Coming January 2016…

by hollycombs

You may (or may not) have noticed I’ve been conspicuously absent from this space. Except for a few book reviews, I haven’t had much to say this summer.

The delay was for a good reason though, I’ve been dealing with things like morning sickness for the past few months =).

So happy to announce that coming in January 2016, we’ll be welcoming our first little one!

Announcing our pregnancy

I’m 18 weeks, still feeling sick most of the time, but extremely excited. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, and we’ve decided to wait and be surprised come January. That makes some parts of pregnancy a little tricky (we don’t want to call our baby “it” after all), but also makes me so excited.

So this summer has been full of a lot of survival. Laundry didn’t get done, the house didn’t get cleaned, the dog didn’t get bathed. But I managed to survive (and eat a ton because I was ALWAYS hungry), we got through our first summer at the farmer’s market and even got a new roof put on the house. I’m hoping that as summer winds down and we move into fall, life will find some semblance of normal again (wishful thinking?) as we tackle a few more house projects and prepare for our new arrival.

Pregnancy

Surfer baby coming January 2016

pregnancy

Surfer baby coming January 2016

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Book Review: Irish Meadows

by hollycombs

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne MasonI was drawn to read Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason because of it’s historical time period is of interest to me, and of course I love horses.

Brianna O’Leary feels the pressure to marry well to secure the future of her family’s horse farm on Long Island, but her biggest dream is to attend college. Her sister, Colleen, is happy to marry, but her standards are high and exacting. Then a former stable hand and a distant relative come to the farm and turn the girls’ lives upside down. What will happen to the farm? And will Brianna ever be able to go to college?

I admit, I cringed a bit about reading a book about horses. Mostly because I know enough to know when the author doesn’t. I was delighted to find that this novel had just enough about my beloved animal without focusing too much on it. So there wasn’t much room for error — smart author!

I did like the way the time period was used as such a critical part of the book. That should always be the case with a historical fiction novel in my opinion. That said, the plot was a little weak and the characters a bit contrived. It was delightful to read, but I didn’t feel that it went very deep and some of the characters never really seemed to mature throughout the novel. For me, it was a fun one-time read rather than a classic I will return to again and again. But for a debut novel, I would say Irish Meadows shows great promise and I’ll be curious to see what else Susan Anne Mason writes!

I received a complimentary copy of Irish Meadows 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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Book Review: Drawing Fire

by hollycombs

Drawing Fire by Janice CantoreDrawing Fire by Janice Cantore is engaging, entertaining, and interesting.

Desperate to solve her parents’ murder case, Abby Hart reveals her connection to the crime that shaped a community in Long Beach, California. But the implications might be more than she bargained for: homicide, drugs, the state governor… Meanwhile, when private detective Luke Murphy learns that Detective Hart has as much interest in the case as he does, it sparks a renewed commitment to learning who killed his uncle so many years ago. But will the path to truth put both of them in danger?

Drawing Fire, the first case in Cantore’s Cold Case Justice series is definitely worth the read for suspense lovers like me. The plot is interesting, with a few twists and turns. The suspense is definitely there (unlike some other books I’ve read recently that are labeled “suspense”). The characters are layered and their lives involved and interesting. They are relatable and you definitely want to root for them.

Cantore’s 22 years’ experience in the police force ads an element of reality and grit to her writing. She not only understands how to write, but even the procedural and behind-the-scenes police moments ring true to life.

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

Other books I’ve reviewed by Janice Cantore: Abducted

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Book Review: Not by Sight

by hollycombs

Not by Sight by Kate BreslinI selected Not by Sight by Kate Breslin because I am interested in the WWI era, especially the “home front” so to speak. While the plot was rather simple and not entirely original, the characters were interesting and I did learn about the time period (which is always my litmus test for historical fiction).

Grace Mabry is determined to do her part to support her brother and all the other boys fighting overseas in WWI–even distributing white feathers of cowardice and eventually joining the Women’s Forage Corps, where she learns what hard work really is. Meanwhile, mysterious Jack Benningham is doing his part for the war effort, even if it includes perpetuating his reputation as a philanderer, until things go terribly awry. As Jack begins to heal and Grace comes under suspicion the two learn to grow in courage and in truth.

I think my favorite part of this book was learning about the Women’s Forage Corps, while I had heard of the Women’s Land Army, I had never heard of the WFC. So this was definitely an education for me. I also enjoyed the historical context of the suffragette movement in England and the references to shifting classes (the wealthy trade class, wealthy American girls in search of titles, etc). Historical context is definitely the strong point of this novel. I came away with a better understanding and more knowledge of real historical fact than I had going into it.

The characters were enjoyable and amusing. Grace Mabry was someone worth rooting for. The plot was probably the weakest element, and while it wasn’t terribly original or exciting, it did keep my attention.

I would recommend Not by Sight for anyone interested in sweet stories and WWI historical context. It was a quick read and easily could be finished in a weekend or even a long day by the pool as summer winds down.

I received a complimentary copy of Not by Sight 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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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:
Unspoken
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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Simple

by hollycombs

Textures

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.

Goals:

  • 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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