Friday, December 27, 2013

A Marriage in Middlebury by Anita Higman (Book Review)

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

About the book:

One decision changed both their lives . . . but will love win in the end? Charlotte Rose Hill enjoys a comfortable life serving up country delicacies, uniquely blended teas, and matchmaking advice for her quirky, devoted customers. The only thing lacking is someone to share it with. At eighteen she denied Sam Wilder’s marriage proposal after his family convinced her to walk away from their relationship. They both moved on . . . or so she thought. When Sam walks back into her life more than a decade later, Charlotte is surprised that her heart still quickens. But is it because of his presence? Or because of the presence of Sam’s new fiancĂ©e? A second chance at love doesn’t happen often, but their past may keep them apart. Is it too late for Sam and Charlotte?


My thoughts:

This was one of those novels that grabbed my attention from the very beginning. Charlotte owns a tea room in the little town in which she grew up- how sweet is that? Right away, I cared about these characters. The whole story of why Charlotte turned down Sam's marriage proposal in their younger days isn't clear, but what is clear is that she did it to protect other people, despite how unhappy she was to do it. Bits and pieces of Sam and Charlotte's story unfold throughout the story, and they just make your heart break for her for what she has gone through. There are of course some intense and awkward moments for Charlotte since Sam is engaged. This of course leads to some conflicting feelings. There are other love stories in the novel too, which lends itself to tying up the ending in a sweet (albeit predictable) ending. Not only were the characters in this story easy to relate to, the story and mini story lines were oozing of romanticism and the quaint little town will have readers daydreaming of taking a trip there to meet all of the locals and have a tea in Charlotte's tea room. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good love story. It won't disappoint.




About the author:

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends.





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AnitaHigman.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Bouqs Co. Review


*Disclosure of material connection- I received a free bouquet in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

I know many of you don't know me on a personal level, but if you did, you would know that I love receiving flowers. There is just something that makes me feel like my home is more welcoming with a nice bouquet on the table. My husband buys me flowers all of the time throughout the year just because he knows they make me smile and make our home seem more cheery. I also love to send flowers to other people, but that can get tricky with all of the hidden costs. Your bouquet may say it is $30, but then there will be hidden fees, taxes, shipping costs, not to mention usually the lower end bouquets often do not contain enough flowers to make the arrangement look as fluffy and beautiful I was like. The last bouquet I sent to a friend set me back about $70.

The Bouqs Company is here to change all of that. It seems they love flowers as much as I do and want everyone to be able to afford to send them and to make it an easy process filled with so many options to fit every person's personal tastes. The Bouqs has flat rates on their bouquets with no hidden charges. Shipping is even included in that fee!

Register with The Bouqs & receive 20% Off your next order + Free Shipping! Get your discount code and send gorgeous flowers today. Click here!



I was sent a Bouq of my very own to review. I knew I wanted a bouquet that was orange because I was still in a fall kind of mood when I was picking out which one I wanted. I choose to get the original lilies because I knew that I would be busy this time of year and lilies are a very resilient and easy to keep flower, even if you forget to care for them every now and then. They arrived on my doorstep via FedEx and the delivery man said "oooh, this is from Ecuador" and I thought yup, that IS pretty cool. I love that these bouquets come from sustainable farms! Anyway, I brought the package in and opened it. I was very pleased to find that the bouquet was wrapped up nicely in brown paper and secured to the box so that they would make their long trip without becoming damaged. Once I took the lilies out of the box, almost all were still closed bulbs, but just hours after I put them in the vase they began to bloom. It has been about a week since I have had the lilies sitting on my dining room table. I have changed the water and cut the stems twice and almost all of the bulbs have bloomed and look gorgeous on my kitchen table!

I am very impressed with The Bouqs Co. They make ordering flowers easy by offering a few different ways to pick out your bouquets. I like that the selection of flowers has something to suite everyone's taste or for people like me who just love flowers in general, there are many different options to change things up a bit from time to time. You can search by occasion or by color and you can send one bouquet or you can choose to set an auto delivery to that someone special you want to shower with flowers. I can't wait until an occasion arises that I need or want to send a floral arrangement. I 100% know where I will be sending them from!

 *Disclosure- This post includes affliate links.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon (Book Review)

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

About the book:



On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renee Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.

After the funeral Renee's wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the "Crude Sciences."

It's there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renee can't stop herself from falling in love. It's only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried's past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems. Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.

My thoughts on the book:

I am almost always up for a YA Paranormal story. When I read the above description of Dead Beautiful I knew it would be something that I would absolutely enjoy reading. What I didn't know was that it is over 400 pages long and the funny thing is, I didn't realize that while reading it either. The story flowed so well and was so interesting, it did not at all seem like a long book. Dead Beautiful is mostly about Renee and her transition from her normal life to her new life at Gottfried Academy. She found that her parents death was odd and didn't believe the cause the medical examiner gave and once she uproots her life to Gottfried, the more she believes that something was amiss. One of the things I really liked about this book was the interesting storyline between Renee and Dante. Yes, it is the same old girl sees brooding teenage boy and there is a magnetic attraction that we have heard time and time again, but an interesting twist about the two of them at the end of the novel definitely has me ready to read the next book in this series to see what happens and to learn more about their story. I also really enjoyed the interesting and thoroughly detailed history of the Gottfried school. I can tell that author put a great deal of  effort into making sure this story  was packed with detail and that many of the questions the reader might have were answered by the end of the book. The ending was phenomenal and a great segue into the second book Love Eternal, which is without a doubt high on my to-read priority list. One of the things I was excited about hearing when I decided to read Dead Beautiful was that the 3rd book Love Reborn will be coming out in the coming year on January  7th, so I won't have to wait in between novels coming out to read the whole story. I am terrible at waiting when it comes to book series! I would recommend Dead Beautiful to anyone who enjoys YA or Paranormal stories or just has a hankering to read something a little different.

Dead Beautiful and Love Eternal are available now on and Love Reborn is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson (Cookbook Review)

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

About the book:

I am sure by now you have at least heard of a "paleo" diet. The thought behind it is to eat as our ancestors would have, namely not consuming legumes, grains or refined sugars or oils. Nearly 1.5 million people in North America follow a paleo diet. This book is full of all 100% gluten free paleo recipes that are all prepared by using a slow cooker. Many people (myself included) like the convenience of using a slow cooker to make meals quickly that are still very healthy for you.


My thoughts:

My daughter started Kindergarten this year. She has never been in a school setting before now and as the first few months of school progressed, we were getting frustrated with all of the reports we were getting about her not sitting still or following directions. We are believers in the healing power of food and that the wrong types of food can be a detriment to us, so we knew right away that we would try to eliminate gluten from her diet to see if it might help some of the issues she was having. It only took a few weeks before we noticed a difference! The problem with trying to make gluten free food is that gluten free recipes can contain hard to find ingredients or take a long time to cook. I really liked the idea of slow cooker gluten free recipes, especially paleo recipes because our family knows the best way to eat is to avoid all processed foods and that is basically what a paleo diet does. We don't always do that, but we try our best, especially now. I was so excited to discover this paleo cookbook full of slow cooker recipes and was even more ecstatic to find that it was full of recipe after recipe that sounds delicious. There is a nice introduction at the beginning of the book that explains the ins and outs of eating paleo for someone who isn't familiar with it and there is also a section on slow cooker basics. After the intro chapters, there are several chapters on different types of food and as someone who does not like to eat a ton of meat (I only eat it at all because if I don't I stay super anemic) there is an entire chapter devoted to vegetarian dishes. There are, of course, several chapters on meat dishes and there is a chapter devoted to starters and snacks, another for soups, yet another for desserts and even a chapter about condiments and accompaniments.

I would like to highlight just a couple of the recipes in The 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes so you can get just a tiny glimpse of what great recipes are featured in the book.


Mixed Vegetable Coconut Curry, page 196, vegan
Serves 8

This Dish is very versatile. Use it as a vegetable dish to round out an Indian meal, as a tasty side for grilled meat or fish, or increase the portion size and serve it as a main course if you’re serving vegetarians. (It is vegan friendly.)

  • Medium to large slow cooker
1 tbsp clarified butter (ghee) or extra virgin coconut oil
3 cups (1/2 inch) cubed peeled carrots (about 4 medium)
2 onions, finally chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced (see tips)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups cubed (1 inch) winter squash
1 cup coconut milk
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 long red or green chile pepper, seeded and minced

1. In skillet, heat clarified butter over medium heat. Add carrots, onions and celery and cook, stirring until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, sea salt, turmeric and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

2. Stir in squash. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours. Add coconut milk, bell pepper and chile pepper and stir well. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes, until peppers are tender.

Tips

If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (approx. 2 quart) slow cooker. For the best flavor, toast the cumin and coriander seeds and grind them yourself. To toast seeds: place in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Immediately transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind finely. If you are using the outer stalks of celery, peel them before chopping; the top layer is very fibrous. The inner stalks (hearts) can be used without peeling.

Make ahead


Complete step 1. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you're ready to cook, complete the recipe.


*Excerpted from The Best 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes by 2013© www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Chocolate Flan with Toasted Almonds, pg 230, desserts, entertaining, serves 6

Here's a deliciously decadent chocolate dessert. Save it for special occasions or treat yourself and enjoy. For a real treat, finish with a dollop of coconut whipped cream.

  • 6-cup lightly greased mold or souffle dish
  • Large (minimum 5 quart) slow cooker



Caramel
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup toasted slivered almond

Flan
3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 can (10 oz) coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

1 Caramel: In a heavy-bottomed pot sauce pan over medium heat, bring coconut sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook without stirring until mixture is very syrupy, about 6 minutes. Pour into prepared dish until sides are well coated. Sprinkle almonds over bottom of dish and set aside;

2. Flan: In a heat-proof bowl, place chocolate. In a clean saucepan, bring coconut milk and sugar just to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over chocolate and stir until mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted.

 3. In a bowl, beat eggs and egg yolks. Gradually add chocolate mixture, beating constantly until incorporated. Pour into caramel-coated dish. Cover with foil and secure tightly. Place dish in slow cooker stoneware and add enough hot water to come one inch up the sides. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or until a knife inserted inside comes out clean. Remove and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

4. When ready to serve, remove foil. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan and invert onto a serving plate.

  • Entertaining Worthy
Tips

If you prefer, make this dessert in 6 individual tall ramekins or 4-6 ounce mason type jars. Just make sure your slow cooker is large enough to accommodate the vessels. Mason jars are particularly functional if you are transporting this dessert. Instead of covering the jars with foil, use the lids and screw tops. Add enough hot water to come half way up the sides of the jars and reduce the cooking time to about 1 1/2 hours.



Excerpted from The Best 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes by © 2013 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.











This is just a glimpse of the great recipes to be found in the book. I would recommend The 163 Best Paleo Slow Cooker to anyone who is looking to get healthier, quicker home cooked meals on their table.

About the author:

Judith Finlayson is a best-selling author whose lifelong love of food and passion for cooking has translated into sales of over 1 million cookbooks, including many popular slow cooker cookbooks. 

Connect with Judith Finlayson at judithfinlayson.com



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bellapulse Complete Facial System Review & Giveaway!

*Disclosure- I received the Bellapulse Complete Facial System for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

I know I have been writing about skin care a lot lately, but I blame that on being in my 30's! I have said it before and I will say it again, I wish I would have taken better care of my skin in my 20's. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to try out the Bellapulse Complete Facial System. It has all of the components that make the perfect skin care routine for your face. The Bellapulse instrument comes with 4 interchangeable brushes for exfoliation, cleansing, massaging and product application. Before I even get to the cleansers let me just say that I have really been enjoying the messaging brush, it is a good way to relax your skin a little bit. I like to use the message brush after both the morning and evening application. This kit also (for a limited time) includes rose hip seed cleanser to apply in the morning, AHA exfoliating cleanser and Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer to be used in the evening. These products feel great going on and I feel like my skin feels cleaner after each use and I can definitely see a difference in the way my skin looks and feels. I really like the use of the rose hip seed  cleanser and I love the way that each different skin care product feels when I apply it to my face. The moisturizer that is applied with the sponge feels especially good going on and I can defiitely feel it make my skin feel more moisturized immediately and for this girl who has super dry skin, that is a huge plus. After trying the Bellapulse, I don't think I could ever go back to non-electronic skin care. There is definitely a noticeable difference, this facial messager can get into the skin a lot deeper than any regular skin care product could. The Bellapulse Complete Facial System also comes with a convenient cradle for the Bellapulse messager, the only thing missing is somewhere to put the brush heads and the skin care products, but that can be easily taken care of with a cute basket on the counter. I would absolutely recommend this product to anyone looking to keep their skin looking and feeling young and vibrant.

Check out the complete Bellapulse Complete Facial System on Amazon.com where it is currently on sale!

For more information on other SkinPro products, head over to SkinPro.Com.

The awesome people over at SkinPro want to give one of my lucky readers the chance to have a Bellapulse Complete Facial System over their own! Enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sekret by Lindsay Smith (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a free e-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:

An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.


My thoughts:

I was drawn to this book because the premise sounded different from anything I had ever read. Sometimes it is refreshing to read something that just comes from a different place. Sekret had all of the elements that typically make me a like a novel, especially the great amount of suspense that takes place. I spent a good majority of the novel wondering what would happen next  and would constantly have my wheels turning with the possibilities of what the outcome will be. I am being intentionally vague about the book to avoid accidentally spoiling something about it, but I will say that following Yulia's story, especially the flashbacks she has about her family as she tries to put her story together and understand herself and her memories, is very interesting and will keep you turning page after page. Sekret is full of suspense and definitely kept me wondering throughout the story where the author was going with the story line. I love books that keep me guessing what happens next and Sekret definitely gets bonus points for a nice little plot twist at the end that I didn't see coming. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good suspense novel or psychological thriller or who is interested in stories about psychic abilities or government control.
About the author:

Lindsay Smith's love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She writes on foreign affairs and lives in Washington, D.C. Sekret is her first novel.

Lindsay Smith's Website

Sekret
will be available on February 15, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lancome DreamTone Review

#BareSelfie I took tonight with one of my
little guys! 
*Disclosure of material connection- I received a free product from Lancome via SheSpeaks in exchange for my honest thought. All opinions stated are 100% my own. 
As we age, our skin sometimes gives away the fact that we are getting older. I never really worried about anti-aging products until I hit the big 3-0 (I can't believe that was almost 2 years ago already!) because I have always looked younger than I am. I wish I would have though, at least as far as moisturizers and things like that because I get incredibly dry skin, especially on my face in the winter. Now I feel like I need to focus on issues like wrinkles, lines and discoloration to myake my face look younger and just make me feel all around better about how I look without make up. The picture above with one of my 4 year old sons, I don't have a touch of make up on. Yes my cheeks are a bit rosy, (we had been drinking hot chocolate) but overall thanks to Lancome DreamTone, I think my face looks pretty great for having no make up on it at all. I have been using the product for a few weeks now. I know I have noticed a change in the places where my face coloration was once a little uneven. I have never had a probably with dark spots, so that wasn't really a concern of mine, but it is another problem that DreamTone can help with. DreamTone is for all skin tones.

In a poll conducted  with women of many ethnicities participating  the following results were found to be true:

  • 74% of participants immediately saw glowing skin
  • 70% noticed more even skin tone after 7 days
  • 69% saw dark spots reduced after 4 weeks
  • 78% saw color imperfections reduced after 8 weeks
I definitely have seen a difference in my skin after a few weeks. I agree that I feel like I can that my skin glows more. I still have some redness, but I am hoping (and I believe) that it will be reduced even more so in the next few weeks after I have continued to use the products. I would recommend Lancome DreamTone to anyone looking to restore or maintain the youthful look of their skin!



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DreamTone Website