Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

With beguiling recipes and sumptuous photography, A Kitchen in France transports readers to the French countryside and marks the debut of a captivating new voice in cooking.

When Mimi Thorisson and her family moved from Paris to a small town in out-of-the-way Médoc, she did not quite know what was in store for them. She found wonderful ingredients—from local farmers and the neighboring woods—and, most important, time to cook. Her cookbook chronicles the family’s seasonal meals and life in an old farmhouse, all photographed by her husband, Oddur. Mimi’s convivial recipes—such as Roast Chicken with Herbs and Crème Fraîche, Cèpe and Parsley Tartlets, Winter Vegetable Cocotte, Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water, and Salted Butter Crème Caramel—will bring the warmth of rural France into your home.

My thoughts- 

French cuisine may rank at the highest of my culinary list, so I am always excited to come across a good French cookbook. In my experience, even the easiest of French recipes turn out to be delicious and taste like you have put tons of effort into them. A Kitchen in France doesn't have a lot of simple recipes, but what it does have are mouthwatering recipes that will impress anyone you are cooking for. I would probably use this book more for dinner parties and special occasions, but I would definitely cook some of these desserts on an anytime basis. I love the beautiful pictures of the food and life around the farmhouse. This is a lovely book that you could even set out as a coffee table book or leave out on a beautiful cookbook stand in your kitchen (that is what I plan to do with my copy! It will go perfectly with my French theme!) Perhaps my favorite part of the book is how it is organized. Each season has it's own section beginning with spring and ending with winter. On each section's title page there is a break down of each recipe in three sections- starters, main courses and desserts. The way the book is organized is why I feel like it would be a great book for a dinner party. No matter which season you are in, it gives you several choices from each type of food, so there are tons of great recipes to mix and match to make a perfect seasonal French dinner party. I would recommend this book to the home cook who enjoys exploring cuisines from other regions as well as any Francofiles who just enjoy having a little piece of France around!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Asperger Syndrome: The Oasis Guide by Patricia Romanowski Bashe (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Since 2001, The OASIS Guide has been the reliable, comprehensive, authoritative guide to Asperger syndrome. This fully revised, updated, and expanded edition captures the latest in research, strategies, and parenting wisdom, and delivers it all in the empathetic, practical, and hope-filled styleThe OASIS Guide is famous for. Author Patricia Romanowski Bashe has revised this edition of Asperger Syndrome to reflect the latest in: 
·Working with Professionals: building a team, negotiating for your child, and keeping everyone’s focus on high expectations for academic, social, and emotional success.
·Special Education: from early intervention through transition, college, and other postsecondary options, including how special education works and steps to take when it does not.
· Health and Safety: sexuality education, health care, and insurance coverage, as well as understanding the real-life health and safety risks children with AS face and learning the steps that only parents can take to protect them.
·Options and Interventions: with an emphasis on established guidelines for evidence-based treatments, including medication, applied behavior analysis, cognitive-behavior therapy, Social Stories, Comic Strip Conversations, and much more. 
·Planning for the Future: Teaching today for independence tomorrow.
For anyone else with a life touched by AS, Asperger Syndrome: The OASIS Guide is packed with resources to handle any situation, from understanding a diagnosis, realistically evaluating options and interventions, and nurturing the whole child with an eye to emotional health, happiness, and independence in school, at home, and among friends. Raising young people with AS to grow up successful, safe, independent, and happy is the goal. Asperger Syndrome: The OASIS Guide is your map.

My thoughts-

I do not think at this point in my life that there are many people that I know who have been affected by austim in some way. Asperger's Syndrome has come more to the forefront in the last decade. It has been around far longer than that, but now that there are more people (particularly doctors and specialists) aware of it and what to look for, it is not as hard to come by a diagnosis as it once was. There are a few people in my own family who have been diagnosed with Asperger's. One of them did not get a concrete diagnosis until they were an adult because of how little was known about this syndrome in years past. Since Asperger's has personally touched my life in several very personal ways, I wanted to have a guide book on hand that I could turn to and be able to learn more about it. The Oasis Guide is a very large book. I have found it to be quite comprehensive and detailed. The author clearly is an authority on the subject and offers page upon page of advice on pretty anything relating to Aspergers (what Asperger's is, getting a diagnosis, different types of tests that might be done to reach the diagnosis, what kinds of specialists to see, how to cope, finding support groups, medicine, special education, ect.) Overall, I feel like it will be a very helpful book. The one thing I did not like about this book is that it is clear that the author does not have room in her thoughts for alternative medicine. I am definitely not a doctor or a specialist, but I do not think there is anything wrong with seeking alternatives to medication. I do think that medicines have their place, but I do not see anything wrong with seeking the thoughts of others and coming at it with an integrative mind set. That alone would not make me disregard this book. I think there is great advice in here and it is very helpful that it spans from childhood to adulthood in it's advice. I recommend this book to really anyone because whether you know it or not, you have probably met someone with Asperger's. Perhaps reading a book like this would help the "neuro-typical" population get a better grasp on the thought process of someone with Asperger's. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a better understanding of Asperger's, especially if someone close to you has been diagnosed. This is a book you can turn to year after year for reference.   

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.


My thoughts- 

When there are multiple points of view from the characters in novels, sometimes things get a little too complicated or the author works so hard to give the back story that there just really ends up not being much to the characters overall. That was not the case with The Dress Shop of Dreams. Menna Van Praag did an excellent job of switching effortlessly between several characters throughout the story without losing the story in the midst of it all. I think when a novel interweaves several story lines and several points of view and it is done right, it really adds to the overall gelling of the story.  I think the title of the novel would probably lead people to believe that this is chick-lit, but I found this to be an entertaining contemporary novel that I think both men and women alike will enjoy. There is a little touch of mystery as Cora explores her parents death and learns whether it was really the accident that it seems. There are several love stories interwoven throughout and a little bit of magic that may guide some of that along. I really enjoyed seeing the change in cold, very scientific minded Cora, after some of Etta's magic. Every now and then when I read a book like this, in my head it read's like a play. I feel like I could easily see these characters interacting on the stage and it would flow so well. I love theatre and it takes a special novel to play out in my head specifically like that. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.

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The Dress Shop of Dreams will be available December 30. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.com.





Sunday, November 16, 2014

Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht Review + Giveaway

Disclosure of material connection- I was provided a copy of the book from the publisher via the Family Christian Stores Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book (from Goodreads)-

"Messy Beautiful Love" delivers an incredible testimony of grace that offers hope for today's marriages and a spark for rekindling love.

Love gets messy.

Financial problems, sickness, aging parents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come that threaten your marriage. No matter how long you've been married or how strong your relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.

"Messy Beautiful Love" is about cleaning up messes God's way, exchanging your ideas for His, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage has to offer.

When you surrender your relationship to God, then and only then will you experience the blessing of marriage as He intended. This is the blessing of obedience. "Messy Beautiful Love" is an invitation to that obedience. The cynical world says marriages don't last, but God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to Him. When you do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible, it's inevitable.


My thoughts-

I think it is important to continually read books about relationships, whether that be books about parenting, books about marriage or books about a relationship with God. It is vital to continually seek to improve all of these relationships and reading other people's points of view or advice is a great way to get a fresh or insightful look on things. Most books about relationships are written by people who seem like they really have it together which is totally great, but sometimes it is nice to come across a book with a person who feels more real. Who has had their downfalls. Who humbly shares their mistakes in order encourage other couples to persevere in their marriage and to continually work on it together with your spouse. Darlene Schacht definitely does that in Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages. It is evident throughout the book that Mrs. Schacht feels lead to share her testimony to encourage other couples in their relationship. There are plenty of illustrations of personal stories from Schacht's life, and great lessons tied into the telling of these stories. One of the things I like best about this book is the challenge at the end of each chapter to think about and apply to your relationship with your husband, as well as some great prayers to pray about your marriage. This would make a good book for a newlywed and a more seasoned wife alike. We can all take away lessons from this great book to apply to our marriages!

About the author-

Darlene Schacht is writer of the popular Time-Warp Wife blog and is the original founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and the Internet Cafe Devotions. She also co-authored Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness with Candace Cameron Bure. She and her husband Michael have been married for more than 25 years. Together they have 4 children.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pacific Rim Riesling + Sara Lee = A Perfect , Easy, Affordable Pair!

Disclosure of material connection- I received one or more of the products mentioned in exchange for my honest thoughts. Regardless, all opinions stated are 100% my own.

In less than two weeks, it will be time to gather around the table with our families and friends, give thanks for what we have and enjoy good food and good company. One of the biggest components of Thanksgiving is the big meal. Many of us spend hours in the kitchen preparing the perfect feast for our families and friends. The star of Thanksgiving, of course, is the turkey, but in my family a big party of Thanksgiving are the wide assortment of desserts.  We have a very large gathering, so we do things pot luck style. This Thanksgiving, let Sara Lee cover the dessert for you. They have a ton of great desserts to chose from. Some of my favorite Sara Lee desserts include pumpkin pie, pound cake and, of course, cheesecake. You can even dress up a Sara Lee dessert and make it look like you worked hours on it in the kitchen. I recently bought a Sara Lee Cheesecake, let it defrost just enough, scooped out the cheesecake, melted some chocolate to roll it around in and voila- cheesecake truffles. These made an excellent date night treat for my husband and me and paired easily with Pacific Rim's Riesling, but you could also make a huge batch to take to your Thanksgiving meal to feed everyone and take an affordable bottle of Pacific Rim Riesling as a  hostess gift!

Sara Lee and Pacific Rim make an excellent and affordable pair. They want to help make your holiday meals come together. If you head over to the Pacific Rim website, there are some other great recipes to give a try this wonderful time of year (Salted Caramel Turtle Pumpkin Pie anyone? How about Peppermint Bark cheesecake?) There is something for everyone!


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Monday, November 10, 2014

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

A heart-wrenching debut novel in the bestselling tradition of P.S. I Love You about a young woman with breast cancer who undertakes a mission to find a new wife for her husband before she passes away.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?


My thoughts-

This was an interesting premise for a book. It made me ponder if I were faced with a certain amount of time left, what would happen to the people I love after I was gone? That said, this book kind of drove me crazy. I understand the idea of wanting to make sure your husband is taken care of after your gone and I also understand keeping yourself busy to keep your mind off of things, but I want to think if I were in the same position I would try to spend every second possible with my husband, Daisy seems to be doing her best to push hers away. It becomes an obsession for her. I am sad for their marriage and for Daisy and for Jack through almost the entire story. The scenes with her and now off limits food that she knows too much about are so sad as well. I can not imagine the thought process someone who has been given months to live I just don't even know what I would do. It was a sad novel, it would be impossible to be given the subject matter, but I liked the overall tone of the story and how things ended, the last chapter of the book was definitely the highlight of Before I Go. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary fiction, especially books dealing with relationships between husbands and wives while dealing with a tragedy.

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Before I Go will be available on January 6, 2015. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the "u" back in "aUtobiography"? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light oof celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based-life-form Neil Partrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born in New Mexico, will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John's yacht. Choose correctly and you'll find fame, fortune, and true love.  Choose incorrectly and you'll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your times as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, and make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.

My thoughts-

I always loved the choose your own adventure books when I was younger, but I was terrible at adventuring through them. I would get to the page that gives you the two options and I would always hold that page with my hand and flip through to read both options. Apparently, I am no different as an adult, except that instead of flipping through to see both adventure options, I pretty much just read this book straight through. I think Neil Patrick Harris is one of the funniest, most talented actors of his generation. I loved watching him as a teen on Doogie Howser, M.D. and he was one of the funniest parts of  How I Met Your Mother, but beyond that, he is very good at hosting multiple award shows, holds his own on the Broadway stage and made one of my very favorite independent movies, Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog (if you haven't seen this, immediately look it up and watch it!). The book was great. It is obvious where the parts of the autobiography are made up and the parts that are true. I could tell I would like this book from the first few sentences where NPH talks about his parents and his brother. I loved learning about his time on set of Doogie Howser and I also really loved the several notes from people in the business he has worked with or befriended over the years. This is a happy book. It is nice to see someone in the industry so happy. Anyone who is a Neil Patrick Harris fan should read this book immediately! There are lots of really adorably awkward photos from his adolescence too and that is always fun! There were also some fun hidden gems throughout the pages- there is a "secret" page, a cryptic crossword puzzle, cocktail recipes and even a closing song. NPH is always entertaining and his foray into writing is no exception. I loved it.