Lovely Summer Read!

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Sweet Magnolias

After reading Celeste Fletcher McHale’s debut novel, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake,  I have been anxiously awaiting her next novel. If you have not read The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, you must! I recommended it to more friends last year than I can remember. This new novel by McHale is also a page turner and an excellent choice for summer reading.

I love the use and reference to the magnolia in this novel. The central character in this book, Jacey, is both strong and soft, much like the magnolia. Jacey suffered PTSD from an experience she had in the flood waters of the Mississippi.  She doesn’t want to remember the terrible day that her life was forever changed, but she also can’t forget.  Mostly, she can’t forget the man she spent three days with during the flood, Colin. They had an instant connection, but somehow in the turmoil of rescue, they lost one another. In this novel, Jacey and Colin try to find their way back to each other.

I enjoyed this book for its southern flair and interesting twists and turns.  Like any good book I read, I managed to finish in just a few late night binges. I didn’t love it quite as much as McHale’s first novel,  but I would definitely recommend it without hesitation. I would have loved a little more page time between Jacey and Colin. Other than that, this book is a must read! I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher and BookLookBloggers.  I was not required to give this book a positive. review. I have not been compensated in any way and all opinions are my own.

 

Book Review: Sacred Privilege

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Sacred Privilage

 

I knew I wanted to read this book the minute I saw the title and the author! Kay Warren is the wife of Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church.  I hold Rick and Kay Warren in high esteem because of the way they live out their lives and the way they have served the Lord in their years of ministry. Reading Sacred Privilege was like sitting with Kay Warren over coffee and asking her all of my burning questions about her life as a pastor’s wife. Fourteen years ago I married a pastor and I always appreciate wise counsel from a woman who has walked the road I am on and done so with grace.

This book is for wives of pastors of all distinctions. Kay Warren does not just write for the lead pastor’s wife, but to all pastor’s wives.  She has amazing wisdom to share! I enjoyed the entire book, but I had a few take aways that I will remember forever.

  • From Chapter 2: My husbands most valuable resource in ministry is me. Above everything else, I am vital to his work in ministry and visa versa.
  • From Chapter 6: I should not be afraid to use my own live as an example. My own struggles are meant to encourage others.
  • From Chapter 7: I need to nourish my own inner life. Warren uses an illustration from High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald in this chapter.  He says, “Untended fires soon die and become a pile of ashes.” How true this is!  I cannot be of help to anyone if I have allowed my own fire to go out.
  • From Chapter 7:  I would also like a coffee mug that says Easy Like Sunday Morning. 
  • From Chapter 9: I should live the same in my private life as I do my public life. So good!

 

There is so much good stuff in this book! The five take aways I listed are the ones that really stood out to me. I honestly could have listed ten more. If there is a pastor’s wife in your life, consider getting this book for her. It would make a lovely mother’s day gift! I was given my copy by the publisher. I am passing it on to another pastor’s wife because I think it is that well written. Sacred Privilege is easily five stars! Kay Warren, thank you for barring your soul for all of us pastor’s wives. We so appreciate the encouragement, wisdom, advice, and love you put into every chapter.

Grown-ups Like to Color

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Recently, my younger sister came to stay with me for a few days.  She brought a few coloring books and some fine tipped markers with her. Anytime there was quiet or we were sitting around watching a movie, she would color. My two boys quickly became interested and joined her.  There is something cathartic about coloring. I have to admit, I often wondered about people who found time to use a coloring book. However, I am finding that there is something to it!

I love this small, purse sized coloring journal. It has a lovely color, and is the perfect size to fit in your purse for a long wait, or a car ride. Each journal entry takes two pages, There is a scripture, prayer, and blank lines included for each entry.  Some entries are fully illustrated, others leave room for coloring.

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I think this journal would be perfect for anyone really, but specifically it would make a great Mother’s Day gift. I requested my copy with my sister in mind, but now I find that I would like to keep it for myself! It’s setup is ideal for a quick morning quiet time. Nothing intense, just a straight forward reminders to choose joy, be kind, not to worry, and to rest.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by its publisher. I was not required to give a positive review and all opinions are my own.

Adventure Awaits!

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We Stood Upon Stars

 

Two summers ago, my family of four set out on an adventure of a lifetime. We drove from Virginia to California and back on a mission to see as much of America’s preserved wilderness as possible. All together we visited 14 National Parks in a mere six weeks! It was an incredible trip that made us thirsty for more. Since then, we have found our way to two or there more National Parks on the East Coast. However, nothing quite gives you the goose bumps like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Arches and Zion.  Because of our trip, I felt a kinship with Roger W. Thompson, author of We Stood Upon Stars.  I knew I had to read this book, for no other reason but to feel like I had a friend who has the fever for adventure.

We Stood Upon Stars is a collection of essays about Thompson’s mostly west coast adventures. He writes about many of the places I have traveled in a light but meaningful way. I love his conversational style and random musings. I also love that he includes illustrations with tips and recommendations for those who might venture out. Once you have seen a giant Sequoia or walked through Yosemite Valley…you know the next thing you must do is go back and do it again.

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Thompson’s description of the Badlands is just how I remember them:  untamable, broken, and beautiful. While words could never describe Yosemite…Thompson does a much better job than I could ever do.  He says it feels like a fantasy…and it absolutely does. I feel like this book is for anyone who has experienced the amazingness that is the landscape of the United States…or for the person who has never seen any of it.  I loved reading it. If We Stood Upon Stars doesn’t make you want to get out and have an adventure, nothing will.  I received a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books. I was not required to give it a positive review. All opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ROGER W. THOMPSON is a successful entrepreneur, collaborator, adventurer, and writer. He’s spent his career building innovative businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to creating the first mission tourism resort in Haiti with the Hands and Feet Project, he’s produced surf films, built skate parks, and outfitted adventure trips. Alongside his wife, he travels, surfs, snowboards, and fly-fishes—and is teaching his two young sons to do the same.

My Pick for Mother’s Day

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Only Love Today

 

I absolutely love this book of daily readings from Rachel Macy Stafford, Only Love Today. Stafford is the author of Hands Free Mama and is perhaps the most in-touch voice I have heard lately in regards to life as a Mom and Wife. This book put simply is daily encouragement. Mother’s Day is coming, and this is the best gift you could give to any Mom.

To begin, this book is beautiful, which I realize isn’t essential….but it helps!! The title on the cover is like a giant sticky note gently reminding me to choose love. The book’s hard cover and bright colors invite me to pick it up and enjoy. Inside, you will find an undated daily reading. There are four sections to correspond with the four seasons. Each reading is short, most just a page. I literally can read each day in just a minute or two. There is no daily Bible scripture reading in these readings. Stafford references God in this book, but this book is not a daily devotional.

By far, my favorite thing about this book is the daily reminder to chill out! I am type A for sure, and I always have a to-do list running in the back of mind. I measure daily success by checkmarks, and while I accomplish a lot, I can leave a wake of hurry, stress, and anxiety behind me. Thank you Rachel Stafford for this wonderful book that is sure to encourage so many. It is clear that your heart and soul are in every page. I was given a complimentary 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. As a book blogger, I only choose books I want to read. I was so right on this choice! I am excited to gift this book to a few of my Mom friends.

Book Review: Behind the Scenes

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Behind the Scenes

 

Jen Turano has created her own genre of fiction by writing humorous historical romances. Behind the Scenes is the perfect example of historical fiction meets romantic comedy. I have read many titles by Turano, and this by far is the quirkiest. While I enjoyed it, there were a few times I felt like parts of the story were a bit over the top.

In Behind the Scenes, a wallflower, Permilia Griswold discovers a murder plot while attending the Vanderbilt ball. It involves the handsome Asher Rutherford…one of the few gentlemen who found his way onto her dance card. Permilia knows she must protect Asher and find out who wants him dead, and why. From here, the story takes a number of crazy turns. Near the end, I found myself laughing at the unexpected conclusion. It was almost if Permilia had wondered on to the set of Days of Our Lives.  I should also add that Turano tells her stories through dialogue. There isn’t a tremendous about of scene description or pages of inner thought. Behind the Scenes is eighty percent conversation.

All things considered, Behind the Scenes is a decent read that I enjoyed. It isn’t a book I would consider a favorite, but not every book can be. This book is the start to a news series and I am hopeful I will enjoy the subsequent books even more.  Turano’s After a Fashion, is without a doubt one of her most memorable novels. If you enjoy humor and historical fiction, this book is for you! Jen Turano writes like no other author in the Christian Historical Fiction genre. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Netgalley and Bethanyhouse. I was not required to give a positive review and I have not been compensated in any way.

Unexpected Gem

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Some Small Magic

Tired of my typical reading fare, I opted for a novel outside of my favored genre of historical fiction.  Occasionally I find myself in a reading rut and books I would normally enjoy seem almost formula driven. I feel as though the plot, characters and setting are oddly familiar. Some Small Magic  is completely different from any novel I have ever read. It is so unexpected! I will admit that the first few chapters left me feeling like I might not finish because of the heavy subject matter. There were no cheery characters, uplifting moments, or lovely scenery.  The characters in this novel are raw, unpolished, and unsettling.

I dare not discuss any of the plot because too much would be given away. I will say, that this book begins with a boy born into difficult circumstances. Abel is poor, living in a dilapidated, rented trailer with his single Mother who works as a waitress in a crappy diner. Abel also suffers from a genetic disorder that leaves him broken in more than one way. I felt like I knew where the author was headed. And then suddenly, I didn’t! I was floored by the change of direction of the story.

I can easily see Some Small Magic as an eery movie meant for the big screen. I was a bit unnerved by several scenes later in the book. If you love books outside of the norm, interesting characters, and plots that rock your boat…this is likely a great read for you. I am excited to explore other titles by author Billy Coffey. I was given a complimentary copy of this book by BookLookBlogggers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I have not been compensated.

A Delightful New Children’s Book

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When God Made you

I absolutely love this book by Matthew Paul Turner! It as such an amazing and powerful message. When God Made You is a children’s book written in rhyming verse with beautiful, colorful, and vibrant illustrations.  It speaks to the uniqueness of every child, each one truly original.

From the title, it is obvious that this particular book is written from a Christian worldview. It highlights the value God has placed on his creation. God knew you before you were born and created you to be unique and special. Author Matthew Turner encourages the reader to follow their dreams, and explore their passions…to dream. My favorite verse says:

So be you- fully you- a show stopping revue. Live your life in full color, every tint, every hue.  Discover, Explore!  Have faith, but love more. And learn and relearn all that God made you for.

This book is whimsical with lovely images that make this a must have. I find it to be appropriate for ages 3-8. It would be a perfect addition to any Easter basket! The book focuses on a little girl, however I think a boy or girl would enjoy it.  I received a review copy of this book from BloggingforBooks and was not required to give a positive review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

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.

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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.

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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.