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!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Better Late Than Never: 2017 Word of the Year

I know. It's February. We're usually past the resolution making stage at this point and a pinky-toe into the resolution breaking one now.

My word of the year is going to be ENJOY.

I chose ENJOY this year because I find that I am often rushing from one thing to the next and I want to take time to slow down and actually enjoy the things I am doing.

Working two jobs often leaves me feeling rushed and like I got nothing accomplished other than punching the time clock so I want to make sure I:

-enjoy more time with my husband
-enjoy cooking again
-make time to relax
-find time to enjoy my hobbies: reading and crafting
-find time to enjoy the writing process again. Writing is one of my passions and it has been getting shoved the the side lately.


What are you wanting to focus on this year?


Monday, 6 February 2017

Hearty Southern Salad

Instead of our traditional meeting, my cookbook club hosted a Friendsgiving party in November.  In addition to cornbread stuffing, I took a satisfying salad. Y'all, this salad was so good we ate it without dressing. If you want dressing, I'd suggest Buttermilk Ranch, Italian or a honey balsamic.

Mix equal portions torn or chopped spinach and arugula. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped bell pepper, diced Vidalia onion and quarter sized slices of (soaked, cooked and cooled)  country ham. Add about 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar, if desired. 

For croutons, make Bigger Isn't Better Buttermilk Biscuits with the smallest biscuit cutter. Cool biscuits and then toast under broiler until desired crispiness. Toss into salad. Be sure to add the croutons last as they will eventually soften once mixed with the rest of the salad


Friday, 3 February 2017

Try the World Box #6: Peru

December's box was Peru. How cool.

Inside this box, I received:




I am very excited to try the quinoa avocado salad recipe that came in the box. It looks delicous and i was suprised to hear my husband say he'd try it. He's an avacoado fan (is there anyone who isn't?) but I didn't think he'd be up for trying the quinoa.

I did sneak a handful of the cocoa nibs and blueberry mix and it is very bitter! I can see why Try the World recommends mixing it into granola ...it definitely needs some sweet!

I'm also excited to try the yellow pepper paste. I think my husband will probably like it.

6 boxes...I'm one box away from being halfway through my subscription (my first month was a 2 for one promo) and I can honestly say I'm very pleased with the subscription service and the product quality. I love having new and interesting foods delivered right to my door.

Click on over to see what this month's promo deal is.




Monday, 30 January 2017

Stitchfix # 4: Love at Last

I'd heard it said many times...it takes awhile.

I'd read that line on a few blog reviews of Stitchfix, but I thought, surely not with me, I've set up a Pinterest board, left detailed notes, surely they will "nail" my style right off the bat.

But I was wrong. My first fix was semi-me. I kept one thing each from my second and third fix, and hated almost everything they sent. But Stichfix is a customer service oriented company and they emailed me asking for a chance to make it right. They waived my styling fee and let me chat via email with my stylist. She sent me a list of questions which I answered. I also went through and updated my Pinterest board.

And my stylist nailed it! (Disclaimer: my husband took these photos during the commercial break of a game so please excuse the quality. I'm not sure what was going on with the lighing? Maybe the TV?)

A super cute dress:


A lovely lace skirt in my favorite color: and a comfy yet classic cardigan:
 (Sadie's not sure what's going on.)


A beautiful blue top that was very similar to one I own (pic to terrible to share!)and a totally adorable striped tee:
(I really don't know what was going on here. The stripes were not diaganol and there is a cute pocket that you can't see. Next time, I'm inviting my professional photograper sister over! And of course, my dog is still confused.)


I kept the dress, skirt and cardigan. I sent back the tank top because it was too similar to a piece I already own. I also sent back the t-shirt because I didn't feel it was worth the price. I'd pick up a piece like that for $15 on clearance, not spend around $40.

I love Stitchfix because I can never quite make up my mind and the narrow it down to pieces  that stand a pretty good chance of fitting and being my style. I am super excited that they offer exchanges now because I really loved the first pair of jeans they sent me but they were a little big.

If you'd like to give Stitchfix a try, click here to get started!

* The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a Stitchfix credit if you make a purchase. However, the opinions are 100% mine and 100% honest. You can check out my other subscription box posts and reviews.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Try the Wolrld #5: Michelin Holiday Box

I love that Try the World does a holiday box. They are putting together a "love" themed box for Valentine's day too!

The following items were in my holiday box:

(Not pictured: a box of British tea)

I am in LOVE with the gingersnap cookies and will probably be purchasing them again. I'm not a huge maple fan, but I did like the maple short bread cookies.

I tried the Taiwanese pineapple cakes. While the packaging was adorable, I found the cakes to be too sweet. I experienced this overly sweet taste a lot in Korea as well. I wonder if it is an "Asian" thing for desserts to be more sugary than flavorful?

I'm not a toffee lover but this toffee was the best I'd had, good enough to at least make me a toffee eater! :)

I can't wait to make cookies with the date spread and try out the french spice cake mix.

If you're interested in Try the World, now's the perfect time because they are partnering again with Michelin for a Valentine's day box.

I've always gotten AT LEAST$39 in product valu with a good mix of items. If you want to give it a whirl, sign up HERE.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Book Review: The Great Good Thing A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan

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This is the true story of Andrew Klavan's journey to faith in Christ. It starts when he's a child, tells of his dysfunctional family, how he became a writer, how he developed his views on religion and moves on to how he married and created his own dysfunctional family. Eventually Klavan realizes that the thing he's searching for as he writes his novels has been calling to him all alone, and that is not, in fact, a thing, but God.

I so desperately wanted to love this book, It should be a very interesting, the shift of a world view as an agnostic Jew comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, I found this book painful to finish, and in the end, know very little more about Klavan's journey. I know about his life, and the events surrounding a shift, but there really isn't any interior "path" to follow or understand. Also, Klavan's writing is very hard to follow-he rambles a lot. It's more like an unedited journal entry than a book. I suppose that could be intentional, showing his inner thoughts, interior dialogue and all that but really, it is just annoying. I wanted to be able to recommend this book because I find conversion stories so intriguing and was hoping to learn a new way to relate to those raised the way Klavan was, but, unfortunately, this book was pure torment to read.

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

Monday, 2 January 2017

Audiobook Review: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller



The story opens with pastry chef Olivia Rawlings making a Baked Alaska to serve at the anniversary party of the hotel in which she works. That parrticular choice was the prefernce of Olivia's boss and boyfriend. Olivia parades the flaming dessert around the party room and after catching sight of her boyfriend with his wife and children, drops the dessert and lights the entire room on fire. Released from her duties, Oliva's flight instict kicks in and she drives overnight to her best friends house and indulges in a night of self-pity and binge drinking.


I'd like to know what happens next, but I could not continue listening to the audiobook any furhter. Jorjeana Marie is the narrator but perhaps she should stick with acting and comedy. Her narration is sardonic, her voice grating. Despite being intrigued by the story, I could not bear to listen past the 30 minute mark of the CD. Did noone on the procudtion team listen to this before it was released? Perhaps the protganist IS a sarcastic nitwit, but until I checkout the paperback version from my library, I will not know as I could not get past the narration. If the narrator is channeling the protganoist's personality, it is entirely too overdone.

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