Wednesday, January 30



Last Saturday, Aaron participated in the AWANA Games - our church hosted, and it was really fun!  Here are a few action shots.  It was really fun to watch him participate in team activities - the first of many, I am sure!!

Tuesday, January 29

The Tenth Plague

You may remember a few years ago an interview with our friend from Northland, Adam Blumer, upon the release of his first novel.  Today marks the release of his second!  You will not want to miss this!

Book Summary

Water turns to blood. Flies and gnats attack the innocent. Marc and Gillian Thayer’s vacation resort becomes a grisly murder scene, with a killer using the ten plagues of Egypt as his playbook for revenge.

When their friend turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of a retired homicide detective, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Meanwhile, a stranger is after the Thayers’ newly adopted baby. Will they uncover the truth behind the bitter agenda before the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn son?

About the Author

Adam Blumer is the author of Fatal Illusions (Kregel Publications) and The Tenth Plague (Kirkdale Press). A print journalism major in college, he works as a freelance writer and editor after serving in editorial roles for more than twenty years. He lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia.

Here's an interview with Adam.

1.      What was your inspiration behind The Tenth Plague?

One day I was reading the book of Revelation and came across 22:18–19. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (ESV). My mind began playing the “what if” game. Would God really bring a biblical plague on someone who tampered with His Word? I chatted with a few theologian friends, and the plot emerged from there.

2.      How does this novel compare with your first novel, Fatal Illusions?

Though the plot, of course, is different, the two novels share a number of similarities. Both are set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I live. I like to write about average folks like Marc and Gillian Thayer, a pastor and his wife who face unexpected, even threatening, events. Of course, there’s another really bad killer who wants to do them harm, and their retired homicide detective friend, Chuck Riley, once again comes out of retirement to help them. I also like to weave in a historical event that somehow relates to the present day. In Fatal Illusions, it was the killer’s obsession with Houdini; in The Tenth Plague, an old mine disaster plays an important role. The past always plays an important role in the present—a running theme in my novels. Overall, I like to write about redemption: how biblical truth offers the answers to the complicated issues of life. Stories, like parables, present some of the best ways to illustrate biblical truths.

3.      What was one of the most important lessons you learned during the writing of this novel?

The power of the collaborative process. I had a fairly strong first draft, but I was stuck. A novel editor provided a creative springboard and helped me see where my true story lay. Without her help, I doubt this story would have seen the light of day.

4.      What part of writing this novel took the most work?

This novel required a ton of research. From an old mining tragedy to autism, from adoption law to anthrax, from pheromones to the Oklahoma City bombing, the research for this one required much more than I ever expected. I’m so thankful for technology and ease of access, thanks to the Internet. Without Google and so many resources at my fingertips, I’d probably still be researching this story. 

5.      So far, what has been your favorite work experience in life?
During one summer between years in high school, I worked at a library, a book lover’s paradise. Granted, a lot of the work involved stocking shelves, but being surrounded by so many fascinating books and interesting authors was pure heaven. I was born a die-hard book lover, and I’ll probably die one too. 

6. Consider the qualities that make you unique. How do these qualities come out in your writing?

I love suspense fiction and history, so a blending of the two always seems to come out in my writing. In high school, I won awards in calligraphy; Gillian Thayer, my female lead, is into calligraphy in a big way (it’s her job). I’ve always been intrigued with how one’s past impacts his or her present and future. This is a recurring theme in my novels because it’s part of who I am. Now that I think about it, what I write is inseparable to some degree from who I am.

7. Introduce your plot summary and main characters. What is your favorite part of the story?

Water turns to blood. Flies and gnats attack the innocent.
Marc and Gillian Thayer’s vacation resort becomes a grisly murder scene, with a killer using the ten plagues of Egypt as his playbook for revenge.

When their friend turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of a retired homicide detective, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Meanwhile, a stranger is after the Thayers’ newly adopted baby. Will they uncover the truth behind the bitter agenda before the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn son?

My favorite part is when the firstborn son is revealed and the novel culminates in the tenth plague. This is the most suspenseful and action-packed part of the story, with several key characters in jeopardy. I had a blast writing it.

8. One of the main themes of The Tenth Plague is confronting and dealing with your past. What can readers take away from this theme, especially in a novel that deals with religion and death?

Both the villain and my heroine, Gillian Thayer, grapple with heartbreaking real-life issues from their past. But how they respond shows two very different paths. My hope is that readers will see the stark contrast in the context of biblical truth presented in the story. The bottom line is that God is enough, and He offers the solution to every problem of life. This is another repeated theme in my stories. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my latest project.

What are two things about you people might find surprising?
I took lessons to play the accordion in junior high and high school (wanna hear a polka?). When I was a tween, I was a ventriloquist and had a dummy named Andy. I used to entertain the younger kids in children’s church with routines I made up.

How did you meet your wife? I understand it’s an amazing story.
In the spring of 1995, still single and disillusioned with dating, I gave up on the idea of dating anyone ever again. I decided to go on a trip to the Holy Land as sort of a spiritual pilgrimage; I wanted to meditate on God and see what He wanted to show me about Himself. Wouldn’t you know it? What I least expected happened. At the Boston airport, I met Kim, a gorgeous brunette (her church group met mine) who’d brought the same novel to read on the airplane, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. No kidding. Then at London’s Heathrow Airport, the ticket person thought she and I were a couple and put us together on the all-night flight to Tel Aviv. Kim didn’t care for her sardines, so I ate them. The relationship appeared to be promising. To cut to the chase, we chatted in Jericho, conversed in Nazareth, and talked nonstop in Jerusalem. On the way home I sat beside her on the plane. A few weeks later, I visited her in Milwaukee and met her parents. By New Year’s, we were engaged. Pretty amazing, huh? I now tell singles not to look for a marriage partner. Seek God, and He’ll put you on a collision course if marriage is His plan for you

Some content used by permission of
Kirkdale Press

Wednesday, January 23


Someone introduced me to the lyrics to this song awhile back - the truths are so. powerful.  I've been REDEEMED!  And that is something to shout about!

Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

I don't have to be the old man inside of me
Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home


Tuesday, January 22

sprouts and homeschool and progress, oh my!

I'm sprouting a spicy mix!  Can't wait for sproutwiches!

It's amazing how much a little change of scenery can help things.  For example, the occasional reading class on the couch makes my first grader much more willing to read without complaints, and a "fancy glass" of juice makes the math test fly by.  I am really enjoying getting into a groove with Aaron and homeschool.  It's great to know exactly what he's learning (or needs help with)!

Our new schedule is going relatively well also.  I'm tweaking things to try to get some housework in on a regular basis, but we're all surviving!

We've been learning about volcanos and taking more regular trips to the library!  SO thankful for our awesome library!

Thursday, January 17

adventures in tikka masala

My friend Keri has, over the years, introduced me to many international foods, almost all delicious, and most when we were young and I was single. 

Indian is by far my favorite ethnic cuisine.  And thankfully, much of it is gluten free.  It is not, however, free to eat it at our favorite local restaurant, so I have been experimenting with new recipes at home.  This is one we have made over and over.

Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted)

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (any cut is fine), cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup yogurt (I have used both dairy and plain coconut with success)
1 T lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (but only if you want it super hot - the black pepper really heats it up well)
1 tsp salt
1 T fresh ginger (I use a microplane)

Mix all of that together and marinade for at least 1 hour. I usually make a double batch and freeze 1/2 for another time.

The original recipe calls for skewering the chicken and grilling it, but I have never made it that way - I bake it on skewers or on a baking sheet until it's done.

Saute in a large skillet:
1 T butter (or coconut oil)
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded (or not) and minced fine
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (1 large or 2 small)

When tender, season with
2 tsp paprika (smoked is delicious)
2 tsp cumin
any additional salt you wish to add

Then add the following and simmer until sauce thickens slightly.
8 oz tomato sauce
1 cup cream (I use unsweetened full fat coconut milk)

Add cooked chicken and garnish with 1/4 cup or more of chopped fresh cilantro.

I serve this with cumin/basmatti rice:
saute 1 T cumin seeds (NOT the ground cumin from the above recipe) in 1 -2 T coconut oil until fragrant, add 1 cup basmatti rice and saute a bit longer (not long enough to brown the rice).  Add 1 tsp salt and 2 cups water, bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a low simmer until all water is absorbed.  Add fresh citrus juice if desired (lemon or lime).

We don't share this with our kids.  It's an at home date night kind of thing.  Not that they wouldn't eat it - just because we don't WANT to share.  *grin*  Let me know if you try this!

Monday, January 14

small steps

This weekend Michael made some shelves for our closet in the living room.  It started out as a "guest coat closet" but soon became just a mess of stacked up junk with a couple old coats thrown in for good measure. Our games were on the top shelf, shoved in corners and wobbling precariously - you had to use a step ladder and recruit backup before even thinking about playing games!  We had some boxes of rarely-referenced books and half-finished sewing projects stacked up on the floor - it was a nightmare.  I was definitely too embarrassed to actually use it as a guest coat closet!

Of course, once I started in on that project, and decided to put the homeschooling supplies in there for easier access, that opened up a space in another closet, and then another, and before I knew it, 4 closets and a few under-bed storage bins got involved and the whole house was in upheaval. 

Does this ever happen to you?

Closest I have to a before pic - oops! Love Evan's yawn...

Michael added the upper shelf for easier access

the finished closet

New Bins!

Love my label maker!

School supplies and cards

New home for my sewing stuff! Hooray!

An entire diaper box worth of coloring books?  Maybe a few too many.
Anyway, some very good things came out of this weekend's project.  I have a great space to store our school supplies, the craft and art supplies are in one location (gasp!) and our games are more accessible.  The BEST thing is that my sewing machine and sewing supply cart finally FINALLY have a permanent place of residence that is perfect.  Easy to get to - no one sleeps in the living room - and easily put away when I'm done working!  Hurray!

Saturday, January 12

January Outdoors

Today is in the mid-to-upper 50's, so very unusual for January in Michigan. Thankfully it is also a Saturday, meaning that Michael isn't working. (hurray!) So after Michael got back from donating blood this morning, we piled in the van and headed to the park. Cadey surprised us all by really going to town - she kept saying "Play? Play?" and didn't want to stay in our arms!!  This summer is going to be so much (crazy) fun! Here are a few pictures.

the slides were wet - but we brought a towel!

Cadey loved sliding!

Happy to be outdoors!

wanting to slide down the very wet slide

Parks are FUN, Dad!

A great big brother and helper!

So many discoveries to make!

Friday, January 11

Near the Cross

 This song has been going through my head this week - my prayer in the midst of this crazy world.  Thank you, Fanny Crosby, for your timeless words of truth.
  1. Jesus, keep me near the cross,
    There a precious fountain—
    Free to all, a healing stream—
    Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
    • Refrain:
      In the cross, in the cross,
      Be my glory ever;
      Till my raptured soul shall find
      Rest beyond the river.
  2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
    Love and Mercy found me;
    There the bright and morning star
    Sheds its beams around me.
  3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
    Bring its scenes before me;
    Help me walk from day to day,
    With its shadows o’er me.
  4. Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
    Hoping, trusting ever,
    Till I reach the golden strand,
    Just beyond the river.

Thursday, January 10


So, the kiddos.

Cadey is 16 months and pretty much ON her 16 month birthday decided to walk a bunch of steps in a row - down the hall and through the living room - just as if she'd been doing that all along.  She's also getting pretty good at throwing mini-tantrums where she folds herself in half and rests her forehead on the floor while sobbing as if her heart is breaking.  Thankfully these are few and far between and since this is our third rodeo, it's more funny than alarming.  Cadey's also learning a ton of new words, repeating things after us like a tape player.  She's turning into an even more amazing version of herself.  We like her a lot.  She has yet to reach the 20 lb milestone, but you'd never know it by the amount of food that child consumes.  She loves to eat!

Evan has this amazing sense of humor and command of the English language that sometimes has me stepping back in wonder.  He's curious and mischievous and has a great laugh and sparkle in his eyes.  He loves his preschool class at homeschool group, is an enthusiastic participant (for the first few minutes) in our school days, and loves to sit and listen to stories being read to him, although his first choice of activities is always, "let's watch something."  (No is the answer he hears more than he would like!)  He's also beginning to ask great questions about spiritual things, which is truly awesome.

Aaron is really taking off with his reading, which is SO fun to see, and will very excitedly spout answers to simple addition problems!  He is doing great with his memory work at CC, but is disinterested in learning his AWANA verses.  (we are trying to get better at working on those on a consistent basis!  There's a lot of memory work going on in this house!)  Aaron loves to create and imagine and is getting really good at drawing.  I love to watch his face as he explains his latest masterpiece.

We're all still recovering from the respiratory flu, trying to rest up and get back into a good routine of school, church, and other activities.  God is good, and we are so, so blessed.  Here are a few pictures!

we girls got new hats for Christmas!

Michael made these awesome trivets out of Swanstone countertop scraps

the kids all love the castle toy! win!!

Eventually, I'll get those New Year's cards sent...

Monday, January 7

it's all downhill from here

I go back and forth.  Obsessive/not obsessive.  Probably the fact that I'm even writing this post means that I lean more toward the obsessive.

But something happens when I stop being picky about the (rainbow) order of the plates.  First it's just the plates, but then it's the towels, out of color order AND folded hastily, and then all of a sudden there is a laundry mountain and a stack of papers, then multiple stacks, then avalanches. And the toys. Everywhere.  And then the bathroom is all of a sudden filthy, there's a pair of kid-sized pj's in the living room of all places and week old leftovers languishing behind the mushy celery in the back of the fridge, and something else that is growing a fungus, and I find myself looking around wondering how it got so bad, so quickly.

And yes, I do realize that this is my second in a row posting about the condition of my house.  Maybe it's time to call in the cavalry.  Apparently, I can't keep 1200 square feet of living space liveable.

It's gotta be the plates.