09 May 2015

The World Needs More Love Letters

I used to love writing notes. In fact, I still kind of have a notecard hoarding problem. If I see a cute set of stationery in the Dollar Spot at Target, I have to buy it! In Middle School and High School, my best friends and I exchanged notebooks during class periods that we filled with notes. There is just something about handwritten letters that the age of texts and emails just cannot touch. Each person’s handwriting is as unique as a fingerprint, and the extra time and effort that goes into hand writing a letter conveys a great measure of love and value. 

That is why I was thrilled when I received The World Needs More Love Letters: All-In-One Stationery and Envelopes. This isn’t a book you read cover-to-cover… its a book that requires action! 

There are 40 pages (5 different designs) that are each an all-in-one stationery set. On one side, you write the address and place the stamp, and on the other side you write your note. Then simply fold the note, place a sticker seal (which is included in the book) to close, and mail it off! Sure to make someone’s day. Its really as simple as that- write, fold, seal, stamp, send. The front and back cover of the book contain 40 simple ideas for writing letters, just to get you started. 

The book is the brainchild of Hannah Brecher, creator of (a truly beautiful website!). This movement has been responsible for more than 20,000 letters sent by volunteers. While this isn’t your ordinary book, it is definitely a fun one that I can’t wait to put to good use!

You can purchase this book HERE

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are

I’ll be the first person to admit that I am a Shauna fan. A Shauna fan? Yes, I’m calling her by her first name, mostly because she writes in such a beautiful way that makes me feel as though we are long-time besties, just chatting about life over coffee. I’ve read all of her previous books, and even declared Bread & Wine my favorite book of 2013. I love Shauna’s ability to tell a story woven with Biblical truths, and her concise one-liner life lessons that I may or may not have underlined, highlighted and written on pink index cards to put in my car, Bible, on my mirror, fridge, etc. Perhaps that is why Savor left me more than a bit disappointed. Most of this 365-day devotional is just shortened paragraphs from her previous works. And while I should be loving that, since I loved said previous works so much, I was just hoping for something new and maybe a different format? I’m not quite sure. 

Don’t get me wrong, though. I still love what is written in Savor. After all, it truly does contain the best of the best writings from Shauna’s other books (as well as some mouth watering recipes). Savor is kind of like picking up one of her previous books and reading a section I’ve previously highlighted or underlined. For a seasoned Shauna reader, Savor will feel familiar and homey. And who doesn’t love that? So in this sense, I really do like this devotional. Its definitely a book that I will buy as a gift for certain friends, as the words and expositions are solid and biblical. Oh, and did I mention that this book is gorgeous?!?  Absolutely beautiful. It has a hardback linen cover with a ribbon placemarker, the page edges are dyed indigo and the inside type is elegant, easy to read. Skip the Kindle version and go directly of the hardback. Or get both! Because in spite of my disappointment concerning the lack of genuinely new content, Savor is definitely worth the buy!

You can purchase Savor HERE and read more about Shauna Niequist HERE

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.***
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26 April 2015

Book Review: Only God Can Make A Kitten

In this sweet & charming children’s book, Only God Can Make a Kitten, author Rhonda Gowler Greene conveys the timeless message that God is the ultimate Creator. From the first sprouts of spring to the fluffy white flakes of Winter, God created it all and loves us tremendously.

The illustrations by Laura J. Bryant (of the “God Gave Us” series) in this book are colorful and endearing, each one featuring a mother with her son and young daughter. My oldest child is 4 years old (recommended age for this book is 4-8 years old) and she absolutely loved this book. There is enough going on in each illlustrated page that gives us more to talk about than just what is written. The rhyming stanzas on each page are long enough to convey a message but short enough that my 4 year old doesn’t lose interest. 

I love this book and am delighted to have it in our home library. It would make an excellent addition to your’s as well. Perfect for a birthday present, to tell your child that they are loved and unique!

You can purchase this book here. You can also read more about the author and illustrator on their webpages. 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.***

18 April 2015

Book Review: Trisha's Table

I love cookbooks! But I only buy and hold onto cookbooks that I actually use. I have no room for collectors’ items on my bookshelf. So when I sat down to read my newest cookbook, Trisha’s Table, I was almost giddy. I love Trisha Yearwood. I read the cookbook cover to cover in one sitting, and have a few impressions from that first read-through. 

The photographs in this cookbook are beautiful. They are wonderfully styled and evoke the down-home Southern style that Trisha exudes. 

The recipes are thoughtfully explained and most all of the ingredients seem easy enough to find. I also love the stories that accompany her recipes… from friends, from family, Trisha’s Table is truly a scrapbook of her nearest and dearest. 

The cookbook is artfully arranged by the common breakdown of breakfast, snacks/appetizers, soups & salads, beef & pork, chicken turkey & fish, pasta, sides, cakes cupcakes & pies, and cookies brownies bars & more. There is also a wide range of food styles— from Basil Pesto Pizza to Pad Thai, with everything in between. 

One other major highlight from this cookbook is the inclusion of several allergy-friendly recipes. Trisha explains how to make cashew cream that is easily exchanged to make several recipes dairy-free. 

I have only one grievance with Trisha’s Table, and that is, there are not enough pictures to accompany the recipes. A dish only tastes as good as it looks, and there were quite a few recipes that sounded good when reading through them, but there was no picture to put with it. 

So as to whether or not this cookbook will stay on my shelf (and in my kitchen), its a yes. Not having pictures with recipes is a big deal to me (I especially love Pioneer Woman’s picture-filled step-by-step cookbooks) but the big “pro” that saved this one is the inclusion of some dairy-free recipes. I can’t wait to try them! If you love Trisha Yearwood, or are a fan of Southern style comfort food, this is a great cookbook for you!!

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own.

05 April 2015

Reason For Hope

I'm pretty sure I've posted this every year since Whitney was born, but I just have to share it again. I can't sum up my feelings for the risen Christ any more succinctly than what I've already written. So here it is again... Plus a little bonus throwback Easter pic for you! :)

(Original Post from Whitney's Blog here)

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.

Easter has always been my favorite holiday.  In fact, I almost cringe at calling it a "holiday" because of the triviality that word connotes.  Christmas is great and birthdays are fun, but there is something so completely different about Easter.  One year in college, I had just started dating a guy around this time of year.  It was just a few days before Easter and I had told him that Easter was my favorite holiday.  Later that evening, he brought me a huge pastel pink, stuffed bunny.  It was sweet of him, it really was, but bunnies and eggs aren't why I love Easter so much.  (Sidenote: any of my college girls remember that?  I believe that was the same night as the "kids in the bannister, wives out the wazoo" incident.  "No, Sheyenne... tell us about the bunny!" haha!)

Easter represents the reason for my hope... the reason for my life... the reason I get up every day... and Easter is the day we jubilantly celebrate that!  Words are completely inadequate to describe the joy and anticipation that fills my heart in the weeks leading up to Easter.  At church last week, we sang a song that we are going to sing again this week.  It was so beautiful, joyful and victorious!  I cannot wait to sing it at the top of my lungs tomorrow.  Easter is about Jesus dying for our sins-- my sins-- and ultimately conquering death.  Did you hear that?  Conquering death.  I love the songs that say things like "From the grave you've risen, victoriously!" and "Sin has lost its power, death has lost its sting!" and "Up from the grave he arose!"  When those lines come up in a song, I want to jump up and down, shout it out and praise my Lord!  

1 Peter 1:3 
 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..

People ask us how we are able to keep going... how are we able to keep doing what we're doing.  In a nutshell, Easter explains it all.  Sin was separating me from God.  His son, Jesus died for my sins.  He washed me clean.  In doing that, Jesus bridged that gap between me and God.  Now that's deserving of a lifelong commitment, don't you think?  And in the end, I know that I will spend eternity in Heaven with the God who sent his son to die for me.  The purpose of my life is simply to give God glory in everything I do.  God didn't cause Whitney to die.  He didn't make her sick.  For Whitney to die was never God's plan.  It wasn't his "Plan A", "B", or even "C" for that matter.  So why would I be mad at God?  And why would I ever stop singing his praises when he did give us so many blessings through Whitney?  Because of his sacrifice, his goodness and his love, I know that I will have eternity with him.  And I will also have eternity with my daughter, doing all the things I didn't get to do with her in this life.  

Easter is my favorite day of the year.  It reminds me of the day so many years ago when I, too was 'buried with Christ in baptism' and raised again as a new person.  One of those many blessigs that God gave us through Whitney actually goes back 21 years from the exact day she was born.  On February 11, 1989, my sister and I gave our lives to Christ and were baptized.  My dad acutally baptized us.  It was awesome.  On that day, my old 'self' died and Christ started in me a new life-- a life I chose to live for Him.  Though I was only 7 1/2 years old, I knew that my life was forever changed.  In the years that came after Febraury 11, 1989, I faced some hard times.  I strayed from the life God wanted me to live, but because of his goodness, I was blessed with family and friends who always brought me back to the truth.  I devoted my life to serving him, to helping others.  And in the hard times, I always went back to February 11... the day my new life began.  Every year since then, I have remembered that day as my 'new' birthday, or my 'spiritual' birthday.  Because of my decision on that day, Christ was now my Lord and Saviour, and I knew that he would not give me anything that I could not handle.

Baptism February 11, 1989

Fast-forward 21 years.  February 11, 2010.  The day my daughter was born.  I do not think it was any coincidence that Whitney was born on this day-- my 21st re-birthday.  For years I've celebrated that as my re-birthday, and from now on, I will also celebrate it as my daughter's birthday.  How can anyone see this situation and not see God's incredible goodness in all of this?  Of the 365 days my daughter could be born, God allowed her to be born on the anniversary of the day I gave my life to him.  And my mom and sister were also able to be with me!  A reminder that in every situation, no matter what the circumstance, God is still with me.  And I have promised to give him all the glory in every situation.  So you see, that's why Easter is so much more than just bunnies and eggs to me.  Easter is life!  And praise!  And HOPE!

255bFebruary 11, 2010

Romans 6:8-11 
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

02 April 2015

Game Changer! Plan To Eat

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

I have recently discovered something that has been a total game changer in our household. After a long, cold winter of being cooped up inside for way too long, Spring signifies a time to adopt some good habits that we'd let slide through the colder months. For us, the biggest one is grocery shopping. Not only do I really dislike the cold, I especially dislike grocery shopping when its cold. Let me tell you about my relationship with grocery shopping: I hate it. Everything about planning our weekly menus, I hate. I despise menu-planning, then list-making then grocery shopping. Because after all that exhausting work is done, guess what?? I still have to cook! And when the cooking is done and everything is eaten, guess what??? I'm still not done-- there's the clean up! It is all just such a process.

But I am off on a little rant. All that to simply say, I'm not a fan of what is arguably one of the biggest parts of my stay-at-home job. A while ago, my sister-in-law suggested a podcast to me called "Inspired to Action" with Kat Lee. I would absolutely suggest this podcast to anyone and everyone! I usually listen to it at nap time when I am cleaning the kitchen. It makes an often-loathed tasked into a not so lame one. (See rant above.) On her podcast, Kat recommends this thing called "Plan To Eat." She even offered a free 30-Day trial. We'd just had one of those weeks where we had nothing in the fridge for days, and resorted to eating out way too much. I had to try it-- and I LOVE IT! It is so simple to use and has cut my meal planning time to almost nothing.

Here's briefly how it works (there are videos on the website that explain it all really well): You can import recipes from any website, and you can even manually enter any recipes you can't find online. I started by going through all my Pinterest food boards and importing those recipes into my Plan To Eat (PTE). I worked on it in the evening when I was watching TV or a movie with Sean. Super easy and it didn't take long. Here's how some of my Recipes look right now:

There are all kinds of ways you can tag and organize your recipes- they're all very customizable. It makes it super easy to find what you want and to mark your favorite go-to's. 

So after you import your recipes, then its time to drag and drop your recipes into your week! You can plan as far ahead as you want, and you can even duplicate entire weeks or months of planning to make it super simple. Here's what the planner view looks like: 

You can see that some of the items are in blue. That indicates that it is a recipe. The menu items in white (like in the second week) are items that I don't use a recipe for, I just know what's in them or I know that we have everything on hand.

You can make a menu for all your meals and snacks or just for dinner. What I like to do is put our basic breakfast, lunch and snack items in the calendar so I know what we have on hand. But we don't necessarily eat the breakfast that is on that particular day.

But NOW.... here's the best part. Plan To Eat compiles your shopping list for you!!! It takes all the ingredients from all the recipes you have planned, as well as the extra items you've added (like waffles, cottage cheese, etc) and formulates a shopping list. You can even customize this shopping list to follow the layout of your favorite store!!! You can add and delete items easily from your list, too. Here's what my shopping list looks like from this week (before I added staples like lunchmeat and bread):  

Seriously, I know I sound like an infomercial but PTE has revolutionized my life. And no, I"m not just being dramatic. This is real life, friends! So here's the deal: you can also get a free 30-day trial of Plan To Eat. They don't take any credit card or bank information. It really is no-strings-attached-FREE. Then after your trial, you decide if you like it. If you do-- awesome! It is $4.95/month or you can pay a year upfront for $39.95 (saving you some cash). But what do I get out of all this?? Aside from sharing my newfound love with you friends, for each person who uses this referral link to sign up, I will get a dollar. So its not much, but its something- and as I hope you will soon be able to tell, it is such an awesome website, you will be telling all of YOUR friends about it!!!

One more thing: this past Monday night, Sean and I took a much-needed overnight date. We stayed at an amazing hotel downtown and planned to go grocery shopping on our way home the next day. Well, I didn't get our menu planned before we left, so I had to do it Tuesday morning, just before we were checking out of our hotel. I set up the entire week's menu AND shopping list in less than 5 minutes on our iPad!!!  It was wonderful!

So tell me... do you hate meal planning/list making/grocery  shopping as much as I do? What is your method for this daily task? Have you tried Plan To Eat? Will you try it?????  Click HERE to sign up for your free 30 day trial! And let me know what you think. :)

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28 March 2015

Book Review: In This House, We Will Giggle

Courtney DeFeo’s In This House, We Giggle is exactly what I have been looking for to inject some fun yet intentional teaching moments into our family life. The prevalent idea that serving and loving God should be fun and exciting is something that I strive for in my family but often find it difficult to put into practice with a one and four-year-old. Courtney provides excellent ideas on how to show kids of all ages that faith is about who we are and not what we do. Its about how we live our lives. 

Courtney writes that she has found what she believes to be a vital piece of the puzzle that makes up our Christian homes: it is the serious business of laughter. I couldn’t agree more!  The book is divided into twelve chapters, each focusing on one specific virtue. She defines the virtues as what we are teaching, and the Love & Laughter sections of each chapter tell how we are teaching. The breakdown of each chapter and its virtue is super simple to follow and pretty easy to implement. Meaning, minimal prep work is required for most of the activities that each month/virtues uses to drive home the point. 

Because the book is divided into 12 chapter and 12 virtues, it is really easy to assign each chapter a month and just get started!  Another thing I love about this book is that sprinkled throughout the pages are 60 ways to bring out the giggles. This was a rough winter, having to be inside for months on end with two littles, and some days, we just needed more to laugh at! The ideas that are dotted throughout each chapter are simple and guaranteed to bring giggles. Some examples of the laughs are: Sing the menu of dinner in a operatic style, see who can sit still the longest with a feather being rubbed under her nose or chin, and have a puppet show. 

This book is lighthearted and yet deeply rooted in Biblical truths and has a myriad of fun & delightful means to drive home important Christian values. I’ve already recommended to at least one friend who has also bought it!

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own. 
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