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.

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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hope

 

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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dolly-2

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.

dolly-up-close

Book Review: Shine Like the Dawn

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9781601429407

 

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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chooser

 

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.