Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken Burns

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I honestly can’t recall how I came to know about this wonderful book by Ken Burns. Burns is my favorite documentary film maker and historian. He has done some pretty amazing things with film including a series on the National Parks. Grover Cleveland, Again! is another fantastic work by Burns.

Ken Burns shares in this book that he use to run through the names of the Presidents with  his children at bedtime. He would say George, they would answer Washington. Burns would run through all of the Presidents in this way. Grover Cleveland was the only president to have ever been president for two non-consecutive terms. So when Burns would call out Grover the second time, his children would answer, Grover Cleveland, Again! I am playing the same game with my boys.

Usually on Mondays, we sit on the sofa before we begin school for the day and we read a new president. Burns writes a few paragraphs about each president along with some really fun facts, like the crazy pets they owned.

Grover Cleveland

It wasn’t so long ago that my son mentioned Martin Van Buren in passing… like it was no big deal. He remembers everything we read in this incredible book! I was a political science major in college, so I find this book absolutely essential for our home classroom. It gives a framework to history, and an understanding of democracy. I love that Burns reinforces the idea that anyone can be president.  He says:

Can you be president? If you born in the United States and are at least thirty-five years old, you can be president. It doesn’t matter if you weigh as much as William Howard Taft (332 pounds) or as little as James Madison (100 pounds). It doesn’t matter if you are as tall as Abraham Lincoln, who was six-foot four, or as short as James Madison (again!), who was five foot four. It doesn’t matter if you’re born really rich like Thomas Jefferson or really poor like Ulysses S. Grant……

He goes on to highlight Barack Obama who is black,  John F. Kennedy who was Catholic, Franklin D. Roosevelt who had polio, and Woodrow Wilson who was dyslexic. I love this book! It is so encouraging and inspiring. I am not reviewing this book for a publisher. I just adore it. For homeschooling parents this book is a must!

 

My New Favorite Cookbook and Skillet Strata!

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One Pan and Done

 

I rely heavily on new cookbooks and food bloggers for dinner inspiration.  The monotony  of the same old meals is unbearable to me. At least once a week, I attempt something new to feed my people! One Pan & Done by author and food blogger Molly Gilbert is a pretty incredible resource for fantastic ideas that can be made in one pan…veggies and all.

This is a five-star cook book for its ease of use, variety of ideas, and full flavor offerings. The true test of a great cook book for me is the number of recipes I dog ear my first time flipping through the pages. I have quite a list of Molly’s recipes on my menu this week. Saturday morning I made her Skillet Strata. It was amazing to eat and beautiful to see. I would also add, this recipe for Skillet Strata was so easy to make and could be easily used as a base recipe. There are so many ways I could change this recipe and still be left with a delicious breakfast, brunch, or even lunch.

Here is what you need to make this lovely strata!

2 tablespoons evoo

12 ounces of maple breakfast sausage links cut into 1/2 thick slices

1 small onion, thinly sliced (I diced)

2 cups cremini mushrooms sliced

6 large eggs

1 cup whole milk or half-and-half ( I used 2% b/c that’s what I had on hand, worked great)

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

4 cups 1-inch bread cubes (I used her suggestion of ciabatta)

1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, about six ounces

10-inch iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Make your life easy and chop everything before you get started. Once oil is shimmering, add sausage to pan and saute until well browned and cook through. Stir in onion and mushrooms to soften, about 7 minutes.

strata 1

While veggies cook, in a separate bowl,  whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, chives, and some salt and pepper. (again, do this before you get started to make it less stressful)

Add the cubed bread to the skillet in a single layer. and top with the cheese. Remove from heat and pour over egg mixture, distributing it evenly over the pan. Press the bread down with a spoon to help it soak up the mixture. (I sorta tossed the bread a little to get some of the sausage to the top to make my end product look as pretty as Molly’s.

strata 2

Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until the strata is browned, about 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle more chopped chives over strata and serve warm.

strata 3

This was really delicious!! I can highly recommend this recipe and the book! This week I am also making her Shepherd’s Pot Pie and her Oat and Date Breakfast Bars.I received a review copy of this book from BloggingforBooks. You can find more from Molly Gilbert at dunkandcrumble.com.

 

 

 

 

Billy Graham Devotional for Kids!

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For awhile now I have been searching for a simple and user-friendly devotional to do with my kids in the morning before we start school each day. I love this new devotional for kids from Billy Graham! It is bright, sunny, and practical. It also gives a great entry point for children to begin a daily quiet time.

Hope for Each Day is a year-long devotional organized by month and day.  Each day includes a short memorable Bible Verses. The verses are mostly taken from the New King James, but also the Amplified Bible, the ESV, the Good News Translation, the International Children’s Bible, and other translations.  Following the verse is a short Bible story, lesson, or other story. These are just a few paragraphs long and would take no longer than three or four minutes to read.

The scripture for today, March 2, is “Lord, teach us to pray” take from the book of Luke 11:1.  This devotion is a challenge to pray and to do so daily, not just in times of trouble.  I love this book for its simple design and ease of use. It is appropriate for both boys and girls ages 5 to 10. Hope for Each Day would make a fantastic Easter basket addition, birthday, or baptism gift. I was going to gift my review copy, however I have decided to keep it because I want to use it with my two boys. I was given a review copy of this book by Booklookbloggers. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated.

Hello Dolly!

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For years we have promised our two boys that they would have a puppy. A dog of their own to love. We put it off for so long because we weren’t ready. After studying, reading, and researching we landed on some kind of doodle. My son has reactive airways and we needed a non shedding dog. Accidentally, we stumbled upon a breeder in South Carolina who operates a bit differently. He has no rows of kennels filled with momma dogs. All of his momma dogs live with a different family, guardian homes. I love that.

dolly

Six and a half hours to South Carolina and back was required to retrieve our sweet golden doodle. She was a perfect angel up until we decided to eat lunch in the car. My husband stopped at a carefully selected BBQ joint in North Carolina. When he returned to the car with fries, sandwiches, and hushpuppies….our pup lost her mind! She clawed her way out of my arms and snatched the hushpuppy bag right out of my hand!

We selected this particular pup because her coat is wavy, she was one of the smallest in her litter, and because she is so stinking cute! She might be one of the most vocal puppies I have encountered. For that reason, and because I might be the biggest Dolly Parton fan alive….we named her Dolly! Dolly Parton when she is in trouble.  Hello Dolly! She definitely needs a rhinestone collar.

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Book Review: Shine Like the Dawn

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This is an instance where I chose to read a book purely by its beautiful cover!  Isn’t it lovely? Shine Like the Dawn is a stand alone novel written by Carrie Turansky. This book is Christian Romance and Historical Fiction. As an avid reader of this genre I would say that I like this book, but did not love it. I have the tendency to gush over my favorites, and dread reviewing a book when I can’t. It isn’t that this book doesn’t have all the essential elements, but that it is slow.

Shine Like the Dawn has a promising prologue that piqued my interest and made me excited to read. This novel is about a young woman, Margaret Lounsbury, who survived a terrible tragedy that forever changed her life. Maggie lost her parents in an accident which seemed incomprehensible. Her childhood friend, Nathaniel Harcourt, returns home and promises to help Maggie find the real reason behind the accident. The answer could forever change their friendship. It is after the story’s powerful beginning, I slowly began to lose interest. Perhaps the set up took some time, but somewhere around the middle I was reading purely to finish. I really hate to say that! I do love historical fiction and I wanted to love this book. I have read other novels by Carrie Turansky and loved them.

Having said that, if you enjoy a slower paced book, this is likely a good choice for you. I think more page time between Nate and Maggie might have helped my interest level. I would recommend this book to young readers because Turansky writes a clean novel with strong values. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I have not been compensated in any way and all opinions are my own.

About the author: CARRIE TURANSKY is an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and novellas. She has been the winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the Crystal Globe Award, and the International Digital Award, and a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and the Maggie Award of Excellence. A prolific writer of contemporary and historical romance, women’s fiction, short stories, articles, and devotionals, Carrie lives in central New Jersey with her husband Scott. They have five adult children and four grandchildren.

Helping Kids With Choices

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Your Magnificent Chooser is a new book that aims to help children understand the power within them to make choices. This book is written by John Ortberg author of All The Places to Go, and What is God’s Will For My Life. Both of these titles are for adults but also about decision-making. Ortberg is clearly aware of our struggles! I loved the idea of this book. If there is something I have said as a parent over and over again, it is “Make Good Choices!’

I really enjoyed this book for its fun approach to teaching about choices. It is colorful and written in rhyme which appeals to most kids. The illustrator did a nice job of making the “chooser” look happy and whimsical and not scary. The balloon like floating cloud represents the part of a person that makes choices. Perhaps Ortberg is alluding to the soul…which is a bit much for a child. I think the book is a good resource for parents with children from ages 4-7.  There are a few things that I personally found to be misses. First, the word chooser is a mouth full when you are trying to read the book aloud. In fact, Chooser and Choosing are used a combined 42 times!  I read Your Magnificent Chooser to my kids and I began to trip over the word. Secondly, the book is a little long for a young audience. It is 38 pages, with  one or two -four line stanzas on each page.

Overall, I really liked this book. The idea behind and the content is excellent. I would recommend this book to any parent who is trying to teach good decision-making. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher. I was not required to give a positive review.

New from Judah Smith!

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New York Times Bestselling Author of Jesus is_________., asks a thought proving question in his new release, How’s Your Soul?  I find it funny that he uses a contraction in the title, because he writes the entire book in the same casual speak. In fact, this book is very much like sitting in a room with Smith and simply talking to someone you know well. I think it is comforting to listen to Smith who never speaks above understanding and is never heady with theology.

As the title of the book eludes, Judah Smith is asking if your soul is in a healthy place. If haven’t considered the question, it might be time, and this is likely the book for you. Smith walks through intriguing ideas like having a quiet soul in a hectic, fast past world, and how having an effective soul leads to an effective life and what that looks like. My favorite nugget in the entire book is in the chapter Is Love God or Is God Love. It is here Smith unwraps the idea that love is a roof without skylights. Smith states with regard to people in sin, “We publicly cover them and privately restore them with the goal of bringing health in their lives.” Smith encourages us to not be exposers, but to be a safe place for hurting people. I love this. It is very different from much of what we hear and see in our world…and on social media.

Even if you are still kicking the tires on the idea of God, or are a life-long Christ Follower, I would recommend this book to you, There aren’t many Christian Living-Help books I would say that about or encourage people to read. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by BookLookBloggers and the book’s publisher. I have not been compensated, and I was not required to give a positive review.

New Bible Trivia Book for Kids and Adults

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This new book written by Troy Schmidt is truly a gem. I have had a difficult time getting through it because my two boys have held it hostage. I often find them sitting together going through the jokes and trivia. The best thing about this book, is that it is not just for kids. My husband and I have also enjoyed the trivia, lists and jokes. Further, I think this book is a great resource for young adult groups, youth groups, and any event in which you need Bible trivia and riddles.

Inside the cover, you will find knock knock jokes (my kid’s favorites), multiple choice trivia, word scrambles, corny jokes, matching games, “Did You Know” about the Bible (many I did not!), fun lists, interesting ice breakers, and so much more. In total, there are more than 160 pages of fun and entertaining in this book! As I said before, the appropriate age is more of range. Any child to adult would absolutely enjoy Bible Trivia, Jokes, & Fun Facts for Kids by Troy Schmidt.

Often, I give books I review away or I run the risk of need a bigger house to store them. This book is a keeper. I am excited to use it for game time or gatherings; we will use it often. I was given a copy of this book to review by its publisher, Bethany House. I was not required to give a positive review.

A New Favorite from Tamera Alexander

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I have had the privilege of reading all three books in Tamera Alexander’s Belmont Mansion series.  This last book, A Note Yet Unsung is without a question my favorite of the three! It was a fantastic ending to a fabulous series!! While this book is third in the series, you could absolutely read it as a stand alone. Tamera Alexander does include characters from the previous books, but in a fun flashback sort of way.

A Note Yet Unsung, is a charming story about a tenacious woman before her time. Rebekah Carrington has arrived home to Nashville from Vienna without money or a safe place to live. She is an extremely talented musician living in a time when women are not invited to participate in symphonies. She soon finds that the city has acquired its own philharmonic with a promising conductor, Nathaniel T. Whitcomb. The war is over and times are changing… perhaps Mr. Whitcomb will offer her an opportunity to live her dream. Her hope for her future rests in hands.

I love the way Tamera Alexander develops this story. There is no love at first sight or unbelievable relationship created. Page by page, Rebekah and Nathaniel get to know one another. I love the amount of page time dedicated to the development of their story. This story is perfection, an easy five stars. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Netgalley. I was not required to give it a positive review. To be perfectly honest, I was patiently waiting for this book’s release so I could request it. I would have purchased a copy for myself because Tamera Alexander is in my top three must read authors!!

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Every year I eagerly await a new story from my favorite author Laura Frantz. When I know my copy is in route to my mailbox I can hardly stand the anticipation! Laura Frantz is a historian, wordsmith, and a poet. Frantz’s newest novel, A Moonbow Night, does not disappoint! I hung on every word and turned every page with great anticipation.

In A Moonbow Night, author Laura Frantz has penned a tale of love and hardship in the wilderness. It so reminds me of the stories like Legends of the Fall or a River Runs Through It. The leading lady, Temeperance is lovely but strong and a heroine in her own right. Sion, the man who invades Tempe’s life and heart, in my mind is handsome like Brad Pitt and rough around edges. They meet at the Moonbow Inn on the Shawnee River run by Tempe and her family. Sion comes to find that he needs Tempe’s help as a guide to complete his work as a surveyor. They set out together on a dangerous trek through the wilderness where they will risk their lives and hearts.

I was totally captivated by this story! I am blown away by Frantz’s ability to write a new story with unique characters. This book is wonderful and I stayed up late a few nights so I could read it without interruption! I whole heartedly recommend A Moonbow Night to anyone who enjoys historical fiction done well. I was given a complimentary copy to this book by its publisher. I was not required to give a positive review. In all honesty, I would have bought this book had I not received a review copy.