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December 31, 2005

It’s the last day of the year 2005. Do you have your new calendar posted somewhere yet? I love looking at a new blank calendar — my kids and I had fun filling in upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. And of course counting the days until next Christmas!

Have you taken a few minutes to reflect on the past year? I like how Sallie at Two Talent Living wrote a post sharing some of the goals she set and reached this year. Her Journal of Thanksgiving is such a great idea.

Do you write New Year’s Resolutions? I used to. And I tried really hard to keep them, for at least a few weeks. Then I realized in my adulthood that it’s too easy to break resolutions and give up. So now I set goals. I set a few long-term yearly goals, and then I also create monthly goals. These help me to divide and conquer the big things I’d like to accomplish — leading me to write my weekly and daily goals. For me, the process of writing makes the goals seem more attainable.

One of my goals is to read the Bible through in a year. There are lots of plans to do this. I used the One-Year Bible last year (NLT version), which made it easy to bookmark each day. You can always read it straight through — but I like to divide it up by Old and New Testament readings, a Psalm, and a Proverb.

This Bibleplan site has over a dozen reading plans from which to choose. Back to the Bible also features several different plans. Or you may prefer reading small doses of scripture using a devotional book. Gospelcom has several online devotionals that you can read every day — though I always enjoy having my own book that I can keep with me.

Reading a little bit every morning is helpful as you encounter day-to-day living and decisions. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” I’d love to know what you plan to do!

I wish you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve tonight. Here’s a site where you can enjoy a panoramic view of celebrations taking place all over the world.

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)



If you’re a blogger or a blog reader, chances are you’re also zealous about reading books — am I right?

Me too. The main reason I started my blog was to give me an outlet for telling people about great books I read. I’ve always been passionate about reading — but early this year it dawned on me that authors really appreciate it when you write reviews of their books.

I mean, think about it. If you read a book and tell a few people you LOVE it, then put it back on your bookshelf (or return it to the library), does that help the author? A little. But if you read a book and review it online at a site like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or CBD, then you’re telling thousands of potential readers as well as the author how much you love the book!

I’ve reviewed dozens of books on Amazon — it’s so easy, and you can “self-publish” immediately. After I wrote about 20 reviews, I decided it might be high time for me to actually LEARN how to be a reviewer and see if there were any publications that might pay for reviews. That’s when I discovered The National Book Critics Circle.

I applied to become a member by sending them a resume and some clips of my reviews. Somehow, they accepted my application — and sent me a really thick packet containing the names of editors and publications that accept and even pay book reviewers. As a member, I also receive a nice newsletter, and I dream of someday attending one of their meetings in New York City. (It’s fun to think about!)

Yesterday was the deadline for all NBCC members to send in our nominations for the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award — recognizing a person or organization for long-standing achievement in the world of books. Ooh…I nominated the perfect person for that. I hope she wins. (I plan to blog about her organization one of these days. She’s passionate about promoting wholesome children’s books!)

But now I need your help. Members can nominate up to five books for the prestigious NBCC Book Awards. Finalists will be chosen by the board of directors in these categories: fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography/memoir, criticism and poetry. Last year, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson won in the fiction category (and it also won the Pulitzer Prize.)

Do you have any favorite books you’d like to see win an award? Tell me why you liked that book — I want to know! You can send me a private email — but I’d love it even more if you wrote to me in my comments so other readers could learn about some great books. (Don’t be bashful — if you’re an author, tell us why you’re passionate about your book!)

My nominations have to be sent in by January 6, 2006. So you’ve got nearly a week to let me know. I already have a few ideas — it will be hard to limit to only 5! But since I mostly read nonfiction, I definitely need your input for the other categories. (Any book published this calendar year is eligible.)

Here’s a chance to let your voice be heard!

Speaking of favorite books, my post about the Top 25 Books You’d Take to a Deserted Island still ranks as one of my most read. And here’s a list of a homeschooling dad’s Top 100-something books. Do you get the Kidsread newsletter? I skim it every month to see what’s out there. Here’s their list of the Best Books for 2005. I think they should have added Jonathan Rogers’ Wilderking trilogy (Book 2 came out this year, The Secret of the Swamp King.) And Book 1 of R.K. Mortenson’s Landon Snow trilogy — Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle.

Now it’s your turn…

By: Heather Ivester in: Books | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)



December 30, 2005

If you’re a homeschooler, you’ll want to browse the list of award-winning blogsites over at Spunky Homeschool. I’m starting to recognize a few of these blogs that I’m seeing other places. The Best Homeschooling Mom Blog award goes to three sites: Mother-Lode, Here at the Bonny Glen, and True Blue Semi-Crunchy Mama. And the Best Homeschooling Dad Blog goes to Doug Phillips.

Spunky (Karen Braun) is also a Mind & Media reviewer, and her blog has really taken off. She’s now a regular columnist with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine — so she’ll be announcing all the winners in her column (giving these blogs great publicity!)

If you’re blogger, you’ll enjoy Spunky’s selection of articles in her “About Blogging” section:
Why I Started This Blog
Principles of Blogging
Discovering My Voice

I followed a link to an article by Jakob Nielson, Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. Oops — I’m finding out I’ve got lots of room for improvement. I’m still not used to writing headlines that actually tell you what the post is about (opting for clever-sounding titles that make sense only to someone who’s already read the post.) I also don’t stick to one topic, and I bury my “classic hits.”

I’m hoping to make this site more user friendly in the months to come. It helps me enormously to see what key words people type in to find me. Maybe I’ll be brave and join the TTLB ecosystem, which will make public my site statistics. Not quite there yet — but I’m thinking I’d like to someday open my blog for a few very tasteful ads. I know advertisers will want to know my number of visitors and hits. (Someone who entered my blog today was my 3,000th visitor this month.)

Edit: I’ve been informed that I’m already in the TTLB ecosystem — ranking as a “slithering reptile” — now that’s an enlightening thought!

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)



If you’re getting ready to prepare traditional New Year’s foods, now’s the day to get out and shop before everything’s sold out tomorrow. Here in the South, we have two staples that you can’t get through New Year’s without: collard greens (mustard or turnip are fine too) and black-eyed peas. Both symbolize prosperity. (A dollar for every pea you eat, the saying goes.)

Since we’ve got finicky kid eaters over here, I’m adding some good ol’ macaroni and cheese that everybody likes. Here’s a recipe I snagged from a friend who’s a great cook — kids love it, and it’s good enough for adults who crave comfort foods (like me, of course.)

1 1-lb. box, Elbow macaroni
1 1-lb. block New York extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 8-oz. package cream cheese
2 heaping Tbsp. butter
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, cook macaroni al dente style. Drain. Cut cheddar and cream cheese into cubes. To macaroni, add butter, cheeses, eggs, milk, salt and peppers. Mix well. Pour into greased 9×13 pan. Top with seasoned bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes.

This macaroni and cheese recipe is the best I’ve ever tasted. If you’re searching for good recipes, my favorite site is Simply Recipes by Elise. She has such gorgeous pictures. Check out her collard greens recipe.




Every mom I’ve talked to since Christmas has been overwhelmed with one thing: what to do with all the new STUFF! How’s it going at your house? We’re having one gigantic clean-out over here. So since it’s officially “Flylady Friday” on my mental blog schedule, maybe I can cheer you on if you’re in the thick of it too. (I need a little pep talk myself…)

One of my friends has a much better idea about this — her kids clean out their rooms and closets BEFORE Christmas. They have absolutely NO room for storage, so her rule is they give away half their old toys to make room for their new ones. The kids actually enjoy this since they know they’ll be making someone else’s Christmas a little brighter — as well as clearing the way for more goods.

And to be honest — whenever my kids play at her house, they spend almost all their time running around outdoors because there aren’t zillions of plastic toys inside to keep them occupied. She actually puts them to work in her huge garden, and they think that’s fun! (See how I’m gleaning the best tips on mothering and giving them to you? They’re not mine — I’m still learning from all these really smart moms.)

Another friend has given me moral support with the clothing situation — she’s got a large family too, and a couple of years ago, she decided to simplify her laundry routine. Each child has “town clothes” and “play clothes.” They’re limited to five outfits of each in their drawers, so they can choose what to wear. The kids don’t wear their town clothes at home — they’ll get messed up. (They live on a farm and have a ton of animals.) When it’s time to go somewhere, they change to the nice outfits.

Simplify. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re sending along boxes of gently worn and loved clothes and toys in order to make room for the new. I caught myself yesterday considering another dash to Target to get more storage boxes, but I had some “helpers” remind me we don’t need more storage; we need less stuff.

My FlyLady emails this week have encouraged me to pack away decorations a few at a time, not all at once. And while I’m packing away, she says to go through the old decorations that I didn’t put out this year and get rid of them. Horrors! I’m looking at several boxes of Christmas decorations that we never use — but I keep because of this guilty feeling that I used them before and I MAY use them again. I’ve still got knick-knacks that I used to decorate my college dorm room! Thanks, FlyLady — all I needed was that extra push — boxes of old decorations are clutter, she says.

If something doesn’t bring you joy, FlyLady says to get rid of it. Your home should be a relaxing haven, not a warehouse of possessions. Instead of spending your time washing too many clothes, dusting too many knick-knacks, and picking up gigantic collections of toys — living lean allows you more time and freedom to do things that bring you and others joy. (And some smart moms actually know how to make money off this — through hosting yard sales and on Ebay. Maybe I’ll try that someday!)

I’m writing all this to encourage you — AND me — to keep going. We can do this. Today I’m cleaning out our kitchen “craft cabinets.” I’ve found the kitchen the best place to store all the play-dough, paint, and bead crafts. There’s nothing easier to occupy kids on a rainy day than crafts at the kitchen table while I’m in there working. Especially toddlers. They feel like they’re “cooking” when they take cookie cutters and work through dough. Always gives me at least 20 minutes of quiet.

I’m also going to be cleaning out my blog drafts folder — I have way too much! If you’re a blogger, do you think in bloglets too? I jot down an idea, get going a bit, then forget about it. Is there anybody who has their email inbox cleaned out? Help!! How do you do it?

Two more days of 2005 — let’s end the year a little bit lighter.

By: Heather Ivester in: Organization | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)



December 29, 2005

This was too funny — I just had to pass it along.

I enjoy reading Amy’s Humble Musings blog — she’s expecting her fifth child and has such a humorous way of describing life. The way I found her blog is interesting. I was trying to write something on the topic of humility, and I did a search on the word “humble.” Amazing — out of over 24 million sites, Amy’s blog popped up 10th, following close behind Humble, Texas; Humble Pie; and Humble Stumble. So, of course I had to get sidetracked and go visit.

A couple of days ago, she wrote about her neighborhood’s joint custom of turning their street into a lighted winter wonderland, complete with candy canes at every house. She says:

It all began when we bought this house four years ago. The realtor withheld vital information from the Seller’s Disclosure. The secret? Our street turns into Candy Cane Lane during the month of December, and part of our neighborly duty is to join the uniformity of the street by placing a nine foot tall gigantic, lighted candy cane along the curb. I thought for sure it was a joke, but I learned it wasn’t when the neighborhood kid came by with a posthole digger.

Now that the season is over, she ponders the meaning of it all, as a Christian. I encourage you to go to her blog and read all of her post. She even includes a funny picture of their neighborhood. She’s NOT kidding!

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)



Are you a nurse? Do you know anyone who is a nurse? Author Paula Sergi is putting together an inspirational book, and she’s looking for essays, prose pieces, and poems. The deadline is coming up soon — January 15, 2006.

I think this is a great idea. I’m sure all of us have been helped at some point in our lives by a caring nurse — how about during labor and delivery? I’ve been so blessed by good nurses that I’ve even written thank-you notes with pictures of the new baby they helped deliver.

So, be sure to pass this site along if you know anyone who might enjoy writing about the nursing profession. Here’s some information from Paula Sergi’s site:

“We are looking for nurses who:

— Continue to practice but considered leaving;
— Have left practice;
— Still identify as a nurse but have another calling in their lives.

Consider:

Who or what holds you in place as a nurse? Who or what influenced your decision to stay?
Who or what influenced your decision to leave practice?
What is the other calling that shapes your life? How does it intersect with your identity as a nurse?
As an oral culture, nurses told their stories to one another, but felt little urgency to document our history. But what is not preserved cannot beckon or inspire. When asked the reason for their career choice, students often respond with tales of nurses who impacted their lives or the lives of loved ones. They come to nursing drawn by the magnetic force of another. When we accept guidance from someone we admire, are we then not vested to pass it on? And if we do so with greater generosity, would that affect the nursing shortage?

Feel free to explore the guidelines in creative and innovative ways. The pieces we are looking for might be “inspirational” in effect; however this is not our intention. Our goal is a thoughtful collection which testifies to the complexity of the nursing profession and the myriad variables which determine our response to it.”

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on Nurses: Call for Writing Submissions



December 28, 2005

I’ve read through the entries from the Carnival of Beauty at Two Talent Living, and they’re all fantastic. But one really connected with me. I hope you’ll have a chance to read Today’s Song from the blog, Holy Experience. Here’s a mom who took her children to sing in a hospital’s “Faith Service for the elderly.” Ann writes:

In a room ringed with wheelchairs, the children and I were encircled — embraced — with age and years and lives lived. And now the elderly pressed close to us, to reach out and touch the times now past, and the youngsters, and the youthful beginning of Life’s journey.

She describes an experience, then she continues her beautiful prose:

So, for the here and now, bring on the diapers and the laundry and the noise and the toy-strewn rooms! Let my conversations be interrupted, my nights sleepless, and my dishes endless!

For, these ARE the days — the preciously fleeting days. These are the days of sleeping (momentarily) swaddled babies, of supersonic toddlers unfurling toilet paper rolls, of boys and torn-out knees and riotous trampolines.

And in the blink of any eye, I will be whispering, like Job — “Oh, for the days when my children were around me.” ~Job 29:4

Don’t read it here — go read it in Ann’s Holy Experience blog. She’s given me a glimpse of such timeless beauty and joy, all I can say is “Wow.”

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)



This is a quiet week for many of us. I’m one who likes to leave out our tree and decorations a few days after Christmas. I can at last enjoy the beauty and peace of the season, knowing that all our gifts have been wrapped, unwrapped, and given! We’ve been so busy, and now we have a few days to relax at home.

What will you be doing this week? If I were alone, I’d curl up with several new books I received that I can’t wait to read! I’m so appreciative of family members who spent their valuable time browsing new and used bookstores, looking for treasures. And I have several: a new cookbook full of inspiring photographs, poetry and essays on motherhood, a lavish book of watercolor portraits of children and kittens, and a new Bible.

My new Bible is Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version. I told the person who gave it to me, “You must have read my mind — really!!” I’ve never read the whole of this version before, yet I often pull quotes from it because Eugene Peterson brings me a fresh view of scripture. Last week, Mind & Media sent me Timothy Smith’s new book, Connecting With Your Kids, and the author sprinkled quotes from the Message version throughout his book.

I’ll be reviewing Connecting With Your Kids very shortly because I have to say that I flew through it and could hardly put it down. And because of that book, I’m going to be making a more deliberate effort to spend quality time with my family this coming year — books and computer aside.

How about you? Are you starting to make plans for 2006? We only have three days left — then out with the old, in with the new. If you can find a minute, try to write down in a journal some things you’re thankful for this year — even if it hasn’t been a great year. The process of writing down your thoughts will often turn your views heavenward.

I read Psalm 143 in the New Living Translation on Christmas Eve, and I absolutely couldn’t believe it — David was writing exactly what was on my mind — so I copied the whole chapter into my journal. There are always surprises like that when you read the Bible every day. God has a chance to whisper to your soul.

I’m off to the Carnival at Two Talent Living — today’s topic is “The Beauty of Excellence.” Sallie collected 14 posts sent in by bloggers, who tried to choose one of their favorites. I’m looking forward to being introduced to some new writers that I’ll bookmark and return to in the year ahead.

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)



December 27, 2005

I hope you’ve all had a merry Christmas. It was strange for me to be away from my blog for so long — I actually missed it! A few people asked me how I have time to blog, and the truth is — blogging has replaced a lot of my emailing. Of course I still keep up with people on a more personal level, but I don’t send out detailed “here’s-what-I’ve-been-up-to” messages anymore. If you’re a blogger, have you found this to be true as well?

It’s been fun for me to share my interests with local friends and family who read Mom 2 Mom Connection. (Someone asked if my husband was going to start Dad 2 Dad Connection — we laughed about that one!) And a highlight of my Christmas was getting to meet one of my fellow bloggers! We found out she lives near my parents’ house, and we got to meet yesterday and share a mug of hot apple cider together. I thanked God for that blessing — here’s someone I have so much in common with. We both love blogging about books — using WordPress (which is about to undergo a massive upgrade — has anyone tried out the new 2.0 version yet?)

I really feel like this Christmas was extra rich because of all that I’ve learned from other Christian women who share their voices in the blogosphere. You’ve taught me so much! We are not alone — this side of heaven — as we link up and share our thoughts. Don’t forget to send Sallie at Two Talent Living your best blog entry by 3:00 pm today — tomorrow is another Carnival of Beauty, and the theme is “The Beauty of Excellence.” I cannot WAIT to read what you send.

In the next couple of weeks, I want to hear what everyone else is doing about packing away decorations, organizing all your family’s gifts, making resolutions/ goals for the new year, and what you’ll use for devotionals and Bible reading in 2006. Let’s share ideas so we’ll have plenty to choose from.

My heart has ached this Christmas for some people I know who have been without loved ones — it’s not always a season of joy when there’s an empty place in the circle. Here’s a poem someone emailed me this week — she said she was stressed out baking cookies, wrapping presents, cleaning house — and then she found this poem and relaxed, knowing she could rest in Christ. What a lovely thought.

Have you taken it to Jesus?
Have you left your burden there?
Does he tenderly support you?
Have you rolled on Him your care?

O, the sweet unfailing refuge
Of the everlasting arms;
In their loving clasp enfolded
Nothing worries or alarms.

Have you taken it to Jesus,
Just the thing that’s pressing now?
Are you trusting Him completely?
With the when, and where and how?

Oh, the joy of full surrender
Of our life, our plans, our all;
Proving, far above our asking
That God answers when we call.

Have you taken it to Jesus?
‘Tis the only place to go
If you want the burden lifted
And a solace for your woe.

Oh, the blessedness to nestle
Like a child upon His breast;
Finding ever; as He promised
Perfect comfort, peace and rest.”

Mrs. E. L. Hennessay

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)