Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do you have an ugly Christmas sweater? Check out this contest....

Enter the 2nd Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest and you could win a $500 Visa Gift Card...just in time for Christmas shopping!
Christmas is a time for traditions, food, merriment, family, and...horrific seasonal sweaters. It's the only time of year where you can sport apparel with a Rudolph nose that blinks red lights without being teased (too much).
Spread some Christmas cheer! Share your picture to win!
There are Two Ways to Enter:
  1. Enter the contest on Facebook
  2. Enter the contest on WaterBrook's Website

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: "Love on the Line" by Deeanne Gist

Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist is about small town Texas life in 1904 and is filled with characters of every type and ilk.  The heroine Georgie Gail is an independent young lady living by herself and earning her own living at a time when it was not the norm to do so. 

Deeanne Gist has written delightful Christian fiction in the past.  Love on the Line will not be ranked as one of my favorites.  The book is funny.  Hilariously so.  The characters are a little on the over-the-top variety, but that is what makes them funny, interesting, and charming.

I began to wonder as I read Love on the Line  if Ms. Gist has some hidden agenda in writing this book because of the strong line of feminism (women can do anything a man can) and environmentalism (the birds).

The book is an easy read, is enjoyable, and is entertaining.  The dialogue is good and character development well done.  There is strong tension between the two leading characters - Georgie Gail and Luke Palmer, aka Texas Ranger Lucious.

I was disappointed that this is Christian fiction and yet there was scarce mention of church or Christianity.  The leading characters were basically good morally, though.  There was a strong sensual element between the lead characters, but the book is still a safe read for young adults.

From a historical standpoint, a glimpse into the life of a Texas Ranger, the early days of telephones, early feminist movement, and the saving-the-birds movement are interesting.  The birds are somewhat overdone, though.

I would rate this a 3 star read.  I received this book from Bethany House to review and was not obligated to give a positive review.
Publisher: Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0764204092      ISBN-13: 978-0764204098

Love on the LineLove on the Line by Deeanne Gist

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

UPDATE ON WINNERS: New Winners for Torani Flavored Syrup Giveaway

Comment #10 -The California Coupon Diva! said...I'd love the sugar free hazelnut in my coffee or hot coca! Thanks for this great giveaway!

Comment #17 - Tara said...  I like berries. I would pick the blackberry or huckleberry flavor to try!

You have until Saturday, November  26, Noon EST to provide your mailing address and name via Kontactr on Chat With Vera's sidebar.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Lone Star Trail" - Book 1 of Texas Trails series: Book Review

Having just read the autobiography of America's currently most famous individual from Texas, President George W. Bush's DecisionPoints, I found it a delight to delve into a bit of historical fiction about Texas, President Bush's home state, the Lone Star State in it's early days of statehood. 

Author Darlene Franklin's book, Lone Star Trail, begins in November 1845.  A family of German immigrants is broken down when the Morgan's wagon passes them by.  The Morgans don't stop and lend a hand.  Why?  It is the age old story of "not in my backyard."  Though the Morgans settled only recently in the area that was fighting for its separation from Mexico and becoming an American State. They still felt as though the German immigrants, who were surging into the area, were interlopers with their different language, customs, and foods.  Prejudice is not always a matter of skin color but can rouse it's ugly head for a number of reasons.

However, Christian charity begins to win out, and the needs of the Fleischer's from Germany were met by the caring Morgan's.  Both families learned that each family had lost loved ones because of the hardships in the land that was Texas.  They had much in common. 

The characters in this story are well thought out and believable.  They follow predictable tendencies, but the story line flow has accurate historical touches and the spiritual convictions the characters exhibit are not overtly contrived

Yes, there is romance, though at times you'll think it just isn't going to develop because the characters don't seem to be able to get beyond the "immigrant" situation for very long at a time.

This is an easy going, relaxed read but substantial enough that you might feel enticed to find a period history and delve into some of the aspects of events in that timeline.

The Texas Trails Series is a 6 book series and Lone Star Trail is book one.  I look forward to reading Captive Trail, book two in the series, which I have waiting on my book shelf. 

I recommend Lone Star Trail for some good historical fiction.  I was given Lone Star Trail by RiverNorth, fiction from Moody Publishers to review and was not required to post a positive review.  
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0802405835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802405838

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Talk About Thanksgiving Meals..... revisited

The following is from a 2009 post here on Chat With Vera.  I thought it would be nice to revisit Vera's stuffing again - it never fails to bring rave reviews at the table on Thanksgiving.  The only difference now-a-days is that I don't bake the turkey so therefore there is no stuffing baked in the bird.  (We all miss that delicious goodie.)  My son cooks the turkeys (yes I said plural) on his grill/smoker.  These birds are simply out of this world and I told him, "I don't plan to ever bake a turkey again."  O.k. enough..... here is stuffing revisited.....

One item I prepare that my kids really enjoy (my grown family and their grown or nearly grown children) is “stuffing.” Now I make my own but I don’t go the real old fashioned route of baking biscuits, toasting loaf bread, and baking cornbread to use. I buy Pepperidge Farm sage seasoned and also Pepperidge Farm corn bread stuffing. I also use a couple of boxes of Stove Top Turkey stuffing. I mix these up in a large bowl.

I chop onion and celery and then sauté them in a couple sticks of butter (real butter) in a sauce pan. Once they begin to look a little bit done, I measure in some uncooked grits (yep! I said grits) and water. I cook this until the grits are done. Then I pour this over the bread stuffing. I then use chicken broth (or turkey broth from cooking the heart and neck of the turkey) to thoroughly moisten the bread stuffing (the stuffing packages give a guideline for this).

I stuff the turkey with as much as it can hold, skewer the opening, and bake until the turkey is done taking into consideration that it takes longer to cook a stuffed bird than one that is not stuffed. The remaining stuffing is placed in a greased baking dish suitable to place on your table and baked for about 30-45 minutes at 350F.

Quantities of the ingredients depend on how many you are going to serve. For our large family I might use one of each type of the Pepperidge Farm stuffing in the larger bags. Two boxes of the Stove Top stuffing. A couple or three stalks of celery and a large white or Valdia onion. I think it would take at least 2 sticks of butter but perhaps 3. I would cook probably ½ cup grits with 2 cups water in the sauteed onion and celery. Don’t forget that you need a bit of black pepper. It will have enough of salt and other seasonings in the other ingredients.

Expert Book Review: "Abigail's New Hope" by Mary Ellis

Janalyn Voigt, suthor
of novel books
Janalyn Voigt, author of novel books has graciously inserted my review of "Abigail's New Hope" on her website Go take a quick look and while there gather other great bits of book information from Janalyn.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We have 2 winners! Torani Flavored Syrup Winners

Winner #1:  Is comment #8 as follows: (Friend "Unknown", I have no way of contacting you and will need for you to reply to me via my Kontacer in the sidebar of Chat With Vera by Monday, November 21 5:00 p.m. with your contact information:  Name, mailing address.
Unknown said... on November 9, 2011 12:46 PM
I love the french vanilla in my coffee every morning and for the holidays i add a bit pf peppermint!
Winner #2:  Is comment #15 as follows: (Friend "Vaughnde", I have no way of contacting you and will need for you to reply to me via my Kontacer in the sidebar of Chat With Vera by Monday, November 21 5:00 p.m. with your contact information:  Name, mailing address.
Vaughnde said...
Thank you again for this wonderful Giveaway!
Prize is 2 coupons for each winner good for a FREE bottle of Torani Flavored Syrup.  Winners have until Monday, November 21 at 5:00 p.m. to claim their prize via my Kontacer in the sidebar on Chat With Vera.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another good Christmas read: "The Christmas Singing" by Cindy Woodsmall (Book Review)

The Christmas Singing is a novella about an Amish girl, Mattie, who prior to the opening pages of the book had a breakup with the Amish man she loved, Gideon.  He  broke her heart on Christmas Eve by ending their engagement.  She decided after that to leave her community and relocate near her brother and his family and to set herself up in a bake shop creating beauty in cakes.

Disaster strikes in the form of a fire that wipes out Mattie's bakery.  She must now move back to her parent's home in the community where Gideon now lives.  Facing him on a daily basis becomes a journey of heartache, revelation, and restoration.

Author Cindy Woodsmall's website gives an intro to the book and opportunities to purchase (links) and to read an excerpt.  Check here!  This is the second book I have reviewed by Cindy Woodsmall. Click here for the link to my review of Harvest of Grace.
Meet the author:  Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connections with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Her ability to authentically portray her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families.*  The Christmas Singing is the second book by Cindy Woodsmall that I have reviewed.  Click here for the link to my review of Harvest of Grace.

I received The Christmas Singing as a giveaway at the First Reads lucky winners! The prize?  I am not required to write a review or give a positive review.  All opinions are my own.
*Author information is copied from the back inside flap of "A Christmas Singing."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

20% off at CVS Shopping Pass - valid through Nov. 19

Go grab your CVS Extra Care card and fill out this quiz. Once complete, they will email you a coupon valid for 20% off at CVS. The coupon is valid through 11/19. This would be a great way to save a bit of your hard earned cash!  (Thanks to for this information.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Decision Points" autobiography memoir by President George W. Bush (Book Review)

From the trade paperback edition.
On sale Oct. 18, 2011
As I pick up Decision Points by former United States President George W. Bush to read and ultimately to review, it is with the clear understanding that I will not be critiquing his presidency, his national policies or lack of, nor his handling of critical situations as they arose sweeping our nation into a state of war (terrorism, Afghanistan and/or Iraq), or national disaster as in the case of Hurricane Katrina. My reading and reviewing this book will be an act of respect for the man that was the leader of the free world for eight years.

President Bush begins by acknowledging his problem with alcohol and how in 1986 he came to terms with this problem by placing his life in the hands of God. That is a critical decision and one that affected him personally and affected his reaction to political choices from that point on. As he said on page 71 of Decision Points when during a Republican debate a moderator asked the debaters, "What political philosopher or thinker do you most identify with and why?" When he was the candidate chosen to respond to that question he said, ....."The words tumbled out of my mouth: 'Christ' I said, 'because He changed my heart.'"

Early in his Presidency, he was faced with one of the most challenging events of any President to date - 9/11. Later, his decisions pivotal to events surrounding issues emanating from management of 9/11 lead to involvement of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Bush writes with an easy going yet --definitive style about his most consequential decisions - one of which is how he decided to send our troops into Iraq in 2003.  Critical decisions.  Virtually no decision unimportant because each has consequences of national and international importance.

We see him at his inauguration as Governor of Texas and on election night for both terms as President.  We ride with him aboard Air Force One immediately after our beloved country is plunged into the terror that was 9/11.  We feel his heartbreak.  We sense his strength and decisiveness as he said:
"....We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage.  We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.......... our resolve must not pass.  .... I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it.  I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people."
 There are two sections of beautifully warm and touching pictures included in the book.  They show us "the man" that is George Bush.  I found reading Decision Points an engaging and wonderful review of what I saw on the news, heard on the radio, and read in the newspapers during President Bush's two terms as President of the United States. Eight years dealing with issues of mammoth proportion as evidenced in Decision Points convinced me that President George W. Bush was indeed an important president and did indeed make important, effective, and good decisions.

It was enlightening to me to hear more about why he did what he did as president and it was a delight to read this engrossing memoir.I recommend it for anyone who desires to delve deeper into the years of President George W. Bush's presidency.

Please rank my review at:

ISBN 978-0-307-59063-3; Broadway Paperbacks 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze to review.  I am not required to give a positive review.

Giveaway of Torani Flavored Syrups reminder

I have 2 GIVEAWAYS of 2 each coupons for a free bottle of Torani Flavored Syrups.  Click to go to the original post here and read about Torani and leave your entry comment/s.  Ends November 19th.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thinking about Christmas Shopping for 2011 - New Ideas

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans.

There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is! It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement. Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.

Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy? Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom?  Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

I don't know the original source of the above article, but I found it on

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spicing up the holidays with Torani Flavored Syrups & Giveaway

Flavored coffee.  You either love it or you hate it.  Frankly, I like my coffee sweetened, creamed, and about half of the time - flavored.  It is a treat when I purchase coffee at one of the many first class coffee shops to get flavored.  And my favorites of these are hazelnut and mocha.  Now really good coffee with a pump or two of rich hazelnut syrup is super good!   Now all this leads me to say.... .....

Regular and Sugar Free flavored syrups
that add flavor and enhance beverages.
I am a SheSpeaks Blogger Society member and they asked if I would accept, try, and review some of the Torani flavored syrups.  Now what's a Southern lady that loves good coffee going to say to that, I ask you?  Of course, I said I would (I would love, love, love to do so!).  So my box arrived just the other day.

Torani Hazelnut syrup
works well in lattes,
mochas, & iced coffees.
Provided are two large bottles of Torani Syrup - Hazelnut and Pumpkin Pie.  There are also five (I said "5"!!!!) coupons for a FREE  BOTTLE.  Now not being a glutton and needing to practice the virtue of sharing, I will be offering a "GIVEAWAY" later on.  So keep your eyes peeled for that, folks!
About Torani:  Since 1925, family-owned Torani has been crafting great tasting flavored syrups that coffeehouses use to make their flavored drinks taste so delicious. With over 120 flavors in regular and sugar free varieties, Torani flavored syrups are perfect for flavored lattes, mochas, coffees, cocoas, Italian sodas, teas, lemonades, cocktails and smoothies.
I noticed on the bottle that this syrup is made here in the USA.  Also, the ingredient label is easy to read  because I can understand the names of the ingredients - you know nut flavors, cane sugar, purified water, etc.

I'm already into the bottle of hazelnut for a couple of days.  It is good!  I brewed it with some New England brand coffee using their breakfast blend.  I found I didn't need to add sugar or other sweetener.  I also creamed my coffee with one of the liquid creamers (real stuff, not artificial). Good.

Torani Sugar Free
Pumpkin Pie syrup
is great in lattes,
steamers, & blended coffees.
Tonight I broke out the Pumpkin Pie Syrup made with Splenda and "0" calories.  I brewed a single cup of New England Colombian decaf.  Again, no additional sweetener was needed.  I creamed the coffee with a good natural dairy creamer.  I found the spicy flavor delightful and not at all over powering.  Next time I may add a bit more to see if it is bolder.  But as I am drinking it right now, it is delightful.

I've seen where folks are using these syrups to flavor foods other than beverages.  For example, adding the pumpkin spice syrup to cream cheese icing on spice cupcakes. Sounds yummy.  But I see these syrups as add-ins for a full array of beverages.  You can create hot or cold coffee beverages.  You can mix fruit drinks or anything you can imagine.  Torani has a vast array of flavors.  Click to shop at    (Tip:  Buy any Torani flavor online at at a 10% discount by using Special Offer Code - shespeaks)

Now for the GIVEAWAY!  As I said, there are 5 coupons for a FREE bottle.  I plan to give 2 of my readers 2 each coupons.  You will need to leave me at least one comment as an entry.  Here are some suggested "entry comments":  
  1. Visit the Torani website and choose the flavor you think appeals to you most. Then comment here about that flavor.
  2. Tell ME in your comment how you would use the syrups over the upcoming holidays.   
  3. You can share this GIVEAWAY anywhere you wish - just leave a comment saying where you shared. 
Any or all or more of these comments will be good.  Just click the Post a Comment phrase at the end of the post.
    Use code shespeaks
    for 10% off
    online purchase
Now none of that is MANDATORY.  The only mandatory item is for you to leave a comment and each comment gives you an entry.  You will also need to leave an email for me to contact the winner.  The winner must be willing to give me your mailing address to send the coupons to you.  This information stops, ends, is kaput at that point and no one else will have access to it.  GIVEAWAY:  runs November 8 through November 19 at midnight EST.  I will announce the winner on Chat With Vera.  Winner will have 2 days to claim prize and provide mailing information.  Winners will be chosen using

I was provided the Torani Flavored syrups and Free product coupons at no charge by SheSpeaks in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Stay in touch for more uses for Torani Flavored Syrups. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Southern lady scores well at grocery shopping

Well, this little old lady took her aching bones and muscles down the road to Harris Teeter on Saturday to take part in "super doubles" (which will end on Tuesday, November 8).  I did some home work the evening before on the "boards" and printed some coupons that I found enticing (thankful it is early in the month and they are still online). Also, Harris Teeter has several things BOGO and that helped lots, too.  (By-the-way, you can print nice coupons right here at Chat With Vera by clicking the displays.)

First of all let's clarify, this was not a "coupons only" trip. It was a "get-the-groceries-you-need" and find some good "coupon deals" trip as well. So there were items we needed and were out of. There was fresh fruit and veggies.  Items I saw that I thought I'd simply like to have. And stuff I thought my husband would enjoy.

I laid out $113 in money spent. But I had $94 in savings (store sales, BOGO, and super doubles). I was able to use right many $1/1 coupons, $1/2, and a couple of $1.50/1. Many of the items I purchased with coupons were on "sale" which sweetened the deal even more.  Some were even BOGO. The "coupon fairy" strategically placed a couple of nice coupons for me to find.  In case you don't know what a "coupon fairy" is, they are those kind folks who leave their extra coupons on the shelves right at the "on sale" items.

So do the math..... $207 in groceries for $94. 

I think the Lord provided very well for me this trip. Isn't God good to allow us to find nice deals on good food?  (And yes, I took my re-useable shopping  bags with me.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"House of Secrets" by Tracie Peterson - Book Review

Families have secrets.  We all know that.  Secrets they keep from one another and secrets they hold private within the confines of the family.  House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson addresses the secrets of the Cooper family.  Bailee is the oldest of three girls.  Their mother died when Bailee was about 12 years old and the other two girls very small. 

After their mother's death, their father manages to disassociate himself from them by hiring house keepers and nannies to care for them, and then later places them in boarding school.    The book opens with Dad calling for a reunion of the girls, who have kept close to each other and involved in each others lives, across country at the West Coast island home they had been living in when their mother was removed from the home.

The girls have memories of emotional turmoil surrounding their lives while their mother was alive.  Especially Bailee who bore the brunt of responsibility and pressure placed upon her young shoulders by a mother torn asunder by mental illness.

The web of secrecy covering the past and confusion about handling the root of these issues, and  their uncertainty as to how they as individuals and as a family should face them stirs emotions and dredges them from the depths of their souls.

Tracie Peterson has woven romance into this tumultuous picture, and the healing balm of personal salvation takes place as well. 

This book of contemporary fiction is certainly a different type of read from what I have come to expect from Tracie Peterson.  I found it disturbing somewhat to read simply because of the sensitive and hard to handle issues of mental illness and the affects it has on all those with whom the patient has interaction. 

Although it is not a treatise on a patient case or discussion of how to professionally handle mental illness within one's family, it does open your mind and makes you ask yourself, "How would I handle this situation?"  "What would I want others to do if this situation should arise in my life?"

I can recommend the book for those who enjoy contemporary fiction and those who would find delving into the private thoughts and conversations of a family dealing with  emotionally shattering issues.

ISNB: 978-0-7642-0618-4  

I received this book free of charge from Baker Publishing Group, Bethany House in exchange for a review.  I was not required to give a positive review.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"A Marriage Carol" by Chris Fabry & Gary Chapman: Book Review

Christmas Eve has always been special for Marlee and Jacob since they were married 20 years ago on a snowy Christmas Eve.  This year the snow and ice on the road is nothing compared to the frigid air between the two as they drive over a short cut across the snowy mountain on their way to a divorce attorney to sign the papers.

But you know, stuff happens, and it really happens here.  They end up skidding off the road and into a pile of snow.  Marlee comes to and Jacob is nowhere to be found.  She strikes out - yeah, pretty dumb - across the field and finds a beautiful home with a bright red door.  She knocks and....... but telling would spoil the story for you.  Suffice it to say that the '.... what is, what was, and what is to come' tantalizes and  plays out making this become the Christmas Eve Marlee and Jacob never forget.

A small book with a powerful punch.  A very good Christmas (or anytime) read.

Publisher: Moody Publishers (released: September 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 080240264X      ISBN-13: 978-0802402646

Moody Publishers provided this book for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.