Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books Read in 2009

A Crochet Mystery: By Hook or By Crook by Betty Hechtman
A Crochet Mystery: Dead Men Don't Crochet by Betty Hechtman
A Crochet Mystery: Hooked on Murder by Betty Hechtman
A Smart Chick Mystery: Blind Dates Can Be Murder (re-read) by Mindy Starns Clark
A Smart Chick Mystery: Elementary, My Dear Watkins (re-read) by Mindy Starns Clark
A Smart Chick Mystery: The Trouble with Tulip (re-read) by Mindy Starns Clark
A Texas Legacy Christmas by DiAnn Mills
Alibis in Arkansas (3-in-1) by Christine Lynxwiler, Sandy Gaskin, and Jan Reynolds
Blackwork by Monica Ferris
California Capers (3-in-1) by Dana Mentink
Cozy in Kansas (3-in-1) by Nancy Mehl
Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton
Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life by Cheri Cowell
Dogwood by Chris Fabry
Five Little Questions by Dannah Gresh
Getting Old Is Murder by Rita Lakin
Getting Old is the Best Revenge by Rita Lakin
How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons? by Kathi Macias
Josey—Chill Out, Josey by Susan May Warren
Josey—Everything's Coming Up Josey by Susan May Warren
Josey—Get Cozy, Josey by Susan May Warren
Kinsey Millhone: "A" is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone: "B" is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone: "C" is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone: "D" is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone: "E" is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone: "F" is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
Lanterns and Lace by DiAnn Mills
Leather and Lace by DiAnn Mills
Lightning and Lace by DiAnn Mills
Living Simply by Joanne Heim
Mayhem in Maryland (3-in-1) by Candice Spear
Mocha on the Mount by Sandra Glahn
Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today by Kathi Macias
Murder, She Wrote: A Little Yuletide Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: Knock 'Em Dead by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: Murder in a Minor Key by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: Trick or Treachery by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
O'Malley Chronicles by Dee Henderson
Seven Wonders Series: City of the Dead by T.L. Higley
Shadows of Lancaster County by Mindy Starns Clark
Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn
Squeezing Good Out of Bad by James N. Watkins
Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews
Thai Die by Monica Ferris
The Cat Who Sniffed Glue by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzmann
The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren
The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Promise of Lumby by Gail Fraser
Treasures of the North by Tracie Peterson

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


My cousin Jennifer, who is really a nice girl even if she did throw sharp-pointed scissors at me once when we were teenagers, brought up the nickname she used to call me in the comments of my birthday post. It wasn't really a flattering nickname, it was identified by an acronym, but she's still a really nice girl. I promise.

And it's really no wonder that I have had hair issues my entire life.

If I could digress for just a minute though, right after this acronym comment, Hubby and I were out driving, picking up my Dairy Queen birthday cake and the Little Caeser's pizza, and a lady didn't pull out quite appropriately. This is what transpired in our vehicle next.

Hubby: "Sometimes I think people are just trying to make me mad. She's a BDC."

Me: "A Bad Driving Chick?"

Hubby: "Yes."

Me: "That's what you thought I was the other day."

Hubby: "No, I thought you were an SDC."

A few seconds of thought.

Me: "A Slow Driving Chick?"

Hubby: "Pretty soon you're going to be a GDC."

A few more seconds of thought.

Me: "A Granny Driving Chick?"

Hubby: "A Granny Driving Chick!"

Hubby couldn't remember what the acronym CBFH stood for that Jennifer used to call me either, and I reminded him a year or two ago when it came up between us the last time. I'm not so sure I want to put it here for posterity, but I'm also pretty sure I've embarrassed myself worse.

Cotton Ball Frizz Head.

It's My Birthday — The Big Hair Edition

Last year when I posted about my birthday, I promised I'd post a big hair edition this year. Well, embarrassing as it may be, I'm keeping my word.

Get your giggle on!

It all started innocently enough. I was about 18 months old in the summer of 1967.

The biggest hair didn't start until college in 1984. That's when I also discovered the joy of the perm. It helped to "control the natural curl in my hair." Uh-huh. Whatever. I also went through an inhuman number of cans of hair spray. For years.

This is my freshman year in college:

This is my sophomore or junior year in college:

After graduation from college in 1988, Hubby was commissioned into the Army and went to Virginia for his Basic Course. My grandparents and I went over Thanksgiving to see him and visit the East Coast.

The wind never made it look any better. This was on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.

We also went to D.C. We were standing by the JFK Eternal Flame here, thus the serious faces. My grandma always had a smile on her face though. I wish I looked like that. Notice the hair doesn't move or change.

The hair even looked big from the back. What I wouldn't give to be able to wear white pants again though. If I had those, they wouldn't even go up to my knees. Gosh, they probably wouldn't even go on one leg.

This was in October, 1990. Still under the idea that bigger was better.

Even if I trimmed off length, I still kept big, and bangs.

This was the Christmas before I had the girls, so a little less than one year before I had them. I'm in the middle back, or I could say look for the biggest hair.

Today, there are no perms. I haven't had one in over 10 years. I have finally come to grips with my naturally curly hair. Unfortunately, it's still big on it's own.

And I'm actually happy to have a birthday. I'm weird about numbers. I don't like the prime number 43, so I'm happy to be 44. Who's weird enough to like to get old?

No need to answer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

Or not.

This is Peka last January.

This was him as soon as it started getting really cold this winter.

As soon as I switched out and put my heavier duvet cover on the bed, he started getting up there to sleep during the day. It's fluffier and so he sinks into it more.

At least somebody, or something, has figured out how to acclimate in this weather.

I'm just a little jealous of the naps on my bed during the day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday — December 28

I hope everyone had a wonderful, blessed Christmas. We are finally about done with the leftovers at our house. How about you?

Monday — I expect to be at the car repair shop all day in the waiting room while we have a major repair done on our one vehicle. We will be eating a smorgasbord from the freezer and pantry. Somebody may even have cereal for dinner!

Tuesday — I have some cut-up chicken left over from what I prepared for the Christmas Day chicken pie (I'll share that recipe later in the week). I'm going to take advantage of that and make Chicken Spaghetti. I even have everything I need in the pantry already except for the spaghetti noodles.

Wednesday — It's my birthday! I may try to hold off going out to eat until Sunday and just kill two birds with one stone. It's been an expensive month. But a Dairy Queen ice cream cake would be nice (not the cookie dough kind). Hint, hint, for any Hubby out there reading. If we stay home, maybe we'll have Little Caesar's pizza.

Thursday — We're going to a New Year's Eve not-really-party but party at a friend's house. It's just some families from church getting together. But we're having food so I don't have to fix dinner, but I do have to take something. I'm not good with appetizer-type things, especially the ones that have to stay warm. I'm just good with the ones that you eat straight out of the oven, or cold. Any tips you have would be great.

FridayBeef Stew, if I can talk Hubby into manning it while the girls and I go get our hair cut. It has to simmer for a few hours and then the vegetables have to be in for an hour or so to get tender.

Saturday — Leftovers.

Sunday — Eat out since we ate in all week, and of course for my birthday!

Be sure to visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Here is my "Sock" my grandma made for me that I grew up with.

Here is the one she made for Hubby when we got married. I love the Razorback.

I asked my mom to send them to me this year. My aunt knew just where they were in Grandma's house.

I have fond memories of the stockings at Grandpa and Grandma Wheeler's house. Grandma always called them "Socks" and Hubby and I do out of habit now. It's become a term of endearment.

As soon as we finished eating and cleaning up the kitchen, we read the Christmas story from Luke, then all the grandkids (there were four of us) got to open our socks prior to the presents. I always loved the socks the best.

My kids love the socks too. We love to stuff them, they love to open them. So much so, that when I saw this idea in Country Living, or Country Something-or-Another, about 10 years ago, I jumped all over it.


Our socks have become bags.

But we still call them socks.

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Rhetorical, I might add.

I made these with some flannel fabric without a pattern. When I was done I just folded the top over and sewed a seam to tack it down for the cuff. They are about 18 inches tall, which is totally an eyeball measurement. They would have been so much better if I'd known how to make that box bottom I just learned on those bags.

You know I'm going to be looking for some flannel fabric for some new sock/bag/stockings now.

And this year, we're opening the socks last.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

As usual, I totally butchered a recipe I was using, but it turned out to be absolutely delicious.


I hope SnoWhite isn't too mad at me for playing around with her Chicken and Dumplings recipe. I used the "chicken" part of the recipe, but since I don't like mushrooms, and I don't put celery or green peppers in stuff unless I absolutely have to, and I was running out of time so I didn't bother to chop up the onion, and I despise green peas with every fiber of my being, it ended up being a bit different from hers. Plus I didn't do mine in the crock pot. Time issue again. I did it on the stovetop in a big old pot.

Still delicious.

So here's what I did (I doubled the original recipe also to have enough for all of us and a little left over, but not enough for everyone — this is doubled):

Chicken and Dumplings
tweaked from SnoWhite's recipe

2 cups baby carrots
1 48 oz box chicken broth
2/3 C flour
2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut up kind of messy
4-5 smallish potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup milk

Boil chicken, cool, and cut up or shred into bite-sized pieces.

Reserve two cups of the chicken broth. Take the remaining chicken broth and heat it in a large pot along with the milk, carrots, potatoes, seasoning, and your cut up chicken. Take the two cups of chicken broth and mix with the flour; stir it into the other broth mixture.

Simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently, then make your dumplings and cook them. The directions originally called for cooking them for 10 minutes with the lid off and 10 minutes with the lid on. I had to add another 10 minutes with the lid on and turn up my heat just a little. It may have been because I doubled the dumpling recipe also and it was just too much for the top of the pot. Nothing horrible happened; there was just a little bit of the stew that stuck on the bottom of the pan.

from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt

Mix above ingredients in a large bowl with a fork.

In a cup, combine 2/3 cup milk with 2 T vegetable oil; slowly stir into flour until soft dough forms.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto chicken. Cook uncovered 10 minutes; cover and cook 10 minutes more (simmering).

With slotted spoon, remove dumplings. Spoon chicken into serving dish; top with dumplings.

This is the recipe not doubled.

This is a picture as soon as I put the dumplings on top of the stew.

This is when it was all finished. I had to take a close-up shot because I forgot to take one before we started spooning it out and eating it!

I loved the way the seasoning blend made this taste so much I'm going to use it when I make Chicken Pie for Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday — December 21

It's the week of Christmas! I can't believe it's already here and the year is almost up. The next week is my birthday week, too. We'll just ignore that for now though.

Monday — I know, I know, I've planned on Chicken and D
umplings for the past two weeks, but it just hasn't happened. I do have the chicken and vegetables for it in my refrigerator, and it has to be made today. I bought enough that I think there will be enough for leftovers on Tuesday. I'm using Snowhite's recipe for the chicken part of the Chicken and Dumplings. Since she had trouble with her dumplings rising, I found a dumpling recipe in a cookbook I have and I'm using it. I'm including it at the bottom of the post.

Tuesday — Leftovers. If there aren't enough, we'll have to eat from the pantry.

Wednesday — I bought a large family pack of ground beef at the store and cooked it up over the weekend and then froze it. I'm going to make taco meat with homemade taco seasoning and then attempt homemade nachos. I've never done this before, so we'll see how it goes.

Thursday — We're having our Christmas Eve service at church. I haven't made waffles in an eternity, so I'll probably make those. I always double the recipe and make extra so I can freeze them. We have a toaster with bagel-sized slots so the frozen waffles can be warmed up in there.

I tried a couple of recipes, and this was by far my favorite. Waffles are tricky. Also, this is the waffle iron I have. I got it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a coupon. The regular price was what Amazon's sale price is right now before my coupon. I've had it for about two years. I personally love mine and it works for me. It does take a while to make all the waffles, but every single one comes out perfect.

Friday — Christmas! I'm going to post my Christmas menu and some recipes later.

Saturday — Oh, you know there will be leftovers.

Sunday — Eat out since we ate in all week, or if we still have a lot of leftovers, we'll put it off.

from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt

Mix above ingredients in a large bowl with a fork.

In a cup, combine 2/3 cup milk with 2 T vegetable oil; slowly stir into flour until soft dough forms.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto chicken. Cook uncovered 10 minutes; cover and cook 10 minutes more (simmering).

With slotted spoon, remove dumplings. Spoon chicken into serving dish; top with dumplings.

Go visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 5 for 2009, and a Giveaway

When I started working on this list, I realized I read entirely too much fiction this year and not enough non-fiction. It was not for lack of having non-fiction on my reading list, just my negligence in picking it to read when I would finish one book and go on to another. I have high hopes of making that situation right. Soon.

5 Little Questions That Reveal the Life God Designed for You by Dannah Gresh — This book was such an encouragement for me. I literally read it over the course of the year. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because that's the way it worked out. I'd read a section of it, put it down, and then not pick it up for a few months. I just recently finished it, and the ending is the best part.

Dannah always includes journaling assignments at the end of her chapters. I don't do these, although I do think about it. I just am not a journaling girl. Never have been. Wish I was. But it doesn't affect the impact of the book in any way.

All Dannah's books are excellent. She is transparent and honest, and I personally think that's what makes you connect to her books. I can't wait to go back through this one now and make some notes. (It's because I'm a math brain and I never have done well at reading takes me at least twice!)

Right now this book is only $1.99 at CBD. If you click on the title link you will be taken there.

City of the Dead by T.L. Higley — I ended up getting this book as a gift from the author. I happened to mention her business in a post about my obsessive organization. (By the way, it was koolstuff4kids for those fusible beads, and my original post was here if your curiosity gets the best of you.) She sent me this book, the second in her series. I love historical fiction and Christian mysteries, and this sums it all up in one book.

I thought I had this book figured out, and then I didn't quite. I was surprised by some of the history in it. I loved it! I'm going to be receiving the first and third books in the series for Christmas. Yes, I already know some of what I'm getting.

Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews — This is the someteenth book in the Meg Langslow series. It is a secular series, mystery, and one of my favorite. I love her quirky family, the bird theme that always seems to find it's way into the mystery one way or another, and the fact that with rare exception, I can't figure out whodunit until really close to the end — sometimes even when it's being revealed in the story line. I look forward to each new installment.

The Smart Chick Mysteries by Mindy Starns Clark — I re-read these in 2009. I first read them in 2006 or 2007. I read them after I fell in love with Clark's Million Dollar Mysteries five-book series. Both series do need to be read in order.

These books are about an organizational freak, modern-day Heloise who is sweet and charming and trying to figure out her life. Her grandparents who practically raised her have died, her parents who she has nothing in common with and hardly knows have tried to marry her off, and her best friend realizes he is in love with her. And that's just the beginning. Fun series!

I have a tie for the fifth spot between a fiction and non-fiction book. The first is The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart. This is the third installment of the Mysterious Benedict Society. It follows four children, two boys and two girls, all four with different special gifts, as they solve riddles and puzzles on their journey. I still have some concerns about this series since there are times that they don't always listen to the adults, or they are supposed to figure out whether or not they are supposed to listen to the adults, but ultimately the goal is that they must work together or they will fail. If only we could all learn that simple task.

The other book is Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today by Kathi Macias. I received this book as part of a blog tour. It took me a while to get to it, probably because it was non-fiction and that always makes me tend to not pick it up from the pile.

When I first started reading the book I wasn't sure I was going to like it much. It goes through the first mothers of the Bible, (Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Leah, etc.) and tells their stories and then discusses how they must have felt. I just wasn't feeling it. But then the book started covering some more obscure mothers in the Bible and I really started enjoying it much more. Some of them I didn't really remember reading about because they were just tucked in there, but realizing that they were mentioned for a reason, and even more that they were one of the few that were mentioned in the New Testament was eye-opening.

I'm going to give away my copy of Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today. It's been gently read by me, and is hardbound with a dust jacket.

I'm also going to give away a copy of Dannah's book 5 Little Questions That Reveal the Life That God Designed for You. It's a brand new copy of the softcover book.

All you need to do to be eligible to win is to leave a comment on this post by Christmas Eve at a reasonable time of night. Please tell me in your comment what one of your favorite books was that you read this year. That's it. If you don't have a blog, please leave me a way to get in touch with you if you win.

Merry Christmas!

Updated: The giveaway is now closed, but please feel free to leave a comment on your favorite book. I love to get new ideas for things to read!

Congratulations to Rona, the winner of Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today, and to Bobbi, the winner of 5 Little Questions That Reveal the Life That God Designed for You. I'll be getting in touch with you soon for your mailing addresses.

Blog Tour — Terror by Night and Blind Sight

Publisher: Tyndale
Hardcover: 288 pgs
ISBN-10: 1414334761
ISBN-13: 9781414334769
Retail: $22.99

About Terror by Night:

(Greenville, TX) – A father denied his daughter dating privileges with a certain young man. Typical teenage behavior might have included pouting, a bad attitude or perhaps even a yelling match. Never in a million years would Terry Caffey have suspected it would involve murder. Yet, in the early morning hours of March 8, 2008, Terry’s whole world turned upside down. His wife and two sons where brutally murdered and burned in the house they lived and Terry was shot twelve times…by his daughter and her friends.

Terry Caffey and James Pence reconstruct this tragic yet strangely beautiful true story of God’s sovereignty, forgiveness and grace in Terror by Night. As if the story of Caffey’s family wasn’t enough, readers will be captivated by the way God ordained the meeting between the Blind Sight author and Caffey with a burnt page from Blind Sight found at the crime scene.

Paperback: 364 pages
ISBN-10: 1601454384
ISBN-13: 978-1601454386
Retail: $17.95

About Blind Sight:

No one plans for bad things to happen. No one plans on losing their family. No one knows how to move on after horror strikes. No one. Not even Thomas Kent. After receiving a strange phone call from a long-ago friend requesting Kent to pick up a package at the airport, Kent begins a spine tingling, suspense filled journey in which he hopes to reunite the package (his friend’s children) with their mother, Justine, a traitor in the Fellowship for World Renewal Cult. Twists and turns in this page turning drama make Blind Sight not only a journey of extreme action and thrills, but one of discovering the sovereign plan of God.

James H. Pence is a full-time professional writer and editor living near Dallas, Texas. James is a multi-talented writer who has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. His publishers include Tyndale House, Kregel, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. James holds a master’s degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in creative writing and journalism from Dallas Theological Seminary. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Dallas Bible College.

James is also a vocalist and gospel chalk artist, and he regularly uses his talents to share the gospel in prisons. James is the author of Blind Sight, a gripping novel about mind-control cults and coauthor (along with Terry Caffey) of the new book: Terror by Night: The True Story of the Brutal Texas Murder that Destroyed a Family, Restored One Man’s Faith, and Shocked a Nation.

How I Met Terry Caffey...

Terry Caffey and I met through my karate for homeschoolers class. Back in 2005, his wife Penny brought two of their three children and enrolled them in my class. Erin their oldest daughter and Tyler their youngest son were two of my students. Over time, Erin and my daughter Charlene became very good friends. As a matter of fact, Charlene would often stay with the Caffey's when my wife and I were traveling.

Somewhere in there I gave Mrs. Caffey a copy of my novel Blind Sight. I don't remember if she read it, but she was a big reader so she probably did. As far as I know Terry had never read it.

About six weeks after his family was murdered and his house burned, Terry returned to his property and stood on the ashes of his house crying out to God. His burden that day was to understand why God had taken his family and left him behind without them.

As he was praying, he noticed about 15 feet away a brown scorched page from a book leaning up against the trunk of a tree. He went over and picked it up and read it. It just happened to be a single page from Blind Sight that had survived the fire.

But it wasn't just any page. It was the page where my main character, a man who had lost his family in an automobile accident, came to grips with God's sovereignty in his loss. When Terry picked up that piece of paper the first lines he read were, "I couldn't understand why you would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them but I do believe you are sovereign. You are in control."

It was as if God had saved or preserved that piece of paper to remind Terry that he still cared.

Some time ago, when I was struggling with my own depression over the fact that Blind Sight hadn't sold very well, I gave my book back to God. And I told the Lord that he would just use it in someone's life I would be happy. And boy did he use it in someone's life. From the standpoint of a writer I can think of no greater honor than for God to use my words to change someone's heart.

A few weeks after I learned of the connection between Terry and my book, we got together and began to discuss the possibility of telling this amazing story in book form.

An Interview with James Pence:

1. You've dabbled in a little bit of everything career-wise. Give us a brief summary of your journey so far.

I have definitely had a colorful background as you've already mentioned. I guess the one unifying thread that has run through everything I do is the service of God. I knew when I was 14 years old that God had called me into the ministry, and I've never wavered from that. And even though that ministry now includes such things as teaching karate to homeschoolers, I consider that as much a part of my calling as anything else.

Since finishing Bible College back in 1978 I have been a youth pastor, a camp director, a pastor, a prison evangelist, a gospel chalk artist, a speaker, a singer, a Web designer, a writer, a karate teacher, an art teacher, and a writing teacher. Amazingly, I'm still active in most of those things. I'm not pastoring anymore, and I've long since left directing summer camps behind me, but everything else I still do.

It would be a book in and of itself if I were to try to go into the details of all of those different things and how I got started doing each of them. Suffice it to say that I've always believed that the talents that we have are stewardships. Thus I've always felt that if I have a talent in an area I have a responsibility to develop and use it for God's glory. And that's why do so many different things. I wouldn't have it any other way.

2. There was a tight deadline for Terror by Night. Tell us a little bit about how you interviewed Terry Caffey and the timeline you had to submit your book.

There was definitely a tight deadline for Terror by Night. I had a total of 12 weeks in which to write it and that included doing all the interviewing with Terry. I'm very happy to say that I was able to meet that challenge, but there were times when I wondered if I could get it all done.

Terry and I got together every Wednesday for several hours and I would interview him. Our first few interviews were just for getting the layout of the book planned. I had to get an idea of the different aspects of the story that needed to be pulled together, sort of like a plot outline. And then I actually had a plan the storyline based on my discussions with Terry.

It was sort of a cumulative thing, because as we talked each week more questions would come up and I would make notes on those and we would discuss them in subsequent weeks.

I recorded all of the interviews with a digital voice recorder and then transferred them all to my computer. After that I edited the interviews down into soundbites of two to three minutes all according to topics. Then I put them all on my iPod and would listen to them at every spare moment. My goal was to be familiar enough with Terry's voice so that the book would sound natural and that it would sound like Terry was doing the speaking or writing.

3. Because of the intensity of this book, how did you deal with the emotional side of writing? Did it ever become more than you or Terry could deal with at one sitting?

This was a very difficult story to write and it was very stressful for both of us, but in different ways. As we went through the interview process Terry began to struggle with depression and had some rough moments. Once or twice we had changed the topic of our discussion because it was just getting to be too hard on him.

For me the stress came from the deadline more than the storyline. The fastest I'd written a book before was 20 weeks, and writing this one in 12 weeks was like running a marathon. Near the end I was exhausted, but still had to get that word count out every day. There were times when I would just become overwhelmed with the size of the task. But there was nothing to do but keep moving forward.

So we were both very happy when this project was complete.

4. You enjoy some great ministry opportunities outside of your writing. Share how God is using your other gifts to reach others for Christ.

As I mentioned earlier, in addition to being a writer I am a gospel chalk artist and a vocalist. I've been doing that for over 30 years now and really enjoy being able to use art and music to bring a message to people. For about the last 15 years I've been going into prisons with my art and music and sharing the gospel with inmates. That's been a huge blessing to me. In fact, I often say that after a prison service I've been far more blessed than the inmates. And recently God has begun to open up more doors both in prison and out. Over a six-week period, I'll be drawing in Florida, Iowa, and Alabama.

One of the great things about chalk art is that even if the people who see a drawing don't remember everything I say, they will remember the picture and the scripture that the picture represented. I've had people write me who saw my pictures 20 years ago and came to Christ through them, and now they are serving Christ in churches and other ministries. That's one of the great joys of this ministry.

5. With the re-release of Blind Sight, it's almost like two books releasing at once. What message do you hope readers will take away from reading both books?

I was so excited when Tyndale decided to release Blind Sight a second time. It's rare that a novel gets a second chance at life. And it's especially satisfying that both books were released simultaneously. And even though one is a novel and the other a nonfiction book, the message that people can take away from the books is really the same. God is sovereign.

So often we are confused when difficult circumstances come into our lives and we wonder why God would allow that. Sometimes we even get angry with him and demand an explanation like Terry did. But the message of both Blind Sight and Terror by Night is that while God doesn't explain himself to us, we can trust in his goodness and sovereign grace. We know that he is working all things together for our good and we can trust him in that. Blind Sight communicates that message by way of a novel; Terror by Night communicates the same message by way of a true story.

Special Gift Basket Opportunity!

Each blog tour host (I'm one of several) has the opportunity to send in the name of one of their commenters for a chance to win a gift basket from the author.

This special one of a kind basket includes:

Angel — James Pence
Blind Sight — James Pence
Terror By Night — James Pence
Quality 8.5 X 11 in printing of the scorched page
DVD of Chalk Art Illustrations from James Pence

Comments made this Sunday, December 20, will be eligible for entry to KCWC for the chance to win the gift basket.

I received a free copy of both books for promoting this blog tour.

Secret Santa

I'm having way too much fun sewing these bags!

I added a little brown ball trim around it. This time I did it before I "quilted" it.

And since I have been using fat quarters I have to piece fabrics together for the interior.

I don't know that anyone is remotely interested in making these, but if you saw the other post with the fabric measurements and you'd rather make this one with the blocks across the middle instead of the strips, you only need to do one thing differently. Instead of cutting 16 strips 2 1/2" x 9 1/2", you need to cut 4 blocks 8 1/2" by 9 1/2".

My kids have specific directions not to look at the blog until after Christmas, and since this will be wrapped up for Chatty, I hope she doesn't try sneaking a peek. I had to sew it when she was gone from the house and even had to take the pictures of it hanging on the back of my bathroom door so she wouldn't see it.

If she peeks I'm keeping it for myself!

This post is linked to Show and Tell Friday hosted by Cindy of My Romantic Home.

Theme Thursday — History

I used to love going through my grandma's jewelry box that was in her vanity drawer. There really wasn't anything of value in there; I just enjoyed looking at everything with her. When I was getting a few things out for this week's theme, I realized I could have that much joy going through my own with my kids, even when I don't have anything of real monetary value. Here are a few of my special things from my history.

My great-grandma's birthday was on December 26th. Mine is on December 30th. I was the oldest great-grandchild born to the oldest grandchild. I don't know that any of that had a bearing on anything, but my grandma told me that I was admiring my great-grandma's birthstone (not real) ring that my great-grandpa had given her many years ago. I was five at the time. She apparently told my grandma right then and there (okay, maybe later when I wasn't around) that when she died that I was to have that ring. Here it is:

She died on the same day that the Challenger crashed. I'd been married about seven months, and she'd just had her 93rd birthday the previous month.

Here is the promise ring that Hubby gave me in high school:

The picture almost makes it look like a big diamond. Almost. But it's a bunch of tiny ones in a silver setting.

This is a ring he gave me for Christmas one year with sapphires, because they are blue, my favorite color.

And here are our high school rings. I have my birthstone, but since his is pink, he went with the school color of royal blue. Probably a good choice for a guy.

For more Theme Thursday participants, just click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

WFMW — Control That Gift Wrap!

Have you seen all those cute pictures where people have their gift wrap stored in some kind of bucket, urn, or umbrella stand on the floor? The gift wrap always looks so cute and sits perfectly in its container. How?

Because even when I've had one of those stand-up wrapping paper storage containers and I've had a roll of gift wrap that's had the plastic removed, that gift wrap has a mind of it's own. It unrolls, regardless of whether or not I put some type of rubber band or extra ponytail holder from my girls around it. Even if I put them up and down. The paper just tears. Then it wouldn't look so pretty in one of those containers anyway, which would sort of defeat that purpose.

So until I have a bazillion dollars and a beautiful gift wrap station with room for hanging gift wrap, I have a zip-up bag that holds even the long rolls of gift wrap.

But I still have to deal with those partially used rolls of wrap, so they don't get torn up and drive me batty. It's the little things.

Just take an empty roll, or slip out the roll from the middle of the one you are using (when you're all finished with your wrapping), and cut the roll all the way down in as straight a line as possible. You may have done better in kindergarten than I did. I spent a lot of my time at the talking table. Seriously. There were six chairs, and Sammy J. was the only other person I remember who spent time with me there. That was getting close to 40 years ago, so I've slept too much since then to remember much more than that.

But I digress.

Put your roll of wrapping paper inside the now cut up cardboard tube, and it will stay nice until you need it again. The tubes aren't really made with firm cardboard, so they're easy to manipulate.

They will not get unrolled and all torn up this way, if your wrapping paper defies the laws of gravity or the proper behavior of wrapping paper. Because I still don't know how people show that wrapping paper in those decorative containers and it isn't the slightest bit unrolled. Completely befuddled!

You just won't want to display them in a container if you do this. Because cardboard isn't pretty.

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So, SO Much Better

I put all my efforts into bringing out my former math glory. The pressure was on because I didn't have enough fabric to goof up.

It's similar yet completely different from the original one I did. It's over twice as big!

This is what a proper boxed corner should look like.

I'll give you the measurements in a minute, but here's what I did different from the original pattern:

1. I added an additional strip of fabric around the top for extra height.

2. I added some red furry stuff for accent. I did it during the 'quilting' process.

3. I lengthened the handles.

4. I used two colors for the interior, mainly because I didn't have enough of one color (there isn't nearly as much green and much more red than it looks like).

5. I boxed the corners at 3" instead of 1 1/2" since it was a bigger bag. And of course I did them correctly this time.

Here is the link to the original pattern that I gave you yesterday.

Here are the dimensions I used for this size bag:

16 strips 2 1/2" x 9 1/2" (2 each of 8 different prints, or 4 each of 4 different prints if you do it like me)
1 piece 16 1/2" x 9 1/2" for the bottom of the bag (coordinating print or one of the prints you used above)
2 strips 4 1/2" x 20" for the handles
2 strips 16 1/2" x 4" to go across the top of the bag
1 piece 16 1/2" x 34 1/2" for the interior (I used three pieces, one was 21", and two were 7", so when I sewed them together and lost 1/2" for the two seam allowances, the total length was 34" — if you don't use one solid length and have to sew pieces together, you need to add 1/2" to the fabric length you cut for every seam you sew— I made a mistake and only added 1/4".

Chatty is very happy with her bag.

I hope she doesn't look at the blog and read this, because I have some more cute fabric to make her a couple more for Christmas now that I know what I'm doing. I think I'll do it differently next time, without all the little strips, maybe with four large blocks. But I can't show you until after Christmas.
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