December 26, 2011

crafting with blendy & becky: coasters

Perhaps if I start blogging about crafting projects, I'll do more of them. I know I already told you about this project, but Holly wanted instructions. Well, my friend, your wish is my command ... even if it takes me a month to do it!

Step 1: Gather all your materials—4x4 tiles, scrapbooking paper, felt, Mod Podge, clear spray paint, glue gun & glue sticks, pencil, paint brush (or sponge), marker, scissors, newsprint (or other scratch paper), and a movie to watch while you work.

Step 2: Cut scrapbooking paper into the size needed to cover your tile. (I like to cover the whole tile with one piece of paper; you can also create a mosaic of sorts with various pieces of paper.)

Step 3: Working quickly, cover the surface of the tile with Mod Podge. Affix paper to tile.

Step 4: Cover paper with a generous amount of Mod Podge. If the surface of your tile is not completely smooth, you may need to use your fingers to press down the paper and remove any air bubbles. Be sure to paint more Mod Podge over any fingerprints!

Step 5: Allow tiles to dry completely. The white Mod Podge will dry clear.

Step 6:
While tiles are drying, measure and cut felt just smaller than the size of the tile.

Step 7: Glue felt to the bottom of the tile.

Step 8: Take tiles outside (or to a well-ventilated area) and spray tops of the tiles. Allow to dry completely.

If you do it with just one piece of paper per tile, the whole process takes an hour or less to complete. And after the initial investment of Mod Podge, spray paint, and scrapbooking paper, the coasters are an incredibly affordable and classy gift!

December 24, 2011

reading is fun! (part 2)

Here's my current stack of books awaiting review. And that doesn't show the four Kindle files I have. (And, yes, I do still have one book in the pile that was in the picture of books to be reviewed that I posted in May ...)

And here's my whiteboard where I list books and their due dates (or, in the case of Litfuse, the date the blog tour begins). I'm so thankful that some companies don't have deadlines! The black dots to the right indicate which books I don't have in my possession yet. Um, yeah ... I think I might be nuts!

December 18, 2011

while you were sleeping

Another year of Singing Christmas Tree is over. (You can read an article about it here.) It's such a huge part of my life from October (when rehearsals begin) through mid-December that it's a strange feeling when it ends. I'm already looking forward to next October!

The title of this year's program was "While You Were Sleeping"—and we sang the Casting Crowns song of the same name during the program.While I enjoyed the song when I first heard it a couple years ago, it was my least favorite song to sing during the program—and we had to sing parts of it at two different times! Each time we sang it, my mind wandered to another While You Were Sleeping ... the movie.

While You Were Sleeping has been my favorite movie ever since I saw it in the 8th grade. (Not coincidentally, that's also the time that Sandra Bullock became my favorite actress.) I've probably watched it more than 20 times over the years, and I could quote practically the entire thing. (That in itself is quite a feat ... my siblings always make fun of me because I can never get movie quotes!)

While I thought about WYWS every time we sang the song, and I often promised myself I would watch it when I got home, I never did—until tonight. I came home from Singing Christmas Tree absolutely exhausted but not really ready to go to bed. So I popped WYWS into the DVD player. I enjoyed every minute of it! I hadn't watched it in probably a year, and absence definitely made the heart grow fonder. I quoted my favorite parts. I laughed. I once again marveled at Peter Gallagher's eyebrows. I yelled at Jack when he didn't step up and tell Lucy how he felt. And I took great pleasure in the bike scene, which I've embedded below.

Watching While You Were Sleeping was the perfect wrap-up to the "While You Were Sleeping" season of the Singing Christmas Tree. And the movie even fits in with the season, as it takes place basically from Christmas through the first couple weeks of January. (I have never considered it to be a Christmas movie, but I guess it would qualify.) Here's a link to the trailer to remind you just how great the movie is ... and if, heaven forbid, you've never seen the movie, maybe it'll make you curious enough to watch it. It's so cute!

What's your favorite movie? Why do you like it? Do you share my affection for Sandra Bullock? Sound off in the comments! 

December 13, 2011

another christmas movie

You're probably getting tired of hearing me talk about Christmas movies, but I just watched ABC Family's 12 Dates of Christmas, and it was so enjoyable.

Basically, it's Groundhog Day, only the day being repeated is Christmas Eve, and the girl repeating the day (Amy Smart) isn't nearly as loathsome as Phil (Bill Murray) was at the beginning of Groundhog Day. Throw in Mark-Paul Gosselaar as the love interest and some genuinely funny moments, and you've got a great little Christmas movie!

No, it won't change your life, but it sure is a fun way to pass a couple hours! It's currently streaming on—you can watch it here.

December 1, 2011

time for some christmas music!

'Tis the season for Christmas music. I love Christmas music, and sometimes I buy too much of it (kind of like how I buy too many Christmas movies). However, Amazon makes it easy to get my fill of Christmas music without breaking the bank, thanks to its $5 Christmas albums. In November, 100 Christmas albums were available for $5 each, but I didn't see anything that caught my fancy. Fast forward to this morning, when I looked at Amazon's $5 albums for December. Not only are two of my favorite Christmas albums (Michael W. Smith's It's a Wonderful Christmas and Amy Grant's Home for Christmas) on the list, but there is an album that made my inner giddy teenager come out, and I bought it as soon as I got home from work. Which album, you ask? *N Sync's Home for Christmas! I have wanted this album since I was 17. It has always hovered around $10, and I have a hard time justifying spending that much on music I only listen to 30 days out of the year. But $5? Totally worth it!

Check out the whole list of $5 Christmas albums. There's so much Christmas goodness here I hardly know where to begin! I recommend the following albums because I have (and love) them: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio), Peace on Earth (Casting Crowns), What a Night! (Harry Connick, Jr.), Let It Snow Baby ... Let It Reindeer (Relient K), and Christmas Cheers (Straight No Chaser). But there's a ton of other good music out there, too—albums by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Avalon, Mandisa, and many more.

Mariah Carey's two Christmas albums, Merry Christmas and Merry Christmas II You, are some of my new favorites, and Merry Christmas is actually Amazon's mp3 Deal of the Day today. I know by the time most of you read this, it'll be tomorrow (or later), but sometimes Amazon's mp3 daily deals last a bit longer than a day. Merry Christmas is definitely worth your $3.99! (And yes, I know that Merry Christmas came out in 1994, so it's not exactly "new." I'd never listened to the whole thing until last year, so it's new to me!)

Also, be sure to check out Amazon's 25 Days of Free. Each day, a new free Christmas song is added to the list. Today's song is by Celtic Woman.

And just so you know, the Christmas album I'm dying to get this year is Michael Bublé's Christmas. But at $11.99, I'll just content myself with streaming it through Spotify for now!

What's your favorite Christmas album? Which one are you trying to rationalize buying this year ... or which one did you already buy?

November 28, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas!

My roommate moved out today. I'm sad to see her go, but I'm excited to see where God takes her over the next year. She's going on tour with the World Orphans Choir, and you can follow her adventures here. I normally would have decorated my house the day after Thanksgiving, but I decided to wait until today so she wouldn't have to deal with all my stuff while she was trying to pack. Tonight, Blendy came over to help me decorate. I'm quite pleased with the results!
I got my grandma's tree—it's definitely a step up from my old one!
This is the Nativity we had growing up. Obviously, the pieces didn't all come from the same set, but I still love it.
I finally got a wreath for my door! I moved out of my parents' house more than six years ago, and I'm just now getting a wreath.
I wish you could see the "Joy" better—it's my favorite Christmas decoration. This is in my living room.
No, my ceiling's not on fire ...
Now that my decorating is complete, I think I'll wrap some presents while watching a Christmas movie!

November 25, 2011

what a difference a year (or 13) makes!

When I was at my parents' house yesterday, I came across a stack of my senior pictures. It. Was. Horrifying.

Because I'm getting brave in my old age, I'll post one here.

On the upside, I think I look younger at 30 than I did at 17 ... but is it any wonder this girl never had any dates?

As I marveled at the outward changes in the last 13 years, I started to think about the inward changes, as well. While some things can be attributed to "growing up," I think most of it is directly related to God's work in my life.
  • I used to worry about everything. Now, I rarely worry about anything.
  • I used to think only of myself. Now, while I'm still quite selfish, I've learned to love others.
  • I used to get angry easily (just ask my siblings). Now, it takes a lot to get me fired up.
  • I used to be extremely self-conscious. Now, I am confident in who I am and what I can do.
  • I used to think life wouldn't truly begin until marriage. Now, while I still hope and pray for a husband, I know I can live a full, happy life as a single woman.
By no means do I think I have "made it." I am more aware than ever of my failings and my need for Christ. But I am also aware of how much He has done in and through me. 
    And I praise the Lord that I no longer look like I did at 17!

    November 24, 2011

    just call me handy

    I love assembling things. I'm not sure when I first realized this, but I do remember feeling so powerful and independent when I fixed the desk chair in my dorm room. (I wasn't assembling anything per se, but I was putting it back together.) My absolute favorite part of moving is assembling the new furniture. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to put something together at work—my new desk chair!

    Can you see how happy I am?
    Putting the arms on. This was the easy part—getting the back on was a bit more difficult.
    The finished product. This is so much nicer than my old chair, which was one of those $15 Walmart task chairs.
    So if you ever need a bookshelf, chair, or other furniture assembled, just give me a call. I'd love to help you out!

    November 23, 2011

    my life in television

    A few weeks ago, I posted "My Life in Films," based on something I saw on author Kaye Dacus's blog. My friend Holly has since posted on her life in films and books. (I plan to do a book post at some point, too.) It occurred to me, though, that a "My Life in Television" post would be most appropriate for me, as, well, I really like me some TV!

    Television Shows that Remind Me of Childhood
    • Square One TV: This was, without a doubt, my favorite show as a child. I watched it every day after school, and I still remember many of the featured songs (I hated "Nine, Nine, Nine," but it still comes to mind every time I'm working with multiples of 9, and "The Mathematics of Love," and "Ghost of a Chance" were favorites). I also feel compelled to say (at least in my head), " brought to you by erasers. Don't make a mistake without one," whenever anyone says, "Oops!" But Mathnet was my absolute favorite. (This is where I learned the Fibonacci Sequence--"1, 1, 2, 3, 5, Eureka!")
    • Zoobilee Zoo: I probably watched Zoobilee Zoo longer than I should have, age-wise. I don't remember much about it now, other than the theme song.
    Television Shows that Defined My Teens
    • Lois & Clark: Dean Cain wasn't my first celebrity crush, but he's certainly the longest lasting. Would I pass out if I met him today? Probably. I'll never forget where I was when Lois & Clark got married (sort of ... he married a clone of Lois, but we didn't know it at the time)—on a school bus, in a blizzard, writing "Superman, save me!" on the iced-over window with my friend Angie. We were both dying to be at home watching the show with our families.
    • Full House: I watched this show pretty much from beginning to end. I always identified with DJ, though I was much closer in age to Stephanie. And now, once again, for your viewing pleasure, the song I always associate with Full House
    • Friends: The debut of Friends marked an important (and deceitful) time in my life—a time when my brother and I would go to our basement and watch TV shows we knew our parents wouldn't approve of. I was the instigator, of course, but Andrew was a willing participant. Eventually, Mom caught me watching Friends and banned it, and I did pretty well avoid Friends after that (at least until college). All of the other shows, though, we kept watching—but when I look back at the list now, which included Suddenly Susan, The Single Guy, and Veronica's Closet, I wonder ... why? 
    • Hang Time: Anyone remember T-NBC? By the time I started watching, the original Saved by the Bell had ended, and California Dreams was in its final seasons. But Hang Time, about a girl who joins the boys' basketball team, I watched from the beginning. It's funny—I can't remember much about the show now (except that Anthony Anderson was the adorable "Teddy")—but I loved it then.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: This was my first foray into science fiction. My dad always watched TNG on Saturday nights, and many nights, I opened my bedroom door just a crack so I could watch, too. Once I got older, I was actually allowed to stay up and watch with him. 
    Television Shows that Defined My College Years
    • Gilmore Girls: I'll never understand why Rory broke up with Dean. I would have married Dean ... and I never would have had an affair with married Dean or dated Logan. Yeah, the show went downhill in it's latter years.
    • Alias: Gathering with the girls in the Westy 1 lobby to watch Alias ... one of my favorite memories of college!
    • Stargate: SG-1: My dad got me hooked on this one, too. This remains my favorite sci-fi show, and I have all 10 seasons on DVD.
    Favorite Shows of My Twenties
    • Lost: I jumped on the Lost bandwagon the summer after the first season—this was back when the broadcast networks still ran reruns during the summer. I don't know if I've ever been more shocked by an episode of TV than when (GIANT SPOILER ALERT) Michael shot and killed both Ana Lucia and Libby and let Ben (then known as Henry Gale) escape.
    • The Office: In seasons two, three, and four, I was a completely loyal viewer of The Office. Somewhere along the line, though, I stopped caring, and I stopped watching. I still love those first seasons, but I have zero interest in what's happening now.
    • Monarch of the Glen: I discovered this show, produced by BBC Scotland, when I was looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming. It's so fun! It's sweet, gentle, and funny—perfect for a rainy day.
    • Prison Break: While I was watching Lost, my friends Justin and Adair were watching Prison Break. I remember arguing Lost's ridiculousness with them by claiming Prison Break was just as implausible. Then I actually watched the show. Implausible, yes ... and completely enthralling! Season One is one of the best seasons of television I've ever watched. Things do go downhill from there, though, and I never even made it through Season Four.
    • Psych: Shawn and Gus make the perfect comedy team. Psych is simply fun to watch—and the 80's and 90's references just make it that much better!
    Current Shows I Can't Miss
    • Fringe: I've written about my love for Fringe before, so I won't rehash it here. The current season is a bit rocky, but I have faith in the producers.
    • Parks & Recreation: When Parks & Rec premiered, I didn't give it the time of day. I thought it was too similar to The Office. While it does employ the same mocumentary format as The Office, Rashida Jones has been a cast member on both shows, and the shows share some of the same producers and writers, Parks & Rec is so much more sincere, humorous, and endearing. While Michael Scott's antics were often cringe-worthy, I find myself always rooting for Leslie Knope. The supporting characters are wonderful, and adding Adam Scott and Rob Lowe to the cast at the end of the second season was genius. Also, there was a shout-out to the Mighty Ducks movies a couple weeks ago—can't go wrong with that!
    • Castle: I started watching because of Nathan Fillion. In the beginning, I called Castle a total ripoff of Bones. Well, now I enjoy Castle so much more than Bones, and Rick Castle is my favorite Fillion character. But Castle is about so much more than Fillion—the interplay between Detectives Ryan and Esposito, the Castle/Beckett romance, Alexis's heartbreak, and (last but not least) Lt. Commander Worf as Beckett's therapist—and those aspects all make Castle must-see TV for me. It's one of two shows I actually watch live.
    Guilty Pleasure (Scripted)
    • Ringer: A nighttime soap if ever there was one, Ringer is ridiculous, melodramatic fun. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins Bridget and Siobhan. Bridget is a recovering drug addict who's on the run from both the FBI and a dangerous drug lord. Siobhan is married to Andrew but having an affair with her best friend's husband. When Siobhan disappears, Bridget sees a way to freedom by masquerading as Siobhan, since Siobhan conveniently never told anyone she had a twin sister. It's totally implausible and highly addictive. 
    Guilty Pleasure (Reality)
    • The Bachelor/ette: I used to look down on those who watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Then one night, I dropped by my parents' house while my sister was watching DeAnna Pappas's season ... and I was hooked. I think I've watched every season since. Also, I'd like to think my interest in The Bachelor helped along a love match ... Janae & Jordan, who will be getting married next month, watched nearly all of the Jake Pavelka season with Blendy and me at my apartment when they were first getting to know each other!
    Favorite Show that Few Others Know About
    • Dollhouse: This was a short-lived Joss Whedon show on FOX. It was a bit uneven, but when at its best, it was completely mesmerizing. Alan Tudyk absolutely blew my mind—what a phenomenal actor!
    Best Show I Discovered on DVD or Streaming
    • Firefly: Okay, I didn't technically discover this myself. My brother and sister-in-law brought me their DVDs to borrow because they were sure I would like it. And I did. This is the show that made me first appreciate Nathan Fillion.
    Favorite New Show of the 2011-2012 Season
    • Once Upon a Time: They had me at "from the writers of LOST." I am absolutely loving this show, which takes place both in "Fairy Tale Land" and modern-day Maine. Go here to watch a preview.
    There you have it: the shows that, for better or worse, have been important to me. What does your list look like? Do we share any favorite shows?

    November 17, 2011

    a quick trip

    At the end of October, my sister Blendy, her friend Janelle, and I made a quick trip to Indiana to see Val. (Well, Janelle went to see her boyfriend, but she saw Val, too.) Once we got home, I hit the ground running with book reviews, homework assignments, and Singing Christmas Tree practices, so I'm just getting around to blogging about it. And since I'm feeling kind of lazy, I'm not even going to write any more—I'll just direct you to my facebook album! So go here to see what we did ...

    November 14, 2011

    sometimes, it's better to pay

    A few months ago, we were in Kansas cleaning out my grandma's house. While working in the bathroom, I tweeted the following:

    Becky Ritta
    Cleaning out grandma's house. Just found some Milk of Magnesia that expired in 1988!

    That should have been warning enough to ignore the "treasure" I found in that bathroom—a hot water bottle. But, being my father's daughter, I decided to take the bottle home with me, thus saving the $7 or so I'd pay for one at Walmart.

    Flash forward to tonight. I wasn't feeling great, so I decided to dig out the hot water bottle. I filled it, checked it all over for leaks, wrapped it in a towel, and took it to bed with me. Then I found the latest episode of Ringer to watch. (Ringer is my "guilty pleasure" TV of the season. The plot line really is ludicrous, but I enjoy it—just ask Blendy ... I gave her a 20-minute recap of the season while we drove home from Grand Island today!)

    So there I was, all settled into my bed, watching Ringer on my computer and trying to get my mind off my stomachache, when suddenly I was wet. Soaking. The hot water bottle had popped like a balloon. For a second, I just lay there while the hot (HOT!) water ran over my stomach and to my backside. Then I leapt to my feet, holding the hot water bottle, trying to contain the remaining water. I was largely unsuccessful.

    Water went everywhere. My bed, a memory foam mattress, got soaked. I looked like I'd wet my pants. Somehow, water even got in one of my shoes, which was several feet away from both the bed and the door. Maybe I sloshed the water around when I jumped out of bed?

    Somehow, all the electronics escaped unscathed. (Thank goodness!) And I just made the following purchase on Amazon:
    Large, 2-quart capacity. ribbed surface helps retain warm or cold temperatures. made from durable, natural rubber latex.

    Lesson learned.

    November 5, 2011

    lazy saturday thoughts

    I don't have anywhere to be until 2:30, and I don't have any books that have to be read now, so I'm enjoying a rare morning of laziness. I decided to write a "real" post—it's been a while since I've written anything besides a book review!
    • One of Tricia Goyer's books is free on Amazon right now. She's the author of my favorite Amish series (which I reviewed here and here). You can get Songbird Under a German Moon here, but hurry! Another of her books was free two days ago, and now it costs almost $10—I don't know how long this deal will last!
    • My parents received the "Hall of Faith" award at Nebraska Christian's Harvest Festival last night. The award is given to faithful supporters of the school. It's supposed to be a surprise, but they figured it out—which I told my boss would happen! Mom is always responsible for ordering the plaque, and she knew something was up when no one would tell her who the winner was. We did manage to surprise them a bit though—my brother and sister-in-law came, sat where we knew Mom and Dad wouldn't see them, and then showed themselves after the banquet ended. I didn't get any pictures at the event (I'm hoping my yearbook photographer was on top of it), so here's a recent picture of my wonderful—and deserving—parents.
    • I think I'm going to bite the bullet and get TV. Not pay TV, but free TV. I haven't had TV since I moved out of my apartment over a year ago, and after hooking up my sister's converter box and antenna for her last weekend (or turning on the converter box and turning the TV to the right channel, which is basically all "hooking it up" required), I've decided to do the same for myself. I already own a converter box, so it's just a matter of buying an antenna (which can be really expensive. And even though I checked out, I'm still not sure what I need). Hulu and Netflix give me a lot of TV options, but sometimes you just want to be able to watch immediately, you know?
    • You should check out Clash of the Titles, this fun website I stumbled across recently. Basically, two books go head-to-head, and you vote on the excerpt you liked best. There are always contests to enter, too ... and I just won a $10 Starbucks gift card yesterday, so I know it's possible to win! 
    • Snow White: A Tale of Terror, which is one of the movies I talked about in the "My Life in Films" post a few weeks ago, is now streaming on Netflix. Yes, I've already added it to my queue.
    • I hate online learning. I understand its value and convenience, but I'd so much rather go to a real classroom where I could physically interact with my instructor and classmates. And I'm thinking about quitting the library program. More on that to come later ...

    October 24, 2011

    i am not a crafty person

    In either sense of the word.

    I have fond memories of doing crafting projects with my grandma when I was a child. Nearly every time we visited, she would have a craft of some sort for us to do, and I still have some of those projects today. (She was good at finding things that would be useful later, like the tea towels she had us paint.) Without Grandma, though, crafting never appealed to me. I think it's because coming up with a project, collecting the supplies, and then actually figuring out how to do things just seemed so daunting.

    My sister Blendy, though, got Grandma's crafting gene. And for a few years, she's been asking me to do a craft with her. I always declined. Recently, however, I had a mental leave of absence and actually suggested we do a craft. I'm so glad I did.

    I left the planning and implementation up to Blendy. She decided we would make coasters. She bought cheap (33¢) tiles from Home Depot, scrapbooking paper, Mod Podge, felt, and clear spray paint—and with those items, we created some really cool coasters! Our friend Joanna came over to craft with us, and we all three took the craft in different directions, but I think the results fit each of us.
    All our supplies laid out and ready to go.
    Blendy and Jo work on laying out their patterns.
    Jo ended up with coasters that looked like quilt blocks. And yes, she does quilt!
    My finished product. I'm going to do four more so I have enough for Bible Study nights!
    I'd say my first foray into crafting in the last ten or so years was a success! Blendy and I are already talking about doing another craft with leaves we collect when we're in Indiana next week. She also wants to help me make a Christmas wreath ... it sounds daunting, but I'm sure she'll figure it out!

    Are you "crafty"? Do you have any simple-yet-classy crafts I should try? If so, tell me about it in the comments!

    October 15, 2011

    35 before 35: #35

    Go to a Nebraska-Ohio State football game

    When I woke up last Saturday morning, I had no idea I was about to fulfill one of the items on my 35 before 35 list. But at 3:30 p.m., I found out my parents had turned down tickets to the Nebraska-Ohio State football game in Lincoln and those tickets were still up for grabs. I pounced, and soon a friend and I were careening toward Lincoln to join 85,424 other people cheering for the Huskers.

    There's nothing quite like the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium on game day. The people. The red. The cheering. The tunnel walk. It's pretty incredible! Our seats were in North Stadium, top row—which meant we had a back rest! Rumor had it legendary quarterback Tommie Frazier was in one of the club boxes behind us, though I never saw him myself. And Ndamukong Suh was in the house, as evidenced by the crowd's cries of "SUUUUUHHHHHHHH" every so often. (If you didn't know better, you'd think the crowd was booing the action on the field—which it did a few times, especially in the first half.)

    By halftime, we were trailing 20-6, and I was fairly soaked, thanks to the rain. Fortunately, the temperature was in the upper 60's or lower 70's, so it was bearable. I turned to my friend and said that if I'd been watching at my parents' house (since I don't have TV), I would have quit watching and gone home already.

    The second half was absolutely amazing. With nearly 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, we were down by 21 ... and then the tide began to turn. Lavonte David "recovered a fumble" but basically ripped the ball out of the Ohio State quarterback's hands. And then a different Taylor Martinez showed up on the field. He and Rex Burkhead (whom the guy in the row ahead of me repeatedly called a stud) worked together to put the game away. It was the biggest comback in Husker football history! (Let me give some credit where credit is due, though—perhaps I'm being pessimistic, but I don't think the Huskers would have pulled it off had the Ohio State quarterback not gone out with an injury. The backup just couldn't make anything happen for the Buckeyes.)

    And on a sad note, I witnessed defensive tackle Jared Crick's last game as a Husker. Coach Pelini announced this week that he's out for the rest of the season with an injury ... methinks this does not bode well for the defense!

    So, why was this one of my 35 before 35 wishes? For the answer to that question, we have to go back about 10 years to my arrival on the Grace College campus. Tons of people from Ohio attended Grace, and they were pretty passionate about their Buckeyes. (And also their state. If I have to hear Ohio referred to as "God's Country" one more time, I may lose my lunch.) Soon, I began to dislike Ohio State football—even though my beloved Huskers never played them. I wanted them to lose—especially when they had that run where they were incredibly good. I fully understand that it's petty and probably even "unChristian," but I'm being honest here. That dislike never really wore off, and when the rumors of a Nebraska move to the Big Ten started swirling, my first thought was, "Good. Now we can beat the pants off of Ohio State." And thus, my desire to attend a Nebraska-Ohio State football game was born.

    new and upcoming fiction

    Believe it or not, I do occasionally read books I haven't agreed to review, and I have an extensive list of books I want to read when I'm not facing a review deadline. Here are a few books that either recently released or will soon release that I'm anticipating reading—whether I get to read them for "free" or not.

    Longing by Karen Kingsbury. (Releases 11-22-11.) Longing continues the story of Bailey, Brandon, and Cody. (If you don't know who these people are, go back to the book that started it all—Redemption—and enjoy the ride!) I still haven't read Learning, the previous book in the Bailey Flanigan series, but my goal is to have it read before Longing arrives on my doorstepwhich will be Nov. 22, thanks to Amazon's release-day delivery service. My friend Holly at The Bookshelf was able to read an advance copy, and you can see her review here. On a fun notethe people who play Bailey and Brandon in the book trailers recently got engaged in real life! If the pretend Bailey and Brandon can get married, can't the "real" ones? (Alas, I'm afraid Kingsbury isn't going to bend to my wishes on this one!)

    Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii by Robin Jones Gunn. (Released 10-1-11.) This is for all the Christy Miller/Sierra Jensen fans out there—and I count myself among them! I never actually read all of the Sierra Jensen books, but I did skim the last one ... I wanted to know if Sierra ended up with Paul, the "Todd" of her series. (If you're lost, it's okay, just indulge me!) I don't remember how the book ended, but I do remember being disappointed. Well, now Gunn is giving all of the Sierra fans the resolution they wanted way back when, as Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii is all about love finding Sierra! Here's hoping some characters from Gunn's other books make cameo appearances ... and even if they don't, I'm sure it will be a satisfying read.

    The Accidental Brideby Denise Hunter. (Releases 1-3-12.) I am a big fan of Denise Hunter's booksI've reviewed one, and several others made my list of recommended books. The Accidental Bride is book two in Hunter's Big Sky series. It appears to be a twist on the "marriage of convenience" plot device, which is a favorite of mine. I'm hoping to get it free from Booksneeze, but if I don't, I'll definitely be buying it. 

    Turnabout's Fair Playby Kaye Dacus. (Releases 11-1-11.) I have to give a big shout-out to Peter at on this one. Had he not blogged about meeting Dacus, I wouldn't have known she existed—and I would have been missing out. I found The Art of Romance, book two in her Matchmakers series, for review on NetGalley, and I read it in just a few hours; I currently have book one, Love Remains, waiting on my shelf of "read when I don't have a deadline" books, and Turnabout's Fair Play is on my Kindle awaiting my attention. I love that Dacus's heroines—at least the ones in the Matchmakers seriesaren't the normal young, thin, gorgeous women with multiple suitors found in so many modern romances. (Sometimes I feel like if I read about one more 22-year-old falling in love, I'm going to throw up.) I know these characters are fictional, but they give me hopehope that someday, some man will see me for who I am and will love me for me. (I feel like I should instruct my mother to stop crying now. Mom, stop it.)

    Beyond Hope's Valleyby Tricia Goyer. (Releases 4-1-12.) This release is a bit farther out than the rest, but I'm eagerly anticipating it, so I wanted to mention it. Beyond Hope's Valley is book three in Goyer's Big Sky series. I sometimes read Amish fiction because it's offered to me for review, but I wouldn't normally seek it out. This series, however, is worth lookingand payingfor. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Goyer doesn't idealize the Amish lifestyle. She clearly shows its positive and negative sidesand I think that's because some of the characters in this book are based on friends of hers. Their journey to a real, living faith took them out of the Amish church. She interviewed these friends on her radio show a few months ago, and I just listened to the podcast.  If you're interested, you can listen here (scroll down to Thursday, 14th of April, 2011).

    So there you have it: my top five "can't wait to read them" books. What books are you looking forward to?

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