Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Cold Does Bother Me Anyway // a book review

 It's time for the grand finale of Hannah & Olivia's Reviews! (not that it's the very last one ever...because that would be sad)

 As some of you know, in October and November Olivia (from The Cwtch) and I picked out a book to read and reviewed it on each others blogs. It was pretty epic. This month, since it's Christmas and everything, we decided to mix it up a bit - this time we each recommended a favorite holiday book for the other to read.

 I recommended The Magician's Elephant by Kate Dicamillo to Olivia - make sure you check out her lovely post about it here!

 And to me, she recommended Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little.

"So far", Min reminded herself, "You have loved nobody and nobody has loved you."

Dancing Through the Snow is about a young girl named Min, who was abandoned as a small child and has gone from foster home to foster home since then. She's very quiet and (for good reason) has trouble trusting other people. This book is about one winter when her life starts to turn around.

A lot of Christmassy books out there are about happy people in their cozy homes, surrounded by friends and family who love them. It was truly an eye-opener to read a book about a girl who has nothinig.

 Despite it having a rather sad premise, this really isn't a sad book. It's actually a very sweet and heartwarming book. The characters (the good ones, anyway!) are so likable and funny. Even though it's not long, you get really attached to the characters and interested in their lives.

 Another great thing is that there are some adorable pets in this book. As an animal lover, this was a real plus for me :)

 I thought it was pretty cool that this is a book by a Canadian author, set in Canada, and recommended to me by my Canadian buddy. It sounds very cold there, though.

 I'm so glad Olivia picked this book out for me! It was the perfect thing to read over Christmas.


 In case you missed them, here are our reviews from the past months!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Olivia's Thoughts on the Not-So-Great Gatsby
Hannah Throws Shoes at The Great Gatsby

These Broken Stars by Aimee Kaufman and Megan Spooner:
TBH about TBS (Olivia)
These Broken Feels (Hannah)

The Magician's Elephant:
Christmas and Snow and Elephants, Oh My! (Olivia)


Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day

|Heather's TARDIS mug|
|...and Caleb's Battle of the Five Armies mug|
|I know.|
|Santa Claws|

Joy has dawned upon the world
Promised from creation
God's salvation now unfurled
Hope for every nation
Not with fanfares from above
Not with scenes of glory
But a humble gift of love
Jesus born of Mary 

 - Joy Has Dawned, Keith and Kristyn Getty

  Christmas this year was cinnamon pecan roles for breakfast, awesome presents under the tree, and the smell of Christmas dinner wafting through the house. It was friends over who struggled with Brendan's puzzles, laughter over the Game of Things, and the Doctor Who special.

  Christmas is the best. I love the fact that it's a time of year that we've decided to make special by making amazing food and giving each other presents, and by wearing tacky sweaters and putting trees in our living rooms. 

 More than anything, though, I love that it's a time to celebrate the incredible fact that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. Of course we should remember this all year long - but I think we need a special yearly reminder, full of "Silent Night", Nativity scenes, and angels on trees. I'm really glad Christmas exists.

I hope you all had the loveliest of Christmases. And, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, everyone.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I See Dead People // Rome, Part II

(here's part one, in case you missed it!)

After getting up, having breakfast at the train station's McDonalds (PANCAKES YO), and experiencing Rome's very packed underground metro, we arrived at the entrance of the Vatican.

Five Facts About the Vatican: 
1. It's a must see for any tourist.
2. It's the smallest country (by both size and population) in the world.
3. Only a certain part of the Vatican (the museums, cathedral, and garden) is open to visitors.
4. The Vatican's museums are some of the world's finest.
5. The best part is the ceilings.

|like most museums, there was a lot of very old things and very naked statues.|
|I loved the Greek and Roman sculptures. I was glad to be a Percy Jackson fan, because otherwise I wouldn't have known who any of those peeps were. "HEY LOOK IT'S DIONYSUS, GUYS."|
|I could stare at those ceilings forever.|
The last part of the museum was it's crowning glory - the Sistine Chapel. It was awe-inspiring. 
(There was strictly no photography allowed, unfortunately. Also the guards would actually shush people if they talked too loud.)

After the museums, our next stop was St. Peter's Basilica, which was magnificent. You just wanted to stare up at it melt into a puddle of awe.

|Random thought while walking around this place: "Um, how the heck did they pay for this?"|

The Vatican was an extremely interesting place. It was as if all the world's best artists and architects throughout history came together and added a little piece of their best work to it. Also, the pizza in the cafeteria was pretty yum-o.

|a pretty park we walked through later that day|

Before we headed back to our hotel, we stopped at a church called "Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini". The church wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but what was under the church definitely was.

Underneath was was the Capuchin Crypt, and it was - uhhh - decorated with the bones of monks. Intricately decorated. With thousands of...dead people. Historically interesting, yes, but it was seriously creepy and made me feel a bit ill.

On that delightfully pleasant note, I'll bid you farewell for now!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Interview with Emily Ann Putzke, Author of It Took a War

Hey Everyone!

Today is a very exciting day, because we have the lovely blogger and now published author, Emily Ann Putzke, here for an interview! I hope you all enjoy getting to know Emily a little better and hearing about her book, It Took a War, which was released just yesterday.

1861 - Sixteen year old Joe Roberts leads a mundane life as far as he’s concerned. His world spins in the same circle each day: working at his family’s store, taking his sisters on boyish escapades and bickering with his rogue of a cousin, Lucas. Joe can’t understand why his mother allows Lucas to live and work with them after all the pain he caused their family. 

When war is declared, Joe is quick to join up and become a soldier with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but war is nothing like he imagined. To make matters worse, he must endure having Lucas in the same regiment. Can Joe put the pain of the past behind him? Forgiveness is easier said than done.

It's an honor to have you here, Emily! First off, before we get into the questions, will you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for hosting me, Hannah! I'm Emily Ann Putzke, the author of It Took a War. I'm a 19 year old Christian, Homeschool graduate and history lover. I enjoy photography (especially photographing my nieces and nephews), reading, spending time with family, Civil War reenacting, traveling, and coffee. I love coffee. I live in New York State where we get buried in snow. I blog regularly over at
When did you become interested in writing, and what was it that got you started?

I've been interested in writing since I was very young. I have stories saved from when I was about six or seven. I grew up in a house full of books so that played a huge part in my love of reading and writing. I'm a library junkie, too. I take armloads of books home on every visit. I never remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. I've always dreamed of being an author and I'm so excited to finally be in print!

In one sentence, how would you describe It Took a War

It took a war to make them forgive.

What has been your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? What has been the most difficult?

My favorite part of the writing process was getting to know my characters. Also, I enjoyed the research process, because let's face it, I'm a history nerd. The most difficult part was re-writing. I changed the plot and the writing style from first person to third person. So that was a huge and difficult job!

My favorite part of the publishing process was holding the proof copy for the first time. It was crazy to see my book in print form. The most difficult was figuring out the timing for the publishing much time it takes for the cover to be finished, the edits, the interior, the uploading to Createspace and Amazon, etc. But I learned lots about self-publishing this year so I think it'll be a little easier in the future.

I know that you did a lot of research for It Took a War. What kind of research did you find the most helpful?

Finding good books that explained the Civil War extremely well - namely, Hardtack and Coffee. It made so much sense, unlike some history books that are really wordy. I also found videos of Civil War drilling, how to load a musket, and an animated map of Gettysburg very helpful. Living history was also a great way for me to delve deeper.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you cope?

Yes, definitely. Sometimes I'll look up inspirational writing quotes, or find pictures of what I think my characters look like. I'll step away from my computer armed with my notebook and pen and scribble down ideas of where my story is heading. Other times I'll just sit and think for a while, and drink some coffee while I'm at it. As you can see, I don't have one tried and true method. But I'm pretty sure coffee and chocolate help no matter what.

How did you come up with your book's title, and how did you come up with your characters' names?

My book title didn't come right away. It was called The Book That Hath No Name for a long time. I started writing down different ideas, played around with wording, then It Took a War crossed my mind. I was so excited because it suits the story perfectly!

I love coming up with the characters names! Since It Took a War is a Civil War story, I knew I needed names that would have been used back then. So that was where I started. Joseph worked well for my main character, but he's always called Joe. It just fit him. I wanted something elegant and sweet for his sister, so Coralie worked well for her. Their youngest sister is a four year old, messy haired, happy girl. Isabelle (Izzy for short) was definitely the name for her. This is the site I use for finding historical names most of the time.

Is there a character in your book that you particularly relate to?

Not entirely, although I can empathize with Coralie when Joe leaves home. Even though my brother didn't go off to war, it's hard to have a sibling move away.

What are a few of your favorite historical fiction books? Are you planning on writing more historical fiction yourself in the near future? 

A few favorite Civil War era historical fiction books are:

Journal of James Edmond Pease, a Civil War Union Soldier - Jim Murphy
Candle in the Darkness - Lynn Austin
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
War Memorial: A Short Story - Elisabeth Grace Foley
Girl in Blue - Ann Rinaldi
The War Within: A Novel of the Civil War - Carol Matas

Yes, I am planning on writing more historical fiction! Right now I'm in the process of researching for my next book which is about a German resistance during WWII. I'm also working on a story set in NYC in 1899 about the newsboys strike.

What has been the biggest thing you've learned from this experience of writing and self-publishing? What advice would you give to other writers trying to do the same thing?

I've learned patience and determination. It's definitely a process to write and publish a book, but it's wonderful to see a passion and career come together. I've also learned that self-publishing is not "self" at all. It took more than myself to get this book finished.  My family, friends, and blogging friends have been such a help and encouragement. I couldn't have done this without them!

My advice to other writers is don't give up. Write the book that God has put on your heart. Ask people you trust to edit it. Pray about what direction God wants for this book - traditional publishing or self-publishing. Then do it!

Thank you again, Emily, for being here and telling us about your book! I'm very excited to get my hands on It Took a War, and I know many other people are as well.

Enter Giveaway:

Giveaway is Only Open to People in the U.S.

You can buy It Took a War through:

Follow Emily online at:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Reads // the sequel

  Two years ago (WOAH) I posted about some of my favorite books to read at Christmastime, and since I have some more to talk about, I thought I had better make a Volume II.

Preeeeetty, huh?

The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan

"That's what I don't understand about humans. This deserving idea. If it's love, you don't have to deserve it."
This is my new favorite Christmas book. It's an all around gorgeous story, and the illustrations are beautiful.


Beauty by Robin McKinley

"He cannot be so bad if he loves roses so much."

 Beauty is a great book to read anytime of year, but I think it would be particularly perfect on a rainy winter's day. It's a wonderful fairytale retelling and it'll make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.


The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” 

A great classic. December will always be a Hobbity time of year for me. (mostly because of certain special movies)


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame 

“Badger hates Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing.” 

One of my favorite children's classics. The parts where the animals celebrate Christmas are sure to get you into a festive mood.


The Magician's Elephant by Kate Dicamillo

"Have you, in truth, ever seen something so heartbreakingly lovely? What are we to make of a world where stars shine bright in the midst of so much darkness and gloom?"

I like this book so much that I didn't even have to google that quote and I only got two words wrong. BOOM. Anyway, Kate Dicamillo rocks.


The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Christian Birmingham

 "How well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is."

This is only a short fairytale, but it's a really lovely story (although unfortunatly no one sings Let It Go). The version illustrated by Christian Birmingham is gorgeous.

Some honorable mentions: Anything by E. Nesbit or Charles Dickens, and the Redwall series (particularly Mossflower).

What do you like to read during this time of year?


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fifteen Festive Favorites // Vlog

When I saw Carrie Fletcher (as well as her brother Tom) do this fun Christmas tag on their youtube channels, I inwardly screamed, "I MUST BE A PART OF THIS JOLLINESS. I NEED TO DO THIS TAG."

So I did. And it's as awkward and random and festive as you'd expect.


#1 Favorite Festive Food
#2 Favorite Reindeer
#3 Favorite Day in "Twelve Days of Christmas"
#4 Favorite Christmas Song
#5 Favorite Present
#6 Favorite Christmas Film
#7 Favorite Christmas Cracker Toy
#8 Favorite Christmas Joke
#9 Favorite Christmas Decoration
#10 Favorite Christmas Candle Scent
#11 Favorite Christmas TV Ad
#12 Favorite Festive Tradition
#13 Favorite Place to Spend Christmas
#14 Favorite Christmas Fact
#15 Favorite Snowman Accessories

Consider yourself tagged, guys. :)


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Do As the Romans // Rome, Part I

Hey! Quick note. A lot of you mentioned in the comments how cool/unusual it is to just be like, "Hey, let's go to Rome next month, lolz!". I wanted to quickly address that! It's true, one of the blessings of living in Europe is that it's easy and often very inexpensive to travel to other places within Europe. I know that it is not like that for everyone, and that traveling overseas can be hundreds (if not thousands) of euro and months of planning for those in different continents. It's a darned shame! I hope that all you lovely people across the oceans get to come over here someday and check out this cool continent. And meanwhile, I hope you enjoy getting a little taste of it through my photographs and stories.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Apparently that means eating lots of pizza and gelato, and walking around a lot.

 When Heather found tickets to Rome on sale and asked us if we'd like to go, I was obviously pretty excited. I started pinning stuff to our "Roman Holiday" pinterest board faster than you could say Pizzeria.

 We (mom, sister, myself) were there for three days - not counting the first day, in which we arrived at night and just went straight to the hotel. The first proper day was pretty great. So Imma tell you 'bout it.

How To Spend Your First Day in Rome
I mean, this is how I spent my first day, and it was pretty cool, so...

1. Don't get a good night's sleep. All night long you will hear the clang clang clang of trolleys (why do they run all night?) (also, isn't that from a song in Meet Me in St. Louis?), and the rumbling of trucks collecting the rubbish. This is an important part of your Roman experience. Embrace it.

2. Wake up and grumpily say "What is that noise?" The kid in the flat above you is attempting to learn O' Christmas Tree on the piano. He or she isn't very good at it yet. Also, someone down on the street is shouting "BELLISSIMO!" really loudly. This is your Roman wake-up call.

3. Get Coffee. Worried that the people working at the cafe might not know English? Well, they probably do, but even if they don't, just remember: the words 'Cappuccino' and 'Croissant' are universal. Use that to your advantage.

4. Walk to the Colosseum. Once there, absorb some history. Say "Wow, this place is huge" and take many photos.

5. Next, visit the Roman Forum. It's right next to the Colosseum, can't miss it. Look at all the broken pieces of ancient buildings and think about how cool they are.

6. Keep walking. Walk all over that city.

8. Try out some Italian. Hint: Just add "iano" to the end of words, and it sounds pretty Italian. Italiano.

9. Take a look at some awesome place called "Altare della Patria". Try to take some photos, but trust me: it's so big, it probably won't fit in the pic.

11. Take a bus tour! Make sure you sit on the top deck. Even though it's getting a tad bit chilly outside.

12. Visit a couple of Cathedrals. They are honestly all over the place. Obviously. Note how seriously huge and intimidatingly fancy they are. Don't make eye contact with the priests in the confession boxes. #awkward

13. Have dinner. Pizza. Duh.

14. Go back to your hotel. Tip: Bring a BBC mini-series along in case you want something to watch before you go to sleep. I recommend bringing Our Mutual Friend. (Or as we fondly call it, Our Mutual Creeper. Cuz seriously.)

15. Get some sleep. Just a tip, during the day you might want to purchase some earplugs. Especially if you are from the middle of nowhere in Ireland where the only sound you're used to hearing at night is the occasional braying of a donkey and not some Italian child playing Christmas carols.

Follow these steps and you are guaranteed to have a lovely first day in Rome.

Til next time, folks ;)