02 August 2014

Cookbook Review: The Chopped Cookbook

This is my first time reviewing a cookbook, and I am so excited! My husband and I love watching the Food Network show, "Chopped." The basic gist of it is a trio of talented chefs are presented with a "mystery basket" of ingredients. From the onset, they seem like a horrible hodge-podge of clashing flavors and the chefs are tasked with the challenge to make something delicious using all of them. Cotton candy and kale, sausage and strawberries, eggs and carrots. Somehow, by the end of the show, delectable dishes are presented to the judges and a winner is chosen. 

While the ingredient combinations in The Chopped Cookbook are not quite extreme, the premise of the book is the same: "use what you've got to cook something great." My husband and I have often marveled at how the culinary masters are able to combine such extreme flavors and ingredients, this book is like the magician's cheat sheet! In the opening pages, the Chopped pantry is explained. It lays out a formula for truly creating amazing meals with what you probably have on hand. 

It seems that the trendy thing now is to have step by step photos to accompany every recipe. If that's your thing, this cookbook isn't for you. But if you like photos of food that will make your mouth water, photos so beautiful that you can almost smell what's cooking, then this is definitely a book you should buy! I know what a cracked egg in a dish looks like, I don't need extra pages for silly things like that. This cookbook is absolutely chock full of the things that matter most: delicious food and beautiful photos. A few of the sections are pasta night, chickens gone wild, eggs after breakfast and big salads. My favorite section is called, "completely fun ways to cook vegetables." I started going through, marking recipes to try but decided quickly that was silly-- I want to make everything. This is quickly becoming my favorite, go-to recipe book for weeknight meals and fun date night fixin's!

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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Book Review: NIV Essentials Study Bible

The NIV Essentials Study Bible is a giant conglomeration of some of the best study Bible tools that Zondervan has offered. I'm one who likes to dig deep into individual scriptures, as well as look at the meaning and context of entire books. Reading the historical backgrounds and getting extra tidbits of archaeological information helps bring the inspired Word to life. Though the NIV is no longer my preferred translation of the Bible, it is (in my opinion) the easiest to comprehend. I usually have my Kindle with me when I go to church, and I love having all of the study tools at the tips of my finger when I want to look up something quickly. The NIV Essentials Study Bible combines the best parts of six different Bibles and study materials. They are:

Book Introductions: A quick overview of each book of the Bible including key concepts, verses, teachings, terms, etc.

Unpack: Traditional bottom-of-the-page study notes that give verse by verse explanations of text.

Dig Deep, Look Close: Articles and photos adapted from the Archaeological Study Bible

Q&A: Gives answers to some of the most common and perplexing questions about the Bible.

People in Focus: Examine Scripture through the stories of the most important people of the Bible.

Insight: Helpful articles that include background information.

Guided Tour: Gives a birds-eye view of the entire Bible. 

Highlights: Abbreviated notes that point out interesting facts, discuss difficult texts and highlight things that are often overlooked. 

Reflect & Respond: Kind of like a short devotional reading. 

You could easily get lost in the sea of information that is included in this Bible. The content is (for the most part) concise and solid teaching. However, there are two issues I have. The first is the e-version of this Bible is not very intuitive. Perhaps the navigation is different on each reading device, but I found the Kindle version to be a bit difficult to get used to. (I had to read the instructions at the beginning to figure it out!) My other complaint is the "contemporary" NIV translation... this is not exclusive to this particular Bible, but I strongly dislike the addition of "women" where the historical text did not add that, and using pronouns such as "they/their/them" as opposed to "he/him/his." This may seem minor to some but it is a strong deviation from the original, inspired text. But of course, that is just personal preference. Overall, this is an excellent Bible resource with in-depth study materials. 

***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. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”***

15 July 2014

Book Review: The Nesting Place

If we know each other in real life, or if you've read my blog for very long, you may know that I'm a little bit obsessed with this whole concept of "home." There is something so spiritual and sacred about creating a place of rest for my loved ones that has whispers of Greater Things to come. The Nesting Place, Written by long-time blogger Myquillyn Smith, this book fleshes out the decorating philosophy that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Because I'm a busy mom of two little girls, I don't have time for perfection. As much as I wish I did, that is something I've actually worked really hard to let go of. Ain't nobody got time for that right? Myquillyn has a house full of boys and yet the pictures of her home are absolutely stunning. One of the biggest things I loved and appreciated about this book was the idea that you don't have to own your home to make it a refuge for your family. She begins the book with a quick recap of the 13- yes, thirteen!- homes she has lived in. Many of them were rentals and because of that, this book is brimming with fantastic ideas for people who are renting or not able to make major changed to their homes. As a fellow renter, those tips and ideas are worth the read alone! 

While I read the e-book version of this book, I happened to get my hands on a hard copy when I was at my sister-in-law's house. The e-book contains all the pictures and pages of the real book, but I have to tell you it absolutely pales in comparison to the hard copy. I am actually contemplating buying the hard copy just to have in my home because it truly is that beautiful. The pictures take you away to another place, while stirring up all kinds of fresh ideas. It was hard to sit still while reading this book because I just wanted to get up and start rearranging furniture! Thinking about decorating your home- or even worse, redecorating- can be a scary thought. But page after page, my courage was built up through the ideas, encouragement and life stories from Myquillyn. And if you are buying a new house or getting married, you better believe this book will be your housewarming gift!

I feel like Myquillyn is my soul sister in so many ways... If I could have anyone redecorate my home, it would be her. (OK, or maybe Candace Olsen.) Of course changing the look and feel of my home won't happen overnight, but now with The Nesting Place, I have a better idea of how to come into a style all my own, something that is welcoming to my family and friends, deeply satisfying and comfortable. It may take me a while to get there, but at least I know what I'm working towards! What Shauna Niequist's "Bread and Wine" was to me last year,  The Nesting Place, is all of that and more to me this year. It has quickly become my favorite book of 2014. It will be nearly impossible to top!

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

10 July 2014

Happy Fourth 2014!

We had a bunch of friends over for the Fourth of July. It was such a great time. Our house is really close to the high school in town, and they always do a big fireworks display. We can see the whole show directly from our driveway. As you can see from all the cars in the pictures below, other people in town have figured it out too! This is the place to be, man!  

We mixed up sidewalk chalk for the kids to paint the drive with. (Water + corn starch + food coloring) They had a great time with that, except, as usual, Gia decided it needed to be all over her. For a while, the kids ran around back and apparently, that lack of adult supervision gave them the perfect window of time to paint each other! I love that we live so close to friends who have kids Gia & Joey's age. I can't wait to watch them grow up together. They're all within just a few years of each other.

The chalk paint made a cool background for some pics, but this was the best I could get. Homegirl had stuff to do! Too busy to pose!

I love this picture above... the street lights all down way... love it.

The air was so thick with smoke that you could smell the sulphur from the fireworks. It was pretty overwhelming at first, but you got used to it. Joey loved the fireworks-- the noise didn't even flich her!

This pic looks like Gia was touching the fire but she really wasn't. We put a solo cup over the sparkler handle so the kids could hold onto them without getting burned. It worked pretty well except that we used metal sparklers, and even the handles get hot if they held on too long to them!

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Sugar Snap Peas

Our garden has really exploded with green as of late! The first goody we got to harvest was some sugar snap peas. They've kept coming and they are so delicious. I blanched and froze a lot of them this week so that we will have them for stir-frys and pasta dishes this winter. Gia is a great helper at the garden (most of the time). We got this cute Hello Kitty watering can for her and she loves giving the plants a little extra drink. We are really loving our gardening experience, making not of things to do differently next year, and being so grateful to our friends who let us use their land, and of course to God who makes it all!
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Joanna 27 Weeks!

I know I am way behind on writing and posting Joey's weekly pictures, but at least I am still taking them!! This past Friday was the 4th of July. We had a great time- we had several families over (the Tatges & Fergusons), grilled out chickenpost signature and played with fireworks (of course)! Joanna was enthralled with the sparklers and not at all fazed by the SUPER LOUD and smoky fireworks that were going off for hours in our neighborhood. Also this week, Joanna tried sweet potatoes... she wasn't a huge fan of them, but she still loves to eat her cereal. In fact, she gets rather impatient and unhappy with us when we are all eating and she isn't!

20 June 2014

In the Garden Today

In the style of Today's Letters, one of my favorite blogs, and in an effort to document more of our summer shenanigans, here we go: 

Dear Hubby, thank you for spending two evenings and an afternoon putting up posts and twine for our sugar snap peas. Sugar Snap Peas, I can't wait to harvest all three rows of you and eat some right off the vine. I'll drench the rest of you in ranch. :) Randy Travis, you are the best companion for stringing up snap peas and pulling redroot pigweed. Redroot Pigweed, you are as nasty as your name. Stay away from my carrots & okra... Or else! Sean Michael, thanks for adventuring through this thing called life. In the words of my friend Randy, I'm gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever, amen.