The Porch Light copyright by Revka (2006-2010). All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Clearance Deals at

Oooooh, I'm so excited! I don't often buy clothes, and I always bargain shop before I buy anything. I hit the jackpot today.

Kohl's is having a great clearance online - you can get items up to 90% off the original price. In addition, you can use up to two promo codes per order. I placed two orders today and got 1 dress, 9 tops, and 1 bottom for a total price of $69.81 shipped. Prices varied from $2.80 for a shirt to $11.16 for the dress.

Here's the link to the clearance section:

Here are the coupon codes:

20% discount: EXTRA20 (you do not need to have a Kohl's card to use this code)

Go through the checkout process, and there will be a place on the bottom left of one of the pages where you can enter a code. Enter one code, hit apply, enter your second code, hit apply, and both discounts will be deducted from your total.

Happy shopping!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Thanksgiving

Hi, all! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

Mr. Incredible was on call Thanksgiving week. That means that he needs to be able to respond to emergency calls within 30 minutes. Which meant that there was no way we would be able to travel for the holiday.

Last year, he was on call for Thanksgiving, and the children and I left him at home while we went to family events 1 1/2 hours away. I didn't like leaving him alone one bit and decided that my holidays would be spent with my beloved in the future.

Since my little sister, Sarah, was due to have her baby Thanksgiving week, she suggested that my family have Thanksgiving at my house, which is almost halfway between her home and the town where the majority of my family lives. Everyone thought that was a great idea, and that's what we did.

Sarah had her daughter on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving. So she and Joe weren't even able to come to the get-together they had suggested. But everyone else made it, including a family that Mr. Incredible and I have become good friends with.

My family asked me to create the menu and just tell them what to bring. In the end, each family was requested to bring something to drink, a side dish, and a dessert. I made the turkey, pork loin, dressing, salad, butter beans, collards, gravy, and Tres Leches cake. Although we had 24 people, we had more than enough food, and it was all delicious.

After eating (and taking a little time for the food to digest a bit), we loaded up and traveled about a minute down the road to a park/sports complex. There, the kids played on the playground while Mr. Incredible and our friend played tennis. I think everyone had a lot of fun.

All in all, I'd have to say this was one of the nicest Thanksgivings I can remember.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?


Monday, November 09, 2009

Blog Tour: The Swiss Courier

Thanks to LitFuse Publicity for providing a free review copy of this book. No other compensation was received for this review. The opinions contained herein are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, unfaltering faith, suspense, unexpected plot developments, historical adventure - all are found within the pages of Mike Yorkey and Tricia Goyer's fantastic collaborative historical novel, The Swiss Courier.

The recent release of the movie Valkyrie has made many of us aware of the most famous but failed assassination attempt on Hitler's life. The Swiss Courier is set in the time directly following that attempt. The Nazi's were scrutinizing everyone in minute detail, trying to discover if more traitors lurked among them.

This scrutiny brought to light the Jewish heritage of a German scientist hard at work on the nuclear fission project. He is unaware of his precarious situation until the SS come to take him away.

In Switzerland, a young lady with a talent for safecracking is called upon to assist her government ... or is she? She must keep both her wits and her faith about her as she seeks to determine who is friend and who is foe.

An undercover band of men and women loyal to the resistance, a young farmer in love with the heroine, a selfish operative ... all play a role in this thrilling story.

If you like historical and/or well-written fiction, I'd highly recommend you read The Swiss Courier. You'll find it hard to put down until you have read the final plot twist, and you will come away with a new respect for the courage and selflessness of those who fought against the Nazis, whether in the official army or in the underground resistance.

About the authors:
Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana. To find out more visit her website:

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.To find out more visit his website:

BUY THE BOOK! Available at

Want to know what other bloggers are saying? Visit the official blog tour post.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Tour: Lost Mission by Athol Dickson

Lost Mission Thanks to LitFuse Publicity for providing a free review copy of this book. No other compensation was received for this review. The opinions contained herein are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Prior to receiving my book for this blog tour, I had not heard of Athol Dickson. To be honest, I am not very familiar with contemporary authors, generally preferring the classics by authors such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and the like. That is one thing I really like about being part of the Litfuse blogger program - being exposed to new-to-me authors. But I digress.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lost Mission. If you read Christian fiction, you know that many of the books that fit in that genre are what I call "fluff" literature and are poorly written with sketchy character development and thin plot lines.

Mr. Dickson's book was the complete opposite. His writing showed an excellent grasp of the English language yet was not pretentious. The story was a gripping tale, not a dry text to wade through. You do not need a master's degree in English to read his novel with comprehension and enjoyment.

The characters were complex, human, and compelling. Their emotions and the motives behind their actions were completely believable. All the characters made both good and bad choices - just like in real life. And as in real life, their actions had consequences that affected people other than themselves.

The plot, too, was detailed and multi-faceted. The novel alternates between the story of a Catholic mission founded centuries earlier (hence the title) and the present-day story of several individuals whose lives become intertwined. While that may sound confusing, I found that the alternating story lines kept me intrigued as to what would happen next and why.

Here's the official info about the book and its author.

About the book:
What haunting legacy awaits deep beneath the barrios and wealthy enclaves of Southern California?

A billionaire driven mad by grief.

A pastor in love with the wrong woman.

An illegal immigrant desperate to feed his family.

Only Lupe de la Garza can save them from the ancient evil lurking in a lost mission's ruins, but it will take an act of faith beyond all human power.

An idyllic Spanish mission collapses in the eighteenth century atop the supernatural evidence of a shocking crime. Twelve generations later the ground is opened up, the forgotten ruins are disturbed, and rich and poor alike confront the onslaught of resurging hell on earth. Caught up in the catastrophe are...

  • A humble shopkeeper compelled to leave her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
  • A minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
    An unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans
  • A devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Will the evil that destroyed the MisiĆ³n de Santa Dolores rise to overwhelm them? Or will they beat back the terrible desires that led to the mission's good Franciscan founder's standing in the midst of flames ignited by his enemies and friends alike more than two centuries ago?
From the high Sierra Madre mountains to the harsh Sonoran desert, from the privileged world of millionaire moguls to the impoverished immigrants who serve them, Athol Dickson once again weaves a gripping story of suspense that spans centuries and cultures to explore the abiding possibility of miracles.

About the author:
Athol Dickson is an award-winning author of several novels. His Christy Award-winning novel River Rising was name one of the "Top Ten Christian Novel of 2006" by Booklist magazine. He lives in California with his wife. Find out more about Athol and his books by visiting his website.

It's available for purchase through

Did you love the book?
Leave your review on, too!

Tweet this and be entered to win signed copies of Athol’s award winning books:

Tweet 4 words that describe Athol Dickson’s #LostMission along with this link:


Athol Dickson’s redemptive tale #LostMission is a MUST read! Gripping story about mistakes and miracles!

(To be clear – to be entered into the contest your tweet must have these 2 elements 1. Athol Dickson’s #LostMission 2. this link:

Blog Tour: See what other bloggers are saying!


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Blog Tour: The Great Christmas Bowl

You know, I'm feeling really sheepish about this post. I was supposed to publish it October 2nd, and I simply forgot! Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed this book. Which is why I'm publishing this post now.

The Great Chirstmas Bowl by Susan May Warren is the perfect holiday story to remind us that Christmas is a time for giving, not just for getting. Marianne, a mom with a nearly-empty nest, has planned the perfect Christmas. But things don't go as planned.

After reluctantly becoming the high school's mascot and her church's hospitality chairwoman, Marianne goes on an oft-times hilarious journey that twists and turns in unexpected ways. In the end, everyone involved rediscovers exactly what Christmas is about. I promise that the ending will leave you with a lump in your throat if not tears in your eyes.

Visit the blog tour post to find out what other bloggers thought about this book.

About The Great Christmas Bowl:
Marianne Wallace is focused on two things this holiday season: planning the greatest family Christmas ever and cheering on her youngest son’s team in their bid for the state championship.

Disaster strikes when the team loses their mascot-the Trout. Is it going too far to ask her to don the costume? So what if her husband has also volunteered her to organize the church Christmas tea.

When football playoffs start ramping up, the Christmas tea starts falling apart. Then, one by one her children tell her they can’t come home for Christmas.
As life starts to unravel, will Marianne remember the true meaning of the holidays?

About Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at

Link to Buy the Book:

Available at Christian

The Great Christmas Bowl website:
The website features a note from the author, fun updates from Big Lake Gazette, info on how to host your own Great Christmas Bowl Tea to benefit a local ministry or charity and a fun Recipe Exchange contest!

Be a part of the Great Christmas Bowl recipe exchange!
Susan loves getting recipes from friends, and sharing the delicious cookies, soups, breads and other fun fixings that go with celebrating the Christmas season. More than that, she loves the crazy stories about favorite Christmases – serious, touching, funny…whatever. Find the recipe contest here:

Will you share your story and recipe with Susan and the readers of the Great Christmas Bowl? She will post your story and recipe on the FRONT PAGE of the Great Christmas Bowl website, and send you a link when it goes up so you can tell all your friends. Then, at the Great Christmas Bowl party (December 5th, 10am, online! Details TBA) she’ll make the entire cookbook available for download!

For every recipe/story you submit (up to 3), you will be entered in a drawing to receive one of SMW’s collections (Noble Legacy, Team Hope, Heirs of Anton, Deep Haven Series, Josey series, or THE ADVANCED COPY of Sons of Thunder – Susie’s brand new epic World War 2 novel, due out in January 2010!)

Go – run, get your recipe, then come back here and click on the link below to share your Christmas memories!

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book for review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, and my review was not influenced by my receiving the book for free.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane

I'm on my lunch break (from homeschooling - I haven't gone to work) and thought I'd drop in a quick update.

Pigeon Forge, TN cabin Since my last post, Mr. Incredible and I took our 10-year anniversary trip to the Pigeon Forge, TN area and had a fabulous time. I found a great deal on cabins through Sunset Cottage. We got three nights for the price of two. Even with cleaning fees and taxes, the cost averaged out to $88/night. Because of this, we were able to have a wonderful little cabin to ourselves from Thursday through Sunday.

We also went to Dollywood for two days. Again, I was able to get a great deal through the cabin rental company. Adult 2-day tickets can be purchased through their office for fifteen cents less than the regular cost of a 1-day ticket. It was nice not to have to cram everything into one day.

By the way, if you are planning to go to Dollywood in the near future, I highly recommend Sha-Kon-Oh-Hey!, the new show. It was entertaining and quite well done for a theme park show. You can expect to see and hear plenty of singing, gymnastics, and even some flying.

 pirate girl  mona lisa  thoughtful

Two short weeks after that, I started homeschooling the girls again. I thought those first two weeks were going to kill me.  Buddy Bear was bewildered those first two weeks, wondering why his playmates had abandoned him, Pookie was in tears nearly every day saying that her work was too hard and she couldn't do it (not true at all), and Miss Muffet and Baby Bear suddenly decided that their little brother was a bother to their after-school playtime. Yikes! Thankfully, we've all gotten into a routine, and our days are going much more smoothly now. If only I could stick to my schedule... . But I'm sure that will come in time, too.

eating birthday cake   first birthday cake first birthdayhappy   Table decoration  angelic

Buddy Bear had his birthday in June, and I think he grows more adorable every day, although I must say he doesn't always act as adorable as he looks.  We're working on getting him to stop biting, pulling hair, pinching, and hitting.  Lovely.

I'm still running my business.  I've had to scale back my scheduled design time considerably, and I am still working on adjusting my estimation of how much time it will take to complete projects now.  I'm doing okay, but I get very stressed out when I get behind.  Then I pull a late-night working session (or two) to try to catch up and get back on track.

So that's what has been keeping me busy.  My time is not my own anymore. :)  But I will still try to pop in here for an update every now and then.

How have you been doing?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Beautiful Surprise

It's a good thing that flowers aren't at the top of my "Favorite Gifts to Receive" list. Don't get me wrong - I like getting flowers, but I'm okay with not getting them, too.

Which, as I stated before, is a good thing because the last time Mr. Incredible gave me flowers was 4 days before he proposed to me. 10 years ago.

The last time, that is, until Saturday night when he surprised me by giving me a dozen roses for absolutely no reason. What a nice surprise! It definitely said, "I love you."

I think I've about photographed the poor flowers to death, using my early anniversary present (which I absolutely LOVE). I'll probably hang them upside down to dry tonight. I still have the dried roses from 10years ago. I arranged them in a crystal basket I have, and I love them as much now as I did when I first received them.

Here are some of my favorite photos of Saturday's roses. I know the first one is blurry and the second one makes it appear that I live in a crooked house, but I still like it them.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Giving and Receiving

*This was originally written on March 26, 2009, but it languished in my drafts folder until I found it today.*

The kids and I had an interesting trip to Wal-Mart after church last night. We had the unexpected opportunity to both give and receive.

I needed to pick up just a few items, including milk. We made our way to the back of the store for the milk first (that's Mr. Incredible's way of shopping that has become ingrained in me). When we got to the dairy section, the only other people there were three men who looked like Muslims. They had the long robes, the beards, and the brimless caps.

I must admit that I was thinking about how different they were and about the potential for them to be the "bad guys." But I reminded myself that for the most part, people are just people. So when I made eye contact with one of the men, I smiled, said hello, and asked how he was doing. After exchanging pleasantries, we all moved on with our shopping.

When I had picked up the last item we needed, the girls asked if they could go look at the cakes. Being in no particular hurry, I agreed, and they happily ran ahead of me to the cakes.

As it turns out, the three men were shopping in that section, too. The same man I had spoken with previously remarked about how excited the girls were. I replied that they always loved looking at the cakes. He asked if them if they liked a particular cake. Then he saw the cupcakes and asked me if they liked them. Of course they do.

Next, he asked Miss Muffet which cupcakes she liked - white or black. I told him that she doesn't like chocolate, although her sisters do. He then proceeded to pick up two containers of cupcakes, one vanilla and one chocolate. He gave them to me and also gave me the money to pay for them, saying that they were for the children.

I was quite surprised, of course, but thanked him most sincerely and told the girls that he had just bought them the cupcakes. They thanked him, too, and we once again parted ways.

A few moments later, I was checking out when Pookie Bear tugged at my sleeve. She pointed to an elderly lady in the express lane near us and urgently whispered something. I didn't catch what she said and asked her to repeat it. She asked me if she could help the lady carry her groceries.

I was hesitant (what if the lady thought we were bothering her and said no or got irritated?), but after repeated requests on Pookie's part, I reluctantly acquiesced.

When we approached the lady with our offer, she was greatly surprised but gladly agreed to accept our help. Each of the girls volunteered to take a bag, leaving the lady with nothing to do but take us to her vehicle. She commented that no one had ever done that for her, and I told her that it was my daughter's idea.

When we got the groceries situation in her vehicle, she thanked us, and we walked on to our vehicle. All of the girls were very happy that they had been able to help someone else. I was rather thoughtful, thinking how often I fail to see the people beside me who could use my help and marveling at the tender, thoughtful heart of my daughter.

I pray that I will set a better example for my children and not only tell but also SHOW them what it means to be thoughtful and helpful.

It was an unusual trip as trips to the store normally go, but I was blessed by the gift that was given to us and the one that we were able to give.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Thank You for the Valley

I can't remember where I read this, but some study found that when people who were unhappy with their {life, marriage, whatever} were surveyed again 5 years later, the overwhelming majority of them were no longer unhappy with that situation.

I can say from personal experience that you never know when the situation that is weighing on you will be transformed from a burden into a blessing.

To be quite honest, while the past 4 or so years have been pretty tough for me, the past 2 years have been especially difficult. Within the past 3 months, however, the situation that I found so difficult has turned around and is now one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Despite my hesitation to do so, I'm going to share a poem I wrote at one of my lowest points. When I read the words I penned and contrast them with my life today, I can only say, "Thank God He never let go of me!"


But not peaceful

Unspoken thoughts
Words not yelled
Or uttered at all

Nowhere to turn
No one who cares

Building and mounting
About to explode

My own existence
To continue or not

Cut off from help
No hope in sight

Fading away
Into welcome oblivion

~by Revka

If you are wondering about the last few stanzas, yes, I have thought about committing suicide - during more than one stage of my life. I obviously haven't done more than think about it, and I don't think I ever could. But there have been times when I seriously thought my family would be better off without me, that perhaps Mr. Incredible married the wrong person and would be able to marry the right one if I removed myself, that my children deserve a better mother.

Call me crazy or whatever you want, but I'm being honest and sharing one of my darkest secrets in hopes that maybe someone who is going through a similar struggle will find encouragement and strength to hold on when all they want to do is let go. No one has shared with me that they have ever struggled with something like this, and yet ... I can't help believing that if I struggle, someone else does, too.

If that's you, hold on. Don't give up. Pour your heart out to God. When life seems darkest, He's there to light your way if you are His child. Oft times, the darkest time is just before the light breaks through. But even if light never comes, the darkest night traveled with God is brighter than the most brilliant day traveled alone.

Thank You for the Valley - by Dottie Rambo

Thank You for the valley I walked through today.
The darker the valley, the more I learn to pray.
I found You WHERE THE LILIES ARE BLOOMING BY THE [I like the following lyrics here instead] when the preacher was preaching the Gospel way.
And I thank You for the valley I walked through today.

Thank You for every hill I've climbed
For every time the sun didn't shine.
Thank You for every lonely night
I prayed til I knew everything was alright.
And I thank You for the valley I walked through today.

Life can't be all sunshine, or the flowers would die.
The rivers would be deserts all barren and dry.
Life can't be all blessing, for there'd be no need to pray.
So I thank You for the valley I walked through today.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Thank You, Dear Barnabas

While I am waiting for the WordPress platform to finish uploading to a client's site, I thought I'd drop a quick line here.  I don't want to desert my poor blog so soon after only recently "finding" it again!


Back in May, my bloggy friend Lizzie from A Dusty Frame created the Barnabas Award to recognize people in her life who have been an encouragement to her.  I was honored to be named as a Barnabas.  I am delighted to pass this on to several friends, both bloggers and those I know in real life, who have been a great encouragement to me recently.


*Link back to the person who gave you the award.

*Use the Barnabas graphic (leaving the URL on it)

*Share it with anyone who encourages you whether or not their blog is “spiritual”.

*Share this explanation

“Barnabas worked with the Apostle Paul.

We remember him for his encouragement and generosity. In this spirit, I’d like to let you know that you are a Barnabas in my life. Thank you!”

I'd first like to award those who gave me encouraging comments after reading my rant about being backstabbed.  I was feeling pretty low, and you really picked me up.  So thank you - Amber, Jen, Tanyetta, Robin, Karen, Sho, and Mom.  (BTW, that rant was not about anyone I know in real life, nor was it about anyone who has ever dropped by my blog.  Hope that makes you feel better if you were wondering.)

I'd also like to give this to some other people encourage me: Holly, Jen, Lizzie, Drama Mama, CPA Mom, Dad Stearns (my FIL), and Mr. Incredible.

So now I guess I've renamed all you "Barnabas" - LOL!  Seriously, I can't thank you enough.  I hope the Lord blesses each and every one of you for what you have done for me.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Loving My New Nikon D5000 and Photoshop Elements

Mr. Incredible decided to get me a digital SLR camera for our 10th anniversary.  Even though our anniversary isn't until August, he had me research what was available (we prefer Nikon since we already have a traditional SLR from them and the lenses are interchangeable), and we made our selection, the new Nikon D5000.

Boy, am I enjoying this!  Actually, we are both enjoying the new camera.  We're getting in plenty of practice in hopes that we will have a pretty good grasp of using the camera by the time our anniversary rolls around and before we go to the NASCAR race in October (my gift to Mr. Incredible.)

I love the depth of field and have been having fun experimenting with it.  Here are a couple of my favorite experiments.  The clock has the foreground blurred, and the picture of the girls has the background blurred.  I can think of so many uses for this technique!

DSC_0044  DSC_0133

I've also been playing around with my photos in Photoshop Elements.  This is a really bad photo that I played with.


Here is the same photo after I cropped it and made some other changes in PSE.

k-poster-bw I love this photo now!  And then I went a little crazy and decided to try my hand at creating a square containing four of these photos, each one being a different color.  (Miss Muffet didn't like the final image at all - strongly objected to being unnaturally colored.  Well, she did kinda like the orange one.  That's her favorite color. LOL!)


I have many, many more photos to post.  Buddy Bear just had his first birthday, Miss Muffet had her fifth birthday last month, and Baby Bear will have her 4th birthday in about 3 weeks.  It's crazy around our house during these summer months!

Care to share some of your favorite pics?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Family Pictures

It had been a year and a half since our last family portraits, and Mr. Incredible kept saying we needed to get some more done.  One of my former piano students approached me to see if I would design a website for her new photography business.  I asked if she'd be interested in trading services, and we worked out a mutually agreeable arrangement.

We had our photo session about a week ago.  We were very happy with the results.  (The photos of Mr. Incredible and me from my last post are from that session.)  Thank you so much, Sara!  I hope when I am finished you love your website design for Sara Vogt Photography even half as much!

Here are some of our favorite photos from the shoot.

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 027

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 033

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 059

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 066

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 116

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 136

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 166

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 159

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 190

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 205

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 212

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 228

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 241

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 267

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 278

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 325

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 350

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 354

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 360

Stearns Family Session 6-6-09 369


Saturday, June 13, 2009

You Make My Heart Sing

Mr. IncredibleEven though I recently vented my frustration over having been backstabbed and implied that the incident had impacted my determination to allow people to know me better, I am happy to say that I recently made a real breakthrough in tearing down the walls that I have erected in my relationship with my husband. 

What a difference taking a chance and being transparent and vulnerable with Mr. Incredible has made.  I don't think marriage has ever been sweeter.  Nope, not even during our honeymoon days.

I love this man.



Friday, May 29, 2009

Gotta Vent

Can't go into details at all, but it really stinks when someone acts like they're your friend and then turns around and back stabs you. Even worse, it was public.

It's things like this that have led to all the walls I have erected and have made me hesitant to let people get too close.

Just when I thought maybe I could trust people...

end of rant/pity party (Aren't you glad? *smile*)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blog Tour: Making Work at Home Work by Mary Byers

Thanks to LitFuse Publicity for providing a free review copy of this book. No other compensation was received for this review. The opinions contained herein are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

*Giveaway post - details at end!*

Read what other bloggers think about this book.

Before even I start my review, let me just tell you that this book couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have been drowning under my load of responsibility (personal and business), and I hadn't been doing anything well. Then I was offered a chance to review Making Work at Home Work, and I instantly accepted. Boy, amd I glad I did!

Making Work at Home Work shows moms how to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set without sacrificing their families. It covers important topics such as developing a successful business philosophy, balancing time between work and family, setting realistic goals, and handling the challenges of being both "Mommy" and "CEO" while running a profitable home-based business.

As a WAHM, let me tell you that I know first-hand how difficult that is! I found myself reflected in nearly all of the following assessment questions from the book:

  • Do I feel overwhelmed? (um, yeah...)
  • Am I trying to do too much? (waaaaay too much)
  • Are my work commitments forcing me to make sacrifices that are hurting my role as a mom? (Hm, let's see - no school for days on end, kids making their own lunches, etc. - check)
  • Am I often overly optimistic about how much I can accomplish in a day or week? (I'm the queen of false optimism)
  • Do those around me seem stressed or out of sorts because of my workload? (Yes - everyone in the house, including me, hates how much I work)
  • What would happen if I tried to space out my work more evenly? (Not a clue.)
  • Would I lose business if I were more realistic about my deadlines? And if so, would it matter?
  • Am I working at a pace I can sustain over the long haul? (no) If not, how can I get to that point?
Talk about being hit between the eyes! The good news is that Mary doesn't just leave you after she forces you to acknowledge the reality of your situation. Instead, she provides real, workable solutions to the many problems that she herself has encountered as a result of being a WAHM.

I'll share with you a couple of areas that Making Work at Home Work has already helped me to improve.
  1. I now acknowledge that I am a WAHM, not a SAHM. This has been a critical step to freeing myself from unrealistic expectations I and others have placed on my shoulders. Because I am a WAHM, I have client demands in addition to the demands of my family. By acknowledging that fact, I can enlist my family's help during the times when I have to focus more on my clients. This also gives me permission not to take on additional outside responsibilities and commitments. When I acknowledge the time I need to take care of my family and run my business, I can see that I simply don't have time for a lot of "extracurricular" activities.
  2. I finally sat down with Mr. Incredible to discuss with him how he would like me to handle being both a mom and an entrepreneur. We went through Mary's helpful list of questions to discuss with your spouse, a few of which follow:
    • Are you willing to support me as I work from home?
    • What's realistic in terms of how much I work?
    • What kind of limitations should we put in place to keep things balanced?
The chapter titles will provide you with a good overview of what Making Work at Home Work cover.
  • Being Honest
  • Why Are You Working?
  • How Much Is Enough?
  • "I Can't Work in These Conditions!"
  • Guilt
  • The Parental PAct
  • Child Care Strategies for Every Season of Your Work-at-Home Life
  • Systematizing Your Business for Maximum Effectiveness
  • Refreshment
  • Facing the Daily Dinner Dilemma
  • Relying on Faith to Get You Through
  • Accepting the At-Home-CEO Mantle
  • Professional (and Other) Advice
  • The Tax Man Comes
  • The Right Equipment
  • Subcontracting
  • Boosting Your Revenue
  • One-Page Planning
  • Rainy Days and Reinvesting
  • Retirement Planning
  • Giving Yourself Permission to Make Your Business a Reflection of You
The Porch Light giveaway details: I have one brand new copy of the book to give away. To be entered. leave a comment on this post no later than May 21, 11:59 pm EDT. Include a valid e-mail address and tell me either what your biggest WAH challenge is or why you would like to win this book. The winner will be drawn on Friday, May 22.

Blog Tour Contest at Mary's site:
You have another chance to win a copy of Making Work at Home Work (or another one of Mary’s books--your choice) AND a $25 Amazon gift certificate (for some WAHM essentials – Day Planner, bubble bath, funky file-folders, toddler DVDs)!

There are three ways to win:
  1. Leave a comment on the blog tour post.
  2. Sign up for Mary’s quarterly newsletter where she offer tips and advice about all facets of a women's life: WAHM, mothering, women's issues. More info here!
  3. Join the Work at Home Blog Ring. More info here.
You can also buy the book at

About Mary:
Mary M. Byers successfully juggles both a freelance corporate writing and speaking business and her responsibilities as a wife and mother of two school-aged children. She is the author of The Mother Load: How to Meet Your Own Needs While Caring for Your Family and How to Say No . . . And Live to Tell about It. To learn more, visit her website or her blog.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Harris Teeter Score

image courtesy of

About a year ago, I started browsing the couponing blog niche. Blogs like Sisterly Savings and Thrifty Mommy made me wonder if I could save money using coupons. So I tried it. I found a coupon or two I thought I could use, purchased the name brand product, handed over my coupons, and still ended up paying more than I would have paid for the store brand product I normally bought. I didn't understand how anyone could save money that way! And I decided couponing was not for me.

About 6 months ago, I stumbled across Bargain Briana. I read her Couponing Basics guide (you need to read it if you don't already know how to use coupons to save 50% or more on your grocery bill), and the lightbulb went off on. From there, I discovered free coupon databases, like Coupon Mom, A Full Cup, Hot Coupon World, and Savvy Dollar (NC-specific site). Now, I regularly save 35%-60% on my groceries, meaning that I am able to buy more groceries and buy extras of sale items so that I never need to pay full price for that item again.

I have discovered that in my area, Wal-Mart, Food Lion, and Harris Teeter are the best grocery stores for couponing. (Of course there are the drugstores - CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid - where you can get incredible deals, but that's a separate post.) Harris Teeter always doubles coupons of $.99 or less and sometimes triples them. (They will multiply up to 20 coupons per VIC card per day.) This past week was triples week.

I took the time to browse the free coupon databases, matching up my coupons with the advertised sales. I went shopping last night and returned for more sales this morning. Here is what I got:

1 All 3x Small and Mighty 32 load: $3.99 - $1 coupon = $2.99
1 All 2x Stainlifter 32 load: $3.99 - $1 coupon = $2.99
2 All 2x Stainlifter 32 load: $3.99 - $1.20 ($.40 coupon tripled) = $2.79
1 Breyer's Ice Cream: $2.75 - $2.25 ($.75 coupon tripled) = $.50
1 Breyer's Ice Cream: $2.75 (regular sale price, which was still good)
1 Daisy Sour Cream 16 oz.: $2.19 - $1.50 ($.50 coupon tripled) = $.69
1 Spot Shot carpet spray: $2.74 - $1.65 ($.55 coupon tripled) = $1.09
1 Mahatma Rice 16 oz.: $1.49 - $1.50 ($.50 coupon tripled) = FREE
2 Mahatma Rice with seasoning: $.89 each - $2.25 ($.75 coupon tripled)= FREE
1 New York Texas Toast Croutons: $1.59 - $1.50 ($.50 coupon tripled) = $.09
2 McCormicks Grill Mates seasoning packets: $1 - $1.50 ($.50 coupon tripled) = FREE
2 McCormicks seasoning packets: $.50 each - $1.00 coupon = FREE
2 McCormicks seasoning packets: $.50 each (regular sale price)
3 Huggies wipes (64 ct): $3.29 each - $2.25 ($.75 coupon tripled) = $1.04
2 Ragu pasta sauce (14 oz.): $1.99 - $.90 ($.30 coupon tripled) = $1.09
2 White House applesauce (6ct. 4 oz. cups): $1.77 each - $1.80 ($.60 coupon tripled, had to buy 2) = 2 for $1.74
1 Gorton's Fish Sticks (44 ct.): $3.50 - $1.20 ($.40 coupon tripled) = $2.30
1 Betty Crocker Cheddar Sour Cream potatoes pouch: $1.19 - $.75 ($.25 coupon tripled) = $.44
2 Skippy Peanut butter: $2.79 - $2.75 ($.75 coupon tripled) = $.04
3 Domino Sugar (5 lb.): $2.69 - $1.05 ($.35 coupon tripled) = $1.64
1 Kraft Honey BBQ (18 oz.): $1.79 - $2.25 ($.75 coupon tripled) = FREE
1 Kellogg's Frosted Flakes: $1.93 - $1.00 coupon = $.93
2 Kellogg's Honey Smacks: $1.85 - $1.00 coupon = $.85
1 Kellogg's Corn Pops: $1.95 - $1.00 coupon = $.95
1 Kellogg's Fruit Loops: $1.98 - $1.00 coupon = $.98
1 Electrasol Powerball tablets (20ct): $3.50 - $2.50 coupon = $1.00
1 Duke's Mayo: $2.00 (sale price)
2 Harris Teeter sandwich bread: $.97 (sale price)
1 Harris Teeter butter (4 sticks): $2.47 (sale price)
4 Harris Teeter shredded cheeses (2 cups): $1.67 (sale price)
1 Harris Teeter eggs (2.5 doz): $2.97

If I had paid full price, the total would have been $145.73. I paid $59.70, including tax, for a savings of 59%. It's definitely worth it for me to use coupons!

How about you? Have you discovered how to use your coupons most effectively?


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Don't Let Me Die!

Yeah, I know that comes off as a little bit dramatic, but we've had plenty of drama in our house since Tuesday. One after the other, we all succumbed to a nasty, albeit quick, stomach virus.

Buddy Bear (he's growing so quickly, and I need to post some pics for you!) threw up two times on Tuesday with no apparent cause. The first time, it looked like he had been chewing tissue and got choked, but the second time was a complete mystery. Since he wasn't running a fever and didn't act out of sorts, I just chalked it up to formula not agreeing with him and forgot about it.

Wednesday night, we were getting in our Suburban to head home from church when Pookie Bear complained that her tummy hurt and she felt like throwing up. When we were about 3 minutes form our house, she became really frantic, insisting that she was about to throw up. Thankfully, she managed to wait until we got home and she was no longer in the vehicle. But that was the start of a miserable night for her (and me).

At one point, she was in the bathroom when I heard her loudly exclaim, "Oh, Lord! Please don't let me die!" Mr. Incredible and I had to laugh at that, but I quickly went to her to comfort her. She and I ended up sleeping (?) on the couch. I don't think she made it more than 2 hours at a time that night without throwing up. She finally stopped throwing up around 8 a.m. but was weak and tired the rest of Thursday.

By Thursday morning, I felt terrible myself, and when Baby Bear got up, she promptly threw up. Thankfully, she only threw up once and then just felt bad the rest of the day.

When Mr. Incredible got home Thursday night, he told me that his stomach was not feeling well. By the time bedtime came around, he, too, was sick. Thankfully, again, he didn't have to work the next day, and when he woke up Friday morning, he was already feeling much better.

Miss Muffet got up sick shortly after she went to bed Thursday night. She and I spent the night on the couch. Like Pookie, she didn't make it very long between vomiting episodes, and it was morning before she finally stopped throwing up. Neither one of us got much sleep.

Everybody rested Friday, except Mr. Incredible, who was determined to cut the grass. At least he did take a lot of breaks and cut half in the morning and half in the evening.

All in all, it has been an interesting few days here at our house. I'm glad this was just a 24-hour bug. I don't know if I could have taken anything longer!

I'm happy to report that even though Pookie felt like she was dying, no one is any the worse for the wear, and we are all just fine.

I have so many posts I want to write. I hope that I am able to stop by here more often.

How have you been?


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

I found this video, and it is absolutely incredible. (You seriously must click the link.) My reaction at the beginning was the same as everybody else's and was based solely on appearance. Looks can be very deceiving.

Added 2:24 p.m. - I cannot stop watching this. It puts me in tears nearly every time. I love watching the dignity and confidence of Susan from the very beginning, even when the judges and audience were amused and condescending. I love the shocked reaction from the crowd. I love the emotions displayed on the judges' faces, particularly Simon's near the end of the performance. Most of all, I LOVE Susan's performance. Her selection is one of my all-time favorite pieces, and she more than did it justice. She gives me goosebumps.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Blog Tour: Every Sunrise by Tricia Goyer

I have reviewed a couple of Tricia's books in the past (Generation NeXt Marriage and A Whisper of Freedom), and I have been impressed with her stories and her writing in general. I was absolutely delighted to be invited to review her latest book, Every Sunrise. (You can find links to other bloggers' reviews at the blog tour post.)

From beginning to end, this book did not disappoint. Even though it is the seventh book in the Home to Heather Creek series, you won't be lost if you, like I, haven't read the other six books.

Every Sunrise takes us into the life of the Stevenson family in which three children are being raised by their grandparents. The characters are real, and the plot line is one that true to life. People everywhere are looking for love and wondering how they fit into their family. Every Sunrise shows that love can be unconditional and forgiveness is available for the asking. Every day is a new day and a new chance.

Because this book talks a lot about food (strawberry cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, baked chicken with cornbread, chocolate cake, pancakes with homemade syrup, French onion soup, parmesan crusted chicken - are you hungry yet?!), there is an EVERY FOODIE contest being run in conjunction with this blog tour. Leave a comment on the blog tour post at Tricia’s site with your favorite meal and a recipe. You can earn additional contest entries for posting additional recipes.

Tricia will choose the most tantalizing recipe to receive an entire set of the Home to Heather Creek series (books 1-7). Five runners-up will win a copy of Every Sunrise or another Tricia Goyer book of their choice.

Tricia Goyer is the author of eighteen books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana.

Find out more about Tricia at


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Kill 'Em with Kindness (Part 2)

(If you missed it, you need to read Kill 'Em with Kindness Part 1 before you read today's post.)

Yesterday, I left off at the time when I found out that the family was moving, and the mom still had my favorite solo songbook.

I once again asked for my book. This time, she said that she had already returned it to me. I knew very well I had never received the book and tried to convince her of that fact. She searched all her music at home and failed to find my book before she moved. *sigh*

After a few months, Mr. Incredible decided I needed to replace the book. When we finally made the trip to Raleigh, we stopped at Burrage Music (my very favorite music store ever!), and within minutes (and at the expense of $19.99 plus tax), I was once again the happy possessor of Low Voice Classics.

But this saga doesn't end there. Oh, no, sir! This past fall, a couple of months after I re-purchased the songbook, the family moved back to our area. Every time I saw any member of the family, which was often since we attend the same church, I was reminded of the $40 they had cost me - $20 for cards and $20 for the book... my favorite book! (Nah, I don't hold grudges.)

Three weeks ago, I was walking up the aisle to play for Sunday morning service when the mom waved me down. Her face was absolutely lit up with happiness and excitement.

"Mrs. Stearns! You'll never guess what I found!" and she waved my missing book.

This is the part where I become like Judas Iscariot, the part that inspired my title. Here's what she heard me say.

"Oh, I already got another one. Don't worry about it."

With those words, her face lost all happiness and excitement. But I wasn't done.

"You keep it. I don't need two."

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Yes, I already bought another one."

"How much was it? Let me pay you for it."

"It's whatever the price says on the book - $20 or $25. But don't worry about it."

"Are you sure? I feel so bad now!"

"It's fine. Don't worry about it. You just got yourself a free book." and I gave her a hug.

Ah, how sweet and kind of me, right? WRONG!!! Here's what I was actually thinking - inserted into the previous conversation, bracketed and bold.

"Mrs. Stearns! You'll never guess what I found!" and she waved my missing book.

"Oh, I already got another one. Don't worry about it. [Of course you found it! I told you you had it! Now you can have it; I don't want it.]"

With those words, her face lost all happiness and excitement. But I wasn't done.

"You keep it. I don't need two. [Here, let me force-feed it to you - taste good?]"

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Yes, I already bought another one. [Did you hear that? Because of you, I wasted money buying another book, and if you had just listened to me when I told you you still had my book, I wouldn't have had to do that!]"

"How much was it? Let me pay you for it."

"It's whatever the price says on the book - $20 or $25. But don't worry about it. [Did you hear that? $20-$25! That I didn't need to spend! BECAUSE OF YOU!!!]"

"Are you sure? I feel so bad now!"

"It's fine. Don't worry about it. You just got yourself a free book. [I hope it bugs you every time you see it. I hope it gags you and makes you choke. I hope it makes you feel TERRIBLE.]" and I gave her a hug.
That's some difference, isn't it? The first conversation makes me seem giving, kind, and forgiving. The second one - the one with my heart revealed - shows that I was none of those things but was something very different instead: hateful, unforgiving, ugly, and vindictive.

Is kindness really kindness when it springs from anything but pure motives? No, I don't believe it is. Oh, it may be cloaked in a disguise of kindness, but it can actually be malice. Kill 'em with kindness? You betcha! Especially the killing part.

Somehow, I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind when He told us to turn the other cheek and to heap coals of fire on our enemy's head.

So once again I have failed. This time, I chose to make that failure public. I made that choice for one reason: to demonstrate that I'm just a sinner saved by grace. I can be as much of a hypocrite as any other person in the world. I can be just as malicious, just as devious, just as vengeful, just as sinful.

It is only by God's help and by a deliberate choosing to die to self that I (or anyone else) can truly exhibit God's kindness and love toward those who have hurt me. And only then can we "kill 'em with kindness" - true kindness that flows from the heart without malice or hypocrisy.

illustration courtesy of


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Kill 'Em with Kindness (Part 1)

I've been thinking about posting this for a couple of weeks now but wasn't sure I wanted to be that transparent in such a public forum. :D

Yesterday, our pastor preached an excellent sermon about Mary anointing Jesus' feet. Many things stuck with me, but the one thing relating to this post is the verse that tells how Judas Iscariot angrily asked why the ointment hadn't been sold and the money given to the poor.

Pastor pointed out that he is so thankful that the Bible is the best commentary on itself. The very next verse states that Judas said this not because he cared anything about the poor but because he was a thief and was the one who was responsible for the group's funds. His words sounded good, even pious, but the motive behind those words was anything but.

Rewind to nearly two years ago. A teenager approached me at church to ask me to buy some cards to help him with his school fundraiser. Being the pushover kind person that I am, I agreed to buy a boxed set of 50 cards for $20 - a pretty good deal, actually. I told him I would pay for the cards after they came in.

The cards arrived, and the kid and I kept missing each other at church. I finally got the money to him, but he didn't have my cards. I hate pestering people, so I patiently waited for several weeks before mentioning my lack of cards to him. He had forgotten that he had not given them to me and promised to do so.

Several more weeks went by. I reminded him again, but this time, he told me that he couldn't find the cards anywhere. Out of patience, I asked his mom about the cards only to be told that all unclaimed merchandise had already been returned to the school. Great! I'm out $20.

The mother did offer to refund my money, but I told her to just keep it for the school. However, I made a mental note not to purchase anything else from them.

A few months later, the mom asked to see my favorite solo songbook I had sung from for my special that morning. I let her borrow it. Several months went by; the book was not returned. Surely, this adult would do better than her teen.

I asked her about the book. She promised to return it. A couple of months went by - no book. I patiently waited for a couple more months. (By this time, it had been nearly a year since the incident with the son.) Then I found out that she and her family were moving to another state in just a few weeks...

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.

illustration courtesy of