Friday, 9 December 2016

Book Review: A Proper Drink by Robert Simsonson

A Proper Drink gives a chapter by chapter history of the craft cocktail Each chapter focuses on either a different type of cocktail or different time period. The book also includes 40 recipes of both modern and classic cocktails as well as a possible explanation of why we call cocktails, cocktails. It may have something to do with ginger and horse's bum.

Just like that interesting tidbit, I found the histories to be equally interesting. Simonson takes you through the "growth" process of what he calls the cocktail revolution. He really follows the shifts in the bar scene and food industry (at least as it relates to the bar scene). Who knew that the restaurant chain, TGIF, used to have a rigorous bartender training program? I'd imagine that now most of their drinks are "tarted up" versions of their originals, , to steal a descriptor from Simonson. 

While I found the content intriguing, I found Simonson's writing stlye a bit choppy and sometimes hard to follow. I could see someone explaining that away as a literary device mimicking the history of the revolution, but I don't buy in. I also think the book would have benefitted from a few pages of pictures, of the bars and of the drinks featured in the recipes.

Overall, I  think this book would make a great gift for a lover of history, cocktails or both, 

Try the World #4: Morroco

My mom went to Morroco when she was in high school and told me stories and showed me her photographs  from her trip when I was a child. Because of this, I've always been curious about Moroccan culture so I was delighted when I realized that my fourth Try the World box was based on Morocco!

This box contained:

  1. Moroccan Green Tea ($11-13 on other sites) IT SMELLS DIVINE.
  2. Orange Blossom Water (averages $7 on other shopping sites)
  3. Anise Cookies ($5-6 on other sites)
  4. Couscous (I couldn't find the precooked, but another site sells a box of this size Dari brand couscous for $16.95)
  5. Couscous Sauce
  6. Paprika Crackers
  7. Harissa (averages $7 on other shopping sites)
  8. Kefta Rub Spice Blend

I haven't made anything out of this box although I am planning on using the spice mix, harissa, couscous and couscous sauce to make a pot of couscous with. 

Do you have any ideas for the orange blossom water?

Also, if you'd like to give this service a try, use this link for two free boxes with the purchase of a subscription.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cookbook Review: Cuba! Recipes and Stories From the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy

With the warming of  the  relationship between Cuba and the USA I find this book especially timely and interesting. Goldberg, Kuhn and Eddy actually traveled to Cuba to explore it's cuisine and culture. The recipes range from staples of the Cuban diet to updated versions of classics. The book is divided into ten main chapters. It begins with cooking the basics-beans, rice, sofrito. and them moves on to different sin categories of Cuban food- including a section for Cuban Chinese, and my favorite-desserts!

I made the Cuban fried chicken recipe  and it was fantastic. It will most likely be my "go-to" recipe for fried chicken. The one thing I didn't like about the recipe was that it didn't give a time estimate. It just assumed you knew what to do. Other recipes that have made it onto my "must make" short list include Mojito Cake,  Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Shredded Beef with Fried Eggs, Mojo and Yuca.

While the recipes seem like winners, this book does have a few downsides. The (stunning) photography is clearly the focus of the book and because of this the recipe text is too small, I have average eyesight and have to bring the book close to my face to read it. Also, the book tries to explore the lives of the people behind the food but falls short. The writing about the people and culture is done in a "tell" vs. "show" style and it made me not want to continue reading. I would have loved to had more background on the people the culinary trio met and had it told in a more narrative style, rather than this is what we did, this is what he said. I much preferred the writing style found in Victuals than this one.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book Review: My Brother's Keeper by Rodd Gragg

My Brother's Keeper chronicles the actions of 30 Christians who risked everything to save others during the Holocaust. School teachers, men, women, business owners, doctors. The people profiled  ranged in profession, social class and income level yet they all chose to selflessly follow their heart. Some saved children, friends, co-workers or strangers. Others died trying.

The profiles are in narrative style and are easy to follow. The stories are woefully gripping. You want to keep reading, yet you almost cannot bear to continue. Gragg writes about a time period in history were it seemed many were faithless yet the faithful come to light in this book.

 This book is especially timely as it reminds those who do believe to stand up for what is right and to leave the consequences to God. It is a very convicting, emotional read. What would you do when faced with the decisions these 30 faced?

I highly recommend My Brother's Keeper and will be reading some of  Gragg's other works as well.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Book Review: Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn S. Buse

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity comes from NASA engineer Cathryn Buse. Buse noticed that many of her colleagues had deep doubts and criticisms about Christianity. Searching for a way to communicate God's love to the logic minded, Buse wrote Teaching Others to Defend Christianity to fill a gap she felt lacking in most ministries. Eventually, Buse founded Defend the Faith Ministry to help others learn how to better explain their faith in Jesus.

In Teaching Others  Buse moves the critical thinking reader from a belief in an absence of any god to belief in the Christian God and the redeeming love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in six logic based lessons. Buse expertly applies the laws of logic, philosophical principles and  scientific facts to lead the reader down a path of realizing the Christian truth. She breaks down proven or everyday sceanarios using logic principles and then applies those same principles to faith. A lesson I found particularly interesting was lesson 5 which proves the validity of the New Testament through internal evidence, external evidence and bibliographical evidence. At the conclusion of each chapter is a series of thought provoking questions designed to further reinforce the lessons learned in the chapter.

The book is designed to be a teaching tool to for those wanting to teach people how to lead their friends and colleagues logically from atheism to to belief in Jesus. However, I think it is a great tool for those wanting a better understanding of the "whys" and "how comes" behind their faith or deal with the questions and criticisms presented by the media and/or atheist friends.

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

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review: Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Gunn richly paints the story of Miranda Carson's search for a father who doesn't know she exists. Miranda travels to England at Christmas time with only a photo and the name of a photography studio. She meets a cast of characters who help her along the way, one of which follows her into the next novel as a love interest. In both novels, Gunn uses delightful imagery to pain quaint and cheery Christmas scenes and lovable characters. It is easy to see why her books were chosen to become a Hallmark movie. I thought both stories were lovely and I have high hopes for Kissing Father Christmas, although it doesn't star Miranda as the protagonist.

I was glad that Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas were bound in the same volume. It makes a lovely stocking stuffer. Also, I think I would have been disappointed if  I had to purchase the novels separately as I believe they were originally attended. Separately, I feel as they are more like novellas than novels. I think Finding and Engaging work together perfectly as one story.

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

Sunday, 2 October 2016

ATM Favorite Cookbook: Victuals by Ronni Lundy

I was thrilled the moment I unearthed this book from its packaging. The cover is beautiful. The recipes are delicious. The research is well done and the stories beautifully told. It wonderfully explains the food of the past and present NC mountains. Can we just say that I am in love with this book?

This is one beauty that will not be leaving my shelf. Victuals is what you get when a well written history books and a delightful cookbook come together as one.

I made a huge list of recipes that I wanted to try from this book but thus far I have made:

Remembrances of Jerry's Past Chili- This chili was fabulously meaty. I can see why it inspires memories. My husband would have preferred more heat but I think it can go either way.

Doorbell Pork with Hominy and Greens. I subbed spinach for this but it turned out just as I imagined. My pork chops looked pretty much like the picture. This recipe is a prime example of how well written the recipes are and how simple they are to follow.

Cornbread- My cornbread turned out gritty. This is most likely user error. It smelled heavenly, thanks to the bacon grease.

Cornbread Soup- I thought this soup was a brilliant idea but I didn't really care for it. I thought the combination of buttermilk, leeks and celery was just too tangy for my liking.

Chipped Ham with Bigger Isn't Better Buttermilk Biscuits- The gravy is delicious. The biscuits are superb and simple and I will definitely be adding them to my repertoire.

Chicken and Dumplings-These are all the way from scratch y'all. And they are banging. Good flavor and the chicken was so juicy. I didn't have a lemon so I used an orange. Perfection. I'd make the roasted chicken again as a standalone main. It was so easy! I still can't get over how tender and juicy the chicken was.

I think I loved this book so much because, I, too, am from the porch sitting people that Lundy shares stories about and I dream of being a porch sitter in the hills of North Carolina. Victuals has inspired me to check out Mr. Lundy's other books.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Opinions are 100% mine and 100% honest.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Try the World Box 3: Italy

My 3rd Try the World box came last week!

For those new to Try the World, it's a subscription service where each month you receive a box with 7-8 products from that month's featured country. Boxes cost $39 a month. You can read about my other Try the World boxes here.

This month's featured country was Italy. I was so excited when I made this discovery as I love to eat Italian food but don't cook it very often because...nerves!

Here's what came in this month's box:

From left to right: truffle zest (retails at $12.90), balsamic vinegar, hazelnut cream (retails at $10.50) and pesto (retails at $8.90) 

From left to right/back to front: pappardelle (retails at $8.00), coffee, amaretti (retails at $6.90), and mushroom risotto (retails around $13.00)

I didn't search prices on all of items and we already hit over $40 in value. I have gotten more than my money's worth with every box. Also, I love that Try the World sends items I may not think to try on my own.

This is my 3rd box and each box has had a healthy mix of ready to cook items (risotto), pantry staples (vinegar) and treats (amaretti).

Out of this book, I think I will make:

  • Pesto pappardelle (pesto and pasta)
  • Risotto (risotta and truffle zest)
  • Tiramisu (with the coffee)
  • Hazelnut Zabaglione (hazelnut cream)
If you'd like to give Try the World a whirl, you can sign up HERE. I will get $15 store credit for anyone who signs up with that link.

Any questions? Or recipe ideas?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Mila's Story

When we were in Korea we came across a Facebook ad trying to find a home for a Husky. An American sailor was being deployed to Spain and huskies are on the aggressive dog list there so he couldn't take his dog with him.

We debated and we agonized but we eventually send the sailor a message. We agonized a bit more and then they brought Mila to see us.

My husband met the sailor at the McDonald's and they drove back to our apartment together. He said as soon as Mila saw him, she licked his face.

When they got to our apartment, Mila strode right in and plopped down on a chair. Like she'd been there all along.

We adopted Mila and slowly adjusted to a routine with her. She loved going for walks at the track in the park. Children loved coming up to her. They thought she was a wolf but once they realized she would play they were delighted. Mila was too, she loves children.

Once, we came across a toddler wearing squeaky shoes and Mila couldn't decide what to do! She couldn't decide if the wee one was a child or a giant squeaky toy.

Some adults and older children were mean to her, throwing stones or trying to kick her. Pets are still are relatively new thing in Korea and most people saw her as dirty and scary.

Mila was very well trained. When we first adopted her she was trained to ring a bell when she wanted to go out to pee. We quickly ended that ritual when we realized she was ringing the bell when she wanted to go play outside.

She would play with a giant tug of war rope, she'd "dig" in her giant blanket and play keep away. She had a tiny stuffed giraffe that we called her baby. She couldn't sleep if the giraffe was in a different room and she was always trying to take it out to pee with her.

Mila came at the perfect time as my husband and I were both struggling with different issues. Mila taught me about love and about sacrifice and I'm sure she taught my husband some things too,

One morning we woke up and our electricity was off. I walked the dog and left Mike to sort it out. When Mila and I returned, I let her off the leash. Mike took me out into the hallway to show me the fuse box and to explain what had happened to the electricity (long story short on that one- we lived next to a divorced women whose drunk ex husband would show up late at night and bang forever on the door. We think he shut off our electric, thinking it was hers.)

During this process, Mila came and stood in the hallway with us.

And in the blink of an eye, she was down the stairs and out the door to the apartment building (Another long story short: our downstairs neighbor liked to go crank his car and then  go back inside to wait for it to warm up. He always left the apartment building door open in the meantime. Between me going up and Mila coming down, he'd gone out, started his car, came back in and left the door open)/

We searched, we papered, we called. We posted. We hiked around the river with her treats, her toys, her bells. My husband hiked with one of our flyers posted on his back.

We cried and we searched some more. Our dear Korean friend, Vanessa, drove us for hours around the city, around the river where we'd gotten a report of sighting.

A military friend reported that the security guards at her apartment complex had tried to catch a female husky but she was too fast. It had to be Mila.

And then Animal Rescue called Vanessa. They had received a call from someone who reported that their neighbor was keeping a husky locked in an outdoor closet. The man was famous for eating and selling big dogs for meat.

We went to his house with Vanessa and Animal Control. They yelled at each other.

He had another dirty, big dog chained up outside. The dog flinched whenever the man approached.

The man showed his empty closet. Vanessa translated that he did have Mila but that one day when he opened the closet door she bolted and he couldn't catch her.

My Mila. My sweet, smart Mila. I hope he was telling the truth. I hope she ran. I hope she ran and ran until someone kind found her and helped her. I hope someone with children found her and took her home. And that she has beautiful children to play with.-children who don't have  squeaky shoes.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Book Review: Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker

Wow! What an encouraging read.

Jen tells her story in her debut book, Everything is Possible. Jen's life is a living embodiment of Philippians 4:13. Born without legs, and abandoned by her birth parents Jen found a way, to not just survive but to thrive. Jen lives a very full life with Christ at it's foundation.

Jen doesn't think of herself as handicapped and has never let her missing limbs slow her down. In fact, she seems to prefer moving around without her prosthetics better than with them. Jen learned to play sports and drive just like any other child. Now, she's an aerialist who toured with Brittany Spears! Jen published a portion of her dream list inside the book and I believe she will accomplish it all. She lives fearlessly and tries to teach us how in her book.

I breezed through reading Everything is Possible because it was just like chatting with my best friend. It's tone is bubbly and conversational. It's easy to fly through, soaking in bits and pieces of Jen's story and  attitude as you go. Although it is an "easy read" it contains great "meat" and is a book I anticipate coming back to again and again and taking away new lessons each time-just like spending time with an old friend!

I'm truly thankful that Jen was inspired to write such a book and have followed her on Facebook to see what she does next!

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

Friday, 9 September 2016

Book Review: Successful Women of the Bible by Katata Washington Patton

Successful Women of the Bible takes us through the lives of both well known and lesser known women in the Bible. It explores the lives of women like Miriam and Deborah as well Lois and Eunice and the values that can be derived out of their words and actions in order to teach us how to successfully live as biblical women.

I found this book really refreshing. It was approachable, not preachy. I liked how Patton told each woman's story, give each woman a modern "voice", explained the woman's story and the importance of her life and actions and then follows up with an "action plan" or "mission statement" for how we can try to live like the role models she discusses. I've read other books that venture to give Biblical characters fictionalized voices but push the limits of either belief or scriptural credibility and Patton's account does neither.

I think Successful Women of the Bible is a great jumping off point for a study focusing on women of the Bible. It's a book that encourages us to read God's Word and grow in Christ.

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

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Meet Sweet Sadie

One of the big differences between my husband and I is that he is a animal lover and I am well...not. We had pets growing up-golden retrievers and stray cats by the handful as well as my favorite, EB, our bunny.  However, they were outside pets. I could spend time with them if and when I wanted but they never really entered into my domain.

Since we've been married, my husband has really wanted a pet and I had been adamantly opposed. That's why, a few years ago, I made it my goal to adopt a pet that wasn't of the the rock genus. That's why we adopted our husky Mila. whose story I will tell later.

So it's been a while since we've had a pet and I could tell my hubby really missed having an animal around. While I've warmed up to the idea of having a pet, I really am 100% fine without ever being a pet owner again, and truthfully, I still feel like I could leave it. I enjoy them, but for me the payoff just isn't there but since it is there for my husband and he has agreed to do the majority of the messy work, we decided to adopt a pet from the Humane Society.

Enter Sadie:

She is a two year old golden retriever and basset hound mix.

She's a goober who likes to sleep with her head slightly under the pillow.

You can see her tail wagging in this picture. If someone is talking, her tail is wagging. It doesn't matter that you aren't talking to her.

She's tired after a long walk. 

Sadie had pretty bad separation anxiety that we are trying to ease with crate training but other that she is a pretty sweet dog. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Review: JumpStart Your Priorites by John C. Maxwell

This book is broken down into 90 page segments. Each segment contains two pages. The first page contains an inspirational quote or verse and the second page consists of an assignment or exercise with space for writing or journaling. The topics fall in twelve different categorizes including attitude, health, family, faith and growth. The exercises range from self assessments to writing goals to writing declarations.

I really like that this book is broken down into bite-sized pieces. It makes making an improvement plan seem a lot more manageable. I think the premise of the book- that your success depends on your daily agenda- is very true. I also liked that the book has a workbook where you can apply the principles that Maxwell talks about.

However, a found the book to be a bit repetitive. I felt like it was more "90 days of advice on how to start getting serious about your priorities" than an "90-day improvement plan". But I guess, if the sole goal is after 90 days that you are more focused then it is an improvement. I guess from all the "hype" about Maxwell being a #1 author I expected a little more. All in all, it's not a bad book, but I wouldn't buy it for a friend.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Try Around The World Box 2: Sweden!

As, I mentioned in last month's post I signed up for Try the World on a promotional deal. I received a free box with purchase (take advantage of that deal HERE). My first box, was from Brazil.

My free box was the Sweden box. It contains a card explaining the Swedish traditions of fikka and smorgasbord. Fikka is basically a tea break. Smorgasbord, a more well know term, means having a variety of foods out. The card broke down the best ways to use the included ingredients as either fikka or smorgasbord.

In my Sweden box, I received:

A box of oatmeal chocolate sandwich cookies (they included a recipe for a cookie milkshake I can'r t wait to try!), flat bread crisps and a box of licorice 

A good sized bottle of elderflower syrup-a $13-$18 value!!(Any good baking recipes, anyone?)

Nordic fudge (yum!), Lingonberry jam-a $10-$12 value (also yum) and sweet and hot honey mustard
Not pictured: a bag of coffee

Again, I think Try the World hit it out out of the park on this one. I received 8 different items in different food categories (treats, ingredients and condiments). I wish the fudge bag was a little bigger but overall I think the value was definitely there! I am excited to see what my September box holds.

If you'd like to take advantage of the same free box with purchase promotion, use THIS LINK.

For other Try the World reviews, click HERE.

For other subscription box reviews, click HERE.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Book Review: Feisty and Feminine by Penny Young Nance

Penny Nance is the CEO and president of Concerned Women for America and her book inspired me to be just that-concerned-for America, along with those who do not share my faith.

Nance's book is a rallying cry of sorts, for concerned, conservative women who have stayed silent for far too long. We've remained silent for a variety of reasons including fear. Nance's book is filled with statistics and stories to motivate as well as useful strategies to help enact change. Her book covers topics ranging from the devaluation of women, marriage, abortion, women in foreign policy and life balance. Each chapter is broken into two sections, the facts about the topic and ways that Nance encourages conservative women to change the world around them. The book is also peppered with profiles of successful women who hold conservative values,

Many of Nance's arguments had me chanting "yes yes yes!" as I realized that she was articulating ideas, emotions and beliefs that I had but couldn't express. Other topics, I didn't know as much about going into her book but Nance managed to bring me quickly to speed and left me with a passion to know more and do more.

If you're a conservative woman who's sick of having her values and opinions pushed aside or even mocked, this is definitely for you. If you're a conservative woman whose been fueling a silent fire, this is the book for you. If you're informed or uninformed about the issues in today's world, this book is for you. If you're informed you're glean new strategies and if your're uninformed you'll be prepared and educated. I've already started texting my friends pictures of this book as a must read. It is educational, inspirational and confirmational all in one book.

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

Sunday, 31 July 2016

ATM Favorite Thing: Try the World

After eyeing the subscription service Try the World for quite some time, I finally decided to take the plunge on a promotional deal for a free box with purchase.

So, I paid the monthly subscription fee of $39 and anxiously waited for the mail.

A little over a week after my purchase my two Try the World boxes arrived.

(These boxes are quite sturdy and could easily be re-purposed as gift boxes or to hold craft supplies)

After opening the boxes, I was so happy to have purchased a subscription.

I received eight items in each box. Here's what came in my Brazil box:

Churraso spice rub, Churrasco bbq sauce and  Jabuticaba jam
I tend to collect jams to use in fillings. I'm also excited about cooking some meat flavored with the Churrasco spices. 

Brazil nut cookies, Brazil nut spread and Pao de Quito mix
I can't wait to make the cheese bread for my husband's Brazilian coworker. 

Guava paste
Cupcake filling anyone?

Not pictured: A box of Brazilian coffee

All of the items were actually from Brazil, not Americanized versions. I looked up the price of the guava paste on Amazon. I couldn't find the the same brand but packages this size ranged from $8-$10. Overall, I think this subscription is a really good value and I am excited to see what I will receive next. If you'd like to try the world yourself, use THIS LINK and you'll get the same promotion I did-a free box!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Book Review: How Do I Love Thee?- Jennifer Flanders

I was so excited when I laid eyes on this cool journal.

It is filled with illustrations (great for those stricken with the color craze!), bible verses and quotes about marriage. There's prompts and plenty of space to write and doodle to your hearts content. I love spending a little bit of extra time thinking about my marriage and reminiscing about our dating days, engagement and wedding day.The illustrations are very cute-like a classy version of the popular ecards!

Here's a peek inside:

I really like that the pages don't have to be completed in any particular order. Depending on my mood, I can choose to color and reflect on a verse, research a topic in the Bible, write out my thoughts about marriage and God's plan or spend some time on memory lane.

I think this would be a great gift, especially for a newlywed, but really for any married lady.

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

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Stitchfix! What were you thinking?!

In June, I decided to order a second Stitchfix box. I rated my first box as an 8/10. If I'd had a coupon referral or a few things fit just a little better I would have kept all of the items.

My second box? I gave it a 3/10. It had two items in it that I actually liked and one of them I'd requested. I kept the dress I requested but the shorts that I thought were cute were too big and too pricey.

I feel like Stitchfix pulled a bait and switch. My first box was great, but the box where I had a referral coupon to spend was pretty terrible. I'd really wanted a second box filled with summer styles and colors. I went in financially prepared to buy the whole box- I had the buy all 5 items discount, plus a coupon and was so excited. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.

Here's what they sent:

These shoes were over $100! I'm not a fan of snakeskin, or the bendy flats- there's just not enough support. Also, my stylist mentioned something else she send would pair well with a kitten heel but sent me these.

I'm not a pink fan, but I didn't check the "avoid" box for this color because I do wear it sometimes. However, this shirt hung so awkwardly on me. 

I like these shorts. In fact, I used to have a similar pair but they were too big and if I remember correctly over or around $50.

I checked avoid purple and to me this dress looks pink, purple and blue. It was insanely comfortable but not very flattering. Also, I thought the print made it look like pajamas.

I kept this dress and I love it. But, I requested it so I already knew that I would like the print and cut, it was just a matter of fit and price.  My heads cut out in this picture because it had just finished storming and my head was soaked from the rain!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Weight Loss Goals + a Review

During the two years that I spent in Korea, I lost somewhere around 10-15 pounds. I was eating smaller portions and exercising 3-5 times a week, in addition to walking everywhere I wanted to go. My abs were gaining definition, my thighs slimmed down and I felt very confident about my strength and my body. I did things like participate in a pickup basketball game because I could actually run around without getting out of breath in the first five minutes.

Fast forward a bit. I've been home 10 months and I've gained back all of the weight plus some. Running on the treadmill feels like a chore but I have mixed feelings about running outside, mostly its a mix of anxiety about safety and a lack of confidence. Some have said that I look like a praying mantis when I run. When I was in Korea, I didn't care what people thought, for the most part I was ignored. Now, I'm worried about catcalls or pointing and laughing. Thanks, America.

I hate this.

Anyway, when I was in Korea and back when I lived in PA I participated in a challenge inspired by Six Sisters Stuff and that worked well to inspire and motivate me. If you're looking for accountability I would definitely suggest starting a challenge with your friends and family. 

The success I had with the challenge made me very excited to try one of Six Sisters Strong fitness programs. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a complimentary copy of the 4 Week Home Workout Program and Menu Plan in exchange for a review.

I really enjoyed both the exercise and menu parts of the plan. The exercise plan consists of different interval workouts combined with cardio. I think the combination is very important. I didn't lost much weight in Korea until I started running. The interval exercises keeps me focused on intensity and prevents my mind from wandering like it does when I go to the gym alone.

The plan offers two choices of meal plans. I followed the simpler plan simply because it was all my schedule allowed at the time. I'm getting ready to start the plan again and plan on trying the more in depth eating plan this go around. I found the simple eating plan to be varied and sufficient. I certainly didn't go hungry

During my first two weeks I lost 6 pounds!

And then I went on vacation!

Which is why I'm about to start the plan over. I highly recommend purchasing a plan. This plan was perfect for me because the exercises were challenging but not difficult. I mean that I worked up a sweat and had sore muscles but that the moves don't require much skill to execute. Perfect for the clumsy.  Now, this program worked for me but it does take dedication to to do the full workout and to stick with it. But it is worth it! Also, I think (vacation days notwithstanding) the eating plan is fairly easy to adapt to your daily life once you have hit your weight loss goal. You can just fit your favorite recipes into the recommended rations and serving sizes once you get to the point where you are just trying to maintain. 

If you need extra accountability, they also offer a personalized plan with check ins from a coach. 

What kind of workouts work best for you? Any weight loss tips?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Pantry Challenge!

Merissa from Little House Living has challenged her readers to eat down their pantries and freezers. This challenge came at the perfect time for me as I have just under 2 weeks until my next big grocery shopping trip and my hubby has challenged me to spend as little as possible over the next two weeks.

Tonight  I did a quick freezer and pantry inventory and then made a list of meals that I think I can make completely out of the times in my fridge, freeze and pantry.


I have a gallon bag full of scones in the freezer. These are either from Jessica Fisher or Alana Chernila, 


(1) grilled ham and cheese
(3) cinnamon apple oatmeal
(1-2) Tuna salad on Triscuits


(3-4) Curry porkchops with rice and broccoli
(2) Turkey Pasta Salad
(1) Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich
(2) Turkey, black bean and tomato bowl
(1) bacon, egg and grits or bacon, egg and toast
(3-4) HomemadeTuna Helper
(4-5) Quiche (either veggie or leftover turkey/bacon with onions and bell pepper)

Raisins/Raisins with PB
Hot chocolate or chocolate milk

If my leftovers don't give me enough lunches once my "lunch menu" is finished I will allow a purchase of deli meat and cheese to go with the loaves of bread in my freezer.

I'm also planning on tidying up my freezer by making a batch of chicken broth and vegetable broth out of the assorted bags of bones and veggies hiding out in my freezer.

What are your favorite "go to" pantry meals? Also, have you ever done a challenge like this? How did it go? Any tips?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Book Review: They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz

In They Say We Are Infidels Mindy Belz goes into an in-depth explanation of the politics and people of the Middle East, focusing on the persecution of Christians by ISIS. Belz meets and becomes personally involved with different individuals in order to best tell their stories from their view. One such individual is Insaf Safou who Belz helps smuggle money to her friends and relatives in Iraq sent by exiled Christian Iraqis living in Canada. Belz tells this story and many like it, of people trying to liberate kidnapped Christians, of people trying to build a "normal" life amidst the chaos and persecution.

Belz does a wonderful job of providing a background and context for the events being covered in today's media. They Say We are Infidels  is thoroughly researched and well written. I find it a very necessary book to help those who want to go deeper than your standard news article about the middle east. That being said, I wish there were more personal stories or perhaps a more personable writing style. Belz is a journalist at heart and the book is very journalistic. I feel like I would have retained more if the book read a little more like an novel than a term paper. Overall, I found Belz's book to be very educational but not easy for the average Joe to understand,

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