Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Little "Me" Time

That sounds so selfish to say, doesn't it? "Me" time. As Christians, as women, as Christian women, we're programmed to put others first. And yes, that's important. Commanded by Christ.
But sometimes, you just need a little "me" time. A little bit of time for you to refresh and to recharge. Even Jesus went away to spend time with his father. It's needed, even necessary. We become burned out too easily, especially in this world which runs at break neck speed. We give and give and give until we don't have anymore to give. We're exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So I took some "me" time this past weekend. Two dear friends of mine and I ran away from home and spent some quality girls' time together. We laughed, we cried, we prayed. We learned a little more about each other, discussed weighty matters and not so weighty matters.

And I came back a better person for it. I was rested and ready to take on the challenges of being a wife, a mother, and an author again. School starts again soon, and I'm ready to take it on.

I'm blessed in that I have a cabin that I can run to when I need it. I don't always have the time to go there. "Me" time often involves taking a walk so that I can pray or working in the garden for a while. It can be as little as five minutes (I once was the mother of toddlers) or as long as a week (in the past 25 years, that's happened once and technically, that was "we" time). However or wherever it happens, remember that it's important. A little "me" time makes for a better you.

Have you had a bit of "me" time lately? What do you like to do when you have the chance?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Living Abroad

I love watching House Hunters International. Those homes abroad are so interesting. It makes me thankful for all of the room I have both inside and out here.

But wouldn't it be interesting to live somewhere else? I talking six months or so, just to experience another culture, another way of life. I have a few places that interest me right now.

One is Isla Mujeres just off of the coast of Cancun, Mexico. We visited there in January, and I fell in love. It's true Mexico. It's colorful, vibrant and the sea is right there. I could definitely spend some quality time there on a balcony with my computer. OK, let's be honest. It would be hard to bring my computer there. This place is pure relaxation.

Here is my house of choice. It's near Punta Sur, which is a gorgeous area. And who couldn't wake up to this view??!!

Another choice is, of course, the Netherlands. I'd love to visit where my family is from and learn what life is really like there. I wrote a book set there, but that was war time. I'd like to find out what peace is all about there. And I sure could see myself living here. Wow. What a place. I might even be able to write here.

And I'd love to spend some time in Vietnam. In Hanoi, I'd love to live near Hoan Kiem Lake, which is where we stayed when we were there 19 years ago. This is a great apartment I could see myself in.

Have you ever thought of living abroad? Where would you choose?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gluten Free Sour Cream Cake and Pound Cake

My adventures in going gluten free continue. I can honestly say that I rarely crave baked goods anymore. For the most part, I just avoid what I can't have. I eat my burgers and brats without the buns. I eat rice cakes instead of bread (I did this beforehand, so no biggie.) I need to cut back on my carbs, anyway. Spaghetti and pasta is good with the corn pasta. No one in my family can tell that it's GF.

There are some things you just can't do without, however. Birthday cake is one of them. It's no fun to sit back and watch everyone else indulge in a slice of cake. My mom's birthday is July 2nd, and my parents were at the cabin that day. I braved making a GF sour cream chocolate chip cake up there. (BTW, did you see who was home from the Marines?? He surprised me a couple of days before this. So good to have him there for my mom's celebration!)


I followed the recipe exactly (I don't always do that), and the cake was delicious!!! Everyone loved it. They gobbled it up and didn't complain an ounce about it being GF. The recipe is here, my favorite site for GF recipes.

When we got home, the strawberries were coming in. With deadlines and Nature Camp, I just didn't have time to pick berries and make jam this year. But I didn't want to deprive my family of their strawberries, so I did buy some freshly picked. Strawberry shortcake sounded so good, but what to do about the shortcake. Problem solved - GF pound cake.

Oh. My. Oh. My. Soooo very delicious. I was planning on bringing some to my parent's for Sunday dinner the following day, but we ate the whole thing. It was that good. The recipe, again from my favorite site, is here.

Is anyone else going GF? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Amazing People

On Saturday, my dad and I were at the craft fair at Hollandfest in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. It's a great time, especially for Dutch people like us! We ate olliebollen (yes, I broke my GF diet and it was worth it!) and Doug had worstebroodje (Dutch pigs in a blanket). Doug made these wonderful posters from my book covers. I think that helped to attract people. Many stopped just to admire the covers.

The most fun is the people who stop by the booth. And this year, we had two very, very interesting people. The first was a man from the Netherlands. My dad and I saw him coming and before he even spoke, we knew he was Dutch. There is just that look that Dutch people have. Anyway, this man still lives there. When he was small, he lived in Amsterdam, on the same street as Anne Frank. In fact, he went to school with her. He didn't really know her because she was a few years older than him, but how amazing was that! He bought a copy of Snow on the Tulips.

A woman then came up and began looking at the books. We started talking to her, and she told us that her parents were in Slovakia during the war. This interested me because, as I'm doing research for my next series, I'm finding that Slovakians (and my mother's family is Slovakian) really suffered. Hitler didn't like them and persecuted them. I got very excited thinking that I might be able to interview them for my book. The woman told us how her father never spoke about his experiences during the war. He passed away a while ago. I was sorry to hear that but thought I could speak to the mother. She passed away this spring. That really saddened me. The stories these people had died with them and the world will never know of their experiences. We will never have the opportunity to learn from them.

All in all, a pretty interesting day. That's what's fun about getting from behind the computer and meeting my readers.

Who are some of the most interesting people you've met?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

German Soccer during WWII

Congratulations to Germany for its win in the 2014 World Cup. A friend and a cousin were both in Germany at the time and say that the country went wild. Of course, I was a bit disappointed that the Netherlands wasn't in the final.

Soccer is hardly new to Germany, though. There were many clubs throughout the country even prior to Hitler's rise. After he took power, communist clubs were disbanded. Jews were expelled from clubs, but allowed to form their own. After the 1936 Olympics, Jewish clubs were forbidden.

The war brought changes to soccer in the country. Because it was felt that soccer was important to morale, play continued, including championships. As the war continued, changes were made. With fuel rationing, teams could only play within a certain radius of their home. Many of the young men who played were drafted into the military; thus, military clubs sprang up. The Luftwaffe and SS fielded strong teams. As these men were lost in battle, some clubs were unable to field teams. The last championship was played in 1944, despite almost constant bombing. Again, the Nazis felt soccer, by now the #1 sport in Germany, was vital to morale.

Even today, the ramifications of the war touch soccer. In 2009, the Mercedes Benz Arena in Stuttgart was being remodeled. Not long into the work, 18 unexploded bombs were discovered near the stadium. Apparently, they were dropped there by the English in 1944 during a bombing raid targeting the nearby Mercedes Benz factory. Imagine - all of those years, and they were playing soccer near unexploded bombs!

 Did you follow the World Cup at all? Who did you root for?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

German WWII Rationing

Like almost every other country involved in WWII, Germany had a system of rationing in place. You needed to go with your identification (and if you were Jewish, your card would be stamped with a J) and your money to buy the cards. Just having the card didn't guarantee you would get the items. Especially toward the end of the war, the items simply weren't available. And just about everything was rationed, down to clothes and shoes.

This is a card for butter and fat. Each kind of ration card had it's own color. I guess that made it easy for the average housewife to pull the correct card out of her pocket book at the market. You can see that there is one coupon for 125 g of butter left.
Pregnant women and those with jobs demanding hard physical labor got a large allotment of calories. By the end of the war, the average German got about 1600 calories per day. The number continued to drop after the war as Germany lay in shambles and the Soviets blockaded Berlin. Of course, many participated in the black market and, if they had enough of money, they could supplement their diet.

This is a meat ration card. This person used up all the coupons.
This is a milk ration card. It looks to be pretty complete.
This one is for "nutrients". It still has several coupons. 

Housewives became very creative with the food they were able to get. They could make something special out of very little. That will be another post. But imagine not being able to go to the grocery store and not being able to buy whatever you wanted - and finding most of the shelves bare. To us in the United States, it's incomprehensible. 

If you had to ration your food, what could you do without? 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Liz Tolsma D-Day 70th Anniversary Blog Tour

D-Day 70th Anniversary Blog Tour
June 2-13, 2014

Welcome to the D-Day 70th Anniversary Blog Tour! Ten authors of Christian World War II novels are commemorating the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Thank you for joining us as we remember their heroism and sacrifice.

Our novels illuminate different aspects of the war—from the Holocaust to the Pacific to the US Home Front. Each day, visit with a new author as we share about our stories, our research, and our unique settings. With each blog post, you’ll have the opportunity to win that author’s novel, plus a chance to win a packet of ALL TEN featured novels!

Giveaway Details

For a chance to win ALL TEN novels featured on our blog tour, please visit each blog, collect the answers to the questions, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway on the BLOG TOUR PAGE You have a new chance to enter each day of the tour! The contest opens June 2, 2014 at 1 am PST and closes June 13, 2014 at 11 pm PST. The winners will be announced on Monday, June 16, 2014. *Note* Several of the titles will not be released until later in the year—these copies will be mailed to the winners after the books release.

To win the prize of ALL TEN books, you must have collected ALL TEN answers. The winner must be prepared to send ALL TEN answers within 24 hrs of notification by email, or a new winner will be selected.

You can enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway once each day! The more often you visit, the more entries you receive! However, you only need to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway once to be entered. But don’t forget…to win, you must have collected ALL TEN answers. To gather the answers, you may download the Word document on the BLOG TOUR PAGE 

Welcome to those of you visiting me - Liz Tolsma - today! 
My second WWII novel, Daisies Are Forever, released last month and I'm so excited about it. 

Why I Write What I Write
Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be a civilian during WWII? Not an American here on the home front dealing with rationing and victory gardens and riveting tanks. No, a civilian caught in the middle of the fighting in Europe or the Pacific. Imagine the fear and the suffering these people endured.

Now imagine being a civilian in Germany during that time. Not many of us think along those lines. Sure, there were plenty of Germans who were Hitler fans, to say the least. But there were also plenty of everyday Germans who felt much differently about him. Who just wanted the war to be over and for Hitler to be gone.
One of these civilians was my aunt. She was born in the U.S. to German parents who returned to Germany in the 30s. This courageous woman spent the last part of the war in Berlin, which was being bombed almost constantly. There was little of the city left by the time peace was declared. 

She and her parents lived in the basement air raid shelter, desperately trying to survive. She told me how they would sit there and listen to the bombs fall. Each one brought it's own terror. Would they be hit? Was this the final few seconds of their lives? But each bomb also brought it's own hope. Hope that soon the Allies would prevail and that liberation would come soon. 

What a mix of emotions. 

And then one day, she returned from work to find her apartment building destroyed and her parents missing. It took several frantic hours of searching for her to locate them. Put yourself in her place.

Can you feel the sheer panic she felt? 

My aunt is the inspiration for my newest novel, Daisies Are Forever. I have admired her all of my life. She taught me to think about the "other side". She and the others were ordinary people like you and me caught up in the circumstances of time. She taught me about hope and faith and grace. In order to survive, she had to depend on God and God alone to bring them through.

In what circumstances in your life have you had to rely on hope and faith to get you through?

Book blurb:
In the final days of Nazi Germany, the strength of one woman’s heart will determine the fate of a family.
Prussia, 1945
The fall of the Third Reich is imminent. As the merciless Red Army advances from the East, the German people of Prussia await the worst. Among them is twenty-year-old Gisela Cramer, an American living in Heiligenbeil with her cousin Ella and their ailing grandfather. When word arrives that the Russians will invade overnight, Ella urges Gisela to escape to Berlin—and take Ella’s two small daughters with her. The journey is miserable and relentless. But when Gisela hears the British accent of a phony SS officer, she poses as his wife to keep him safe among the indignant German refugees. In the blink of an eye,  Mitch Edwards and Gisela are Herr and Frau Joseph Cramer. Through their tragic and difficult journey, the fabricated couple strives to protect Ella’s daughters, hoping against hope for a reunion. But even as Gisela and Mitch develop feelings beyond the make–believe, the reality of war terrorizes their makeshift family. With the world at its darkest, and the lives of two children at stake, the counterfeit couple finds in each other a source of faith, hope, and the love they need to survive.

"[Daisies are Forever] is a compelling and fast-paced tale about the atrocities and tremendous losses endured by those marked forever by World War II. Recommended for fans of Rosamunde and Robin Pilcher, Kate Morton, and historical romances." —Library Journal

"Tolsma isn't afraid to detail the horrors of war as she depicts how tragedies can be obstacles to one's Christian beliefs." —Romantic Times, 4-star review

"Excellent storytelling, accurate historical reporting and gritty, persevering characters make this WWII-era novel a must-read." —CBA Retailers + Resources

Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and

Blog hop question: Who was the inspiration for Daisies Are Forever? 
Remember to write down the answer of log it in the Word doc available on the blog tour page. And enter the main Rafflecopter giveaway today!

To win a copy of Daisies Are Forever, please …
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Schedule for the D-Day 70th Anniversary Blog Tour

Be sure to visit each site for a chance to win ALL TEN featured novels!
Note: Links will go live on the post date.

June 2: SARAH SUNDIN, author of In Perfect Time
June 3: LIZ TOLSMA, author of Daisies Are Forever
June 4: MURRAY PURA, author of London Dawn
June 5: CARA PUTMAN, author of Shadowed by Grace
June 6: MELANIE DOBSON, author of Chateau of Secrets
June 7: KRISTY CAMBRON, author of The Butterfly and the Violin
June 9: TRICIA GOYER, author of  Chasing Mona Lisa
June 10: PATTY SMITH HALL, author of Hearts Rekindled

June 11: CATHY GOHLKE, author of Saving Amelie
June 12: SIGMUND BROUWER, author of Thief of Glory