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.







Happy Sunday!

It’s a sunny Sunday morning here in SLO!

I’m sipping on some coffee, listening to some bluegrass gospel – doing some re-vamping on my blog before we head to church in a few.

Excuse the mess on here – and look forward to some new direction on the blog!

Have a great day!




Book Review: “Pilgrimage,” by Lynn Austin

51D9sUdgf8L._SY346_We all encounter times when our spirit feels dry, when doubt looms.
The opportunity to tour Israel came at a good time. For months, my life has been a mindless plodding through necessary routine, as monotonous as an all-night shift on an assembly line. Life gets that way sometimes, when nothing specific is wrong but the world around us seems drained of color. Even my weekly worship experiences and daily quiet times with God have felt as dry and stale as last year’s crackers. I’m ashamed to confess the malaise I’ve felt. I have been given so much. Shouldn’t a Christian’s life be an abundant one, as exciting as Christmas morning, as joyful as Easter Sunday?
With gripping honesty, Lynn Austin pens her struggles with spiritual dryness in a season of loss and unwanted change. Tracing her travels throughout Israel, Austin seamlessly weaves events and insights from the Word . . . and in doing so finds a renewed passion for prayer and encouragement for her spirit, now full of life and hope.

Title:  Pilgrimage: My Journey to A Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House
Copyright: 2013
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts:

I first came in contact with Lynn Austin’s work about 6 years ago, by randomly picking up one of her Christian Historical Romances at a second hand Christian book store. I can’t remember exactly which book it was, but I was new to Christian Fiction and the blurb sounded good. I fell in love with the book I read, and then rapidly began picking up more of her books. (At this point I have read MOST of them, and at some point will probably do an Author’s Spotlight on her work.)

When the Beau and I were preparing for the Camino De Santiago, and also leaning toward a Holy Land trip -I became obsessed with reading about other people’s journeys, Camino’s and Pilgrimages. When I saw that one of my favorite authors had done a Holy Land Pilgrimage, I couldn’t wait to snap it up.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. This is a small book for her (241 pages), but it is packed with her warmth, humor and distinctive voice. It was nice to get to know the Author on a more personal level, and hear about where she is at in her journey. Lynn Austin isn’t afraid to bear her fears or doubts, but at the same time gives hopeful messages to herself and the reader. As a Christian, I’ve noticed people don’t like to talk much about going through periods of spiritual dryness, and instead focus on all the positiveness. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and our relationships with Christ are no different. Lynn really opens up in her book, to show her struggles as a Mom, wife and Christian Writer. It was really refreshing to read, and made her all the more relatable.

The book is set up in chapters each featuring a place she visited during the Holy Land. She talks about the places she’s seen, the people she’s met, and the historical/biblical significance of each destination.  Also, she takes the time to figure how each place may be significant to her personal journey spiritually. Each chapter ends with a prayer, and there are hand drawn sketches throughout. It’s one part travelogue, and one part spiritual journey/devotional.  In the end,  she finds the refreshing of the spirit that she’s looking for, and I have to say it helped me get some fresh insight as well. I’m sure this will be a re-read for me in the future.

Weekend Whirlwind

Sorry for the radio silence over the weekend. I think I forgot what my own house even looks like. No worries, I have a pile of 6ish books I’m going to be posting reviews on over the next couple of days.

Friday was a going away party for one of our friends.

17884263_10101182458625623_977795452188982988_n(You can see how our friends care about one another, and the guest of honor is a die hard Giants fan).

Lots of laughs and great discussions were to be had.

Saturday was the bachelor/bachelorette parties for my Sister and her fiancee.

Us girls lunched and then did pottery painting/mosaic making:

(From left: My sister, my step-mom, yours truly)

(my Sister’s photo frame)

(my Dorothy Parker Quote mug)

The dudes had a night of “Guns, Women and Booze” (aka they went to a shooting range and then a bar)

(The Groom!)
17951888_645358925651789_2490418272705992631_n(My fiancee)

Sunday was church and family time – still go, go, go!

Monday was the wedding!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES17992230_10203001660558408_3146692557867617894_nAll in all, a wonderful and emotional weekend!

Back to bookishness 🙂


Book Review: “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck

51GK6Es5YBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America.

Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” As Don DeLillo has claimed, Steinbeck shaped a geography of conscience” with this novel where there is something at stake in every sentence.” Beyond that—for emotional urgency, evocative power, sustained impact, prophetic reach, and continued controversy—The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics.

Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 1939
Format Read: Mass Market Paperback
My Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts:

I first met the Joad family when I was in 11th grade English class. Unlike “Gone With The Wind,” the book never quite made it back to my school at the end of the year… and I have since revisited the Joads pretty much every year since then. I’m not usually rough on my books, but 17 years later…

(#booktheif #sorryhighline401)

Anyway, I was thrilled when I saw this book on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list, and couldn’t wait to get back into it once again.  There are so many things I adore about this book that I could go for pages and pages.read_hp_harrysassface                                                        (but I won’t, I promise!)

“The Grapes of Wrath” is so beautifully written. The book is set up alternating chapters between the Joad’s story, and snapshots of what America (and Americans) were going through during the Great Depression. With this format you get to know motivations and history without endless back story, and you get to have a little break from the (sometimes) emotionally intense main story line.

Steinbeck has a way of setting a scene which draws you completely in , and is beautiful described without being overly flowery. His characters have flaws, yet are completely realistic. You’ve seen these people in Cafe’s and at Gas Stations. He’s not afraid to point out their flaws, but does also show their hearts and good qualities.

Although the focus for the main story seems to be Tom Joad, and you see the story mostly from his narrative – I think the real star of the story is Ma Joad. Ma kept the family together as well as possible through all costs, and showed many facets of what people in the Great Depression went through. In the end it was Ma who showed what the spirit of this westward migration was about, how to be a leader within her traditional role, and how to make the best of any situation you’re given.

The political societal aspects of the book are surprisingly accurate still today, even more so in this current administration. Still people struggle with acceptance based on who you are -whether race, sexual orientation or origin. People are still faced with needing to be able to get their foot in a door, are told you need experience/money/etc – but how do you get these things without first being given a chance? Corporations still push out the little guy, and people are told what they should want – rather than being allowed to make their own decisions…

“The Grapes of Wrath,” is not necessarily a happy or feel good book, but it an extremely good and important read that will suck you in and keep you thinking for a long while afterward.