Book Review: Rooted in Design

by hollycombs

Rooted in DesignI thoroughly enjoyed flipping through the pages of this high quality plant design book. Rooted in Design by Tara Heibel and Tassy de Give is great for perusing for ideas, reading closely for instructions, and displaying for guests.

The book covers all kinds of indoor planting ideas and tips and well as inspirational photos. Even if you don’t own a home, there are wonderful suggestions that can be utilized in rental spaces as well.

Want to take a peek inside? Click here!

My favorite design suggestion was the moss wall, and it even came with instructions on how to pull it off in a reasonable and practical way (hint: don’t use live moss!).

Fuax living wall

Moss wall directions

I’m sure I will be displaying this book on my coffee table for years to come, and I’m definitely planning on taking on the moss wall project to add a little “life” to my dining room!

I received a complimentary copy of Rooted in Design 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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Book Review: Taken

by hollycombs

Taken by Dee HendersonI’ve mentioned before that I’m a longtime fan of Dee Henderson, and although I have found her more recent work to be rather different and a little disappointing, I’m always up for giving it another shot. So when the opportunity came to read her latest, Taken, I jumped on it.

In order to regain true freedom after escaping her longtime captors — a notorious crime family — Shannon Bliss enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Dane, a man with experience bringing a kidnap victim back to life. But in order to help Shannon get her life back, Matthew must unravel the truth behind her kidnapping and captivity.

While the characters were interesting and well developed, I kept waiting for the suspense and to be honest, it never really came. The story line is perhaps an interesting look at life after surviving a heinous crime, but it does not involve anything suspenseful or even terribly mysterious. I’m finding that this is a running theme in Henderson’s latest books. Interesting, but not suspenseful.

In spite of the lackluster plot, I did truly like Shannon Bliss as a character and rooted for her to overcome all obstacles to regaining her life and freedom. Matthew Dane was also an interesting character, but largely because of his past. I found he grew and changed very little over the course of the novel.

I also struggled with the title of the book, in part because it set me up to believe the book would be about her kidnapping (not her recovery after the fact), and in part because it is the title of a well-known film (and several people thought I was reading the book behind that movie).

That said, I do anxiously await the next installment from Henderson and will continue to read anything that she publishes.

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

My Other Dee Henderson Book Reviews:
Full Disclosure
Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story

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Book Review: Finding Me

by hollycombs

Finding Me by Kathryn CushmanFinding Me by Kathryn Cushman is a quick read with interesting characters but an unrealistic plot.

After Kelli loses her father and step-mother in an accident, she learns a long kept secret about their past. It drives her to head to the tiny town of Shoal Creek, Tennessee, where she meets people from her past that she didn’t know existed.

I think my favorite part of Finding Me was the cast of supporting characters, especially those from the small town of Shoal Creek. So many of us have a little community that makes up our lives, and within that are a variety of people. So many of them important to us in so many different ways. Cushman captured that feeling in her supporting characters.

I did think that the ease with which Kelli slips into an entirely new life doesn’t hold true to what I know to be the murky, messy reality of life with broken people and broken relationships, especially during a time of grief. In that way, it’s kind of a fairy tale. That may make it pleasant to read, but unrealistic to believe.

Overall, Finding Me is a simple, quick way to pass the time this summer, but for me, it isn’t a keeper.

I received a complimentary copy of Finding Me 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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Adventure: Chippokes Plantation State Park

by hollycombs

fossilized shells in Virginia

We were having a hard time getting motivated. It was a gorgeous sunny day, cool enough to enjoy, but warm enough to wear short sleeves. There aren’t many days like that in Virginia. It too often goes from cold and rainy to hot and humid. Taking advantage of the lovely spring weather was a must, but we didn’t want to stay home (too many projects need attention) and we didn’t want to drive all the way back to the beach (we’d just been over there for church) and we didn’t want to be indoors.

When Husband suggested trying somewhere new, he knew it would pique my curiosity. Chippokes Plantation State Park, he suggested. I’d never heard of it, but he had passed by there a number of times as it’s just off the back route between Hampton Roads and Richmond.

We grabbed some apples and water bottles (and a few water bottles for the pup as well), threw the camera in the truck and headed off down the country road that is Route 10.

Chippokes Plantation is a historical plantation, with a beautiful manor home and outbuildings that have been lovingly preserved. It has formal gardens and acres up acres of farmland. It also has a lovely beach along the James River, where we found fossilized shells and we hear sharks teeth are available for the determined searcher. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

James River beach

Chippokes Plantation beach, fossils

Chippokes Plantation beach

Chippokes Plantation State Park

Pup drinking from water fountain

Farmland in Virginia

Spring flowers at Chippokes Plantation

Historic Chippokes Plantation

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{Moments of Inspiration}

by hollycombs

“Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them;
for those experiences have left an indelible impression,
and we are ever and anon reminded of them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Chippokes Plantation State Park

We live near the ocean, but I’m finding river beaches may be just as beautiful, Chippokes Plantation on the James River, Virginia.

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by hollycombs


Simplifying life seems to be a continuous project for me. It goes in fits and spurts, but it’s always going.

I’ve been reading some inspiration lately, and one post challenged me to write down my goals:

Check your mindset:

1. Write down your goals. What do you want from this change? Where do you feel the greatest need to slow down and simplify? What do you stand to gain?
2. Write down your strengths. What are you already good at? Gardening? Organising? Planning? Cooking healthy, cheap meals?
3. Write down your weaknesses. What challenges will you face? What circumstances will make change harder for you?
4. Check your answers. You need to be in this for the right reasons. You need to understand that you come to simple living from a unique place. Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s. And that’s fine. Great, even. Perfect.
5. Get to it. Committing goals to paper helps you achieve them.

Homemade bread

So here goes.


  • Slow. Feel slower, simpler, less frazzled, less behind. I want to stop constantly feeling like I’m behind on just about everything.
  • Enjoy. I want to get to enjoy our lovely home (even if it isn’t perfect), my horse, our land. They’re not burdens, they’re blessings.
  • Invest. I want to invest in the things God has given us to steward. Our time, our home, our land, our animals, our friendships, our family, our life.
  • Explore. I want to have adventures. Get out. Get going. See someplace new. Leave behind the crazy. Refresh. Restore. Make room for wonderful experiences.
  • Ryhthm. I love having rhythm to life, not necessarily patterns or habits or set schedules, but rhythms to live by.
  • Get rid of excess clutter, especially in the garage!! Also books, DVDs, desk supplies, craft supplies, clothes and shoes. (I’ve been doing a lot better on the books/DVDs/clothes/shoes, but there is always more progress to make!)
  • Organize necessary stored supplies, especially in the study, garage, barn and garden shed. (Shelving, shelving, shelving! Thinking about asking for this for my birthday.)
  • Quiet, calm atmosphere. Not too much stuff, not too much furniture.
  • Preparedness. Extra toiletries, paper towels, flour, laundry detergent. Because the stress of running out is far more energy-consuming than being prepared ahead of time.
  • Slowing weekends. Yes, Saturdays are for productivity. But if I clean/do laundry more during the week, Saturdays are simpler, especially now that I have to share that time and space with Husband. Also, Sundays. Sundays are not for errands. Sundays are for rest. Remember that. Do errands before Sunday!
  • Simplify finances. Don’t use credit card. Open work account for Husband. Open business account for business. Separating, simplifying. So much less stressful.
  • Strengths:

  • I’m generally consistent. I’m a rule follower, when I make a plan, create a rule, I stick to it.
  • I love organizing (I just need some supplies, like shelves!)
  • Keeping our calendar realistic and making regular do-to lists. I was in a rhythm, I’ve gotten out of it. I need my rhythm back.
  • Weaknesses:

  • Filing. I hate filing paperwork. But I love a clean desk…
  • Weeding. Gardens are great, upkeep is not.
  • Our schedule. Both working full time, and each commuting an hour each way, makes for a full day before we even get home.
  • Getting up early. Getting up a little earlier would make mornings better, more productive, easier, simpler. I’m just bad at it. Luckily, summer is arriving and with it the sun. It’s so much easier to get up in time to throw in a load of laundry and make sure the dishwasher is loaded when the sun is up early too.
  • Farm fresh eggs

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    Adventure: OBX Camping

    by hollycombs

    Husband and I went camping for the first time this season — we’re embracing his newfound freedom (he has weekends off for the first time since we got married almost 5 years ago!). It was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. A beautiful weekend. A campground reopening after the winter. A few months ago, we organized all of our camping gear, and it paid off. At about noon on Saturday, we threw all the bins of supplies in the bed of the truck, each packed a backpack of clothes, loaded up the pup and set off to the south.

    We lounged at the site, cooked bison steaks over a charcoal grill, walked the beach, hunted for pretty shells, climbed sand dunes, stopped into The Frontporch Cafe for coffee and chai, got homemade ice cream in Manteo, did a little antiquing, and Husband even went surfing while Ginger and I slept in on Sunday. All in all, a successful trip!

    Camping at Oregon InletThe view down into our campsite from the dunes at Oregon Inlet Campground. It was wonderful to be there when the campground wasn’t crowded, it wasn’t hot, and there weren’t any bugs!

    Camping with the pupGinger is a great little camper and we love taking her with us.

    Foggy spring dayVery foggy our first day there, loved watching the fog roll in and out over the water.

    Husband in OBX

    Ginger puppy

    Beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

    Playing with the dog at the beachGinger used to be terrified of the slightest puddle. She still doesn’t like waves, but tide pools are great!

    Beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

    Birds in OBX

    Beaches in North Carolina

    Beaches in North Carolina

    The sun setting

    Camping with a dog

    Ginger got stuck with a cactus spineGinger got stuck with a cactus spine in her nose, that was a first. She also got sand burs in her paws several times. Always, always, always keep a close eye on your dogs while camping!

    I think camping at Oregon Inlet the first weekend it opens in the spring might become a family tradition…

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    {Moments of Inspiration}

    by hollycombs

    “Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them;
    for those experiences have left an indelible impression,
    and we are ever and anon reminded of them.”
    ~ Henry David Thoreau

    Celebrating spring and life in Smithfield

    Enjoying neighbors becoming friends (and time spent with Husband) – twice in the past month we had neighbors offer us free tickets to fun events in the area. It’s been great getting to know these people in our community!

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    Book Review: Dauntless

    by hollycombs

    Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman Having recently enjoyed reading the Divergent series, where the term Dauntless was, of course, key to the entire concept, I was a little skeptical, but intrigued when I received this new novel by Dina L. Sleiman titled Dauntless.

    Lady Merry fell from grace when her father stood up to the king – and paid with his life. Now she leads a band of outlaws in the forest, but they are unlike any outfit you’ve ever seen before. At 17, she is the eldest. The children are smart, clever and wily. They devise creative plans to steal what they need to survive without getting caught. But then Merry is captured, by none other than her childhood sweetheart who now works for the king. Will he turn her over to the king? Will he allow her band of children to be caught and hung? Or will the children save the day?

    I would have enjoyed this novel starting back before Merry became an outlaw. What was her life like then, what was it like to lose everything, what was it like to come of age under such circumstances, taking responsibility for so many little ones? This almost felt like it should be the sequel to the novel. That said, it was enjoyable, if not profound, and interesting, if not original.

    The unique historical background was certainly of interest, though I think I would have preferred more historical and cultural context so I could come away from having read it with a sense of having learned something of a different time. The characters were likable, the struggles real. I think Allen, one of the supporting characters, may be my favorite one of all.

    While I wasn’t blown away by Dauntless, I would certainly pick up another book from this author for a quick, fun, enjoyable read. So if that’s your speed, I can recommend it!

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    Barred Rock Rooster

    by hollycombs

    So we’ve had this Barred Rock rooster for about a year now, and he’s remained unnamed the entire time we’ve had him.

    He’s been overshadowed most of this time, by a white rooster (we think a Leghorn), that was louder and prouder than this guy. But two roosters with six hens is NOT a good ratio, so we had to choose one to go. We re-homed our other rooster and he has his own flock of hens to protect now. Reports indicate he is loving his new home.

    Barred Rock Rooster

    This guy, he’s gorgeous. A little quieter, and a little gentler. He is also larger — a dark, almost imposing figure in the coop.

    So it was finally time to name this guy, and I think I selected a good one: Rochester.

    Named for the hero of a favorite Gothic novel, Jane Eyre.

    Now, is it time to name the hens?

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