Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Introducing My 2016 Word...

The past couple of years that I've chosen a word to serve as my theme for the upcoming year, several words have jumped out at me and I had to whittle the last down to that one perfect word. This year I thought and thought and came up with only two words and they were synonyms!

I finally settled on the word:


Now that we are back in the States, I want to start building our home. I want to get things out of our storage unit and set up an organized and efficient home. 

I want to continue to build up my relationship with the Lord. I want to spend more time reading the Bible and understanding who He is. 

I want to continuing building up my husband and our relationship. I want to show him love and appreciation and improve the flaws in my character that irritate him. 

I will build a healthy food lifestyle for myself and our family. I want cut back on processed foods, cook healthier meals and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

I want to continue to build up my friendships. We can spend more face to face time now that most of us are in the same country.

I will build a career. I want to start turning my writing hobby into a living. I plan on being more committed to freelance writing this year.

I plan to build my skills. I want to learn to can, bake sandwich bread. I want to learn ASL, brush up on my Spanish and sewing skills. I want to learn a good braided style for my hair. Also, I'd like to learn some cake decorating techniques.

In previous years, I've chosen "love", "bold" and the phrase "God in me".

What is your word for the year? What are some things you hope to build in 2016?

*This post is linked up at Mama Kat's.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Book Review: My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody

I hate to say "This is such a good book" when the plot revolves around a heart wrenching true story. However, I did enjoy reading this book as it is very powerful and inspirational. Although the story itself is painful, Mahtob is able to move past the pain into forgiveness and is able to live a full life because of it. This is what I find encouraging- that despite all of the bad things that happen to us and around us good does prevail because God is good and has already declared the victory on our behalf.

Basically, this book tells the story of the daughter in the famous movie and book, Not Without My Daughter.  The daughter, Mahtob, tells the events as she remembers them taking place. However, she goes beyond describing her childhood and details her life up until the present. I find that reading about her life as a whole helps to balance out the tragedy that happened in her childhood and continued to follow her until her father's death. 

This is a very touching and moving account of Mahtob's life. Despite her father's negative influence she was able to move on with her life and that is what makes this book truly inspiring. I highly recommend this book!

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

PS: Other inspirational books I'd recommend include Kisses from Katie, Dreams So Big and Left to Tell. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the season to be jolly....fa la la la la .

I am especially joyous and jolly this Christmas season as this will be the first Christmas I have spent with my family since 2009. We were in Pennsylvania and Korea the last 5 years so this is a real treat.

It is tradition for my family to go to my Mimi's house (paternal grandmother) on Christmas Eve. We have a nice dinner (with dessert! usually a fourteen layer chocolate frosted cake, yummo!), exchange gifts and then afterwards we go out into the field and shoot fireworks. I am very excited to participate this year.

We've been enjoying the past few months with our family and friends but it's almost time to get back to the daily grind. My husband has found a job and we are relocating to my hometown.

I had a job interview today for a position I'd really like to have so I am hoping to hear back about that in the new year.

I'd like to wish you all a very merry and bright Christmas filled with lots of joy and cheer. I'm signing off until after Christmas.  Then I hope to share my 2016 word, my 2016 book list, a few book reviews and new recipes. In closing, I'd like to leave you with my Christmas poem that I am re-posting from years past:

‘Twas the Night Of Christmas

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

‘Twas the night of Christmas and all through the house,
 all the creatures were reverent, even the mouse.

 The baby was swaddled and tucked in with care,
 and the angels rejoiced that the Christ-child was now there.

A long journey it had been,
from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

On the back of a little old donkey, slowly rode Mary.
Though a virgin, the Son of Man, she did carry.

She was soon due,
but the rooms available were few.
The only refuge to be found was with the animals and hay.
The sign of a star, hung high in the sky, gave the objects below the luster of midday.

The shepherds traveled far from their beds,
while visions of angels and a Savior, danced in their heads.
The wise men also journeyed from afar,
sent out by King Herod, they followed the star.

Out on the street, there arose such a clatter,
Joseph sprang from his watch to see what was the matter.

The shepherds and Magi arrived to worship the newborn King.
Gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold they did bring. 

They played their harps and sang   
praises that proclaimed His mighty name.
Then the shepherds set out again,
to spread the good news to other men.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

PS: If you're feeling especially cheery try making these festive cupcakes.

PPS: If you are stuck for last minute gift ideas look here

Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul

As soon as I opened the box, I was excited to dive into this book. The books is truly beautiful from cover to cover. It contains engaging photographs and illustrations throughout.

The basic premise of this book is that each president relied on their faith. Rand Paul dedicates anywhere from one to several pages to each American president. He includes copies of their public prayers and/or speeches where they reference their faith. He also includes commentary on a several of the presidents and also includes information about his personal life and faith. 

I really enjoyed reading this book and being able to learn about all of the former presidents' faith. It was interesting to read the things they said and wonder, if they said that today, would they still be elected. 

I'm thankful that Rand Paul took the time to put together this beautiful, informative and inspiring book. 

*This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Upside Down Banana Layer Cake

Each year I love to make myself a birthday cake. I like to dream and plan and pull together something totally delicious. The two years we were in Korea, I wasn't able to make myself a cake and the bakery cakes were mediocre at best. I'm not saying that to brag, I just like to eat cake and have eaten my fair share over the years. Well, at least after I realized I didn't hate cake but I hated Walmart bakery style cakes with stiff sugary icing. Anyway, this year I decided to try something simple, so I made a banana upside down cake, which due to a series of unfortunate events turned into a peanut butter frosted banana upside down cake with dark chocolate ganache. If you make this cake, make it without the ganache. It is to heavy and rich for such a delightfully light cake. If you make it a layer cake, the peanut butter frosting is a light and fluffy complement. Otherwise, the cake is perfect on its own.

For the single upside down cake:

1. Grease your cake pan and preheat oven to 350F.
2. Mix together 3/4 cup brown sugar and 6 tablespoons melted butter. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.
3. Arrange banana slices (from one sliced banana) on top of sugar mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 1/2 cups sugar.
5. Add 1 cup of mashed bananas, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup shortening, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat on low until combined .
6. Beat in two eggs until combined.
7. Pour over bananas and bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving dish.

For the layer cake:

1. Bake two of the above cakes. Cool and stack with the "upside down" banana parts touching to form the filling layer.
2. Frost with peanut butter frosting ( Beat 1 stick softened butter and 1 cup peanut butter. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and two cups powdered sugar. Beat until smooth, adding up to 3 tablespoons of milk to smooth the frosting out.)
3. Optional: Top with milk chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Book Review: Wicked Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler

I was really excited to receive this book*. I’m currently writing my own book about women’s relationships with God and this book was very inspiring.

Wicked Women of the Bible is broken into small chapters, each about a different Biblical woman. I found the fact that the book was broken into smaller chapters made it easy to read. It is written quite simply and I think that that makes the book accessible for reader’s of every level. Spangler re-imagines the Scripture into story-like scenes, noting where she takes artistic liberties. I find that this storytelling approach opens the Scripture up and makes it accessible to a wide variety of women. She notes where she embellishes a detail and explains why and I think this is important because it makes sure that no one is misled.

Spangler’s title includes the word “wicked” and she plays on this throughout. She writes not only about women who are known for being bad, but also about women who are “wicked smart” “wicked old” or find themselves in a “wicked predicament”. I really enjoyed this fresh take.

I highly recommend this book and have added a few of Spangler’s others to my “to-read” list.

You can check out Spangler's blog here.

*This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Black Sesame and Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

For Halloween, I made these really cute mini-cheeseballs shaped like bats. They were pesto flavored and rolled in black sesame seeds. This left me with basically a full bottle of black sesame seeds to finish up.

I searched the recipe collection on the great interwebs and was inspired by Joy the Baker and The Tart Tart to combine the sesame seeds with peanut butter and chocolate chips. 

I made some of these with and some without* rolling them in the extra sesame seeds. The ones with had some extra oomph. They make the cookies taste warm and toasty.

I think these cookies would be really good to serve on either Halloween or New Year's. You could call them Toasted Ant Cookies for a Halloween Party. I think New Year's Eve would be good too because they are fascinating to look at and a little more elegant than your typical chocolate chip. 


2.25 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup black sesame seeds for rolling.


1. Sift together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
3. Beat in vanilla and soy sauce.
4. Mix in dry ingredients until combined.
5. Dump in chocolate and peanut butter chips. Stir until combined. 
6. Cover dough and chill about 50 minutes.
7. When you remove dough from the fridge, preheat oven to 350F.
8. Roll dough into table spoon sized balls. 
9. Roll balls in black sesame seeds.
10. Bake for 12 minutes. This makes about 35 cookies.

Variations I'd Like to Try:

1. Make a typical peanut butter cookie and add the chocolate chips and black sesame seeds.
2. Make the cookies as above except for the peanut butter chips. Make sandwich cookies with a peanut butter frosting.

*Here's a picture of the cookies without being rolled in the extra seeds.

Merry baking!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

My December "Bucket List"

Inspired by this week's Mama Kat prompt I decided to make a December "bucket list" for myself.
What goals do you have for this month? Mine are fairly simple since I'm still jobless and transient.

1. Find and accept employment.
2. Go look at Christmas lights.
3. Bake myself a birthday cake. I'm debating between my triple threat cake or trying something new and outrageous.

4. Bake black sesame cookies. I found a recipe on Joy the Baker I want to adapt.
5. Finish the other two books I was sent to review this month.
6. Buy Christmas presents.
7. Find and purchase a pair of tall black dress boots.
8. Spend some time with Hotglue.
9. Choose a word of the year. I'm stumped this year...any suggestions?
10. Finish writing my list of books I want to read in 2016. Any ideas of MUST reads?!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review: Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler

I didn't know what to expect when I opened this book. I requested it because it was related to fitness and over the past year I've gotten more and more interested in being physically fit.

However, the book is advertised that it is written in the style of a "buddy movie" which I typically don't like but my husband and his best friend do, so I figured if anything, that they might like the book when I finish. Also, the book was review by Lebron James and Tom Brady, which while they are well known for their athletic ability and could give their opinion on the workouts I wasn't sure how I felt about their literary ability because I'd just never seen them presented in that light before.

Anyway, I opened the book. And I finished that day. I was laughing so much that I just couldn't put it down.

Basically, this is the true story of a man who invites a Navy SEAL to come live with him and train him for a month. The SEAL agrees under the condition that nothing is off limits and the trainee will do whatever he says. He agrees and nothing is. And that's part of what makes the book so funny, that and the author's reactions to the demands.

I've been referring to the author vaguely because when I picked up this book I didn't have a clue who he was. Apparently, he was a rapper on MTV and his married to the woman who invented Spanx. Now, her, I know. Anyway, the author, Jesse Itzler, is also a business man and you get a tiny peek into his business world and that is interesting as well.

If you like to read humor, I would give this a shot. If you're a fitness buff, I'd recommend putting yourself through the workouts and seeing if you can keep up, well most of them and you'll see what I mean once you read the book.

Just a short warning, this book does contain strong language. I mean we are dealing with a Navy SEAL and man who's being physically put through the ringer.

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

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

I bought this book in a thrift store because I'd heard of and wanted to see the movie but never had. When I set down to read the book I noticed it was signed by the author, that made me even more excited.

This is not a a bad book. However, it doesn't follow the typical story arc. It is almost more journal like than anything.

The book follows the author's adventure of  buying and renovating an Italian house. I really enjoyed the book until about midway through and then it struggled to keep my attention. I loved the descriptions of the food, the old house and the renovation process until I realized that was all the book was. Yes, the author has a bit of an internal transformation as well but it isn't expressed much throughout the book and then she suddenly stops talking about the renovation and shifts to her internal changes. However, because she doesn't do this consistently throughout the book it feel disjointed from the rest of the piece, I felt like she was slamming me with the remnants of her internal transformation at the end of the book in order to make the book read a bit more "weighty".

 The author did include her recipes throughout the book and I am excited to try them out once I have my own kitchen to play in. However, I have to mention that the prospect of trying the recipes is the only reason I haven't donated the book yet.

What do you think? Did you read Under the Tuscan Sun or see the movie? Was the movie pretty similar to the book or was there more action?

*This post brought to you by a Mama Kat prompt.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Semi-Southwest Stuffed Peppers

I love southwest stuffed peppers with tomatoes and black beans. However, Mike doesn't like tomatoes or black beans so I set out to find a stuffed pepper substitute. I thought they turned out pretty well. I used this recipe as a sort of guideline.


6 large bell peppers
1 large can pinto beans in chili sauce
1 mini can of corn, drained
1/4 cup onion
1 cup of long grain rice, uncooked
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb mixed ground beef and ground pork
1 tablespoon hamburger seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon cilantro
1 jalapeno, diced small
grated colby jack cheese to taste
sour cream to taste
green onions to taste


1. In a large stockpot, add the 2 cups broth and 1 cup of uncooked rice. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 40-45 minutes until rice is soft. Fluff with a fork.
2. Cut the stems off the bell peppers and remove the ribs.  Place upright in a casserole dish.
3. Brown the ground meat. Season with cilantro, cumin, crushed red pepper and hamburger seasoning. Drain off the grease.
4. Mix together cooked meat, cooked rice, corn, pinto beans, onion and jalapeno. Stuff this mixture into the bell peppers.
5. Bake peppers at 350F for 15 minutes or until hot.
6. Top peppers with cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until melted.
7. Serve with sour cream and green onions.

I served my spicy apple pie for dessert.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Hot Apple Pie

Warm fall flavors followed by a tingle of heat....

If that sounds like you, then check out my recipe for Hot Apple Pie. I took my inspiration from this blackberry pie.



4 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I used a mixture of Jazz and Honeycrisp, but use your favorite)
1 cup quick oats
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup chopped pecans
2 sliced jalapenos
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

+ your favorite crust or crust recipe. I say this because I used a gluten free crust made from a baking mix to accommodate the friend I was sharing the pie with. I used this crust recipe.


1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Mix together the apples, honey, jalapenos, cornstarch, 1/2 cup brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Let set for half an hour or while you prepare your favorite crust recipe.

3. Line the pie pan with your favorite crust recipe.

3. Remove jalapenos from apples and pour filling over crust.**

4. Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, quick cooking oats and pecans. Cut in butter until crumbly. Cover filling with this topping.

5. Bake for 15 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Let cool before serving.

**For a more consistent or spicier tingle, remove the jalapeno slices, dice them and return them to the apple mixture.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: Chocolate Covered Cashews

Chocolate Covered Cashews is the story of Wiley Baxter’s life and testimony. He tells about his life as a child in a large family, his divorce and second marriage. He also writes about discovering that he had fathered twin daughters with his first wife.

Chocolate Covered Cashews is a quick and easy read. He has an inspirational testimony and life story. However, the story did not do a good job of captivating my attention. People always say that writers should show, not tell and I feel, because of the nature of his story, Baxter did a fair amount more of telling than showing. To me, Chocolate Covered Cashews almost feels as if I am reading a speech that Baxter wrote to read at a church service. Also, I expected there to be a greater connection to the title.  I understand his connection to the title but I feel it was a bit misleading as there weren’t any direct scenes involving the chocolate cashews. That reflect my point of telling rather than showing, Baxter told us what happened instead of writing a scene.

*I was provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Officially Home

Okay, so we've technically been home for almost six weeks but today was the first time I really felt like I was home.

Today was the first day that I saw my best friend after more than two years. Two years during which she graduated, married and moved. Two years during which I moved across the sea, moved cities again, loved and lost my first pet as an adult and my first hospital stay.

This friend of mine, she is home to me. We can pick up after 2 years of intermittent Skyping and be just like we were only apart 2 weeks. We were laughing, joking, telling stories and catching up.

This friend of mine, she is like a long lost sister to me. Next year we will have been friends for only 10 years, but to me, it feels like we've known each other a millennium or more.

This friend of mine, I feel like we belong together. We fit together seamlessly. Even as the years pass, as we change and grow and become new versions of ourselves ,we still fit.

We each have husbands who we each love dearly and completely. She doesn't replace my husband or I hers. I don't mean to describe our friendship as if we are that counterpart  for each other. Rather, I think we complement  the husbands (or maybe the husbands complement us!). We fill in the girl-talk and squealing about penguins gaps. The baking chocolate cherry cakes and shelling nuts for baklava gaps.

Our friendship is older than our marriages can ever be but it is not better, only different. It is strong and constant, through the changes. A sisterhood bond that is mirrored in movies but only truly understood by like pairs.

Now that I've seen her again and we've started, not the the catching up process, but the moving on together process, I feel as if I'm officially home. I only hope that I can be as much to her as she is to me, this friend of mine.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Off We Go!

It's 7:33 p.m. and I'm sitting in my freshly cleaned apartment waiting for my freshly laundered clothes to line dry. They came out of the dryer at 6 p.m. and I immediately set the floor fan to blow on them. In about an hour or so my husband should come home from his final day at his job.

At 10 p.m. I am off to teach my final adult class. At 11:30 we will depart for the bus station where we will take the 2:30 am bus to Incheon.

Our 9 a.m flight will take us to China where we will wait for 6 hours.

After a 12 hour flight we will arrive in Chicago and a couple hours later take a short flight to Harrisburg.  If everything goes according to plan, we will arrive at 9 p.m and then be driven to my hubby's parents house.

We plan to spend the weekend camping with his family and our friends. I can't wait! I'm so excited to see everyone.

We appreciate your prayers for safe travels and a smooth transition. Next time I write, my feet will be on American soil. :)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The First and Possible Final Breakthrough

I don't know if I've mentioned this or not but I've really struggled this year with disrespectful students. From 6-16, there were a few months when it seemed like the majority of my students were hell-bent on refusing to listen to anything I said.

If I told them to sit down, they would sit in the floor or on their friends lap.

I was hit and kicked and elbowed and stomped on. A 6/7 year old tried to choke out another kid during my class. Frankly, the children only received a quick scolding when I reported the incidents.

Everyday was a nightmare. Eventually the classes were rearranged and some of the trouble students didn't come back.

The situation improved but I never felt like I was at a place where  I felt it was good.

Anyway, this summer I had an extra class to teach during summer vacation. The class had no set books or curriculum so I was able to create everything. So much here is focused on rote memorization so I tried to stay away from that as much as possible. I picked a topic for each class and we read a story or watched a cartoon relating to the topic, sang silly songs with motions and played games that involved running around the classroom. Basically, general silliness ensued. But, it was silliness in English.

I had 2 sweet, shy little girls in this class. I'd taught them before and they were afraid to try. One little girl was too afraid of making a mistake that she wouldn't even play the telephone game.

So, I amped up the silliness. I mimed extreme facial expressions and spoke in silly voices. I made these girls my partners whenever we played loud games so I could encourage them to try.

After a month, the class ended and we went back to our regular schedule. The two shy girls went back to their regular class.

On the first day of class, we watched the movie clip and I asked a question. The two little girls were straining themselves, falling out of their seats trying to raise their hands above the others. They wanted to answer. They wanted to try. They knew they could do it. So, I chose on of them. And they blew it away and set the example for the rest of the class.

All I could say was "Wow. Thank you God!"

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Epidemic

What epidemic?

Well, I don't want commit to a name right now, because something better might come along. So, for now we'll just stick with "The Epidemic".

In the last 2 years, I've really noticed this problem among the expats living in Korea. But if I'm going to be honest, "The Epidemic" was present in my life in America as well.

You see, I would invite people to a party and only half the people who RSVP'd "yes" would actually show up.

"I was sick."

"I got lost."

"I forgot it was the same day as my niece's birthday."

"I fell asleep watching Netflix."

Or, I'd let someone know I'd be in their city for a few days and would love to get together. The reply? Something along the lines of "Text me when you get here and we'll make a plan.". I'd do as requested only to get one of the above responses a few days after I was back home again.

Why does no one make plans in advance anymore? Why are we afraid that if we commit to something we will miss out on something else? Why do we respect the people we call our friends so little?

Our fear of "missing out" on something "better" is causing us to do just that. We are missing out on relationships, on memories.

A friendship is more than just a string of text messages and "we should"s. It's a collection of "we did"s and "remember when"s and time spent together.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Frey Saga Series Book Review

These books tell the story of a young Elvin woman who, while struggling with her clumsiness and magic lessons, slowly starts to discover that is she is, in fact, a powerful ruler whose magic has been bound. The series tracks her from her initial frustration in her lessons to her eventual reclamation of  the her kingdom, power and memory.

I enjoyed the first book in the series immensely. However, I felt each successive book decreased in quality. I feel that if all three books (not including the novella) had been combined to make one book, they would have been stronger. I actually think  some of the books themselves might be considered novellas and then the novella considered a short story. But, I'm no expert on those matters.

 I read the novella out of curiosity and while the extra details were exciting, I didn't think the novella added enough to the over-arching story to be worth paying an additional price to read it.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I think this series is worth a read but I would suggest against purchasing the novella unless you can get it in bundled pricing. Also, I would definitely try for an e-book or library copy as the paperback prices seem kinda steep. I see one goes up to $23 on Amazon.

You can click on the pictures to be taken to the Amazon page.