Happy NaNo-Eve!

Because I just cannot resist the siren call, might as well make it official!



If you want to be friends on NaNoWriMo.org – my sn is the same as the rest of my social media: smananthamarie .

Let the insanity commence!





Friday night lights er-hikes

Last night, after work – the Love and I decided to hike one of our favorites here in SLO.

It’s called locally “Madonna Mountain” , because it has a giant white letter “M”  on the side of it, and and ove looks the famous “Madonna Inn” . It’s real name is Cerro San Luis, and the “M” refers to Mission Prep High School. Cerro San Luis is one of the 9 Sisters which are a series of mountain peaks that stretch from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

Rumor has it that a local resteraunt hosts a “Tri-Tip Challenge”, where if you hike Cerro San Luis, Bishop’s Peak and the Cal Poly “P” in the same day – you get a free Tri-Tip Sandwich. Tri-tip is a VERY big thing here.

Some day this winterish (when the weather gets a bit cooler) we’re going to attempt it. But for now, this beauty smiles in on us from our kitchen window every day. Since it’s walking distance from the house – it has become a favorite.




Carl the Fog coming in over the Valley

Gotta utilize that good lighting

Have a great weekend everyone!


Book Review: “Where We Belong,” by Lynn Austin

Loot from Lynn Austin

“In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.

As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.”

Title:  “Where We Belong”
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House (sent to me for review as part of the launch crew)
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5

Quick note:  Lynn Austin is one of my very favorite authors (and the very first one I ever picked up when it came to Christian Fiction), and when I heard she was looking for people to help launch her book – I immediately applied, and got accepted.Yet another first for me! This book was very kindly sent to me for review as part of the launch crew. I will cherish this book (and the lovely note sent with it) forever!


My Thoughts:

True to Lynn Austin form, this is a very well written, fast moving, exciting, loveable and relatable book.  The 2 sister’s story is set up in they style normal for Ms. Austin, switching between past and present,  focusing on mainly 1 character’s POV at a time. The way this is done makes understanding backstory much more pleasant, and really gives you a feel for each of the main characters. This being Christian fiction, I do love how the message of the gospel and how different bible stories become relatable to both the characters and to the reader. The author does not shy away from her beliefs, and does not water them down as some other Christian fiction does tend to. At the same time, it’s not written in a manner that is overly preachy.

One thing I really enjoy about this book (and most of Lynn Austin’s work) is her focus and creation of strong heroines. She is not afraid to let them shine, as well as fail when need be. They are written true to their time, but at the same time  – can be people you know and aspire to be in this day and age as well. Both Rebecca and Flora are both strong in their own ways – and a want to be taken seriously (mostly by men and authority figures) in a way that is sadly still applicable today.  The bond between the sisters, though having differences of opinions and tempers is unshakeable – even able to stand the friction of romantic partners. Their relationship was written in a believable way, allowing differences of temper, opinion and the tendency for the oldest sibling to be the bossiest.

To keep from spoilers I will say I always enjoy the romantic tension written into Ms. Austin’s stories, and this was no different. The choice of choosing from your heart, or choosing from your head is a timeless one. I appreciated the different portrayals of love this story had to offer, and the decision to go with what society offered, versus something more in line with God’s plan for your life – was well displayed and refreshing.

As for Kate and Soren, they’re stories were enjoyable, but I appreciated even more their character development and traits. Soren had the loyalty of Flora and  her tender heart. Kate on the other hand had Rebecca’s stubborn independence and need to be able to be in charge of her own life/self. I found their stories just as interesting as the main line.

Beyond having the ability to move me to laughter, tears and spiritual revelations, another thing I enjoy about Lynn Austin’s writing – is I always get  to learn a little something about history/setting. I had recently read a nonfiction work about her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and now greatly enjoyed seeing it fleshed out in the backdrop of the 1890’s. I also was not aware of the breadth of devastation the Chicago Fire had caused. In the end Ms. Austin shows the overlying picture of how even in the midst of what can seem like a doomed season – God’s hand is still upon us, and we still have lessons to learn from Him.

Another 5/5 for me, and a new favorite added to my shelf.


Plot 17-B (Aka “Patch of Heaven”)

One of the first things I discovered when we first moved to SLO was that we had a park with a Community Garden just 2 streets over from us. After snooping around a little bit, I tracked down the number for the local Parks and Rec department. For the last month or so I’ve been the proud owner of plot 17-B!  We’ve since re-named it Patch of Heaven.

Here is what it looked like when I took ownership:


The Love and I spent some time getting it spruced up a bit (me in the dirt, him on the fence), and now it’s looking a bit better.


From what I heard, the woman who had it before me was a master gardener – and had been the owner for the past 10 years. I’m sure the soil quality is pretty good, but I did turn it over (and get rid of as much grass as I could), and mix in some organic potting mix.


For fun I did spend about $30.00 or so worth of seeds, and threw things in the ground. This late i the game (I planted about 3 or 4 weeks ago) I am aware even with the lack of much of a frost season here – that the stuff might not do much, but hey – it was all experimentation.

The Love and I have plans to make it more raised bed style and do things ‘properly’ starting in the spring.



Book Review: “The Proving” By, Beverly Lewis

theprovingAfter five years as an Englisher, Amanda Dienner is shocked to learn her mother has passed away and left her Lancaster County’s most popular Amish bed-and-breakfast. What’s more, the inn will only truly be hers if Mandy can successfully run it for twelve months. Reluctantly, Mandy accepts the challenge, no matter that it means facing the family she left behind–or that the inn’s clientele expect an Amish hostess! Can Mandy fulfill the terms of her inheritance? Or will this prove a dreadful mistake?

“Mandy, you are to inherit the farmhouse, including the business of the inn.”

She could scarcely find her voice to respond. “Ach, this must be a mistake,” she told him, shaking her head as she talked into the phone, feeling befuddled. “The house . . . and everything related to the inn . . . shouldn’t that go to Arie Mae?”

Title:  The Proving
Author: Beverly Lewis
Publisher: Bethany House (sent to me for review)
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 3/5

Quick Note:

“The Proving” was a first for me in a couple of ways. Excitingly, it was the first book ever sent to me by a publisher for review (THANK YOU BETHANY HOUSE!). It was also my first Beverly Lewis, and my first “Amish” read.  I wanted to make sure I was giving it a fair assessment, so I picked up a copy of “The Guardian” (the newest book by Ms. Lewis I could find in stock at my local library), and skimmed through that  quickly as well.

My Thoughts:

From the start I found this book a fairly easy read. I pretty much devoured it in 1 day.  The chapters are long enough to enjoy for a nice sit down, but short enough to also allow you to read it in spurts if need be. All of the chapters end with a hook  that draw you into continuing for “just one more chapter”. The story starts off  in a way that puts you smack in the middle of the family conflict (both past and present). It does leave you feeling a little off kilter, and trying to catch up – but not necessarily in a bad way.

My only real issue with this book was character motive inconsistency and development.  The main character, Mandy comes off from the get-go as melodramatic and a bit sad. I didn’t find much of a spark or connection with her until pretty much the end of the book. Many times it was hard to understand her motives or actions. When she’s living as an “Englischer” she pines for her old Amish life and home; romanticizing her memories; but then when she is back within her old life, she is constantly rebelling and throwing up walls around her. She talks about missing her family, but when she is back, she continues to be the cause friction with them (even after admitting to herself the old reason for the break with her family is obsolete now). She then doesn’t understand why she is being shut out because of her own actions. The character development and arcs within the book really seemed either inconsistent or non existent up until the last couple of chapters.

The introduction of Trina and the whole other second story line 4 chapters into the book really threw me at first. There had been no mention of the other major storyline in any of the blurb or info on the book that I saw, so it was a little jarring. That being said, Trina was a well fleshed-out, interesting character – and Gavin ended up being my favorite of the entire book (mainly because he didn’t swing wildly from one trait spectrum to the next).

I really enjoyed the relationship growth between Mandy and Karl, and wish that would would have been explored more, rather than the focus put on Trina’s story line. I think, based on my Christian fiction reading being mainly romance based (i.e. Lynn Austin or the “Love Inspired” series), I had expected this to be more of a romance involving the main character, rather than general fiction with a side of romance.

Apart from my character arc/development issues, I really did enjoy the prose of the story. The  dialogue differences she shows for the Amish and Others are charming and help give distinction. As a lover of farms and old homes, I absolutely loved the setting of Butterfly Meadows and could totally see myself there. WHere I live right now in California we are having a heat wave, and I could see myself out in Karl’s snowy sleigh-ride and then into the kitchen for some hot cocoa. Sidenote: all the food sounded AMAZING.

Overall, I give this book a 3/5. The book was easy to read, with an interesting plot setting, and great setting. I think this would be geared best to people who are tried and true Beverly Lewis fans. That being said, I would not rule out reading something else by her in the future.