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Book Review & Giveaway ~ Faith in Every Footstep by Wesley Banks

~~~ My Thoughts & Review ~~~

Kyle Walker is a rookie musher who has come to Alaska to win -ok- participate in (but he has great confidence!) the Yukon Quest. He and his team of sled dogs come from South Carolina. His Carolina Greys are a breed that is relatively unheard of in dog sled racing. He is a newcomer to mushing as well.

Kyle has an intense, almost instinctual relationship with each of his 13 dogs, but even more so with King, his lead dog. At times throughout the story, it is as if they could read each other’s minds. While his relationship skills with his dogs is top notch, his people skills need a little work. Most of the people he meets along the trail find him awkward, almost bordering on rude. Jenna, one of the official vets for the race, sees something more. She takes the time to get to know him and his dogs a little better and he starts opening up to her about his himself and his rare breed of sled dogs. She senses that Kyle is a diamond in the rough.

Kyle has his own style of training his team, quite different from the other mushers in the race. His technique serves him well as he passes through the various checkpoints, each time gaining a more advanced position.

The author has a style of writing that draws you into the scenes he is describing. It feels as if you are there on the trail with Kyle, seeing and experiencing things through his eyes. He describes some intense scenes where I could start to feel my adrenaline rise and other heart in your throat scenes where I felt all choked up. I could feel the love he has for his team, like his dogs were his family.

Faith in Every Footstep is the first in a series, and the cliffhanger style ending has me looking forward to reading the next book. I gives this book 2 thumbs up and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

On the eve of one of mankind’s toughest races, accompanied by thirteen of America’s rarest dog breed, rookie musher Kyle Walker only has one thought in mind: win. Discovered in the lowlands of South Carolina, the Carolina grays have traveled over five thousand miles to face off in the 2003 Yukon Quest. But one dog stands above the rest—King.

When an unexpected storm strikes, Kyle Walker and the reigning champion are forced to turn back. Stranded at the checkpoint, Kyle and his dogs find solace in a young veterinarian with auburn hair and keen green eyes—Jenna Maynor.

In this storm another race is forming, one of an Inuit man racing to save his family. Presented with the choice to help, but at the risk of his and his dogs’ lives, Kyle Walker ventures into the unknown in search of a mom and two young daughters.

The Yukon Quest was founded on the premise that a dog driver and his team should be a self-sufficient unit capable of challenging varied terrain and severe weather. But these conditions may prove to be too much, even for Kyle and King.

Available to buy from…
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“As it was perilously gut-wrenching as a reader, it was, at the same time, beautifully written. Seriously, while reading it, I felt the stress and worry for their predicament, but also the quiet calm that Kyle so often exudes.” – Terrill Rosado

“A wonderful story written by a gifted storyteller who used a unique connection between man and dog that drew me into the story and touched my soul.”

“A story of courage, commitment, and determination to do the right thing in the face of adversity. The love shown by the dogs and Kyle is really a beautiful, unending love. The amount intensity that comes from this story will keep you on the edge of your seat and you will not want this story to end. It is well written, articulate and the descriptions of the area and conditions are so clear you can feel them.”

Above reviews from Amazon

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You will fall in love with Ria and Artemis in Faith In Every Footstep

Also Available
Hope In Every Raindrop: A Sled Dog Adventure and Romance (Faith, Hope, and Love Book 2)
Small towns have big stories. That was a lesson Katie’s father taught her years ago. A lesson she’s taken to heart. And right now, Katie is desperate for a big story.

Reeling from the recent loss of her father and with her agent breathing down her neck for the next book, the twenty-one-year-old writer picks a spot on the map and finds herself bound for a middle-of-nowhere town called Bishopville, South Carolina.

Taking a chance on the words of a local grocer, Katie stumbles upon a rare breed of dogs raised by the town doctor and his nephew Kyle. The only problem? Kyle isn’t interested in telling stories–especially not to a big-city girl who can’t seem to sit still. In an attempt to win him over as the clock winds down, Katie finds herself immersed in Kyle’s world, doing everything but writing.

When inspiration finally strikes, Katie is faced with an unforeseen catastrophe and a truth she can no longer ignore. While she has come to love the dogs, the real story may be about Kyle Walker.

Available to buy from….
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About the author
Wesley Banks was born in 1983 and grew up on the west coast of Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. After spending over 7 years building movable bridges from Florida to Washington he decided to focus on his true passion: writing.

Wesley recently moved from Florida to Oregon to get back to the great outdoors that he’s love so much. He lives with his wife Lindsey, and his two dogs Linkin and Story. Most of his time these days is spent writing, with as much rock climbing, hiking, or skiing as they can fit in.

Find the author on the following sites…
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I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.

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Book Review & Giveaway ~ Mistletoe at Moonglow by Deborah Garner

~~~ My Thoughts & Review ~~~

Deborah Garner does a wonderful job of developing her characters, it almost feels like they are real people, at a real hotel, in a real town, in Montana. This is a heart-warming story set a Christmastime that showcases how important simple kindness & caring is so important to people, even strangers that gather together and share their Christmas celebrations.

This novella helped put me in the Christmas spirit this year. Sometimes the Holiday season can get so hectic that you forget what Christmas should be about. It’s not about shopping for numerous gifts, attending countless parties and extravagant decorations, but about the simple joys in life. Slowing down and taking time to spend with a dear friend – baking some cookies from your grandma’s recipe that brings back fond memories of times spent with her – taking a walk in the snow or building a snowman with your kids – perhaps, stealing a kiss under the mistletoe.

I spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon during the first snowfall of the season (Chicago) reading this story, and I loved just loved it. I plan to try a couple of the recipes from the book that she includes at the end of the book. 5 stars and 2 thumbs up from me ~ can’t wait to read the next one 🙂

The Timberton Hotel has always provided a perfect Christmas retreat for regular guests, as well as newcomers. But the small town of Timberton, Montana, hasn’t been the same since resident chef and artist, Mist, arrived, bringing a unique new age flavor to the old western town.

When guests check in for the holidays, they bring along worries, fears and broken hearts, unaware that Mist has a way of working magic in people’s lives. Old-fashioned time spent together, exquisite food, conversation and a snowball or two offer guests a chance to trade sadness for hope. One thing is certain: no matter how cold winter’s grip is on each guest, no one leaves Timberton without a warmer heart.

Available to buy from….
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“Christmas at the Timberton Hotel is special. The beauty and peace people find there is magic. Strangers come to escape their pain and find solace and strength. I loved this story. It gave me a sense of hope. The characters are amazing.” 
 
“Deborah weaves a beautiful mosaic of Christmas sights, sounds and smells and introduces us to memorable characters. From the grieving widow to the five-year-old child who lost his brother to a reclusive scholar who only wants to sit in front of the fireplace and read, each are treated with genuine emotion and care which adds to this uplifting story.”
 
 “Deborah did it again. What a great christmas story. I love christmas stories and this will be one that I will read year after year.” 
Above reviews from Amazon.com


NEW RELEASE also available..
Silver Bells at Moonglow

Christmas at the Timberton Hotel arrives each year with a unique set of guests, some returning, some new. When this holiday brings a celebrity seeking reprieve, sisters who are distant yet closer to each other than they think, a widow approaching a new horizon, and an eclectic smattering of local townsfolk and visiting relatives, the season is certain to be eventful. Add in a hint of romance and there’s more than snow in the air around the small Montana town.

Elegant decor and exquisite cuisine from resident artist and chef, Mist, form a backdrop to much needed camaraderie, bringing strangers and friends together. When the last note of Christmas carols has faded away, the soft whisper of silver bells from the front door’s wreath will usher guests and townsfolk alike back into the world with hope for the coming year.


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About the author

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.
Find the author on the following sites…

 


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I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.

 

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Tips for Winter Roadside Emergencies

Winter Emergency Car Kit Tips

I live in the Midwest, and living through harsh winters is just a reality.

I have memories, as a young girl, maybe about 10 years old, of my Grandpa telling me to always have an emergency kit in my car when I grow up. He was pretty specific – he said to always have a toolbox, a spare tire, a flare and jumper cables. He also said to keep a coffee can filled halfway with sand, a big candle, matches and candy bars. He said I could spread the sand under my tires if I got stuck in the snow. He said if my car broke down, lighting the candle would provide some warmth as well as light. The candy bars were for energy. Of course, back in the day, coffee came in metal cans … not plastic containers or bags. Times have changed, but I love my memories of Grandpa teaching me life skills, by example. So

Winter Car Emergency Kit

I always try to be prepared for an emergency.

I have improvised some from Grandpa’s advice, but I’m still prepared for car emergencies.

I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned through my decades of winter driving experience. I have a bin with mechanical stuff and a bin for personal care stuff. Here is a list of my suggestions:

MECHANICAL BIN:
• Basic tools and wrenches
• Jack and tire iron
• Jumper cables
• Orange emergency triangle (flare substitute)
• Flashlight
• Rope and nylon zip ties
• Small shovel and some kitty litter
• Work gloves, rags and a plastic garbage bag (to kneel on or wear as rain gear)

PERSONAL BIN:
• Several water bottles
• Protein bars and nuts
• Blanket and hand warmers
• Extra pairs of socks and gloves
• First aid kit
• A book (something to help pass the time til help arrives)

These are some ideas for you to use as a guide … start with this list, then customize it to your preferences and needs geared toward your family.

One of my favorite sayings is … “I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”.

Cold Weather Cruise on Carnival Imagination

Good Bye Cold, Chicago Winter … Hello Warm, Sunny Mexico

I have the privilege of going on a Baja Mexico Cruise (and escaping the brutal cold) in the middle of January. It was a very generous birthday gift from my husband and kids. I’ll be cruising with my aunt, I can’t wait ! Soon, I’ll be lounging poolside with a Pina Colada (sp?) in my hand 🙂

However, before I go, there is lots of work to be done:
Shopping – travel sized items and new sandals 🙂 plus grocery shopping for the fam while I’m gone … after all, we don’t want them starving to death in my absence.
Laundry – to bring my favorite outfit on my trip, plus I’m sure the hubby will appreciate clean clothes to wear.
Packing – I need to bring clothes for hot, mexico type weather but also some things for cooler weather in the 60’s predicted for Catalina Island (our first port of call). I had to go with the big suitcase … I always think I can fit everything in the carry-on, but I never can. I usually bring too much, but I like to have choices 🙂
Mani/Pedi –  I have to … scary winter feet and horrible cuticles, plus I feel pretty when I get pampered 🙂

I was starting to feel overwhelmed when I had a past client call asking for a last minute pet sitting (due to a death in her family). I was pretty booked already, but didn’t want to let her down. Lucky for me, my daughter volunteered to take down all our Christmas decorations for me. That took a load of stress off me.

It’s the first time I’m traveling alone in a long time, but I think I’m going to really enjoy getting away for a while. I hope I don’t miss my hubby and kids too much 🙂 

BON VOYAGE !!

Little green signs of life means Spring has come.

Outdoor Spring Cleaning in the Yard and Garden

Spring has finally sprung … well not quite, but it is trying 🙂 I can at least say all the piles of snow have melted. We had one nice sunny, warmish day last week. My husband and I took advantage of it to start the process of getting the yard tidied up a little.

Chicago endured a long and harsh winter this year … the high winds and 5+ feet of snowfall really took its toll on our yard. When it finally warmed up enough to be outdoors for a couple of hours, we found that the wind had tried to blow down a section of our fence … it didn’t succeed entirely, but it is leaning at a precarious angle. Repairing that is at the top of our to-do list when the ground is more thawed. After walking around and sizing everything up, we realized that we were quite blessed by only having to repair the fence.

Living on a corner lot, we’ve come to understand that our house is kind of like a windbreak. During severe storms, you can almost feel the wind howling all around us. All that wind blows a lot of debris and litter into our yard. We filled a whole outdoor trashcan with what we picked up.

I went around picking up lots of branches that had been broken off during the cold, hard winter. Lets just say we have plenty of kindling for whenever we want enjoy a fire in our fire pit. We also were reminded that we didn’t have time to get all the leaves raked up last fall before the snow came. With 6 trees on our property, raking leaves is like a full time job in autumn. After the litter was cleaned up, we thought that if we were to take a picture of the front yard it would be actually hard to tell if it was autumn or spring. We got to work and filled several bags with leaves.

The best part of that afternoon (besides enjoying some fresh air and feeling a sense of accomplishment) was finding little signs of life peeking out of the ground. If my memory of their locations serves me, we have seen signs of life from the Crocus, the Daffodils, the Hyacinths and the Tulips. Soon we will be able to start turning over and preparing the soil in the garden area. I plan to start my vegetable seedlings indoors this weekend.  

Welcome Spring … we’ve been waiting for you 🙂

Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Tackle Spring Cleaning Early ~ Kitchen To-Do List Update

It’s the first day of March ~ so here’s an update on my early kitchen spring cleaning challenge I gave to myself.

First I’d like to apologize for posting so sporadically lately … I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the last couple of weeks. Nothing major, mostly just feeling worn down and dealing with sinus issues 🙁

That, coupled with my perfectionist / all or nothing mindset, well … lets just say I felt like I couldn’t post about my kitchen progress because I thought because I didn’t keep up with my own expectations, that I had failed.

I’m working on trying to wrap my brain around a new outlook (we’re all a work in progress … right?) for life ~ Something is Better than Nothing 🙂

So, here are SOME THINGS (from my earlier kitchen to-do list post) that I did accomplish in February …

  • Emptied out, wiped down, and re-organized the inside of the cabinets
  • Scrubbed and de-greased the outside of the cabinets
  • Cleaned the oven and microwave
  • Washed the windows and curtains
  • Cleaned the ceiling fan

So … this is where my new mindset needs to kick in … I accomplished SOME THINGS from my to-do list 🙂  It’s not done perfectly (something has already spilled over and splattered in the microwave), but it’s better than nothing ~ There is still plenty of time and plenty to do for spring cleaning 🙂

Does anyone else suffer with an all or nothing mindset ? How do you deal with it ? Please share your ideas and thoughts … 
Warm, Sunny Beach in the Bahamas is perfect for Spring Break

I’m Dreaming of a Warm, Sunny Spring Break Beach Vacation

It’s the middle of February 2014 ~ time is flying by fast … but not fast enough for those of us who are getting tired of winter. Yes, I’m still working on my early kitchen spring cleaning project, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’m sitting at my desk, watching the snow fall outside my office window, while I’m watching a slide show of my last warm sunny vacation to the Bahamas for my anniversary last year. We took a cruise on NCL … it was wonderful. We had so much fun ~ great food, live shows, numerous choices for entertainment, fun excursions, plenty of free time for relaxing on deck ~ I really ♥ cruising!

NCL Bahama Cruise Welcome

This greeted us as we boarded our cruise ship, the Norwegian Sky.

Alas, we aren’t taking a spring break trip this year … but I’d love to help you plan yours. Where would you like to go? Close by or far away? With kids or without? Lounging on a beach or packed with action and adventure? What’s your dream vacation look like? Share your ideas of your dream vacation in the comments below 🙂

I have decades of experience working in the travel industry … at times I really miss it. I’d love to work with you to find the perfect vacation for your family. BTW, I can also take care of your pets for you while you’re away … such a deal 🙂

Plastic Tupperware Containers to Sort and Organize

Update on My Tackle Spring Cleaning Early List ~ Kitchen

It has been a week since I posted my list of tackling spring cleaning early goals. During the week, I worked on re-organizing my cabinets. I started with my Tupperware cabinet … it was a mess.

  • First, I emptied everything out on my table.
  • Next, I matched each plastic container with its lid. I have no idea how this happens, but I seem to have a few bowls with no lids and a few lids with no bowls … again, I really have no idea 🙂 So, I got rid of them (recycle bin). I also got rid of a few that were in really bad shape … they get all stained and pitted, yuck.
  • Then, I decided I wanted them to belong in a different cabinet. They were shoved onto a top shelf before. Their new location has more room. Also, I now have the lids stored in the same cabinet as the bowls. I had them stored in a drawer and they kept falling behind and getting jammed. I used a wire basket to stack all the lids to (hopefully) be easier to find.

    Newly Organized Tupperware Cabinet

    Nice, neat and tidy plastic storage containers and lids.

  • I also decided to divide the containers into everyday leftover/storage size and the larger/serving sizes and stored them in a different cabinet.
  • I then took out all my dishes and glassware to wipe down the shelves before putting them back. I tossed a couple of coffee mugs and a plate that had a chip in them.

    Newly Organized Dish Cabinet

    My neat and tidy dish cabinet … now that I look at it, maybe I’ll raise the coffee mug shelf up another notch 🙂

Boy … on my list it was only a couple of sentences, but it sure was a lot of work 🙂  I’ll work on scrubbing and de-greasing the outsides of the cabinets another time, after all, we still have another 5 or 6 weeks of winter left (if you can believe the groundhog). I’m happy to have my plastic containers more under control … now if only the other members of the family will help in keeping the cabinets organized 🙂

How are you doing on tackling your spring cleaning chores? What is on your to-do list? Give me an update … we can encourage each other 🙂 Let me know if you’d like Tracy Helps You to … help you.

 

Early Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

5 Things on My "Tackle Spring Cleaning Early" List ~ Kitchen

Please accept my apologies for complaining so much about the weather last month 🙁

I’ve decided to stop whining and get productive.  I’m starting some spring cleaning early … hopefully I can be done (or almost done) by the time spring actually arrives 🙂

My plan is to spend the month of February deep cleaning my kitchen.

  • Cabinets/Counters – clean/degrease the outsides, wipe down /sanitize the insides, re-organize the contents, wipe down, de-clutter & organize counter tops more efficiently
  • Frig/Freezer completely empty out and throw away expired items, thoroughly clean and sanitize shelves, organize shelves more logically, clean off the top of the frig
  • Stove/Oven – thorough cleaning & scrubbing using lots of “elbow grease” to get rid of those really tough baked on stains casino online
  • Floor – wash on my hands and knees (like my Grandma taught me), getting into every corner and scrubbing the grout of the tile
  • Walls/Windows/Ceiling Fan – wipe down walls, clean/degrease backsplashes, wash windows (inside only – it’s February in Chicago, people … lol), change the curtains, clean/degrease the fan blades

I really can’t stand all that gross, greasy dust that accumulates on every surface in the kitchen … I hope to be able to stay on top of this chore every month, so it doesn’t get so out of control in the future 🙂

Who wants to join me on getting an early start on our spring cleaning this year? I’m thinking that if I spend my time productively during these “cabin fever”, winter months, I can actually spend lots of time outdoors enjoying the spring weather without feeling guilty for blowing off my household responsibilities 🙂

Many thanks to  http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday / Top Ten Tuesday 🙂

photo by: BooleanRadley
Cold Snowy Chicago January Weather

This Long Snowy Chicago January is Giving Me Cabin Fever

It’s the last day of January, and I already have cabin fever. Normally the winter weather doesn’t really get to me until early March, and I then I start to dream and plan my summer garden. This year my cabin fever started way too early. I don’t usually let the weather stop me from keeping to my normal schedule and doing my normal activities. I am blaming it on the extreme weather that Chicago has experienced for the entire month of January 2014.  

After all, I come from sturdy stock … I used to work outside on the ramp at O’Hare for over 15 years, for goodness sakes. While we have experienced extreme low temperatures a few times this past month, we haven’t broken the record. I vividly remember experiencing that record low temp of -24 (without the windchill) on January 20, 1985 … it was my first day working at O’Hare! I remember thinking to myself, “what in the world was I thinking?? I had a nice, warm, comfy desk job at a travel agency on Michigan Avenue”. Of course, I survived and have great stories to tell from that day. It was a great job, with great travel benefits. I have many wonderful memories of this time … it was the perfect job for me during my single days 🙂

According to the Chicago Weather Center Blog, we haven’t broken the record for snowfall this month either, but our 33.5 inches takes 3rd place in the record book. The blizzard in January of 1979 gave that month a total of 40.4 inches to take 2nd place. I remember making a lot of $$$ shoveling people out that winter 🙂 The 1st place Chicago snowfall record is from 1918 with 42.5 inches … wow!

They are predicting more snow for tomorrow, so it appears February will be more of the same, yippee! Oh well … I’ll have to figure out someway to keep myself amused in my nice, warm cozy “cabin” for a while longer. Don’t be surprised if I have a really big garden this spring 🙂

Tell me some of the things you do while spending these cold and snowy days at home …