Book Review: Petit Collage

by hollycombs

Petit CollageThe folks over at Petit Collage, a nursery decor boutique, recently released their first craft book: Petit Collage.

The hardcover book is very high quality, with plenty of full color illustrations, step-by-step instructions and special tips. The projects in this craft book aren’t for children to do themselves (most would be much too difficult), but they are perfect for crafty parents wanting to make something special for their littles.

There are plenty of options for nursery decor (not surprising, considering the source), but there are also creative projects for making toys, like a homemade drum or adorable animal masks. To get a good feel for their instructions, I decided to make the owl mask.

The instructions were super easy to follow, though I will admit the project was a little tedious. There were lots of little pieces to cut out, but the patterns and steps were easy to follow and the mask really wasn’t difficult to put together. All in all, I think it took me about 45 minutes to make the mask, and that included gathering supplies and selecting paper etc.

I like how mine turned out:

Petit Collage Owl Mask

Though not a book for children, I would definitely recommend this one to any parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent with a desire to make something fun for a little one in their life. Their subtitle really says it all: 25 Easy Craft + Decor Projects For A Playful Home

Learn more about the book here!

I received a complimentary copy of Petit Collage from Blogging for Books, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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My home: 2015

by hollycombs

I was recently browsing through a few home design blogs, when I came across this one by Joanna Gaines. A recent post of hers struck me as something I would love to incorporate into my year: Simple and Clean in 2015. Seriously, I definitely recommend it.

2015 tips for home


Growing lemons

Found a lemon hiding in our sunroom.

1. Donate items: Definitely doing this as I unpack/try to find places to put things! Although we’re also saving for a yard sale to see if we can get a little cash for our items since we have so much to get rid of. You would not believe the sheer number of vases I have unpacked. Vases!

2. Fill garbage bags: Absolutely. Anything I can’t identify, is used, in poor condition, can’t be donated. It’s gone. Now. Not “think about it”. Just tossed. Makes life so much easier.

3. Every object has a home: This is the big one for me this year. I’m still unpacking and settling in. Which means I’m still finding homes for everything. And I am in desperate need of shelves so I can start storing things properly. The stacks are driving me crazy.

4. Label: Without kids, this one doesn’t really apply. After all, I’m the only one that cleans up, so as long as I know where everything goes, we’re good.


Goat eating Christmas tree

Jane is doing a good job of purging our Christmas tree.

5. Once a day catch all basket: I don’t have an upstairs, so I don’t need this specifically. But I have a renewed determination to spend 15 minutes at the end of each day putting things away. I did this for the first time last week and it was revolutionary! When I went to clean the house Saturday, I didn’t have to spend a few hours returning things to their homes! Now, I’m not anywhere near perfect at it yet. I’ve hardly been home this week, so Wednesday will be the first time I get to put things away, and I can tell you the kitchen counters are already full of stuff…

6. Once a week purge: Once a week sounds rather refreshing. I’ve generally left the fridge and pantry to Husband, as he is the cook. But things get out of hand sometimes with both of our busy schedules. So I think a regular food purge is in order. Of course, it will help when our pantry actually has shelves…

7. Team effort: This is a great idea, but every house is different. In my house, I clean, Husband cooks. I might ask him to put away some of his own things, but for the most part I think the amount of time he spends cooking (dinners and lunches!), means he’s off the hook for most of the cleaning.

Sitting by the fire

Best part of the day.

8. Whistle while you work: We used to play music constantly while we were at home, working or playing or cleaning or whatever. When we moved, that tradition fell between the cracks. But we have dusted off the iPods recently, so I’m enjoying having the music playing again =).

9. Be grateful: I view cleaning and caring for my home as a way of stewarding the things that God has given me, it helps me have a good attitude about all the work, and keeps me smiling as I thank Him for each and every room and the little blessings that He has provided that make our abode so comfortable.

Also, I like to reward myself for all the stewarding with some time to just enjoy the blessings, this time of year that means sitting by a warm fire and soaking it all in.

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Book Review: The Patmos Deception

by hollycombs

The Patmos Deception by Davis BunnThe Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn was an action-packed adventure tale, involving history, faith and a young woman I found quite relatable.

When Nick is hired to discover how valuable state icons are going missing, he enlists the help of long-time friend Carey Mathers. As they follow the clues, they begin to realize that this is about something much bigger than either of them ever realized. And when they befriend Dimitri, a local boater, they begin to explore how deep the conspiracy goes.

The thing I most appreciated about this book is that Carey is a little like me, an inquisitive learner with a desire for adventure, but generally just an ordinary girl. We’re both nerds in our own right. I loved that this book revolved around someone who was not necessarily extraordinary and possessed few unusual attributes. Instead, Carey is an academic with a love of history and a desire to prove herself outside of her home state.

As with many of his books, Dunn has quite the collection of unique characters. Fortunately, this novel didn’t seem as complicated as some, so it was easier for me to keep up with the plot and characters even as I read half asleep at night. I especially loved some of the supporting characters, like Eleni, whose family I would love to befriend myself. (Somewhere in my heart, I hope I run into this clan if I ever travel to Greece.)

Taking place in Greece, the book does a good job of weaving culture, place and history into action and adventure. While I hope to someday visit Greece, I feel I know now a little more about this place through the eyes of Carey, Nick and Dimitri.

Overall, I thought Dunn’s latest adventure well worth the read and would recommend it to any who appreciate a little action and suspense! I hope a sequel will soon tell us what happens to these endearing characters.

I received a complimentary copy of The Patmos Deception from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

My other Davis Bunn reviews: Rare Earth and Strait of Hormuz

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Book Review: Beyond All Dreams

by hollycombs

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth CamdenA few years ago, I read Elizabeth Camden’s Against the Tide. I liked the book well enough that when the opportunity arose to review another of her books, I went for it. Her latest release, Beyond All Dreams, is an interesting story from inside the heart of the Library of Congress in 1897.

Anna is a quiet-as-a-mouse map librarian in the Library of Congress, living a predictable but content life in spite the hurts and struggles of her past. Luke is one of the nation’s most powerful, and charming, congressmen left in a fight to save his career after infighting with Congress leadership. Under duress, Anna joins Luke’s quest to save his job and in return, Luke sets out to help Anna solve the mystery of a lost ship. Together, they find themselves surrounded by secrets that could prove perilous.

I think my favorite part of this story is my favorite part of every historical fiction — learning more about history. I can honestly say I didn’t have much knowledge of the formation or early workings of the Library of Congress, but as a lit nerd, I definitely find it interesting. And even though I’m not much for politics, I also enjoyed the nuances about Congress and the congressional pages and all of that. It’s a very good testament to a historical fiction novel if I come away with a greater knowledge of history.

That said, I read this book almost entirely in one sitting. It was a breeze to get through (and I am a slow reader!), which makes it ideal for a vacation novel or something to pick up on the next snow day. It isn’t a complex masterpiece, but it is certainly enjoyable.

I received a complimentary copy of Beyond All Dreams from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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2015: Settle

by hollycombs

I’ve been contemplating my word for the year…looking forward to starting fresh and new and having a whole year ahead of me.

Husband starts his new job, I am in a new position. Our house does not look like a construction zone for the first time since we moved in.

It’s time. For a fresh start. Blank slate.

We’ve been doing a lot of growing over the past four years. It’s been good, but all that growing is exhausting. Marriage, loss, home purchase, job changes, friends made, friends moved on.

This year, I want to stop for a moment. I want to appreciate the growing, yearning, striving of the past four years, but now I want to settle.

Not settle in a bad way, not in a lowering my expectations and not having hopes and dreams kind of way. But in a deep sigh, letting go, being still kind of way.

I love the modern hymn In Christ Alone, especially the part that says “What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!”

It’s time to cease striving. To be. To settle.

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I, Houdini

by hollycombs

Did you ever read that book as a child? It was one of my favorites.

I have a little Houdini on my hands these days. I got home from work (early, thank goodness) a few days ago to discover a wily little goat out of her pen and loose in the barn, with her head pushed into a bag of goat feed.

A moment with Jane the goat

I know an Amishman who has a saying: Everyone should own a goat…so you know why you never want to own a goat.

I laughed at it. A goat sounded like a great idea to me.

It still does, but her little Houdini act sure was a scare.

Thankfully, gorging herself on grain doesn’t seem to have caused a problem. I’m guessing I found her not long after she got out (thank you Lord for early release from work!). We watched her for signs of sickness, bloating, listlessness, refusal to eat, etc.

Instead, my girl was bouncing off the walls (literally: jumping up against the barn siding and bouncing off) and she was demanding her grain just moments later. She’s been chowing down on hay ever since (which is good for her digestion) and hasn’t been interested in licking some baking soda (which she would be if she needed it). She’s doing great.

I, on the other hand, kind of freaked out. I hate that feeling of being helpless when things go wrong with my creatures. It’s my job to keep them safe and healthy, and when I can’t do that, I worry.

I checked on my girl once an hour all evening and woke up super early to make sure she was still in good health in the morning.

Thankfully, it was just a scare. Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out just how our Houdini made her escape. The best we can come up with is that she used Chappy’s bucket to climb her way out of the stall. Either that or she climbed over the bottom rail and above the electric wires (but below the top rail and electric tape). Maybe she’s an acrobat.

Keeping a good eye on Jane these days and so grateful she didn’t end up getting sick or worse.

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Book Review: Children’s Christmas Books

by hollycombs

Childrens Christmas giveaway 3books

A Donkey’s Little Tale

A Donkey’s Little Tale by R. Mitchell Scott is an adorable, simple telling of the Christmas story from the perspective of the donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem.

I never thought about how the donkey might view the stable not as an inferior resting place but as a delight. I know my own animals are fond of their dry, clean stall and sweet-smelling hay. Perhaps Mary’s donkey was just as happy to have such a place to sleep the night of Christ’s birth.

I loved the illustrations in this book — designed by the author in clay and translated into sketches and final illustrations by Brittany Huskey — and the rhyming tale would be easy for even young children to follow along with.

The Manger Mouse

Most who know me well know that I think mice are just adorable, especially tiny little field mice and even the trouble-making ones I find in my barn. So a children’s Christmas book about mice seems right up my alley.

The Manger Mouse by Sarah Martin Byrd tells the story of a young stable mouse whose job it is to prepare the manger for the Baby Jesus on that first Christmas so long ago. The story teaches children not only about the birth of Christ but also about being “called” to serve our Lord and Savior.

Beautifully illustrated with pastels by Debbie Wall, this is a pleasant tale of a special little mouse and his encounter with the King of Kings.

Chesed’s Order

I wasn’t sure what I would think about J. Aaron Culpepper’s Chesed’s Order, but I found myself enjoying the children’s book. It is definitely full of narrative, not nearly as short as some other children’s books. And the illustrations aren’t my favorite. But the rich vocabulary used in this book had me reading with great pleasure.

Words like lowliest, peculiarity, pensively, didactic, acquiescent, foolery and herald.

The book reminded me quite fondly of another childhood favorite, The Littlest Angel, which also had such unique and rich verbiage. As a child, I listened to my mother read that book aloud every Christmas Eve, transfixed by the words, even if I didn’t understand them all. And it is precisely this that make Chesed’s Order stand out among children’s books.

I received copies of A Donkey’s Little Tale, The Manger Mouse, and Chesed’s Order from Ambassador International, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

Want to win one of these books? Ambassador International has generously offered to give three readers one of these wonderful books. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter today! Winner’s will be contacted.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Six Month Progress: Sunroom

by hollycombs

This room hasn’t changed much since we bought the house, but thought I’d share the current state of it anyway — I like to call this look “jungle.”


Sun room - before


Sun room - 6 months

Sun room - 6 months

Next summer I’m going to paint in here, and hopefully make room for a little sitting area. But for now, this room is keeping Husband’s plants alive, and that’s what we want most. Also, we would LOVE to replace the sliding glass doors with pretty French doors…someday.

Other Six Month Progress reports:
Big “before” post
Master Bedroom
Guest Room
Guest Bath
Living Room
Dining Room
Linen Closet

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Six Month Progress: Kitchen/Pantry

by hollycombs

So the kitchen is where most of the work has gone over the past six months. Obviously we pulled down the wallpaper and painted the walls, trim, ceilings etc. We took out a wall, added a wall, replaced the sink, faucet and counter tops, painted the cabinets, added and moved cabinets. So, so much. It’s crazy to look at the before and afters. A huge thank you to the many friends and family who helped us do this on a tight budget!


Kitchen - before

Kitchen - before

And currently:

6 months kitchen

6 months kitchen

6 months kitchen

We still have some work to do, like sanding and sealing the counter tops and adding hardware to the cabinets. Someday we would love to replace the flooring with wood grain tile in a charcoal/gray color. We also would like to put in a built-in bench and better fitting table in that little eating nook.

And, just to keep it real, here’s the before and “current” of the pantry/laundry:

Laundry room - before

Laundry pantry - 6 months

Yeah, that’s not pretty.

Kitchen Source List:
Wall Paint – Silver Gray by BM (definitely a blue tone)
Trim/Cabinet Paint – White Dove by BM
Table/Chairs – Garage Sale (OH)
Counter tops – Ikea
Stove – East Coast Appliances
Hood – Home Depot
Sink – Ikea
Fridge – Craigslist
Pendant Light – Home Depot

Other Six Month Progress reports:
Big “before” post
Master Bedroom
Guest Room
Guest Bath
Living Room
Dining Room
Linen Closet

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Book Review: From Dishes to Snow

by hollycombs

From Dishes to Snow by Kathy M. HowardI thought From Dishes to Snow, the debut novel of author Kathy M. Howard would be an interesting read because of the similarities between the subject matter and my own life of late. In the novel, the main character Bayne Harris, is struggling through the grief of losing her husband and children in a car accident. I am perhaps just far enough removed from my own loss to find this of interest, but it may have also made me somewhat critical of the topic as well.

In the novel, one year after losing her family, Bayne escapes her community and good-intentioned friends by moving to a mountain town for an extended vacation. There, she hides away from interactions with people to lick her wounds. But a few poeple manage to infiltrate her solitary existence in her new home — her lovely landlords, the caring real estate agent she had contacted and his spunky teenage daughter, and a young mother and little girl with their own problems who stumble into her yard.

As Bayne grows to care for her new friends and neighbors, she also emerges from her own grief to aid little Mary and her hurting mother. In doing so, Bayne begins to find healing of her own, and eventually opens up to Wren and by the end of the novel Bayne is not only hopeful for the future, but possibly even falling in love again.

I enjoyed the cast of characters in From Dishes to Snow. The neighborly landlords reminded me of some special landlords I once had, and Wren and his daughter appear to be friends of the very best kind — who would do anything for you. The storyline of Mary and Kara feels a little far fetched (and kind of stuck in the larger plot), but still they are endearing characters.

The aspect of this book that I struggled most with is fairly predictable — grief. I am the first to say that I am not an objective observer. Grief is very, very real to me right now. And I’m learning a lot about the nature of grief that I could only cognitively have known before. And I do understand that everyone’s grief journey is different. But.

I found it difficult to believe that a women living in such heavy grief for so long (a full year already of hiding away, not working, struggling just to get out of bed), can go from full-blown grieving to healing and falling in love within the two month span the book gives. And through the help of strangers when those she was closest to couldn’t reach her? It’s just hard to swallow.

I struggle with the idea that this book would put out there unrealistic expectations of healing — both for those who are trying to help a loved on grieve and for those who may put these kinds of expectations on themselves. That said, however, kudos to Howard for tackling such a difficult subject and not shying away from grief, and in her first novel too!

The book was well-written for a debut novel, and I will be curious to see what else this author has to offer.

I received a copy of From Dishes to Snow from Ambassador International, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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