Category Archives: Books

Best of 2011 – By M

Ok… I know that this is, like, 3 weeks too late, but I figured, Hey why not?!

Besides, there were a whole lot of awesome things to highlight in the year of 2011.  So, here goes!

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Favorite Once-in-a-life-time Event:  Skydiving with my wife

This is something that has been on my to-do list since I was in middle school, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to actually go do it.  The craziest part for me was watching Staci fall out of the plane with her instructor right before me and knowing that this was “Go time!”  Check out THIS post that we wrote about it afterward.  And here are a couple of pictures from it.

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Favorite Youth Trip:  California for the Youth 2011 Conference

Although Staci and I had plenty of incredible experiences with our students this year, I think our trip to Cali takes the cake.  The conference was great, the kids were fun, and the sites were awesome!  Can’t beat it for 2011.

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Favorite New Toy: iPad 2

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome!  But I waste too much time on it… but I am getting better!

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Favorite Movie (and Book Series): Harry Potter 7.2 (Harry Potter Series)

I know this is a completely nerdy pick, but you have to admit, the way that the HP story culminates into HP 7.2 is absolutely incredible.  And it makes it even better if you’ve read the books.  I don’t care what anyone says… if you can’t see the story of true love and self-sacrifice through this epic story then you’re crazy!

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Favorite New (or New-to-me) Album(s): Gungor – Beautiful Things, NEEDTOBREATHE – The Reckoning, Owl City – All Things Bright and Beautiful

This is a toughy because we got tons of great music this year, but these are definitely ones that find their way onto my iPod more often than not!  And if you want to see more great music from 2011 check out THIS post.  We also had our best Christmas music of 2011 HERE.

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Favorite Accomplishment: Building a covered porch for a woman in need for our HS Mission trip, U.M. Army

I’ve dabbled in renovations and remodeling with my in-laws, but never have I built something from the ground up.  I blogged more about the whole week of work on THIS post, check it out.

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Favorite New-to-me TV Show: Parenthood

Ok, I have to preface this one by saying, I find a hard time recommending this show because of certain content in this show.  However, I love that this show is themed around family and how important it is to have family in your life no matter how dysfunctional.  I have to admit that this show has put a lump in my throat many-a-time.

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Favorite Concert: David Crowder*Band (House of Blues Houston, TX)

DC*B has been my favorite band since high school.  David Crowder has had a huge impact on me as a musician and worship leader.  I love their music and their concerts are loads of fun.  I’m heart-broken that they’re breaking up and that this was their last tour together, but it is awesome for them to go out on their own terms and make it solid!

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Favorite Event: Catalyst Dallas

Catalyst is an incredible Christian leadership conference that began in Atlanta.  They now have a small version they do on the West Coast in California as well as in the mid-west in Dallas.  Great speakers, musicians, entertainment, and more!  Someday I hope to make it out to the Atlanta conference!  You can check out a post we wrote about it HERE.

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Favorite Purchase: Buying a house

‘Nough said…  There is nothing like having your own home, and it’s even more special to pick out what you like, and watch the building phase from the ground up!  It’s been an awesome journey for Staci and me to be in our new home.

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Favorite Overall Moment: Finding Out We’re Pregnant!

Many of you have read through our pregnancy story and know that this has been a long and difficult journey for the two of us.  So seeing the positive on the pregnancy test was such an incredible thing!  And it’s been fun getting all prepared for the little one to arrive this summer.

Then…

Now…

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Those are my tops for the year of 2011!  I’m sure there are plenty more things I could go on about, but I’ll keep things short there.

What are some of your faves from 2011?

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–M

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Harry Potter Week

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, it goes without saying that the last movie is just around the corner!  You can watch a trailer HERE.

A lot of our students are huge HP fans, and when we came to our church they were in the middle of doing a Bible study called “The Gospel According to Harry Potter” on Wednesday nights.  (The study took clips or themes from HP books/movies and then taught about the themes using Scriptures.)  We took our students to see HP 7.1 last fall when it came out, and we had a great time.

Sometime between then and now, we had the idea to have a Harry Potter Week building up to the new movie this summer.  Well, that time has come!

The movie actually releases next Friday, but we’ll be at camp next week.  So we’re having HP week the following week.  Each night, we’ll watch one of the HP movies, and have a HP inspired snack and (optional) craft.  I’m super excited because:

  1. It’s Harry Potter
  2. I love cooking and doing crafts
  3. I love planning things

So in case you want to plan your own HP party, I thought I’d share our plans.  Almost all of the ideas came from “The Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book” and “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.”  (You can click on each title to take you to the Amazon link.)

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Sunday: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

  • Craft:  Wands
  • Snack:  Chocolate Frogs (I bought the molds HERE)
  • Drink:  Butter Beer (recipe found HERE…using #5, but I’d like to try #1 on my own)

Monday: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • Craft:  No-Sew House Ties
  • Snack:  Pumpkin Pasties
  • Drink:  Pumpkin Juice

Tuesday: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • Craft:  Galleons (possibly Knuts and Sickles too)
  • Snack:  Acid Pops
  • Drink:  ??

Wednesday: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Craft:  No Mess Quills
  • Snack:  Dragon Eggs
  • Drink:  ??

Thursday: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  • Craft:  Extendable Ears
  • Snack:  Treacle Tart
  • Drink:  Liquid Luck Potion

Friday: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • Craft:  Pygmy Puff
  • Snack:  Rock Cakes (or if I’m low on time, Cockroach Clusters found HERE)
  • Drink:  Pensieve Potion

Saturday: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 at church, Part 2 at the theater)

  • I’m still debating whether or not to do a craft and snack this day since we’re watching two movies…thoughts?

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I’m really excited about Harry Potter Week!  Any ideas we should add?

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–Staci

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**All Crafts taken from “The Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book

**Pumpkin Pasties, Pumpkin Juice, Treacle Tarts, and Rock Cakes taken from “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook“; All other Recipes (other than those noted in the plans) found in “The Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book”


What Are You Waiting For?

I recently read an article in “Neue” Magazine entitled “True Love Isn’t Waiting”.  You can check out the article HERE.  80% of “young evangelicals” (ages 18-29) have had sex, as opposed to 88% of non-Christian, unmarried young adults.  In fact, 42% of young, unmarried Christians said they are currently in a sexual relationship, while 53% of non-Christian young adults admit the same.

Are those statistics shocking to anyone else?  As I read the article, I was just blown away.  The church is openly opposed to pre-marital sex, but there is obviously a huge disconnect between what is expected and what is done.

I agree with the article in that one of the huge reasons these statistics are what they are is that sex is avoided as a topic of teaching and discussion in the church.  Granted, most students hear multiple forms of “true love waits” talks in youth group, but by the time they get to college, many don’t seem to remember what they’re actually waiting for.

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I just read a book entitled “What Are You Waiting For?” by Dannah Gresh.

Through straight-talk and practical examples, Dannah helps young women to see why God has made us the way we are, why waiting is such a big deal, and the incredible rewards of being pure.

In the first few chapters, Dannah introduces us to the Hebrew word used for intimate sex throughout the Old Testament: yada.  As in “Adam lay [yada] with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” Genesis 4:1.

yada: verb.  to know, to be known, to be deeply respected

In other words, yada is both a deep respect and an emotional knowing.  The same Hebrew word is also used in relation to God and us.  For example: “Be still, and know [yada] that I am God” Psalm 46:10.  And “O LORD, you have searched me and you know [yada] me.” Psalm 139:1.  Dannah puts it so well when she says:

It’s clear from these verses that yada isn’t about a merely physical act.  Rather, yada is a word of intimacy that transcends the physical.  It describes the whole knowing of a person.  It portrays an uncovering and embrace of the nakedness of another.  There are no secrets and nothing is held back…This is the heart of yada.  To be known–just as we are–and still be pursued.

She also tells a story from the Bible of a horrible act of incest (Genesis 19).  When she looked up this Hebrew word for “lay”, she found something else entirely.  This word is shakab, which basically means “to exchange body fluids.”  She goes on to say:

Some sex is God’s sex.  It’s yada.

Some sex is counterfeit.  It’s shakab.

Our culture sells us shakab, while God has perfectly designed yada.  Dannah goes on to explain and expound on these concepts.  She also talks about the amazing gift of grace and starting over if you’ve already made mistakes.  And she does a fantastic job.  Her transparency and straightforwardness are exactly what this generation of young women (and men!) need.

I highly recommend “What Are You Waiting For?” to every unmarried young woman.  I also recommend that you read it if you’re a parent of a young woman, or if you will be someday.  And even though this is written for girls, I agree with Melody Carlson (a teen fiction author) when she says that guys should read it as well.

I’ll leave you with one last excerpt from the book:

God’s call for sex to be preserved for one man and one woman who have not even a hint of sexual experience anywhere else is in context with His plan to portray Himself and His love to a lost world.  I believe the exclusive passion and commitment of a bride and groom is meant to be a picture of an exclusive, exciting relationship with Jesus Christ that is free from any other gods.  When people witness the passion and mystery of the rarely seen couple who are still emotionally engaged with each other “after all these years,” it gives credence to the possibility of something lasting and passionate.  And the apostle Paul said such a relationship will be so rare in our world that it will be called a “mystery.”  He went on to say it will make people hungry for the mysterious, exclusive love of Christ.

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So what are your views on this?  Do you think it’s something the church needs to address–aside from the occasional youth group talk? 

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–Staci

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Please take a few seconds to rank my review of this book HERE.

You can purchase the book from Amazon HERE.

You can check out the first chapter and find more information about the title HERE.

This book was sent to me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group through the Blogging for Books Program.  You can find more information about Blogging for Books HERE.

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Harry Potter Accomplishment – By M

Just a short post to say that I’m not a reader.  The only time I ever would read anything would be the comic strip in the Sunday paper, directions (yes, I am not too prideful a man to read directions), and what I was forced to read in school.

However, since marriage, Staci –as many of you know– is a HUGE (and I emphasize that word immensely) reader.  And she’s gotten me more turned on to reading.  It started by her getting me hooked onto Ted Dekker, whom we’ve mentioned in other posts (He is an awesome Christian Fiction writer).

Last fall, Staci and I decided to watch through the Harry Potter movie series, and I found them actually pretty enjoyable (Although, to be upfront, I couldn’t recommend them for anyone younger than 13 or 14 even with PG and PG-13 ratings).  Anyhow, Staci decided that she wanted to read through the series.  So we bought books 1-7 and Staci finished all 7 books between September and November when “The Deathly Hallows – Part 1” came out.  Staci convinced me to start reading the series.  I can’t exactly remember when I started, but I finished up book 7 just a couple of days ago.

I have to admit, the books are REALLY good (but would, once again, not recommend them to the younger people).   I know the books and movies have caught a lot of flack from the Christian community about wizardry and witch craft, but my opinion is that the books make it clear that there is good, and there is evil, and Love is the most powerful “magic” of all.  But a full review and argument for my case on the books/movies would probably be due in another post that I’ll probably never write….

So all that to say that I finished 7 books, which equalled 4,100 pages of mystical, magical mischief!  Only my fifth series of books to ever finish (Left Behind -LeHaye/Jenkins, Circle Series -Dekker, Paradise Novels -Dekker, The Lost Books -Dekker).  So… go me!

Any good books that you’ve read lately, or goals that you’ve accomplished?

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– M


Updated Pages

Hi!  I just wanted to let you know I’ve updated a few pages.  I’ve added lots of books (and other genres) to the Books Page and I’ve updated some things on Staci’s List.  Feel free to check them out!  🙂

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–Staci

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“Unlocked”

I just finished reading “Unlocked” by Karen Kingsbury.  It was an incredible story.

“Unlocked” is about a boy named Holden Harris who has been trapped in the prison of severe autism since he was 3 years old.  Through faith, music, and being reunited with his childhood friend, Ella, a miracle begins to take place.

I really don’t know how to put into words what this book meant to me, but I’ll try.  It touched my heart in a special way.  I feel like I understand a little more about autism as well as how overwhelmingly heartbraking it must be to lose your child to autism–whether they are born with it or develop it later on.  (The book was based on a true story, by the way.  The author experienced something very similar in a little boy that she knew who had autism.)

But even though the story was about such a tough subject, it had more hope in its pages than anything I’ve read in a long time.  When Holden experienced a little victory, even as small as making eye contact with someone, it was as if I was right there, celebrating with them.

I don’t want to give anything away, but Beauty and the Beast also played a huge role in Holden’s story.  As many of you know, Beauty and the Beast is my very favorite Disney movie.  And now it’s even more special to me because of the connection to this story.

As the movie says, and as I was reminded in this story, we all need to try harder to see the person on the inside.  So many of us are locked in cages, whatever they may be.  And we need to strive to see each other for who we really are.

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Beauty and the Beast

 

Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly.

Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast.

Ever just the same
Ever a surprise
Ever as before
Ever just as sure
As the sun will rise.

Tale as old as time
Tune as old as song
Bittersweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong.

Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.

Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.

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–Staci

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PS.  On Amazon reviews, “Unlocked” has 600 5-star ratings and 18 4-star ratings. It really is an amazing story.

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New “Books Are Fun” Finds

Yesterday, “Books Are Fun” came to my work.  A couple of times a year they’ll come and set up all of their books, toys, gadgets, and other items.  And a couple of times a year I leave with at least one bag full of great buys. Yesterday was no different.

“Books Are Fun” is a division of “Reader’s Digest”, and they set up displays at schools, small businesses, and larger corporations.  I’m guessing our office is one of the larger corporations because they had at least a hundred titles and things.  There was everything from books to blankets, toys to creative watches, movies to scrapbook supplies, and so much more.  Needless to say, I loved looking at everything!  Oh — and another plus is that everything I bought yesterday was retailed between $20 and $50 and I only paid between $10.99 and $15.99!

 

I bought cards and a Christmas present before lunch, and then Michael went back with me after lunch and we bought a few more things.

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Cards

My mom bought me a set similar to these when I was in High School or early college, and I’ve been addicted every since.  This is my fourth “Books Are Fun” card set.

They have divider tabs inside with lots of cards in each category.

They would all sell for around $4 – $6 in a store, and I got all of them for $15.99!  Here are some examples:

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101 Things to Do Before You Grow Up

I bought this before lunch as a Christmas present for a family friend (6th grade boy).  When I showed it to Michael, we both liked it so much that we decided to get one for ourselves!  It’s packed full of awesome things to do.  Boys would especially love this, but there are plenty of things for girls too.  (Here’s an Amazon link for the book, but if you can find it at “Books Are Fun” it’s a lot less.)

There are 6 different sections, and they all have diagrams and detailed instructions on all of the different things to do.

Here’s part of the Table of Contents.  You can see that it’s a spiral bound hardback.

Construction:

Which has everything from “Build an air cannon”

to “Make a tree swing”

Entertainment:

With things like “Make a flick book”

and “Write a detective story”

Science:

“Extract DNA in your own kitchen”

and “Walk on Liquid”

Gadgets:

From “Make a battery”

to “Make the ultimate bug catcher”

Trickery:

“Master some coin tricks”

and “Send messages in invisible ink”

And lastly — Survival:

Things like “Start a campfire without matches”

and “Build an emergency shelter” (in all kinds of places)

We’re both really excited to try some of these things out!  And it’ll be a lot of fun to go through them with our kids someday.

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The Berenstain Bears Set

We’d both loved “The Berenstain Bears” growing up, and when we found this set of 7 for $12.99 we couldn’t pass it up!

These were two of my favorites:

I love how they all have lessons in them, but they’re still fun to read.

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And lastly:

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101 Classic Stories

We saw this book and decided that it’d be a really good “bedtime story” book someday.  The illustrations are really cute, and there are TONS of stories inside.  Here’s a link to a different edition — I can’t find the one we bought.

There are stories for 4-6 year olds

and 7-9 year olds

Some stories are ones I’ve heard over and over, like “The Princess and the Frog”

“The Emperor’s Clothes”, “Cinderella”, “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Princess and the Pea”.

And then there are a lot that I’ve never read like “The Giant who Counted Carrots” from Germany

and “The Dragons of Peking” from China.

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We were really happy with all of our new “Books Are Fun” finds!  I hope that we can find a place where they come in Beaumont.  I just love how most of the items they have are fun, creative learning things.

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Have you seen any must-have books lately?

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–Staci

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Woo-Hoo! Harry’s Here!

For the past two weeks, I’ve been called “Calvin” more times that I can count.  On the 4th, Michael used a Calvin and Hobbes comic to go along with his message for the youth.  I’ve looked all over the internet, but I can’t find it.

Basically, Calvin sees that you can get a beanie if you mail in 6 proofs of purchase.  After he mails them in, all he can think about is getting his beanie in the mail.  EVERY day he comes in and asks if his beanie came yet.  He talks to Hobbes about his beanie while they’re trying to go to sleep, and it’s all he thinks about at school.  Finally, after weeks and weeks of waiting, he comes home from school and says, “I bet my beanie didn’t come in.”  But that was the day it arrived!  After he nearly failed trying to assemble it, he realized that it didn’t make him fly and was therefore worthless–but at least it came in a great cardboard box!

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ANYWAY, so what does that have to do with me?  I ordered some books from Amazon on the 3rd and they shipped on the 5th–WITH NO TRACKING INFORMATION (how am I supposed to check the status multiple times a day?!)!  Every single day since then, one of the first things I say when I get home from work is “Did my books come in today?”  And every single day I’ve gotten a “no”.

Today I’d decided that the mail was probably coming via BICYCLE from San Fransisco.  That’s the only way I could justify it taking over two weeks to come in.

BUT…when I went to check the mail after my lunch break, IT WAS THERE!

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You’re probably wondering what book could get me this worked up…  But I’m gonna have to be honest:  ANY book that I order will get me this worked up.  I’m a nerd.  And I think it also has to do with getting a package in the mail.  Who doesn’t like that?  Plus, I’d like to act like I’m a super patient person, but anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m not.  At all.  I try to be, but I’m not.

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So what were the books?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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And now for the back-story:

At one point, I owned the first four books.  Then I decided that I’d jump on the bandwagon and get rid of them.  I watched the first three movies when I went on a movie binge before the Forge (I knew I wouldn’t be able to watch TV or movies for the 9 months I was there so I watched a TON during the weeks leading up to the program), and I really liked them.  But by the time I completed the Forge, I’d forgotten that I wanted to watch the other ones that were out.  Michael and I decided to rent the first one last month, and within a few weeks we’d gotten all caught up.  We both REALLY liked them, but it made me want to read the books again.  Books just add so much more detail and they’re usually better (A Walk to Remember is my only exception so far).  So I decided to buy the books and read them again.  Oh–and by the way, I got each of them for $4 a piece–including shipping!

Needless to say, I’m really excited that they’re finally here, and I can’t wait to start reading them again!  I might even talk Michael into reading them.  But I’m not holding my breath on that one.

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–Staci

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Q for you:  Have you read the HP books or seen the movies?  What are your thoughts on them?  What was the last thing you couldn’t wait to get in the mail?

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And I feel like I should have a disclaimer:  While we really enjoyed the movies and I’m excited to read the books, I don’t plan on encouraging kids to read/watch them.  Some of it does get to be too much for kids (especially #4).  That being said, I don’t feel like they’re any darker than some of Dekker’s books (esp books like “Boneman’s Daughters”), and the movies weren’t as creepy as “The Lord of the Rings” movies.  But that’s SOLELY my opinion.  If your kids have read them and you’re ok with it, great!  If you choose to not read/watch them, great.  These are just my thoughts.  🙂

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Books Page

I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve added a Books Page to our blog.  You can click on the tab at the top or the list at the right.  Each book has a short description and what I thought about it.  You can click on each title to see that book on Amazon.  Right now I only have one genre up but I’ll be working on adding more all the time.

YEP.  I’m a nerd.

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–Staci