Susan Karsten’s Latest Book Review: “A Plain Love Song” by Kelly Irvin

104_3318This is the fourth book I have read by Kelly Irvin, and this is one of her best among many good ones. She really kept me guessing with the outcome and the interplay between heroine Adah and her two beaus stayed quite realistic, IMO.

The plot elements of song-writing, music, performance anxiety, and Adah’s struggle to decide whether to make the leap into fully joining the Amish society as a full-fledged member are fascinating to read and enjoyable.

The information about the Amish people’s aversion to musical instruments was fascinating and something I didn’t know. I like reading about their rumspringa, too, and much detail about that emerged through Irvin’s fine story-telling.

You must know that I am not normally a fan of, or a reader of “Amish fiction”, but Kelly Irvin’s stories are an exception. Extremely well-written and she doesn’t glorify their life-style, but keeps it real, warts and all.

Please leave a comment with any questions or remarks. Thanks!

Passionate Parenting, by Cary Schmidt, a review by Susan Karsten

If you have children, and they are in, or nearing their teens, you will want this book (if you read). One of the absolute best books on this topic I have EVER read. In fact, I am seriously thinking about starting a book discussion group based on it as a community outreach to help others.


Susan Karsten’s latest book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper

104_3350This is an anniversary edition. It has an interesting new preface and an update from the author.  I’d vaguely heard of this book {but never read it before} which was apparently a smash best-seller over the last ten years — good thing too, because this man had some huge medical bills to deal with!!

Which leads me to the book itself.  After the description of his own after-death experience (more about that in the next paragraph), this book is chock-full of TMI medical details — too much for my taste.  I don’t agree with his theology either — but that’s no surprise since I’m not a Baptist. Okay, the HEAVEN part….Wow!  Very very interesting and inspiring. The thoughts and memories he expressed of his time being dead will stay with me a long time.  I would possibly even recommend this to people who are afraid,  and/or sorrowing.

One interesting point he made is to refute the “flickers of a dying brain” answer non-believers say as the reason for many experiences of light that people have. His experience was extremely fully sensory and detailed and not the product of a dying brain. The book is WORTH it for the description of heaven alone.

Please comment with any thoughts of NDE (near-death experiences)?

Party Decorations ~ home made

From our recent graduation party ~~ thought you might enjoy some inspiration from some simple decor we came up with.

Here are the table decorations:


Candle is in a holder, but any pedestal dish should work.  Tissue paper (Purchased for the occasion), gold tinselly stuff (around $2/bag, 1 bag for 8 tables, color- coordinated candy for guests to enjoy (party favor).


We think it looked really nice.




Here is a banner made with scrapbook paper (chosen to match our theme out of our home supply), and we borrowed a Cricut machine to make the letters. For the letters (white) we used the back of colored/patterned scrapbook paper.



Susan Karsten’s Latest Book Review: The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron

Romance. The holocaust. A mystery involving a painting. A fabulously rich legacy.  Have I got your attention?  All the mentioned elements are in this book.  This is the debut novel for the author, and I am quite impressed.



One measure I have for a good book is if it makes me cry.  This book has a distinction that it caused my eyes to weep over and over as I read this riveting tale.   I don’t want to give away the story, because you’ll want to discover this treasure on your own, but I can assure you that it is a very rewarding read and well-written.  Cambron seamlessly moves between current day and the tragedy of the holocaust during WWII.  The heroine, and hero are great ~~ Oh, yes, you get two of each!  The wrap up is satisfying.  I can easily see this being made into a hit movie.

What’s your favorite WWII book or movie? Please leave a comment. Thanks!

An Excellent Woman: Hannah K. of Hannah’s Homestead

Hello, readers! Susan Karsten here. Following is my interview of Hannah Kooiman, one of the most talented ladies it is my privilege to know these days. She farms, gardens, cooks, cans, mothers, teaches, crochets, and so on. Read on to find her bio at the end. Thanks!

hannah Kooiman pic

So Hannah, what’s a typical day like for you?  Busy! I am usually up early and after checking emails/messages I go out to care for my chickens.  Depending on the time of year, and how many birds I have, this can take up to an hour with hauling feed, water, bedding, etc.  After I get back in the house, I package up any orders I completed the night before and run them out to the mailbox.  We eat breakfast and afterward we spend some time on schoolwork.  I work with the youngest 3 kids and the older ones do most of their work on their own.  While the youngest 3 work on their schoolwork, I usually have some crochet or knitting project to work on.  After lunch, I spend some time sewing or other handwork, and depending on the time of year, I head out to the garden for most of the rest of the day.  I spend some time in the evening taking care of my chickens and gathering eggs. 

Ranking your various hobbies/skills, what’s your favorite and why?  Well, that is really hard!!  I love to do a lot of things!  It sort of depends on the time of year. Winter is a good time to work in the house.   Crochet is one of my favorite things to do.  I love to design things, though I spend so much time making things that all the ideas in my head are not getting done.  I love to garden and be outside- that does not mesh too well with needlework. I love animals.  Watching things grow is so rewarding- maybe that is why designing is something I love, too. Photography is another hobby that has helped me tremendously.  Good pictures are key to online sales.

How long has it taken you to get the Hannahs Homestead business going, and when did you start?  I started selling my handmade items in the fall of 2013 after a friend asked me to make a pair of baby booties for her grand-daughter.  I wondered if I could sell more of them and posted an ad on a local Buy/Sell site on Facebook.  They were a huge success, and soon I started selling other items.  Then another friend encouraged me to start a Facebook business page–I did and soon after that I opened my Etsy shop.

What are the various “departments” of Hannahs Homestead?  I sell eggs and homegrown chicken, as well as some produce from my large garden.  About 9 years ago, I started dividing perennial flowers from plants in my yard/gardens and selling those.  That has been a big success, with some people coming back almost every year since I started. The craft part of the business has really grown this past year and that will be my main focus, since it is something I can do year-around.  My kids are able to help me in many ways and they also earn money for the work they do. They are also learning about gardening and other handcrafts.

Can you share your dreams for the business?  I would like to get more into pattern designing and selling.  Designing is something I really enjoy and it is in some ways a it’s a little less time-consuming. I have designed and published a few patterns and it has been very fulfilling to have an idea and see it all come together and make it in print.  It is a process, starting with the idea, the design in my head, getting it all on paper, and then making it turn out the way I imagine it.  After I “perfect” it, the pattern gets sent to testers, who tell me all the mistakes (typos, grammar errors, mistakes in counts, parts that are unclear) that are in my “perfect” pattern.  Above all, my goal is to bring glory to God in all I do.  I want everything I make and do to reflect that I belong to Him.  I strive to do everything to the very best of my ability, so my customers are getting the best quality that they can get.

What’s the most unusual thing that’s happened since you’ve been selling on Etsy?  Growing up in a Dutch family and community, practicality and frugality were key values. I never knew that people would be willing to pay for handmade items.  We grew up with everything made by hand–my mom, and grandmas on both sides knitted, crocheted and sewed for all of us.  I really could not imagine myself paying what a handmade item was worth with time and materials,etc.  When I started selling on Etsy, it totally amazed me that there were people who were willing to pay for handmade items.

What is the best thing that’s happened? Seeing my items used by people who love them. I love to hear from people who are enjoying something I made for them. Early this year I designed a “Shabby Chic” infant carseat cover that has been a huge success. I get lots of positive feedback about it and it makes me so happy to know there are dozens of happy customers using those covers every day. Also, I love being able to teach my kids some of these arts and seeing the satisfaction my kids get from being able to create something that is good enough to ship across the country or around the world to a customer.

Hannah grew up in Washington state and now lives on a small family dairy farm in Wisconsin, with her husband and 8 children, chickens, cows and lots of cats. She enjoys gardening, photography, animals and anything that involves yarn, thread, fabric, needles and crochet hooks. {It has happened that when she was shopping, yarn actually jumped in her cart when she was not looking ;) }

My friends, please comment with a question for Hannah. Or, comment about your own talented friend(s).

Susan Karsten’s Latest Book Review: Lady Luck’s a Loser, by CARYL McADOO

Wow!  Who’d have thought a older heroine named Marge and a size 2X hero would make for such an entertaining romp of a story?!  Now, I have it from the author, that this book was written well before the show Bachelorette came on TV, but the story has some similarities.  So, if you are a fan of that show, you are gonna love this book!  Very well done, entertaining, thought-provoking, and makes you want it not to end.


This is an up-and-coming author (she has a hit book out called: Vow Unbroken, and if you like Christian fiction, you don’t want to miss that one), and her success is well-deserved.  The story is very engaging, unique, and inviting.

The book has a new cover (not this one), so if you look for the book on-line, you’ll see a cover with a pretty woman on it.

Please leave a comment — do you have a favorite Christian fiction author?


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