Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Eight Favorite books of 2013

I usually read about 100 books a year.   However, in 2013, so much was going on -- my mother went into the hospital in August and wasn't released until December.  (She was home a few days but had to keep going back to the hospital or rehab.)  So I only read about 40 books in 2013.

Here are a few of my favorites (In the order I read them)

1.  A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master"  I loved this book because it was a great view of what if everything in the Bible was taken 100% literally and women still had to sleep in tents away from their husbands at times?

2.  Etched...Upon My Heart: What We Learn and Why We Never Forget  This book was written like a letter to her daughters reminding them of important lessons.  It was an amazing read written by the wife of Jim Kelley, former NFL quarterback, and they lost a son.  She has a lot of wisdom to share.

3.  I'm not usually a fiction fan, but The One Good Thing: A Novel was a fantastic book and I would highly recommend it.  What if we all did something nice for someone everyday?  What if we did that without carrying a secret that nearly tore a family apart when it was found out?

4.   Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing may seem like an odd book to make this list, but it was a great book that had so much depth to it I read it in small bits to absorb it.

5.  The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day
 had a lot of great ideas on how to incorporate faith into everyday life!

6.   The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home was written by Cardinal Wuerl.  Anything written by him is a favorite.  I used to watch his show when he was a Bishop in Pittsburgh and he has taught me so much.

7. Set Free: The Authentic Catholic Woman's Guide to Forgiveness is a book that I would recommend to women -- OR MEN who may be struggling to forgive someone.

8.  Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale is the second fiction book to make this list.  A megachurch pastor gets fed up with the life of faith he's been living, leaves town to go to Italy to hang out with his uncle who is a priest, and he finds authentic faith.


I am hoping to read a lot more this year than I did last year and maybe next year I can give a top ten list instead of a top eight, and I'd love to be able to do a top ten fiction reads and top ten non-fiction reads, but until then you have my eight favorite books of 2013.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Achieving your New Year's Resolutions via your Moble Device

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

It's January 5th as I write this.  We're five days into the new year, and I asked my boyfriend the other night about what goals he had for this year.  He said he didn't like to make resolutions.  I said we wanted to set goals.  Things we can achieve, not things we dislike about ourselves.  We talked about it, and here are a few things we decided to do:

We want to get healthier.  While weight loss is a part of this, health is a whole body issue.  Less stress can also make you healthier.

We want to get out of debt, manage money better, and make more income in our spare time.

We also want to stay in touch with family who live far away.  We just got back from visiting his grandfather in Alabama.  His grandfather is 98 years old.  It was my first time meeting him and I felt like I was not just talking to someone who is family, but I was sitting with history.  (He served with John F. Kennedy during World War II.)

So how are we planning on achieving these goals?   Our mobile devices from U.S. Cellular can certainly help.

To stay in touch with family who are spread across the country and around the world, we both have Skype downloaded on our iPad Airs.  It doesn't matter if you are wanting to talk to someone in the next state or in Russia, you can set a time to talk and you can talk to that person for free with the Skype app.  An added bonus is you can see that person as well.  When my boyfriend and I were not living in the same state, we used the Skype app nightly to be able to stay in touch with each other.  Now we are using it to stay in touch with family and there's still some close friends of mine who don't live nearby who have yet to meet him.  We are planning on Skyping soon with a close friend of mine who lives in Russia.   Such a wonderful app to bring everyone together.  In fact, my friend who lives in Russia, sometimes his family who lives in Maryland will set up an iPad and let them view the family get together via Skype.  Technology allows better moments for everyone near and far!

To become healthier, there's a few apps we are relying on.  One is MyFitnessPal.  I've been using this one since I learned about it when I went to a weight loss week in May.  It can track your calories eaten for the day, and you can set it up to show you how many grams of fat, protein, carbs, etc. you have eaten.  I didn't realize until I went to this fitness week that you NEED a certain amount of fat in your diet to lose weight.  I had been buying all fat free food items and therefore was inadvertently making myself not lose as much weight as I could have been with the same effort.  Who knew?  I didn't!  In addition, if you have a blog you can get a great little button to put on your blog saying how much weight you have lost.  (You can see mine on the right side of this blog.)  You can also track your exercise in MyFitnessPal and it will give you an approximate number of calories burned based on your activity when compared to your height and weight!  Another app that I learned about when I was at camp and I want to use more often is Fooducate.  I downloaded this into my U.S. Cellular Samsung Galaxy S4 and it's a great resource to decide which is the healthier choice of foods.  When in the grocery store, just scan the bar code of a food you are considering buying with your phone and it will give it a rating.  It analyzes calories to nutrition, if there are GMOs in the food, etc.  If it is a C or D rating, it will give you suggestions of similar but healthier products you can purchase.  To help encourage my boyfriend and me to be out and about, I have the Geocaching app.  (This one is $9.99 in the Google Play or app store, but the others I mention in this post are free.)   Geocaching is like a treasure hunt.  People have hidden small containers around the world, and you use GPS coordinates to find them.  It's a fun way to get outdoors!  Also, when you need to fill prescriptions, check to see if your pharmacy has an app.  Ours does and I can scan a barcode on my prescription bottle and it will be ready to be picked up when I go into town.  That way I don't forget to fill my prescriptions and that means staying healthier!

Another way of staying healthy is eliminating stress.  An app I just downloaded to help with that is Evernote.  It can help keep you organized, help you know when you have appointments (and with trying to keep tabs on schedules for myself, helping my boyfriend remember things, and keeping track of my mother's doctor appointments, just keeping an organized calendar is a huge stress reliever because I can pull out my tablet and tell a receptionist "We have a doctor's appointment then, but what about the next day at the same time?" 

Finances?   Be sure and check out your bank's app.  At my bank, we can even make a mobile deposit by snapping a photo of the check with our mobile device.  It's quick and easy!  I can download the eBay or Amazon apps if I want to sell something online.  Plus I can keep everything organized in the Mint app.  I can see how much I have in my bank account, track spending, and create budgets.

As you can see, there's a lot I would like to accomplish this year, and I'm glad I have a mobile device through U.S. Cellular to help me get healthier, get my finances on track, and to stay in touch with family.

How did people achieve New Year's resolutions (or achieve goals) before we had cell phones?  What are your resolutions and what apps are you utilizing to help you achieve those goals?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: The Mass by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the TraditionThe Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s book The Mass is a 212 page volume which delves into the mysteries we encounter each week as we head to church.   Each part of the service is examined in depth from preparing for Mass to the dismissal.   The people and other parts of the service are discussed, such as explaining the function of the cantor.   Also, parts of the church are mentioned, such as the Tabernacle.   Even the vestments are explained.

This is a fantastic book for those who are new to the Church.   One thing I particularly enjoy about Cardinal Wuerl’s style of teaching is he starts at the basics, but it’s in a style that no one feels talked down to when he is explaining something.  Even when you think “I know that”, his wonderful style is such that you will still gain something new from enjoying this book.

This book also has a number of photos so you aren’t guessing as to what is being discussed.  In the chapter “The Great Amen”, the chalice and paten are mentioned as being elevated, and there is a photo of Cardinal Wuerl doing just that — what better way to know exactly what is being taught as by seeing it.

As Catholics, Mass is just what we do.  But WHY do we do it?   This book delves into that, and not only is it an informative book, but one that could easily be a springboard for mediation as the meanings behind the rituals are explained.   For example, making the sign of the cross at the beginning or the end of a homily is a way of asking God to help us make the message real in our hearts.  (While not all people do this, I found this example to be especially interesting!) So many times things become habit rather than meaningful.  I would highly recommend this book to any Catholic to try and bring the original intent of each ritual back into the forefront of your mind, and hopefully you will enjoy Mass as never before.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The tree isn't up, but the bed is down

It feels like forever since I've posted anything but a review.  It's 1 in the morning, and my boyfriend and I just prayed together.  Since we met online in February, that's often been part of our goodnight routine.


Something that has felt so lacking in my life this year.  

On August 12th, I had strep throat and a horrible sinus infection.  Nevertheless, I had to drive my mother to dialysis.  I went to tell her I was up at a little after 9 in the morning and see what help she needed before I got myself ready enough to drive her the 20 minutes.  I often would spend the extra time in the library bumming wifi, but that morning I was so sick I was going to come home and come back to bed.  But my plans changed instantly -- and life changed in a moment.  I went into her room and found her on the floor.  Instead of driving her 20 minutes to dialysis, I drove her an hour to the E.R.  She was in the hospital for a week, then into a rehab facility, then back into the hospital where they gave her a 10% chance of living.  From there she was transfered to another hospital, one in a "big bad" city about 2 1/2 hours away.  (Remember I live in a town of 1500 and any city of about 25,000 or more is a "big bad" city! ha!)  I burned every Hilton Honors point I had earned in over 10 years to be near here.  (Thank God I had enough that I wasn't worried about how to pay for a hotel room.)  She came home from the hospital and from rehab just after Thanksgiving.

It's been a hard year for a lot of people.  Some have had a much worse year than we have.  I have two online friends and a friend from college who have lost children this year.  Their year has been much harder than ours.  But ours hasn't been easy.   It's been a harder year for Mom than it has for me (physically at least).  She didn't realize she was on a ventilator for 11 days.  Eleven LONG days that she thought was two.  My boyfriend came in (he was living in Virginia at the time) and we were in Pittsburgh for eight of those days. 

I finished up my pre-Christmas eBay sales tonight.  Now what?   Not one light is up, not one gift is wrapped.  I did a great month on eBay.  Still $700 shy of what I had hoped, but I had set my sights really high this month. However, when my mother got a hospital bed this year, the bed she had been using was moved to the living room.  It's finally down.   A living room without a spare bed in it.  Some people will see Christmas decorations as a tree, stockings, and a nativity scene gracing the mantel.   This year I see a Christmas decoration as a spot where a bed is no longer standing.  The mere fact it was there and is now gone is a miracle -- or at least symbolizing a miracle that my mother survived being so sick this summer.

A week from now we'll be at Grandpa's.   I didn't want to go.   My mother insisted.  She wants me to meet Grandpa  (my boyfriend's grandfather)   She said she can get along okay without me because some people will be coming in to help out.  I am scared.  When I saw her on the floor, I don't think anything will erase that image from my mind.  She never asks me to check on her in the night, but yet I felt like "if only" I had.

Life is returning to normal.  I don't know what that new normal is quite going to look like.  I just know right now it looks like an empty spot in the living room where a bed stood.  There is no tree, but there is no bed.  And for me, that's all the Christmas decoration I need this year. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Apps for Holiday Sharing and Gift ideas from U.S. Cellular

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post by U.S. Cellular.  I am part of their blogger team, and I only recommend items and services I use myself.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

’Tis the Season . . . To Instagram the hot cocoa that your grandmother makes with real chocolate.  To Tweet a photo of Uncle Ed’s crazy Christmas Sweater.  To upload a Vine video of your little nephew opening his gift and jumping with joy. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review and Giveaway: The Promise DVD

The Promise: Birth of the Messiah, The Animated Musical is exactly what it sounds like it is -- an animated musical.   Using the Biblical narrative of Jesus' birth from the book of St. Luke, this DVD presents a fresh look at the birth of Christ.  I was highly impressed with how much was included and how much it stayed true to the Biblical content.  This is one Christmas DVD where you won't find talking animals or such because the true story is so amazing that you really don't need anything that didn't really happen.

Something I really enjoyed about this DVD is the relationships.  I never thought of the reaction of Mary's parents.  While I had thought about Joseph's reaction before, I never considered how Mary's parents feelings to their daughter being chosen by God for such a special role in history.  Also, in the movie, Mary sings to Baby Jesus and calls him her King.  I never considered if she explained to Him who He was or if it was totally revealed by God to Him that He was to be the Messiah.

Watch the trailer:

The one thing I did dislike about this DVD was I think if you weren't very familiar with the story it would be difficult to follow.  If you are showing it to children, I would read through the entire Biblical account first -- including Simeon, Elizabeth greeting Mary, as well as Luke chapter 2 which is commonly read at this time of year.  A friend said he felt like he had watched an opera about the birth of Christ.  Personally I wouldn't go that far, but these are not songs your children will sing constantly (which is a huge plus considering how annoying some songs are in children's DVDs.)

Overall, I think this is a very well done portrail of Christ's birth.  While is says it is for children, I think anyone would enjoy this because of the quality and how closely it follows Scripture.  It is a DVD I think families would enjoy year after year!

Connect with The Promise:
The Promise Website
Glorious Films on Facebook
Glorious Films on Twitter

Purchase The Promise:

Win The Promise:

(Terms and conditions, United States only, 18+.  Must respond to winning e-mail within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen.  Giveaway ends December 8 at 11:59 pm)

"Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products with services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising"

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Old El Paso Frozen Dinners

I have a busy life.  It's one of those busy lives where people look at me and ask "What do you do all day?" because it doesn't seem like since I work at home I'd be busy, but I am.  When it comes to food, I like things I can cook quickly and that are tasty.

I recently received the opportunity to review Old El Paso Frozen Dinners from My Blog Spark.  "Frozen" is currently one of my favorite words when it comes to dinner.  That often means it's quick to fix!

I received a coupon for any Old El Paso frozen dinner, a chip and dip bowl serving platter, and a $10 pre-paid Visa so I could buy anything else I needed for my Mexican meal.  I picked up the chicken fajita meal.  It has enough for three fajitas for two people.  I liked the though of the peppers, onions, and chicken already being in there and taking 10-13 minutes to cook!

After about 13 minutes it looked liked this:

And finally I put it in some tortillas and added a little sour cream:

It was quick, easy and delicious.  I will certainly be buying this again.  I love fajitas but don't always have the time to chop everything to fix them for dinner that evening, so this will solve that problem.  I believe my store sells these for about $6 so and that is so much cheaper than eating out!  They were tasty, just enough spice for me but not too spicy for those who like mild Mexican food, and they certainly hit the spot!

Be sure and check out the  Old El Paso website and the Old El Paso on Facebook

FTC disclaimer:  I received a coupon for a free Old El Paso Frozen Dinner, chip and dip tray, and $10 pre-paid Visa to allow me to make a Mexican meal for review.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse products I personally have enjoyed and I think my readers should know about them.

On to the giveaway:

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Apps to Help With Shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

FTC disclosure:  I am a member of the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

The holidays are coming!  That means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are closer than you think!  A few years ago on Black Friday I saved over 90% of the original price on the items I bought with a lot of time and effort.  I'm glad, though, that this year I have a phone that will help with my shopping so I can save time as I save money that way I can put lots of gifts under the tree without going over my budget.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Coming Home for Christmas DVD Review and Giveaway Ends 11/22

I love Christmas movies and Christmas specials.  I could watch them all year long.  I had nearly a dozen videotapes years ago filled with Christmas shows I'd taped off TV.  Everything from the classics to things that no one had ever heard of but me!

To me, to make something a perfect Christmas movie there needs to be humor, sentimentality, love of family, and maybe even a touch of romance sprinkled in.   Based on this, the new movie "Coming Home For Christmas" is a hit!   I really enjoyed it because it's got a bit of a twist on the traditional Christmas movie.  Kate wants her family to spend Christmas in the house she grew up in -- but there's a slight problem -- it has been sold and someone else lives there.  As with most Christmas movies, the story line was a bit predictable (but would it be a good Christmas movie if it wasn't?  So, of course it's going to be predictable because Christmas movies must be happy and heart-warming.)  I really enjoyed this movie, and I know it will be a classic around here.

Want to buy it?  You can do so at Walmart.  You can even order it HERE and have it sent to you directly or to your local Walmart for pick-up.  It even includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print inside the DVD case.

You can watch the trailer here:

Wal-Mart has graciously given an extra copy of this DVD to be given to one of the readers of The Radar Report.  Just enter on the Rafflecopter form below.

Giveaway ends November 22nd.  Open only to the USA and Canada.  Must be 18 or older to enter.

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book Review: At the Heart of the Gospel

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization

In  At the Heart of the Gospel, author Christopher West takes deep theology and makes it accessible to those of us who aren’t scholars!  I appreciate his writing style as he explains things thoroughly without talking down to the readers.  He has dedicated himself to studying Pope John Paul II’s writing “Theology of The Body” and in this book, West explains how that work relates to the New Evangelization. 

I’ve heard in my own theology classes in college about the Gnostics who believed the body was bad and spiritual things were good.  One of the things that West points out in this book is if we believe that, then what is life without the body?  It is death.   This reminded me of the many times in college that I’d be in a “feminar” (a seminar for girls) and we’d be told beauty isn’t important, it’s only what is inside that counts.  I realize that not everyone is a model, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and ask most men, and they would tell you their wife is beautiful.   We can survive in a world without beauty, but that’s often what it is, survival and not thriving. 

One chapter I especially enjoyed was “The Narrow Gate Between Idolatry and Iconoclasm”.  We can make anything into an idol be it beauty, food, other things that relate to our physical bodies, or something more abstract such as a hobby, or even veneration of saints.  But do we need to go so far as to do away with things rather than keep them in check?  Most likely not.  If you have ever tried to lose a few pounds, to do it in a healthy manner, you still have to eat.  So to have a healthy relationship with anything, it must be in moderation. 

I also very much appreciated West tackling the tough topic of “The Great Analogy of Spousal Love”.  Have you ever read through the Song of Solomon?  That is an erotic book of the Bible!  The high school I graduated from decided they were going to read through the Bible, one chapter a day, and being super conservative, I wondered what they would do when they came to that book if they continued that plan!  Like Pope Benedict XVI said “The Prophets describe God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images.”  (page 103)

I enjoyed this book, not as much as a previous book by the same author, but it’s still a good, solid book that makes Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body not only accessible but practical.   I highly recommend this book.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I only recommend books I enjoy.

You can purchase this book here: