What I’m Into :: August 2014

What I'm Into :: August 2014

Ahhh, the end of August, you’re the best. We’re saying goodbye to summer (which makes me sweat) and saying hello to school (which makes me smile). And best of all? The end of you means the beginning of fall. And fall is my favorite.

That doesn’t mean August is all bad, of course! It’s not. Really. {What’s that? I’m protesting too much? Psh.}

Seriously, this August has been full of family drama and blistering high temperatures. (Yes, fine, after a gloriously mild summer. But I don’t care how many nice days we’ve had, the nasty hot ones still make me mad. I am reasonable that way.) So I’m doubly thankful for What I’m Into this month – both because it means the end of a less-than-awesome month and the chance to remember the GOOD things that have been going on.

Here we go!

Reading August 2014

What I’m Reading

Lucky for me, it’s been a season of book reviews around here. I’ve had four (FOUR!) recent posts about books, and I have another one coming up next month. But that’s not all I’ve been reading!

The ones I’ve already mentioned: The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, Dark Hope, and The Best Time Travel Books of All Time

The ones on sale until Monday: Jesus Calling

Other books I’ve read: The first book in the Katie Parker series by Jenny B. Jones (Christian YA by one of my favorite authors) was on sale not too long ago and reminded me that while I’d read that first one, I hadn’t read the other two. So I fixed that problem. Oh – and to make it even better? Jenny is releasing a follow-up novella soon, so I’ll find out what’s happened to the main character since the series ended!)

I also read the fourth book of Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series, Silenced. I enjoyed it a lot more than the third book, thankfully. I’ve so enjoyed this series that reminds me – in all good ways – of Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, and I’m glad there’s still one more book to come. I hope Pettrey continues writing after she completes this series. I like her mix of suspense and romance, and she writes good dialogue (the most important thing to me).

The ones I’m reading right now: Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Deluge by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, and Power Play by Catherine Coulter.

Basically I need to take a week off from life and just read. That’s the dream…


What I’m Watching

You guys. Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? It is SO GOOD. Completely hilarious.

Look, I was wary. I only know Chris Pratt as schlubby-but-lovable Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, and despite his ab selfie heard ’round the world, I just wasn’t sure he could pull off space cowboy hero.

Well, he did. And the other characters were great, too. (Not so much the big bad – sorry, Lee Pace – though.) The story itself isn’t anything innovative, but the movie is just pure fun and seriously funny. It reminded me of Star Wars, with more colors and less drama. I loved it. You [probably] will, too.

As for TV, we’re entering the end-of-summer wasteland now, as summer shows wrap up and we wait for new and returning shows to begin their fall seasons. I’ll talk more about those upcoming shows soon, but for now, I’ll report that I’ve been watching the same old, same old: Perception, Suits, Covert Affairs, Franklin & Bash, and So You Think You Can Dance. They’re all fantastic.

Especially Suits – holy cow, tell me somebody else is still reeling from the last few minutes of that finale!

Maddie & Tae

What I’m Listening To

Hold on, folks, because I’m about to get up on a soap box.

Now, if you don’t like country music, you might want to skim this section. (NOT THAT YOU EVER DO THAT.) But I do like country music. I love it, as a matter of fact. It – along with Barry Manilow, Chicago, the Beach Boys, Lionel Ritchie and hymns – is the music of my childhood. And, I’m not ashamed to say, it’s the music of my adulthood as well.

In the past year or so the biggest sub-genre of country is, well, I don’t know what it’s called. Country rock? Bro-country? (I saw that somewhere. I swear on my George Strait CDs I did not make it up.) Whatever it’s called, it’s fun. It’s loud and pretty much all about having a good ol’ time and not relevant to my own personal life, but I like it a lot. (Except when they add rapping, and then I have a problem.)

So I like this current trend except for one thing. What I don’t like (in addition to the rapping situation, in case you forgot) is the lame songwriting. I’m not talking about the fact that we have both a song called “Dirt” and a song called “Dust” playing on the radio right now. I am not even worked up about two songs – off the top of my head! – that start (THAT START!) with the word, “damn,” negating all attempts I make to only listen to profanity-free music when Annalyn is in the car, no matter how fast my ears and station-surfing fingers are.

No, I’m sick and tired of songs using empty words and phrases that mean absolutely nothing at all. Like “This is How We Roll,” “Yeah,” “Where It’s At,” and “All Alright.” I’d include, “Aww Nah,” but forgive me, I love that one. I just feel like, as a society, as a world in which talented songwriters live, WE CAN DO BETTER.

Right? CAN’T WE?

I don’t know. Maybe you all don’t care. But I just needed to get that off my country-loving chest.

Also, it’s funny. Because though I’ve been annoyed by the bizarre prevalence of rapping and the loss of decent turns of phrases in these country songs I otherwise love (I do. Honest.), it never once occurred to me to be offended as a woman. Even though these songs? They really are pretty stereotypically sexist. Nope. I’ve just sung along, forgetting everything I ever learned in COMM 560 Women’s Rhetoric (aka, one of my favorite college classes ever).

That is, until I heard the brilliance of “Girl in a Country Song” by the talented (and adorable) Maddie & Tae. Guys, these two 18-year-olds debuted this summer, swinging at some of the biggest names in country right now with their first song. They mock all these obnoxious lyrics in the best way. All in good fun, but still. Maddie and Tae can’t just play the guitar and sing. They’ve got nerve!

This song – it’s hilarious and catchy and, oh my word, SO TRUE. I love it. And I still love the other songs. But this is priceless.

Also, for you pop music lovers, I’m also going all girl power with All About That Bass. (And anything Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato or the likes of them sing. And Taylor Swift’s new song. Because yes, I am 14, thank you for asking.)


What I’m Eating and/or Cooking

Well. See. The thing is…I’m tired all the time. So I wanted to try to learn to drink coffee. But coffee is gross. It is! I know. Everyone else in the world loves it, but I don’t. I want to, but I don’t. But I’m tired. So I keep trying it.

And then…well…I found a coffee drink I like.

Unfortunately it comes with a whole lot of sugar and about a million (or 600) calories. Even without whip.


Seriously, though, I have discovered the McDonald’s Frappe. And it is delicious and wonderful and I want one every day. Mocha or caramel, doesn’t matter. I love them equally. And I always get it without whip, but I looked up the calories and some things you can’t unsee. You know?

So I’m not sure if I’ve made any progress in my effort to learn to drink coffee. More likely I’ve just gained a few pounds. I mean…I’m not even sure if these delicious drinks give me any more energy! They just taste SO GOOD.

Maybe next month I’ll have something better for you in this department. But for now, I’m not gonna lie. I’m all about the bass AND the frappe.

How about you?

What were YOU into this month? Tell us in the comments!

I’m linking up with my friend Leigh at What I’m Into.

{Frappe Photo Source}

Dark Hope: A Book Review

My first job was at the public library in the next town over. I loved that job for many reasons, one of which was getting first dibs on returned books. This was years before online requests and self-checkout. This was before Amazon and Goodreads and Oprah’s Book Club.

The only way to find a good book to read was simply to walk the aisles of a bookstore or library.

Then, I loved doing that. I loved walking up and down the aisles, picking up the books with the pretty covers or by familiar authors, making sure I’d read every book in a series. But other than spotting an appealing cover or coming across a book while shelving returns, I didn’t know where to look for good, new (or at least new-to-me books).

Fast forward a thousand years, and on one hand, the last thing I need is a recommendation for a good book. Between the to-read stack next to my bed and my to-read list on Goodreads, I’m ALL FULL UP with good book to read.

Except . . . is there really such a thing? NO.

I’m always on the hunt for a good, new book to read – even if it means setting aside the books I swore I’d read next and return before accruing a late fine. again. And while I now enjoy following the click-y rabbit trails of reviews on Goodreads just like I used to enjoy wandering through the actual library, sometimes it’s hard to find a new novel to read. (And sometimes my Kindle leads me astray with recommendations that … how to say … don’t make sense.)

All that to say – when I’m asked to review a YA pararnormal novel – the first in a new series by an author I hadn’t heard of, I jump at the chance. A new book and new-to-me author? Yes, please!


Dark Hope is the first book in the Archangel Prophecies Trilogy. As I’ve really enjoyed a couple other series about angels, I thought this sounded great. It’s written by Monica McGurk, an author known (though not, previously, to me) for her fan fiction based on the Twilight series. As I’m not a fan of that series, I was a little unsure about this.

But my angel story interest won out over my fanfic author bias, and I cracked it open the day it showed up in my mailbox. Here’s the summary:

For years, Hope Carmichael, survivor of a shocking child abduction, has lived a sheltered existence under the protection of her fanatically religious father. Now, liberated by her mother, Hope prepares to start life over as a normal kid in an Atlanta, Georgia, high school. Normal, that is, until Hope meets Michael, a gorgeous emancipated teen with a mysterious past and a strong interest in her.

Soon, Hope’s life is filled with questions. What’s behind the angry looks she gets from Lucas, leader of a gang of students? Who’s responsible for sending Hope strange valentines inscribed with Bible quotations? How does this relate to the sinister business of human tracking that operates on the periphery of Hope’s suburban world? And is Michael really a protector, or something more sinister-and just why does he seem so familiar?

In an epic narrative that takes readers from the back streets of Atlanta to the height of Vegas penthouses and beyond, DARK HOPE introduces The Archangel Prophecies, a saga of extraordinary love, vast mythological scope, and great moral urgency.

I liked Dark Hope a lot. I read it in just a couple days, and I’ll definitely read the next book in the series when it’s released. (Another pro in the Monica McGurk column is the news that she’s already completed the second book!)

The story was intriguing – combining a mysterious childhood abduction with a supernatural conspiracy that only comes out a decade later. The idea of an angel falling in love with a human seems a little far-fetched – but no more than any other paranormal romance plot, I suppose.

There were a couple things I didn’t love about this book. For one, a high school girl being left alone so often while her mom traveled on business (especially after spending most of her childhood with her extremely overprotective dad) didn’t ring true at all. Secondly, while I understood the hot and cold personality and affections of the main angel, it was still annoying to me (on behalf of Hope, because yes, she needs my help).

The list of things I liked is much longer! Even without the paranormal business, the decaying relationship between Hope’s parents following her kidnapping rang true to me. I imagine that happens quite a bit in families that experience that kind of tragedy. I also liked the main character, Hope – her voice, her personality, her perspective. Also? This novel uses vocabulary that is higher than the typical sixth-grade reading level I find in a lot of books, both YA and otherwise. I like that.

This book did a great job of highlighting our nation’s problem with sex trafficking. I felt like it was obviously a big deal to the author and an important part of the book – but it never felt preachy. Hard as it is to learn about something like this, I’m always thankful when reading a “fun” novel educates me, too. Win-win.

Oh, also? This book felt longer than a lot of books in the genre, which I appreciated. Because even though the next book in the series is reportedly written, I don’t know when it will be actually on the market. I may have a long time to wait for answers to the mysteries Hope faced in the first book (and I’m crossing my fingers the next two books also flesh out some of the supporting characters a bit, too).

If you like YA paranormal novels, I’d recommend this one for sure. You can find Dark Hope by Monica McGurk as a paperback or an ebook at Amazon.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

No More Putting Off the Cure for Perfectionism


I wrote this post at 11:30 last night. I could give you a list of reasons why I just didn’t have time until then – and, thanks to years in public relations, I could make it sound real convincing – but the truth is I just procrastinated.

Like I do.
All the time.
Because I’m a procrastinating perfectionist.

{Did I mention this was a review of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life?}

When I learned that Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp were writing a book about perfectionism, I had a couple reactions. First, I was disappointed. From the sounds of it, they were writing the book that I wanted to write. Second, I was annoyed. Not because they were writing “my” book – but because I knew I’d have to read it and then God would probably try to change me and THAT IS HARD.

Clearly I was not – and AM NOT – ready to write a book about fighting perfectionism! And, to be completely honest, I haven’t even been ready to READ a book about it, either.

I’ve had Cheri and Kathi’s book for weeks now. It’s got an adorable cover – the kind that makes you want to open it and read. And I really like Cheri and Kathi. And you know what else? This book is full of personality tests. I LOVE THOSE THINGS! Oh, and you know what else (again)? They sent me a hot pink highlighter with the book, with a note encouraging me to mark it all up.

Well, that is just too fun!

So, of course you know I devoured this book the day I got it…right?

Except…no. I didn’t. I’ve held it a lot. I’ve skimmed it a couple times, sure. But the part where I sit down, kids in bed and TV off, highlighter in hand and heart open? Um, no. I haven’t done that yet.

You know what’s funny? One of the early chapters of the book gets to the bottom of perfectionism by explaining that perfectionism is rooted in fear. And the subtitle of the book is “Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver.”

And yet…I’ve been afraid to dive into this book. So – to come full circle – I’ve put it off. Like I do so many things.

Kathi and Cheri talk about four major instigators of what they label “Try-Harder Living”: Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, Performancism, Procrastination.


I’m off the charts on Perfectionism and Procrastination (with occasional bouts of People-Pleasing and Performancism). Strangely enough, when I took the quiz to discover what kind of rebel I am (as in, what’s my personality type and how does it relate to Try-Harder Living), I had equal high scores for being Analytical and Driving – which do not correlate directly with Perfectionism and Procrastination.

I’m so complicated.

Except – not really. Even if my personality test results aren’t textbook, THIS BOOK still identifies, understands and addresses head on the things I struggle with most. Which is why I’m not putting off a serious read any longer.


I’m going to start reading – REALLY reading – The Cure for the “Perfect” Life this week. Will you join me? I’d love to hear what you’re learning from this book as we read it together!

And I’d also love to give away a copy to a fellow perfectionist.

To enter the giveaway, tell me which of the Try-Harder Living instigators you struggle with most. And for an additional entry, take the Rebel Quiz here and tell me what kind of rebel you are.

This giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. only {sorry, international friends!!!}, and it will close on Friday, September 5.

Photo source

26 Recipes for Your Next Picnic or BBQ

26 Recipes for Your Next Picnic or Potluck

Grill out.
Hamburger fry.
Potluck at the park.

What do you call an outdoor gathering with food? I usually go with barbecue, although since I live in the (FINE. one of the?) BBQ capital, that can be a tad confusing.


Three of my friends and I have been trying to coordinate our husbands, children and schedules to get together for the first time in a long time. We’ve been trying to coordinate ourselves for weeks – and still, we don’t have a solid plan yet.

Full disclosure: this is mostly my fault. We had a plan for this weekend, and then my schedule got changed and got in the way. *SIGH* But before I messed it all up, we were debating between Mexican and burgers for the menu. And I was so excited for burgers. Because I was going to make a new salad for my friends!

[My friends love it when I try new recipes on them. Or maybe they don't. But they act like they do. They're good friends like that.]

Anyway. Again.

While I might not be making a new salad or attending a barbecue/cookout/picnic this weekend, YOU might be. And if you aren’t this weekend, then you definitely might be the week after – Labor Day weekend. So now’s the time to gather up some of those recipes to try, right?

I went through my favorite recipes – and my Pinterest boards, and then I asked a few friends for their favorite recipes for a picnic. So now without further ado – or additional anyways, here are more than 25 recipes for your next picnic or barbecue!

(And if your coming weekends are low-key, no problem. Just pin this for later!)

26 Recipes for Your Next Picnic or Potluck

For the main dish:

  • Bacon Burgers with Bacon Jam – If you’re of the opinion that bacon makes everything better, then these burgers are for you. And if you’re not, well, I don’t really know what to say to that.
  • Baked Chicken Taquitos – Hey look, we don’t HAVE to choose between Mexican and picnic menus! Seriously, though, these are delicious – and finger food is always good picnic food!
  • Meatball Skewers from Goodeness Gracious – These look so good! And, oh hey, it’s always a good thing to add some veggies to the mix, right?
  • Taco Salad Bags – I’ve linked to Dana’s taco salad bags before, because I think it’s such a great idea. And especially for a picnic with kids, this would be a great meal! (And yes…I do realize that I combined Mexican food and picnics again…it can’t be helped!)
  • Chicken Bacon Sub Sandwiches – My family members are picky enough that I would never presume to make the same sandwich for all of us (or one big one that can be cut up – those always look fun). But if I needed a main dish for a potluck picnic, I imagine a basket of these sandwiches from A Slob Comes Clean (or one of those big ones – hoagie, sub, what do YOU call it?) would be perfect.
  • Picnic Chicken – Because what’s a picnic without some fried chicken?
  • Slow Cooker Dr Pepper Pulled Pork – I’ve tried this and it IS really good. Grab a bag of buns, and you’ve got sandwiches!

Corn Casserole with Bacon

For the side dishes:

  • Loaded Baked Potato Salad – Hello? What is a potluck or picnic or cookout without a potato salad?!
  • Bacon Deviled Eggs – Ditto for deviled eggs, but why not add bacon? I hear it makes everything better…
  • Flag Fruit Kebabs – Why only make this for the 4th of July? Fruit is pretty and delicious any day of the year, you know!
  • Corn Casserole with Bacon – My brother’s recipe is perfect for any gathering. I mean, you wouldn’t want to make it for a small dinner of four. You’d be forced to eat it all. And that would just be … delicious … terrible. So make it for your barbecue. (Just make sure you’re at the front of the line!)
  • Beautiful Veggie Tray – It doesn’t take much extra time to arrange your veggies by color. I’m partial to the one I served at Annalyn’s Veggie Tales birthday party, but Pinterest also has tons of rainbow veggie trays for inspiration.
  • Watermelon on a Stick – Best. Popsicle. Ever.
  • Deviled Egg Pasta Salad – This is the recipe I was going to try. So it’s also the one I’m hoping to find a reason to try it soon anyway. {Who has a barbecue invitation for me?}
  • Ranch BLT Pasta Salad – This one from Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice looks really good, too. And what a delicious twist on the usual pasta salad!
  • Lemony Vegetable Quinoa Salad – Veggies and healthy grains? Well, yes, I do think this salad from Jessie is the perfect balance to some of these heavier dishes.
  • Slow Cooker Sweet & Tangy Baked Beans – I do love a touch of sweet in my baked beans, and Cris has a great recipe for making them in the Crock Pot.
  • Creamy Crock Pot Mac & Cheese – Recipes That Crock has a ton of great slow cooker recipes – and this mac & cheese would be perfect for a picnic or potluck.
  • Blue Ribbon Amish Dill Pickles – Shannan promises that a) you don’t need a canner and b) everyone will love these. I’M IN.

26 Recipes for Your Next Picnic or Potluck

For the desserts:

  • Mini Fruit Pizzas – It’s a cookie. But it’s covered in fruit. Can you say “guilt-free dessert” … and “just one more”?!
  • Pink Lemonade Cake (or Cupcakes) – They’re pretty and tangy and sweet and fun. What more do you need?
  • Monster Cookies – I love these flourless cookies for any get-together or gathering. Or breakfast.
  • Eclairs in a Jar – I know I just made s’mores in a jar. And I promise I’m not going crazy with this food-in-a-jar trend. But … eclairs … IN A JAR! I’m definitely making these soon.
  • Butterfinger Cake – Jessie shared this recipe a while ago, and I completely forgot about it until I looked at some of my Pinterest boards. I’ve already re-pinned it so it’s at the top of my board and my memory!
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Campfire Burritos – It’s like a Reese’s. From the grill. In our mouths. Y-U-M.
  • Anything to do with S’mores – Of course.

What do you like taking – or eating! – to picnics?

A List of Things to Tell You


You guys. It has been non-stop drama – or, as I tried to reposition it for my six-year-old ADVENTURE – around my house lately!

And [side note] I’m not even talking current events. Obviously, the things that have been blowing up all of our Twitter feeds and nightly news reports over the past couple of weeks are tragic and confusing and polarizing and devastating in so many ways. From ebola, persecution of Christians, mental illness and suicide to the horrifying events taking place across my state in Ferguson, our world is obviously suffering from things worse than my grandma’s broken hip and poison ivy on my face again.

But the reality is that, heavy as these things are on my mind and heart [and THEY ARE], my everyday, in-my-face life has had some hiccups lately, too. And I feel quite a bit more qualified to tell you about those things today. So here goes.

1. Yes, I have had poison ivy on my face. Again. For anyone keeping track, that’s the third time in three years. And it is ridiculous. RIDICULOUS! I pulled weeds in my front yard for a whopping 11 minutes, and what do I get in return? Three (or more) weeks of suffering. Three (or more) weeks of looking like a leper and wanting to hide in my house – not because I’m embarrassed by the rash covering so many visible parts of my body. No. Though that has embarrassed my almost-seven-year-old this time around, I’m actually not too upset by it. I want to hide in my house TO SCRATCH IT ALL OFF. Both the visible and not-so-visible parts.

The rash on my face is actually almost gone, and the OTHER affected parts of my body (the ones that will remain unnamed, AHEM) are slowly but surely itching less. At least enough to stop the high doses of Benadryl.

Also, in case you’re wondering, YES. I have learned my lesson. I will never, ever again engage in any kind of yard work. Really, I should just stay inside at all times. This seems like a good plan.

2. Unfortunately, my grandma did break her hip last week. She’s 82, and she’s my last living grandparent. And seeing her in the hospital over the weekend, a bit muddled and obviously in quite a bit of discomfort, was rough. Getting old really is for the birds.

3. Drama, drama, drama. We’ve had a bit (UNDERSTATEMENT) of family drama lately, on both my and Mark’s side of the family. So that’s been fun. And by “fun,” I mean not so much. I’ve tried to tell Mark in the past that we’d be so bored without family drama. He doesn’t really buy it, and I don’t either. But I can tell you for sure that we have definitely not been bored in recent days.

First day of First grade

4. In the good news department (finally! right?!) Annalyn started back to school last week. She has been crazy excited for first grade, even going so far as to THANK ME on her first day. I asked her what she was thanking me for, and she said, “For letting me go to school!” Um, daughter? I love you. But there’s no way on God’s green earth I was going to make it one more day of I’m-bored-let’s-play-My-Little-Ponies summer!

rolling tweet

5. And not-so-tiny Baby Adrienne is sitting up like a boss these days and rolling over like a … what’s something that’s sneaky? Because that crazy baby keeps rolling over in her crib – and on the floor when I turn away. But when I try to get her to do it in front of me? She’s not playing. Go figure – I have two children with strong wills and opinions! She’s also eating baby food like it’s going out of style (yes, yes, she comes by it naturally), and shoving her bottle away almost every time I give it to her.

Seriously – any tips for getting a seven-month-old to drink her milk? Because she takes her bedtime bottle great but is completely uninterested during the day.

6. Last on the “things to tell you about my life” list is what I’ve decided is my favorite part of social media right now. Tweeting with authors. And by authors, I mean people I don’t actually know in real life who write novels that I do read in real life. (Because I have many friends who are authors of non-fiction, and though I love them – and tweeting with them, I’m talking about something different here.)

dani pettrey tweets

In the past week, I’ve had conversations on Twitter with Lisa Tawn Bergren (one of my first favorite Christian novelists from way back in the mid-90s day and, more recently, author of the River of Time series – that one about time travel I just mentioned?!) and Dani Pettrey (author of the Alaskan courage series and my newest favorite [Christian] fiction writer). I love that they responded to me; I love that they seem to care what I think about their books; and I love getting the chance to tell them how much I adore their characters. It’s just really, really fun to me, a major book nerd, to talk with the people who came up with the characters and stories so good they keep me up past my bedtime.

Okay, one more thing and then I want to hear about YOU.

Lysa TerKeurst has a new book out, The Best Yes. I’ll share more about her book soon, but you should get your copy now. Every dime she makes from sales THIS WEEK will be given to 99 Balloons, an organization that helps special needs kids. It’s an amazing thing she’s doing, and I know if you buy the book, you’ll be blessed by the book itself AND by being part of this campaign. You can buy it right here for $12.99.

All right. That’s all she wrote for today. Tell me: What’s going on in YOUR life right now?