Sunday, 30 April 2017

Book Review: The Lucky Few by Heather Avis



Heather Avis was working as an education specialist when her and husband decided to start a family. After the painful discovery that the couldn't have biological children, Heather and her husband, Josh turn to adoption. The first child to come available has Down Syndrome and a serious heart condition. The couple pray about this situation and feel led to take a leap of faith and adopt their first child Macyn. They adopt two more children, Truly and August. August also has Down's Syndrome.


Avis tells her story beautifully. She faces infertility at the same time one of her students has an unplanned and most likely unwanted pregnancy. She chronicles the journey of parenting Macyn, who needed an open heart surgery and an oxygen tank. She also shares the miracle of Macyn's healing that allows her to be taken off oxygen and breathe on her own.

Avis's daughter Truly is fiercely independent and that brings a new set of challenges to Heather physically as well as emotionally as she learns how to parent a child that doesn't need her constant attention to be able to survive.

The adoption of August is what touched me the most as Avis was able to meet his mother before she gave birth to August. The moments surrounding his birth and transition from having one mother to two is heart wrenching.

This book gives great insight to the adoption experience as well as life as the parent of a child with Down's Syndrome.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

France-Try the World #8

Ooo la la!

This month's box featured products from France.

I think the coolest thing in the box was a package of crepes. They must been relatively fresh because they came with a little sticker that advised to eat them first.I ate banana nutella crepes and fruit and whipped cream crepes with chocolate sauce.





In the France box, I also received chestnut cream (recipe ideas anyone?), tea, cookies, herb crackers, fig jam, whole grain , salt, whole grain mustard and a spice mix.

I've tried the crackers with goat cheese and they are delicious. The salt was sprinkled over the caramel sauce filling off the macarons we made last weekend.

The crackers look marvelously dainty-almost like super thin Milanos before they are sandwiched.

Book Review: All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Riker Island by Liza Jessie Peterson



Liza Jessie Peterson quit her modeling career to search for her identity-her passion. After taking a theater class she began her transition into a performance poet and playwright. While struggling to make a living as an artist (don't we all) Peterson started teaching creative writing and journaling workshops to incarcerated youth. This led to her becoming a GED teacher for boys incarcerated at Riker's Island.


Peterson's recounting of that year is skillfully written, she obviously understands and has a way with words. All Day is written as if you are hanging out inside Peterson's head. A little deeper than just reading someon'es journal. You feel her energy, her nervousness and passion for the children.She presents a very real picture of the lives lived by incarcerated youth, before, during and after the system, as well as the life of a teacher of imprisoned teens. She doesn't hide any part of the system or of the realities behind bars, sharing with her readers the vocabulary and mindsets of her students. The book is peppered with comedic relief-Peterson shares non-serious classroom antics as well as a letting you know she needs to fart.

Overall the book is quite eye opening and inspirational. It sheds light on the way our children are being imprisoned and trained for a life of crime or a life inside the system instead of being rehabilitated and taught independence and vocational skills.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Book Review: Pinot, Pasta and Parties

Pinot, Pasta and Parties is an Italian cookbook by Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino The book is divided into ten sections, each featuring a themed menu (We Love NY, Music , etc.)

The menu can be served in it's entirety for a multi-course Italian feast or you can pick and choose a few recipes from the menu for a well--rounded everyday Italian dinner. I love that the book is so flexible.

The first section is a little different from the rest as it has only a few "meal" recipes but has a lot of recipes for traditional Italian sauces that are great building blocks for the rest of the book.

I love that each menu section is divided by conversations between DeeDee and Paul. It's a great way to let more of their unique personalities come through the book.

This cookbook really helps to make good Italian cooking accessible to the masses. I've marked some recipes I'm waiting to try including: Bite-Size Antipasto, Braciole, Eggplant and Zucchini Fries, Chocolate Chip Torta, Porchetta, Zabaglione, Biscotti and Chicken Scarpariello,

This book has excited me about hosting my first Italian themed dinner party! The recipes are simple and inspiring.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Stashbusting Monday #17: To the Concession Stand



I advise the high school's Relay for Life team. This week they took over concessions at the Senior Night soccer games. For me, this mean lots of baking. I baked a recipe I'd originally discovered at Cookbook Club-Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Muffins by Gale Gand.

I also made s'more cookies which were a big hit! To make the s'more cookies, I used Donna Hay's recipe as inspiration.  Instead of using the cookie mix, I made these chocolate chip cookies from NY Times which I think is my favorite chocolate chip recipe ever.







Also popular were brownie balls. I baked my basic brownie recipe and let cool. Then, crumble the brownies and mix with a scoop of cream cheese frosting. Stir together until well combined. Roll the brownie mixture into balls. Roll the balls in chocolate frosting. Roll the chocolate coated balls in crushed Oreos (do NOT use Double Stuffed-they don't crust right). Viola!

My plan for next year is to do more games and offer more hot food options like burritos.

Also new this week, I made yellow pickled eggs and turned them into curry deviled eggs. I left them in the pickling solution too long as they are quite tart. I can only handle one at a time.


Monday, 3 April 2017

Stashbusting Monday #16: Three New Recipes


So, the past few weeks I've tried a handull of new recipes. I tried:

 Salmon Cakes from Victuals. Victuals is one of my favorite cookbooks I loved the crunch of these but they had too much of a "fishy" taste for me.

 Slow Cooked Roasted Pork Shoulder from Victuals was absolutely amazing. It was delicious and tender. The leftovers made a mean sandwich too.

Last, I made a mouthwatering Cauliflower Soup with Curried Shrimp. I could not get enough of this soup. It was on the lighter side as the base is made from water and broth instead of dairy so I'd suggest a salad or baked potato on the side. I did baked potatoes and thought it was great. This recipe came from Food Networks Kitchen's Cookbook which I picked up at my library book sale. It's a little intimidating but I found success with my first recipe!

What new recipes did you try in March?

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Book Review: How to Be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World by Jordan Chrsity

As an admirer of Audrey Hepburn's style and class, I'd had my eye on this book for quite some time.

Christy's compact book covers topics such as make-up, healthy eating, social media etiquette and making friends. In each chapter Christy tells about her experience with the topic and gives advice to the reader about how they should approach the topic if they want to be more like Audrey Hepburn. A couple of the chapters have magazine style quizzes to help the reader determine the best approach for their personality. I think this aspect of the book helps make it more accessible to different types of women.

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In the first chapter How to Be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World she apologizes for hurts she may have caused when the book was originally released as How to be Hepburn in a Hilton world. I found this to be a classy move and one that took a lot of guts. It's hard for the average Jane to apologize to someone privately, much less openly and in writing. I didn't read the first book, so I don't know exactly what she is apologizing before, but I think this move really lends to Christy's credibility and makes me more likely to take her advice on classy behavior.

Overall, I  think the advice that Christy gives is practical, useful and true. None of the advice raised a red flag with me. I  think her advice is great for someone who is struggling to define who they want to be in life. I think the suggestions and example are on key too. I think this would be a great gift book for the high school graduate.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Stashbusting Monday #15: Valentine's Day Bundt Cakes

I made this button in 2011:

And I vowed to make one new recipe per week, And I got to a grand total of 14 recipes before letting the idea slide away from me. 

I would like to take up this task again and present a newly tried recipe from my stash at least every other Monday. Here's my new graphic:


I'm kicking it off right by sharing THREE new recipes that I tried this last week. In the spirit of Valentines' day, I baked my husband's students a bundt cake a day for 5 days. One recipe was a triple chocolate bundt cake found in Southern Living. The final missing recipe was my fudgy chocolate cherry bundt cake that has earned a place in my "bakery binder".

The other four recipes were:


My thoughts:

I haven't tasted the Almond Joy cake, I'm saving it for the actual holiday. But, with the coconut filling, I feel like it's going to be a winner.

The lemon cake has been my favorite of all the cakes. Perfectly sour. Squeeze fresh lemons-it's worth it!

The cinnamon roll cake wasn't "cinnamony" enough for me. It was too much like a basic coffee cake. I think it would need more cinnamon layers.

What new recipe did you try this week?  Also, I have TONS of recipes in my stash so if you want to see a particular ingredient or course, leave a comment and I'll search for that to try next. Happy Monday!