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paradise Lost

Almost five years ago, we started planning our first 'real' house--the one that Ryan would design and build.  We found the perfect property by accident--an irrigated acre about 4 miles out of town in an awesome, quiet neighborhood filled with tall, beautiful trees, green grass, and great people.  From our lot, you could watch the sun set over the mountains, watch horses grazing in the pasture, or just sit and enjoy the quiet sounds of the evening. 

Our house would be 4,000 square feet--too big, I thought, thinking of all the cleaning I would be doing with two little ones, and hopefully a third on the way soon.  But Ryan insisted that we needed the space.  Four bedrooms, formal and informal living & dining areas, a huge gourmet kitchen with walk-in pantry, an office, and tons of storage (three linen closets, a storage room, and a mud room!).  We put $60,000 down and started building, living in a tiny toy hauler trailer we borrowed from our friends.

With the exception of the concrete & drywall, Ryan did everything himself--essentially our mortgage would cover the materials and nothing else.  He once painted through the night to get the painting done before the carpet showed up the next day.  I even helped--hammering in electrical boxes, putting in flooring, mostly cleaning up.  And writing verses on the concrete...verses of blessing and protection.  Any extra costs went on credit cards that would be paid off when we refinanced when the house was done.  We built the house for 1/3 of what it would cost to buy and had $350,000 in equity before the house was even finished. 

We spent the next four years making the house better, putting well over $100,000 in cash back into the house--just in materials (the things you can do with no debt & a mortgage that is only 20% of your income!).  Ryan re-did the master bathroom tile 3 times, finally putting rock on the walls and slate on the floor, custom building a jacuzzi tub surround and tile countertops.  With the help of my Uncle Mike, we installed a spectacular California Closets system in our closet.  He designed and built floor to ceiling bookshelves for the formal living room, and custom built the fireplace surround.  Ryan built the mudroom cabinets himself, along with a mini-office/craft area in the family room. 

Last summer, when times were tight, he installed two whole house fans--we didn't turn on the AC all summer and saved twice what the fans cost us.  Last winter, he installed a wood stove, so we could save money on propane.  And did we ever!  Probably over $1,000!

And on the outside of the house...We created a mini-paradise--at lease I thought so!  We (Ryan) planted rose bushes and trees.  Poured a concrete driveway and sidewalks around the perimeter of the house.  Leveled the yard, installed custom piping for the irrigation, and made the grass grow.  Planted flowers in planters and honeysuckle around the front patio.  We (I helped a little!) fixed the perimeter fences, and Ryan put in a white picket fence so the kids would have a backyard.  Ryan built square foot gardens for me with railroad ties and trellises.  We planted a mini-orchard, with apple, pear, peach, plum, and apricot trees.  Grapes and blackberries grew along the white picket fence, and our hens gave us fresh eggs every day.  Ryan even built a little "home" for the lawn mower that matched the house--even had it's own little white porch. 

With Ryan not working for almost 18 months, we got an awful lot done, and put more money into the house than we should have, especially given what we know now.  But, late this spring, it was finally done.  Everything we imagined it to be.  And there was even fruit on the trees (one apple, two pears, and a ton of peaches and apricots!)--our first harvest!  I thought it was a sign of hope--even planting a garden.  And then, we realized that we would have to leave.  You've heard the Texas story.  We rented out our house to an elderly couple with a little dog (never had a dog in our house, but they offered us 3 months rent and the deposit cash--we took it!).  From all reports, they were taking care of our house.

Today, Ryan went back to the house to get the rest of our furniture (renters moved out at the end of August).  Driving up to the house, he couldn't see the mailbox because the weeds are so high.  Dog poop was on the patio.  He opened the door to the house and was overwhelmed with the stench of rotten meat.  The renters had left meat in the freezer--you know what happens when the electricity is off for 10 days in the summer in AZ.  The house is a wreck.  All my plants are dead.  Except the corn and tomatoes that sprung up on their own in the old chicken coop.  ;-)  The apple that I was so proud of hangs half-eaten and rotten from the tree.  Ryan said that unless someone comes and starts taking care of the house soon, all of the trees will die.  My heart was broken.  All that work.  All that love.  For nothing.

In the midst of my pity party this afternoon, I started thinking about how God often uses situations here on earth to illustrate truths about Him.  I asked Him to show me what I can learn about Him through this.  And He did. 

I thought about lovingly God planned the earth and its inhabitants.  Made everything to work together in harmony.  Everything was lovely.  No death.  It was perfect.  God walked in the garden and it was good.  And then the 'tenants' sinned.  And perfection was overcome by death.  And God left; He no longer walked in the garden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve.  Visit a city, where the beauty of creation is covered over by asphalt and shopping malls.  Visit a dump, where we make our own mountains out of discarded, rotting trash.  Death, disease, and destruction.  That's what we have without God walking the earth.   The loss I feel when thinking of our beautiful home and all that might have been is nothing in comparison with the sadness God must feel when He looks at the earth and thinks of what might have been.  After all, I (all of us!) was created in God's image--and my desire to create paradise comes from being created in Him image.  But God knows that, despite the destruction, there is hope--for His garden, and for us!  Because He knows what WILL BE.  From the beginning, He knew that in the end, the earth will be restored.  He will come again and wipe out death once and for all and bring the Earth back to its perfect state. And all things will work together for good!

What will become of our beautiful home?  I don't know.  We will have it cleaned, and Ryan will stay an extra day to make the yard presentable again.  And then...who knows?  I hope that someone who will love it as much as we do takes the time to restore it completely--all things work together for good.  The house was His, dedicated to Him from the beginning.   What I do know is that God has a plan for us...a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us a hope and a future.  I choose to put my hope in Him, to look to what is ahead, rather than to pine for what is behind.  For I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able!  :-) 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chicken 'n Dumplins

Just for fun...a picture of me & Megan (probably at 7 mo?)
My first experience with chicken 'n dumplins was at Cracker Barrel in 2001.  I was maybe 8/10 weeks pregnant with Megan & feeling pretty yucky.  Tim & Angela came down to Phoenix to visit Ryan & I with my beautiful baby niece, Madison, and we met them at Cracker Barrel.  Angela thought the chicken n' dumplings would make me feel better.  It didn't.  For years, I cringed at the thought of chicken and dumplings. 

Then, a few weeks ago, we had our weekly after church dining out excursion and landed at New Braunfels Smokehouse, where the only thing on the menu that sounded good was the chicken and dumplings. I ordered it, and I LOVED it.

So, a few days ago, when it rained all day long, I thought some hot soup would be nice and, since I didn't have the ingredients for stew, I thought I'd try chicken and dumplings.  It actually turned out really, really good!  And it was so easy, so I thought I'd share.  (When I can't think of anything profound to say, I just talk about what we're eating over here.  lol)

So, I took a package of frozen chicken thighs (yes, they were organic--go me!) and boiled them from frozen for a long time in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken broth (my biggest downfall as a wife and mother is remembering to get the frozen meat out of the freezer in time to make dinner--ok, maybe not my biggest downfall, but one of them).  When the chicken was clearly falling off the bone, I strained the broth into the crockpot and pulled all the meat off the bones & put it in the crockpot.  I had two carrots and two ears of leftover corn--that went in the pot, too, (cut up, of course) along with a bit of celery.  (All the recipes I found called for onions, but I didn't have any--not even any Lipton onion soup!) I let that cook all afternoon...smelled so yummy! 

About an hour before dinner time, I made dumplings from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I have--just 1 1/2 c flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 3 T shortening, and 3/4 c milk.  Plopped that on top and voila!  It was very, very yummy.  Even the kids liked it.  Hurray!  Another crockpot meal for fall!
And here's my baby Megan.  Wasn't she precious?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nickels & Dimes

I just finished reading a book called Crash Proof by Peter Schiff, published in 2007.  In the book, he predicts everything that has happened with the real estate crash and other things.  The only thing he predicts that hasn't happened yet is the devaluation of the dollar.  Basically, what he says is that the US is paying the Chinese IOUs for all the imports we buy, and when the Chinese realize that the IOUs aren't worth anything, they're going to stop accepting them and the dollar will be worth nothing.  At the end of the book, he asks readers to think not just about themselves, but about their friends and family.  So I thought I'd share with you the simplest thing he advises--if you want to follow his advice, that 's great.  It can't hurt.  :-)  If you want more info on his other strategies, you can read the book.  Or ask.  ;-)

I didn't know until recently (maybe you did!) that our money is not really worth anything.  It used to be based on the gold standard--so a dollar was actually worth a dollar in gold.  When we went off the gold standard in 1971, the government just started printing money, and even our coins aren't worth their face value. 

The exceptions are nickels, which are actually worth a bit more than their face value, about 6 cents, and pennies made before 1983 (1982 and older), which are actually worth about 2 cents (their melt value).  Quarters are only worth about 4 cents, etc.  If you can find quarters, dimes, silver dollars, and 1/2 dollars minted BEFORE 1965, they are made of 90% silver, and they are worth about 15x their face value (a dime is worth about $1.43).  Eisenhowers and 1/2s were made with a percentage of silver for a few years after 1965. gives all the values. 

I don't know about you, but I don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to invest in silver and gold (the US govt tends to confiscate gold in times of crisis fyi).  But I do have lots of nickels and old pennies.  So, I'm saving all my nickels and pre-83 pennies and looking for junk silver--those old coins.  They are rare, but you can find them every once in awhile. It's a little thing that makes sense and doesn't cost anything.  Having our own garden & shopping locally for as much as we can and stocking up on all those items that are imported is another thing he mentions that makes sense to me (and something that we've been doing). 

Maybe it sounds like I think the sky is falling.  The thing is, we started doing some of these things in 2006/2007.  (not the coins thing because we didn't know about that then, but stocking up--and I really wish we had known about the real estate crash!!! we would have saved money instead of 'investing' in our house)  That's how we made it through the past few years--we had 6 months income saved and we had a ton of food and other items stocked up. I always bought our kids' clothes a year ahead during the sales--with handmedowns, I didn't have to buy clothes.  SendOutCards helped a lot, too! If we hadn't been doing these simple things, a little at a time, it would have been even tougher on us.  As our lives show you, you never know what's going to happen in the future. It's better to be prepared than not be--not only will you be able to get through tough times, but you'll be able to help others, too.

A great site that tells you how to stock up a year's supply of food for $10 a week:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breyers Contest!

What a fun contest sponsored by Breyers!  I love Breyers ice cream because, for the most part, it's made with just milk and sugar--none of the high fructose corn syrup found in so many other brands!  Here are the details for the contest: 

    Breyers Sundae Scoop-Off Contest

Breyers® is in search of the next great sundae with the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest and you have a chance to win!  From now through September 13, 2010, the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest is challenging America to create original, family-friendly ice cream sundae recipes including 10 or fewer ingredients. View complete contest requirements and enter the recipes at for a chance to win $10,000, a trip to Chicago featuring a private cooking lesson with renowned pasty Chef Gale Gand, and one year of FREE Breyers® ice cream. The sundae recipe entries will be judged on taste, creativity, use of Breyers® ice cream and presentation. 

Hmmmm.  I'm looking forward to sampling some of the great recipes sure to come out of this contest!  Be sure to submit yours!   

PS I'm posting this to help spread the word about Breyers' contest, and I may even win some fun prizes, too!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jungle Warfare

In Jungle Warfare, Christopher Cunningham, a sales professional and a lay minister, provides men and women in sales with a solid, Biblically based devotional that will help them to focus on God and improve their sales results.  Based on his grandfather's WWII Field Manual, Cunningham aptly relates the dangers soldiers find at war in the jungle to the dangers Christan sales professionals face in the real world.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Cunningham's grandfather's field manual that contains instructions for dealing with the dangers in the jungle, including everything from wild hogs to contact with the enemy.  In the short devotion that follows, Cunningham relates the excerpt to a common "danger" faced by the sales professional, giving him/her a 'Battle Plan" to address the danger and overcome it through the Word and prayer.  Readers are asked to think about their own lives and sales' practices, to pray, and to reflect on how they can better serve God in their sales' careers.

At the end of the book, Cunningham includes a "Field Support" section, almost a mini-Bible Promises for the salesperson.  Covering everything from what to do with competition to depression, this is a great resource for finding the right verse to speak to many of the issues dealt with by folks in sales, particularly traveling sales.

The manual is not comprehensive, but it is a great 22 day devotional that provides short, to the point, and helpful advice based soundly on Biblical principles.  The Field Guide format is interesting and makes for some insightful connections between the Christian life and the soldier's life.  After all, we are fighting a battle every day, though the battle is spiritual, not physical.  Whether you are a traveling salesman or a network marketer, this book is a helpful resource to have on hand at all times.

**I received this book as part of the Book Sneeze program in exchange for reading and writing a review.  All opinions here are my own.   **

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yummiest Bread Yet!

So I think I have found my favorite 'regular bread" recipe.  I have been experimenting with whole wheat, etc.  The last time I baked, I added an egg--and the bread is SO yummy! 

So, here is my variation...

Heat 2 1/2 c milk and 2 T butter 3 minutes (1 minute at a time) in micro to 110 degrees.

Stir in 1 tsp sugar & 1 tsp salt. 

Add 1 packet of yeast & wait 'till it's all bubbly.

Add in some molasses (around 2-3 T) and 1 egg.

Add in flour, 1 cup at a time (around 5-6 total), starting with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, then use regular bread flour.  You could use more whole wheat, but the bread doesn't rise as well.

Dump onto a floured surface and knead until 'satiny'--about 5 minutes.

Let rise 1 hour in oiled boil (just enough to lightly coat the dough--I use olive oil or coconut oil).

Punch down, divide, shape into loaves and put into greased pans.  Let rise 1 hour.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. 

I am having so much fun baking bread--and even showed my new friend how to make bread today! I hope you enjoy the recipe!  :-)

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