Monthly Archives: February 2013

Reader Giveaway!! Read post for details on how to enter!

Very exciting news!  My post for the Zatarain’s Big Game Cravebox was chosen as a winner by the great folks at Cravebox!  So what does that mean?  2 free Craveboxes to give away to you – my readers!  I will confirm once the boxes are in my possession – but they should include 1 of each of the items pictured below.

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2 ways to enter (each counts as 1 entry – so you can do both!)

1.  Add a comment to the Zatarain’s Big Game Cravebox post on my blog or on this post.

2.  Head over to my newly created My Dog-eared Purpose Facebook page and attend my giveaway event!  (and maybe give me a like while you are there!)

Do one or both by Monday March 4th and I will randomly pick 2 winners to be notified and announced by Friday March 8th.  You will be notified via Facebook message or email and have 48 hours to respond with your mailing address or a new winner will be chosen.

Thanks for stopping by and please spend some time browsing around (I suggest starting with my 1st post or About me), leave some feedback, and stay tuned for lots more posts!

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Book Review: This Tangled Thing Called Love: A Contemporary Romance Novel

Click book for description. (Downloaded free 2/3/13)

By Marie Astor

I know it’s been 12 days since my last review.  It did not take me 12 days to finish this book – maybe 3-4 nights overall.  Please see my vacation post for why I took a week off!

This is one of those books that I am not proud to admit I read – but I promised (well maybe I didn’t but I will from hereon) to review the good, the bad, and the ugly.  That is what you get in reading “free” books.  Some great ones, some not so great.  Based on the title I knew what I was getting myself into and it’s what I needed after 2 “heavier” books.  It was your classic chick-lit, not intellectually stimulating book.  That being said, it kept my interest.  The main character Claire, is quite likable, terribly naive, but you find yourself routing for her.

From the very beginning, it is crystal clear where this book is going.  I won’t spoil it, but I have to admit it was no surprise to me.  The book takes you through the relationship of David and Claire (or maybe lack there-of).  The characters are built up well, but for any of us that have ever been in a relationship, it is frustrating.  Throughout the book it is revealed that neither of them are in the relationship for the right reasons, which may explain some of the more frustrating aspects (ok – you have to work late again for the 7th time this week!?).

Ofcourse there are a few twists thrown in, nothing shocking, but makes for a good story.  All the characters and situations are realistic.  I found myself thinking of past situations or friends that reminded of me of certain characters, which made the story pass quickly but kept me interested at the same time.  It was wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end.  Would I recommend?  For a free book, with no expectations, maybe as a beach read.  (Disclaimer:  I do tend to download books like this often, but as I am reviewing them now, I think it is pushing me to read more challenging books that I am proud to reviews!  So stay tuned!)

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Our Smoky Mountain Winter Vacation

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I’ve heard it said many times – I need a vacation after my vacation.  I finally understand.  A vacation with 2 young kids is far from relaxing.  Fun – but exhausting.  It doesn’t help that added onto a 5 hour drive with 2 young kids and 2 dogs, that I was sick and that we learned both kids get carsick.  I feel a little refreshed after 10 hours of sleep last night but could still use that 2nd “vacation” to recover!

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That all being said – we packed the car (see above) and drove up to Gatlinburg, TN for a long President’s Day weekend in search of snow.  Although skeptical when planning this trip that we would see snow, we were pleasantly surprised that sure enough, Friday night it started with flurries and Saturday AM we had the big fluffy snowflakes coming down while we played in the snow at Ober Gatlinburg.  Thanks to many friends and family – we were all able to pull together appropriate snow clothes to play in the tiny Cubbies Snow Zone.  To the adult eye – it was a tiny fenced in area – but to LL it was all the snow she needed to have a blast!  We made snowballs and snow angels, caught snow on our tongues and rolled around.  LM seems to enjoy himself too and the snow boots provided just the right amount of traction to practice his standing!  Out of the many other activities offered at Ober (skiing, tubing, ice skating, animal encounters, scenic chair lift) the biggest hit for LL was the carousel.

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The next day, Steven went back to Ober to check out the ski slopes, after many years off of skis – he settled for east coast skiing and I believe enjoyed himself!

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Grandma and I took the little ones to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  It was smaller than the GA Aquarium and the Tennessee Aquarium (in Chattanooga), but provided a little over an hour of entertainment – which was a perfect amount of time for the kiddos.

Highlights were the Shark Lagoon:

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The Penguin Playhouse:

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And the Discovery Center:

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Gatlinburg offers all sorts of other Ripley’s attractions, but this one seemed to be the one catered most towards little ones.  I would recommend stopping by if in the area!

Like most of our trips, we usually choose to use a website like VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner) to find more unique, specific lodging.  For this trip we choose a cabin called Panoramic View and if you look at the top of this post – that was our panoramic view from the wraparound decks of our cabin.  Features also included pet-friendly (to bring our doggies along!), a pool table/game room, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 5 tv’s with cable and dvd players, gas fireplace, and a hot tub.  It was located within the Arts and Crafts District of Gatlinburg.  After seeing how busy downtown Gatlinburg (the strip) was – I was very happy with this area as it was 3 miles from downtown but housed hundreds of local shops and restaurants.  Read more about it here: Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

Our favorite shop was Tim Weberding Woodworking.  We like to pick up an item, usually something to display in our house, from all of our trips.  We also always pick up an ornament for our Christmas tree.  This shop was filled with unique bowls, boxes, and decor all hand-crafted from wood.  It was hard to narrow it down – but here is the piece (hard to tell but it is a bowl) we choose that is now on display in our family room:

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One last little fun/touristy side trip for LL – was some Gem Mining!  For a small fortune, you get a bucket full of sand filled with “treasures”, you scoop sand into a strainer, strain it in the moving water, and check out your finds.  They then walk you through all the types of stones you find and try and sell you on cutting the stones into gems and making into jewelry (I was hoping they would pay US for our finds!).  We passed on that part and walked with our bag of “gems”.  I think we’ll have a Pinterest project coming up to figure out just what to do with them!

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It was a short trip, but overall a good one.  Nice to get away, show the kids a new part of the country.  The Smokies are beautiful!  Would I recommend?  Yes.  Would we go back?  Yes, but probably next time in the spring or fall to see the leaves coming/changing.  And also to take advantage of the hiking (that was one thing that we/the dogs missed this trip!)

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Valentine’s Craft Day (Pinterest Inspired)

LM is sick.  We had no plans this AM.  A great time to have a Pinterest craft morning at home – with a Valentine’s Day theme!

First up was mess-free finger painting.  (I’ve seen this a ton on Pinterest – but here is one link)  We bought LL finger paints for Christmas.  She’s been begging to use them.  I have been using the excuse that they paint everyday at school, so why do I need to make our house dirty?  But today I decided to give in and this is my baby step into the world of finger painting.

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Results – I think it was a great activity for LM!  He enjoyed the texture and colors and it kept him entertained much longer than LL.  She enjoyed it – but within a few minutes was ready to move on.  Tip – be generous with the amount of paint.  I don’t think I used enough in the bigger bag.  I would do it again!  (Don’t mind our PJ’s – the rare day we don’t leave the house – there is no need to get dressed!)

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For LL – we decided to go ahead and (gasp) make the mess and take the paints out of the bag.  She did great.  Smock is highly recommended as that absorbed most of the mess.  But this kept her entertained much longer.  We even started our valentine’s too!  (I’m trying to do more with handprints because they just grow too fast!)

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Next we moved on to more Valentines.  I saw this Sign Language Valentine’s Card on Pinterest too and thought it was adorable and also shows the size of LL’s hand at this age!

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This was just too cute!  I’m not sure if you call it a dog or what – but I saw it and fell in love here.  By this point kiddos were tired of crafts – so I’ll take credit for this little guy!  Now who should I give it too!?

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I had grand plans to make LL’s school valentines or I mean “help her”  – like these 2 below (from Pinterest/Etsy):

Cupcake Valentine with sucker as the cherry on top.KIDS VALENTINE CARD,Swedish fish,candy favor, including bags and ties,fish bowl,treat,. $10.00, via Etsy.

But they are for 2-3-year olds – so we decided to buy a box of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Valentines (LL’s fav) and then I rounded up some envelopes and let LL go crazy with stickers and stamps.  We topped each one off with a stamp and called it a day.  I think the 3-year olds will be happy!

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After a full HOUR (I thought it would take a little longer) we were all crafted out – so we moved along to free play.  LL decided it was time for Devon to take a nap and this was too cute not to share!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Book Review: The Rose Hotel

Click on book for description or to download. (I downloaded free on 1/16/13)

By Rahimeh Andalibian

Time it took to read: 9 nights.  Not because of lack of reading – I read every night – this is a LONG book.  It is an auto-biography of Dr. Andalibian’s life, her whole life to date.  Did I mention it was long?

That sounds harsh.  It was a book out of my comfort zone about a young girl and her family growing up in Mashhad, Iran during the late 70’s, early 80’s all the way up to current time.  I downloaded it because of the great reviews and to broaden my knowledge of another culture.  I do enjoy books that include historical facts with a story (usually fictional) woven in – historical fiction.  The story and struggles of this family were just as good (meaning it would be hard to make this stuff up) as fiction.  So full of drama that you’d almost wish it were made up as you can feel the pain of this family through young Rahimeh’s eyes.  A pain that lasts a lifetime for them.

Rahimeh is the only daughter to “Maman & Baba”, has 3 older brothers (Abdollah, Hadi, and Zain) and 1 younger brother (Imam).  The story starts out when she is 4, describing their life of luxury at the Rose Hotel, which her family owns, in Iran.  It quickly fills up with drama, both political and within their family, and takes a dark turn.  The family is forced to make many changes including moves to Germany, England, and eventually the US.  Each family member has their own share (really enough for anyone’s lifetime) of struggles, most centered around one tragic event, but also physical, mental, emotional, and cultural.  Throughout the book, the reader learns more about this “event” as Rahimeh does too.  Just when you think you know it all – more details come out – even at the very end.  I found it hard to believe the details a 4 year old would remember, but it seems as Rahimeh got older, she asked more questions, so many of the details may not have been first hand, but later described to her by other family members.

It is not a happy story.  I’d say it was wrapped up nicely at the end – but as an autobiography – the author was able to choice where in her life to end the story and I believe she chose well.  I was more into the story in the beginning, that was where there was more of a tie in to current events in Iran and I liked reading how the family dealt with those events on a personal level.  As the story moved over to the US, it was interesting to see how an Iranian family assimilated into American culture.  But it also spent a lot of time on personal struggles not related to the times or culture and tended to drag on and even became repetitive and cyclical at times.  I hesitate to criticize to much because it is a true story after all – so it is not as if the author can change that – but with the length – I feel some parts may have been better off left out.

Overall it was a good read.  I feel smarter (which is good for me because of some of the fluffy, chicklit books I tend to gravitate to.  It took me out of my comfort zone and I commend Dr. Andalibian for sharing her story.  I think I may need something shorter and lighter before diving into another book like this.

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Jay & Abby Akins

When I think about calling and those who have found their true calling, Jay & Abby Akins come quickly to the top of this list.  Their love of God, each other, and what they do is so inspiring.  I feel blessed to call them friends and their music inspires me every Sunday.

We were first introduced to the Akins at First Presbyterian Church where they lead the contemporary worship service.  The music is AMAZING and their passion for what they do shines through the minute you meet them.  They were called to lead others to Christ through their music.  Not only do they both hold full-time jobs, but they lead worship at church, youth groups, and corporate events all around town.  Talk about keeping a busy schedule!  I have never seen them tired or complaining and that is a true sign of God-given passion.  And one more big check in my book is their love of dogs (specifically rescued greyhounds – as I had mentioned in a previous post as a potential future dog for us!)

We are all very excited for their newest project – recording their 1st worship album!  Here is a link to learn more about them and their campaign to raise money to record said album.  I cannot wait to see the final project so I’d encourage everyone to check them out and help them along their way.  I can promise that you won’t be disappointed!

I can only keep praying that God will work through me the way he has through these two!  On my journey to find my “calling” I will be posting stories of others that have inspired me and this is the perfect couple to kick that off!

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Zatarain’s Big Game Cravebox

WIN THIS BOX!!  CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW!

It seems like all the craze these days are these subscription boxes – have you heard of them?  They are pretty cool.  They seem to come in all sorts of genres.  For Christmas I bought my sister a 3-month subscription for her and her baby from Citrus Lane.  I was able to put in her baby’s age and each month she received a box of toys, books, samples, and coupons fit for her current stage.  I’ve seen beauty products, pet products, gourmet food, and so many others.  The one I have been treating myself with is Cravebox.

I liked them because of user reviews and they offer a broad spectrum of boxes and you can get as many (or as little) as you want.  Past boxes I have recieved have included pet lovers, Cooking Light, Back to School, School Snacks, and winter spruce up.  And the latest one – the Zatarain’s Big Game Cravebox.

Do I care about the Super Bowl (cover your ears or eyes if you are a NFL fan) – no, honestly I don’t.  Maybe (truly maybe) if a hometown team were playing (Falcons couldn’t cut it this year).  But do I like throwing a themed party? YES!  So I saw this box and decided to throw a little shindig for our family for the BIG GAME!  I was even able to upsize to party size for free!  (2 of each item)

Here is a picture of everything we received in the box.  With help from the Zatarain’s website recipe finder – I narrowed our menu to the items below (thanks to Pinterest for our chalkboard pantry door where I write our weekly menus!)

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Food:

Olivia Manning’s Ultimate Jambalaya Bar – recipe was included in the box.  Although my “bar” only consisted of spicy andouille sausage, smoked sausage (mild) and shrimp.  With the little ones to feed we didn’t add a lot (really) any spice except for the sausage – so as a lover of spicy food that would be my one complaint.  But as a basic jambalaya – it was good!

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Red Beans and Rice Salad – since the jambalaya is hot rice, I thought a good balance would be something cold.  This one surprised me.  Not being a huge fan of red beans and rice hot and plain – I’ve got to say – this is the way to go.  The fresh red bell pepper, onions, celery, and corn add a little unexpected crunch that is great!  And just a little bit of apple cider vinegar gives it a little zest.  I served it chilled and it seemed to be a hit!

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Zatarain’s Creole Mustard Dip – all good parties need apps – so this uses both the mustard and creole seasoning found in my box.  It was served with chips, carrots, and celery.  Wow – that creole mustard has a bite!  Good for me and my husband that we like spicy.  Some others not so much – but the mixture of sourcream, onions, and (not even that much) of the creole mustard made this dip a spicy surprise that was excellent!  We ran out of chips because it was so popular.  Definitely got better the more you ate (and became more addicting!)  Will make this again!

Drinks:

True Lemon Iced Tea – another box item.  I personally am not a fan of iced tea – but made this for the masses.  And my masses I mean Granddad – he drank the whole pitcher – so I’ll go out on a limb and say that he liked it!

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Abita Purple Haze – what better drink pairing than a beer brewed in NOLA.  Made from raspberries – I couldn’t resist!

And finally…

Hurricane’s – I tried my best to find all the ingredients – it was a little modified (all light rum and skipped the simple syrup) but good stuff!  Made virgin versions for the kiddos too!

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Also in the box were Mardi Gras beads which were enjoyed by the kiddos!

Fun Cravebox overall – helped me throw a great themed party!

Also one more fun thing.  We signed up for the Ad Meter on USATODAY.com so we could rank all the commercials.  Fun way to stay engage and get everyone’s opinions!

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Book Review: Playing Nice

Book description and download can be found here. (I downloaded free on 1/29/13)

By Rebekah Crane

Finish time: 4 nights.  (30-60 min each night)  Per my time to finish rating – this book ranks high.  It kept my interest and each night I was anxious to pick it back up and find out what happened next.

I did not initially realize the book falls into the “young adult” category.  I’m not exactly sure what that genre means – I guess that it is geared more towards “young adults” or it contains characters that fall into that category?  Either way, I don’t mind the occasion transport back to high school.  Key word – occasional.  High school was not the highlight of my life, it was an important step in my life, but not one I care to revisit much.  As this book reminded me, it is a tough time, teenagers are mean, and it is a time to begin to figure out who you are.

Marty was a very likable main character.  Having always fit into the perfect mold her mother made for her, even being voted nicest student at her high school, the book is her journey to figure out who she really is.  Even as an “experienced adult”, her insecurities and struggles hit home.  Introduce Lil, the new and “bad girl”, who begins Marty’s questioning of what SHE really likes and are the choices she makes really hers.  It is enjoyable to see their friendship grow and each of their characters really come to life within the pages.  Add in some BFF drama, first crushes, rebel behavior, musical references, and other typical coming-of-age teenage experiences and I think I’m fully transported back to high school, luckily only for a few nights.  (Although some parts made me feel old – calling Green Day so “90s” – that one hurt!)

There is a little mystery behind Lil’s family’s background.  It is revealed, but I felt could have been more controversial.  Not that a high school story needs more drama, but I think I was expecting a few more twists (maybe she was Marty’s long lost sister!?)

I feel the book ended well and left me satisfied.  Even at the current .99 price – I would recommend this book and look forward to future titles by this author.

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