Best Day Ever

I realize I've not shared ANYTHING of our wedding.

I can't even BEGIN to describe just how beautiful a day October 8th was.  The weather was windy--but not rainy!--and the sun simply gorgeous.  The whole ceremony went smoothly from start to finish.  We walked down to Pride & Prejudice's (2007) theme song "Dawn" and walked out as man and wife to Josh Turner's "Would You Go With Me?"  

Perfect.

And so many people spent so much time and energy to make it all happen.  There are simply no words to convey just how grateful we are to our families and friends for making that day as special as it was.

Thank you!


More photos to come, I promise!  But this is all I can upload at the moment. 

Blessings this Christmas to you and yours!  May you enjoy the little moments with family and friends this season.

Merry Christmas!
Sarah

Book Review! | The Silent Songbird

The Silent Songbird
(Hagenheim #7)
Melanie Dickerson

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Genre:  Christian, Fantasy, Historical, Fiction
Released:  November 8th, 2016

{GoodReads}
Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn't even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England's monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
This is another sweet, little fairytale by Melanie Dickerson.  I've loved every single one of her books, and this one is no exception.  A retelling of The Little Mermaid, this story follows the journey and adventure of Evangeline, a beautiful maiden who longs for nothing more than freedom and the chance for true love.

{Positives}
Evangeline has a kind and caring heart.  She finds her courage and bravery in protecting those she loves, even when they may reject her at the moment.

{Negatives}
Characters lie and deceive one another, supposedly to protect each other from a villain.  However, lies hurt, no matter what purpose they may be for.  Evangeline pretends to be mute in order to protect her identity.  Her handmaiden lies continuously due to that.

A man who everyone takes to be loyal to the king, turns out to be evil and vile.  No other words for him. (But I suppose if he weren't in the tale, there'd be no villain, and therefore, not much of a story. . .)

{Spiritual Content}
Evangeline prays to her Lord almost constantly.  It is sweet to see how her relationship with God is a friendship.  She goes to him when everyone around her seems to let her down.  

Villagers attend chapel where a priest gives a sermon and hymns are sung.

{Violence}
A man is hit in the head with a block of wood and shoved down a bank into a river.  Obviously, whoever attacked him left him to drown.  ([SPOILER!!] He's saved!)  A woman is beaten and tortured for information.  A man of questionable character is threatened with a bow and arrow (it's not fired, just threatened).  A woman is kidnapped and thrown into a cellar of some kind, she escapes and assaults one of her mockers, knocking them to the ground.  A few men suffer arrow wounds.  A woman is slapped on the cheek, resulting in a red mark and a cut lip.

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
None.  Some alcoholic beverages are served in taverns and inns, as well as royal parties.

{Love-y-ness}
It is obvious that there is an attraction between Evangeline and Westley, the son of the lord of Glynval.  They talk quite a bit, share free time (in which they relax in a special reading nook in the castle gardens and take turns reading from the English Bible), hug, and--of course!--eventually kiss.

{Conclusion}
I know I keep using the word, but this was a sweet tale.  There's action, adventure, romance, and a wee bit of the historical in the place settings, dress, wares, etc.  I enjoyed this story and would definitely recommend.  :]

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Recommended ages:  16+



Book Review | Gilt Hollow

Gilt Hollow
Lorie Langdon

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.
Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow Lamott stepped back into his life. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton wonders if his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves.
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{The Basics}
Mystery thriller!!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book--could hardly put it down!  It's definitely a mystery and one that will keep you on your toes.  However, it's not entirely labeled as "Christian" (which, by the way, there's nothing wrong with that, except. . .), and has a good bit of language, slang, and sensual content.  Other than all that, of course, I loved this novel.  

Willow Lamott's life for the past four years has been, needless to say, difficult.  And that may be quite an undermining statement.  Why?  Because she's the best friend of a killer.  Or, at least, her best friend--Ashton Keller--whom she grew up with, was convicted of killing a classmate.  And sentenced to juvie for four years.  He's released on early parole, and it seems her world sinks all over again.  He's definitely not much of the Ashton she remembers, but could he be innocent?  Should she risk everything to find out?

{Positives}
Willow loves her family.  You can see that in how she plays with her younger brother, how she wants to protect him, and the relationship she has with her mother.  Her father died from cancer before Ashton was convicted, and it seems the little family held together.

For nearly four years, Willow has clammed up and drawn into herself, but now with her senior year looming full ahead, and a new friend found in a girl named Lisa--who's willing to dig into her defenses and help her have fun--Willow begins to open up again. 

{Negatives}
Someone plays several dirty pranks, one of which involves a boy's jersey that was stolen, urinated on, and nailed to the school's gym door.  And, of course, EVERYONE turns accusatory eyes on Ashton, who is fresh from juvie, when you just know it wasn't him.

Family members lie constantly, whether unintentionally or seriously trying to protect those they love.

An angry girlfriend threatens to cut off a guy's--er, "part"-- a character almost says the word.  There's mention of some college event, and a description of one of the participees as a guy wearing make-up and who's hair is an aqua mohawk. . .

There's a Halloween/Masquerade Ball, where students and adults alike dress in absolutely WHATEVER.  There's an alien mask, with human fingers for teeth.  A demented clown.  Fairies (which are nowhere near as bad as those others, in my opinion. . .). And so on.

There's a psychotic killer.  Can't say much more. . .

{Violence}
Four years before, a boy is pushed from the waterfall and dies.  We "see" flashbacks of blood and the boy's body.

In juvinile jail, stronger prisoners prey on the weaker.  (While some stand up for them.)

A car intentionally causes a motorcycle driver to wreck.  The guy is injured, but survives.

A teen and a little boy fall from a mansion's rooftop ([SPOILER] With only a concussion to the teen, they both survive.)

{Spiritual Content}
The Lamott family goes to church.  And volunteer when they can at the soup kitchen, which is hosted at the church.  Later on, we discover that the bachelor pastor is interested in Willow's widowed mother.  (It's kinda sweet) :]

At one point, Willow finds herself at the cemetery where her dad is buried.  There, she "talks" to him when she needs a bit of relief and can't find someone to trust.  (Personally, this should've been where she prays to the God who listens to all of our burdens. . . But I suppose, someone may find comfort in telling their deceased family member what's going on.  No offense meant, whatsoever.)

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
One mention of "dang." "Sexy" is used once, in referrence to a red, halter dress.  "Ballsy" is also mentioned in regards to. . . bravery, or courage, of sorts.  Two uses of "d---."  There's quite a bit of school slang, as I like to call it.  One use of "piss"-- FORGIVE ME!  But I wish my readers to be aware--regarding the ruined jersey.  "Freaking" is used many times.  (Part of the school slang.)

{Love-y-ness}
It's obvious very early on that Ashton and Willow are attracted to each other.  There's much ado with boyfriend/girlfriend stuff. . . Lots of kissing, making out, scantily clad girls, revealing outfits, etc.

Ashton and Willow share a couple "electrical" kisses.  And you kinda stumble into the whole cliche of "they definitely have chemistry."

{Conclusion}
In conclusion, again, I enjoyed this story.  However, I would most definitely caution younger readers due to some of the content, and recommend this for ages 16 and up--at least.  With all of the above said, it was a wonderful story of friendship, loyalty, and justice--with some romance thrown in there to boot.  :]



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Recommended ages:  16-18+


I was provided a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

xxx,
Sarah

Book Review | The Goblin Crown

Hello, lovelies!  Just now attempting to get back into the swing of things here in the blog world.
I've a review for you, but alas, none of my photos would upload, so it's rather boring.  Still, I've left a link if you wish to see the cover and description on Goodreads.

Thanks!  And be watching for wedding photos!!


The Goblin Crown
Billy Smith & the Goblins
Robert Hewitt Wolfe

[Goodreads]
Billy Smith is having a rough first day of high school. The new kid at exclusive Francis Drake Prep, Billy embarrasses himself in front of fiery, beautiful Lexi Aquino. He makes an instant enemy in Kurt Novac, the school's surly star quarterback. 
          Then suddenly Billy, Lexi, and Kurt are mysteriously transported to an underworld teeming with goblins, strange animal hybrids, and powerful magic the fact that they re stuck there is probably Billy s fault, too. With help from an unlikely goblin leader named Hop, the teens soon discover that goblins can be both fierce and friendly, with their own rich language, culture, and history a history that foretells of a human arriving to claim the Goblin Crown and lead them to victory against the deadly, invading Hanorians. 
          Could Billy anxious, awkward Billy be the mythical Goblin King? Could saving the goblin race be his destiny and the key to getting him, Lexi, and Kurt back home?

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[The Basics]
Billy is a freshman in high school, and he is accustomed to being an outcast.  So, it's no surprise when he fumbles at school and makes a fool of himself in front of cute Lexi and the entirety of the cafeteria.

With his dad suffering from cancer, his mum working hard to pay the bills, and Billy enduring long days at school and bullies from the start, one would think he would wish to magically be transported to another world.  At one point, during what he believes is a panic attack, that's exactly what happens.  And Billy the Nobody is given a chance to be a true hero.

[Positives]
Billy is compassionate in a way.  He looks out for the weaker ones, stands up to the bullies, even when he's knock-kneed himself, and has a big heart. 

[Negatives]
Bullying.  Language.  

[Violence]
There are a couple surprisingly descriptive battles.  I was admittedly a little surprised at the gore, simply because I assumed this novel was meant for pre-teen/teen readers.

Lots of blood and corpses.  Wasting diseases.  Burned villages.  Wounded and dying men and goblins.  Pincushioned corpse with dozens of arrows sticking from his back.  

Cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, bodies burnt to ash, others frozen, arrow wounds, swords, etc. 

A sweet, goblin girl is killed, with her head smashed in from debris.  A bad guy's head is carried away on a spike and paraded through a crowd.  

It's joked that at goblin funerals, they used to chop up the dead and use them for fertilizer in crops and gardens, while some used to eat a bit of their own relatives. . . (Wasn't very humorous to me. . .)

[Spiritual Content]
There are wizards and magic.  Goblin monks and Templars worship a Night Goddess, while the Hanorian Celestials (humans that are outcasts from other humans) referred to Father Day and Mother Night.  Basically, they sound like hippies.  ;D

[Language, Alcohol & Drugs]
Three uses of "d---."  One use of "Oh, h--- no," and another of "Oh God," and "Oh my God."

Beer and ale.  

[Love-y-ness]
Billy likes Lexi, who is fiery and possesses quite a bit of spunk.  He finds her "cute" and adorable.  No kissy-smooches, though! You're safe!

[Conclusion]
Overall, I liked this intriguing tale.  But, due to the language and content, I was rather disappointed.  Because of that, I would most likely not recommend for younger readers under 16 years of age--at least.

Still, it was a thrilling story with goblin language and culture, wizards and magic, and much action.


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Recommended ages:  16+
3.5-4 out of 5 stars


xxx,
Sarah


The Silver Bracelet

WHAAATTT??  I'm getting married TOMORROW!!

Soon, I will become Mrs Evan Cnossen.

God has been so good to me in blessing me with a great family, and now (VERY soon), an amazing husband.  I am so looking forward to this new chapter in life.

We are deep into wedding preparations right now, but I wanted to take the time to share a little story with you.  And yes, to any who have commented, I plan on posting our wedding pictures!  It may be a few weeks or so before they're up and running, but I do plan on sharing this special day with you all.

* * *

The Silver Bracelet

As a birthday gift last year, I received this beautiful bracelet from Evan after telling him a story about a special bracelet from an old Brio magazine (anybody remember those??).

Ideally, this piece of jewelry would be given by parents to a daughter, and each gem represents a special "event," so to speak.

Instagram - @sarahpenmaiden
The simple gray stone, a piece of granite, represents the first time the daughter held hands with a guy.  And when she did so, her parents required that she give that mere piece of granite to the guy.  The one rule.  And the same goes for each gem that follows.  The pink quartz represents the first kiss.  The emerald, the first boyfriend.  The pearl, the first time she says, "I love you," to a man other than her father.  The ruby, the proposal or engagement.  And finally ending with the diamond, which represents the time when she says "I do."  The tiny sapphires that remain are to remind her just how beautiful and valuable she is in the eyes of God and her parents. 

Then, once God brought her and the man she was to marry together, she would give either the entire bracelet to the one man, or whatever gems remained left.  This puts a simple, yet powerful perspective to the ideals of dating and courtship.  And made the perfect birthday gift for me.  Now, come the morrow, I will give the complete bracelet to one, incredible man.  Then, when the time comes, we hope to pass it on to our own daughter someday.  :]

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And that's all the time I have for this morn.  Your prayers are muchly appreciated!

Blessings to you, dearies.  This is probably the last time for a wee while that you'll hear from me.  Once our life in the "new normal" settles down, I plan on posting wedding photos and more of Operation Overland.

Love you all!

xxx,
Sarah


Operation Overland | Phases Five & Six

Believe it or not, but I've had this post in the drafts all weekend long.  It's true!  Honest.  

Obviously, I am still behind in my photos, but this will help tremendously to catch you up.  Why? Because there's another TWO phases here for you!  And yes, to those of you skimming this beautifully lengthy post (I don't blame you), it's LONG.  :]

Phase Five
WALLS!

Below, the walls have begun to appear.  For those of you unaccustomed to house-building and all that it consists of. . . You begin by laying out the studs flat on the floor, nailing them into their proper places via a nail-gun (a blessed invention!), and THEN you stand them up.  GENIUS!! Right??


The Master Builder refers to his plans.  Never afraid to double-check something.  Might save time later!


Father and son. (My dad and brother.)


Father and son. (Evan and his dad.)


The back wall.


Even my sister, Jenny, has helped us out some!



Once all the studs are in place, plywood is applied.



AND IT'S ALIVE!!!! Oh, wait.  xD That was soooo corny. . .
To the observant observer, because the rear and front walls are built in two pieces, we must leave off the plywood at the center and "tie" them together once they are up.  This ensures they won't go anywhere and adds extra security to the seams.


Bracing the corners.


Woohoo! Both the front and back walls!


And now for the sides of our little box.


One evening, Evan's mother and cousin, Tanner, came out to help.  The saying, "Many hands make light work," is so true.


*squeel*


Manpower!


And now one to. . .



Phase Six
Roof Roof!

Organizing the trusses.  These are pre-made and installed using a crane.  That in itself made life this day so much easier.  Well, except perhaps for the Summer heat. . .


What a lovely liddle box.  ^_^



Jamin on the scaffolding, marking where each truss on this side will sit.


Evan doing the same on his side.


Discussing placement on the center wall.


My dad and his dad. :]


The crane.  Another blessed invention.


Evan and Jamin were in the middle of it all, and Tyler and Evan's dad were on each side.  My dad was cutting braces, and my grandfather guided the trusses with a rope outside. They worked like a well-oiled machine.  And it was HOT.










Whoa.  Pretty neat, huh?




On another day, we returned to finish the hip roof on each side.  This included lots of measuring and cutting and nailing and climbing.  Makes me nervous to see them all up so high.



Then, it's plywood time again!
Mighty Dad handing up the heavy sheets to the guys topside.


A good friend of the family showed up one morn to help us out.  We are so thankful for everyone who has pitched in!

Hahaha! The next few photos are some paparazzi fun.  :D


I like Jamin's face in this one.


LOOK OUT!!


Right back atcha! 
(Gosh, I'm horrible at these caption things. . . So cheesy! Yes, yes, go on say it's so!)



Another piece.



And another. . .


In this one, I had climbed up a ladder and peeked through a teensy whole to snap a couple shots.  That's about as high as I wanted to go.  Granted, and I have witnesses, I did make it up there TWICE.  Shaky knees, maybe




Plywood complete! (with exception of some little corners)


Evan adding nails where they were missed.

And there ya have it.
~  ~  ~
Currently, we are ready to paint the drywall. . . 

O_O 
WHAT?? Yes, t'is true.  I told you I'm behind in my photos.  The next couple phases will consist of tar paper and shingles for the roof and building the interior walls.  And then on from there!  However, there's only 16 MORE DAYS LEFT till I become a married woman!!! (15 days, by the time you read this. . .)
Good gravy! When you put it like that, I can hardly believe it.  This year has just flown.  All that to say, these next couple weeks are most likely to be CRAZY.  Meaning, there may or may not be another phase or two up until late October.  But all's well!  I will get to it, I promise you.  :]
We can still use your prayers, dear friends.  You are such a blessing to us!
xxx,
Sarah