Sunday, August 31, 2014

HERO (Movie Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the movie via Edify Media 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 movie-

Joe Finn was a local legend in the world of baseball, but a miserable failure as a husband, father, and friend. Now, seven years after leaving home, he returns just in time to say goodbye to his dying wife and hello to a son and a community who consider him as good as dead. 

Intent on making his life right, he turns to the only thing he knows -- baseball. But Little League is all but unrecognizable in Miller's Gap, and parental involvement is at an all-time low. Even as his actions begin to warm the hearts of some, others in the community threaten to get rid of Joe's team for good. Can Joe win back his son and revitalize a dying game, or is he seven years too late to redeem the mess of his own making?

My thoughts-

What I loved about this movie is that it shows how families in different circumstances can go through the same things within their family units. There is a prison warden, a prisoner and a father who has traveled so much for his job he barely knows his kid and all 3 of them have boys that have gone through the same thing- dealing with not having their dad in their lives as much as they would have liked or as much as they needed. Joe Finn, the dad that was absentee due to his job, has come home to deal with his dying wife and his grown son, only to discover that Little League is not what it once was. Joe wants to bring the joy of the game to these little boys and in the process he also wants to help their dads not make the same mistakes he did. I enjoyed watching a movie about a great past time, baseball, and seeing the fathers realize that they need to try harder to be a part of their son's lives. I love seeing Joe put his passion for baseball into helping the dads and sons connect while reconnecting with his own son. I haven't been to a Little League game in a long time, but it bums me out to think that so many dads are missing out on their sons games and that the rules have changed so much that it kind of takes the fun out of playing the game...or at least it doesn't seem as fun as it once was, so hopefully this movie will be a starting point for changing that. This is a great movie for the whole family and would probably especially be enjoyed by fathers and sons!

Connect with Hero on Facebook
Connect with Hero on Twitter
For more information about the movie see-

HERO will be available for purchase at Walmart and other retailers September 16!

Watch the movie trailer below-

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Treasury Of Bible Stories Review & Giveaway

About the book-

If you are looking for a way to encourage your children to get into God's word, this is the book for your family. Treasury of Bible Stories is beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written in a way that kids will love to hear.

My thoughts-

I think it is important for little ones to have a Bible that is not only engaging, but easy to understand. The Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley has beautiful, vibrant pictures and includes all of the big stories and parables from both the old and new testament. The stories are written in rhyming form which will help kids better remember the stories and makes them more fun to read. I have a little man named Noah so that is the first story we read out the Treasury of Bible Stories because he loves hearing stories about Noah and his ark. All 3 of my kids (ages 5-7) listened intently and loved the vivid illustrations. My oldest enjoyed the rhyming and all 3 of the kids fought over who got to look through the book that night after we were finished reading it. We have read several more of the stories and the kids are always eager to hear them. This is also a book that is great for young kids like mine who have learned to read. There are not that many big words and the rhyming lines also help them in their efforts to read on their own. This Treasury of Bible Stories would make a great addition to any children's home library and would also make a fantastic gift. I know we will be reading it often and for years to come.

Treasury of Bible Stories is available now on

My little bookworm Noah reading about Joseph
and his coat of many colors. :)

One lucky reader will win a copy of the Treasury of Bible Stories. Enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Watch the book trailer-

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajama's by Marie-Helene Bertino (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-

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving debut, 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas will capture your heart and have you laughing out loud.

My thoughts-

I have been hearing about 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajama's for a while now. It's been talked about on pretty much all of the bookish Facebook groups I belong to and has been mentioned on countless must-read lists. It sounded different and interesting so I was excited to read it. I loved the concept of  going through a single day in the lives of three different people who all end up in the same spot in the end, but at times I felt like some of the details were uninteresting. Most interesting to me was the story of Serena and Ben. I always enjoyed reading about what was going on with those two and appreciated the flashback to help understand why they ended up where they were and why it was a big deal. I also found the whimsy parts of the book that dealt with Madeleine quite a bit. Hers was a sad, but intriguing story. For some reason I just could not come to care about Lorca, but without him this book would be pointless, so I understand why he was necessary. I found the book to have a more melancholy tone than a dark comedy tone, but there were definitely a few times that I found myself laughing outloud. 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajama's was a pretty quick read and overall I thought it was a great novel from Bertino.  I would recommend the book to anyone that enjoys contemporary fiction.

About the author-

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of Safe as Houses, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York's Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story. A Philadelphia native, she currently lives in Brooklyn.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

When Calls the Heart "Second Chances" Review

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

About When Calls the Heart-

When Calls the Heart is a television show on the Hallmark Channel based on the writings of Janette Oke that debuted on the Hallmark Channel to more than 3 million viewers, making it the #2 show for the night on all of cable for the primary telecast at 9 p.m and #3 overall in households. The show is about Elizabeth Thatcher, a young high society woman who is now working as a teacher on the western frontier. "The Dance" is a feature length film that can be purchased on or the entire series can be watched on the Hallmark Channel or Amazon Instant Video. To see my reviews for previous feature length films in this series see in this order- 

When Calls the Heart: a film by Michael Landon, Jr.
When Calls the Heart  "Lost and Found"
 When Calls the Heart "A Telling Silence"

When Calls the Heart "The Dance"

My thoughts-

The last episode of When Calls the Heart kind of got things stirred up between Elizabeth and Jack with someone else acting interested in Elizabeth, so I was very interested to see if things would fall back into place for them in "Second Chances." Jack is definitely trying to get back in Elizabeth's good graces so we get to go back to swooning over him instead of shaking our heads at his innate maleness. It was fun to see her make him work for it though! There was a lot of new stuff going on in this episode. That is what I love about this show. We have the big storylines to keep it all together, but there is almost something new and interesting in each new episode. Elizabeth has a young student she is trying to help read despite his trouble doing so and that is really heartwarming to watch. To see this kid begin to figure out something he has struggled with for so long is amazing. And then one of the dads that has been gone returns with a disability and tries to adjust to that, his family is also trying to adjust to his changed personality. The further I get into the When Calls the Heart series the more eager I am to get to the next episode. The show just continually gets more interesting. I love that it holds my attention and I also love that it is appropriate for the whole family to watch. If you love wholesome romantic shows, you will love When Calls the Heart.
When Calls the Heart "Second Chances" is available for purchase at and

Watch the trailer for When Calls the Heart "Second Chances" below. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Competition by Marcia Clark (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 Columbine-style shooting at a high school in the San Fernando Valley has left a community shaken to its core. Two students are identified as the killers. Both are dead, believed to have committed a mutual suicide.
In the aftermath of the shooting, LA Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight teams up with her best girlfriend, LAPD detective Bailey Keller. As Rachel and Bailey interview students at the high school, they realize that the facts don’t add up. Could it be that the students suspected of being the shooters are actually victims? And if so, does that mean that the real killers are still on the loose?
A dramatic leap forward in Marcia Clark’s highly acclaimed Rachel Knight series, The Competition is an unforgettable story that will stay with readers long after the last page has been turned.
My thoughts-

I have read the other 3 books in the Rachel Knight series and they were all good, but The Competition is by far Clark's best effort yet. The other books felt a little long because of tons of unnecessary dialogue that I found myself skimming over, that was not the case at all in this most recent book in the series. Every word on every page, every conversation had between characters was necessary to the story and helped this novel become the page turner that it is. The sad subject matter is all too familiar to anyone living today. We have unfortunately seen news of many school shootings by now. I thought The Competition gave us some good insight into what it might be like to be on a case like this. It is daunting for the public to hear about these shootings, imagine being someone assigned to work on these types of cases! I liked that the cases mentioned were historically accurate. Some people reading this book might learn some things about very notorious cases that they didn't know before. I think Clark is at her best here and I hope she continues to write this way. I could not put this book down. I had to know what happened. Seriously, I stayed up hours after I should have went to bed to finish this one! I recommend The Competition to anyone who enjoys thrillers or action packed books.

Connect with Marcia Clark on Facebook
Connect with Marcia Clark on Twitter
Connect with Marcia Clark on Goodreads

A Long Way Off (Movie Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the movie via Edify Media 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 movie-

Retelling the timeless parable of a father's unconditional love, tempestuous young Jake tries to escape the duties of the family business by leaving his home and taking his dreams to the big city. Far from the wise words of his father, Abraham, Jake is finally free to live the high life that he's always wanted, trading the traditional values of his upbringing to revel in every temptation that money can buy.Just when Jake thinks the world is his playground and every day offers another enticing opportunity, he must come face to face with the consequences of the life he's chosen. Jake must learn that sometimes to realize/appreciate what he left behind, and if his mistakes can every outweigh the grace of a father's forgiveness. 

My thoughts- 

Any Christian is probably familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. This is a modern day retelling of that parable that really does a great job of modernizing the parable and making is relevant to today. The characters in this movie were easy to relate to. The main character, Jake, wants to leave behind farm life because he just doesn't think it's for him and feels like there is something else out there better for him. Who has not felt that way before? I enjoyed watching Jake's journey. I cringed for him as he made terrible decisions and I rejoiced when he finally came to his senses. I loved seeing Jake develop a friendship with Summer at the coffee shop. Their friendship develops very organically, but Jake also gets in the way of himself. I could tell right away that there was something off with his new neighbor and I was sad to see him fall for it and get himself in a mess, but a movie wouldn't be a movie without a little conflict! A Long Way Off would make a great movie to watch as a family and discuss afterward. My 3 kids are too young to really understand this story, but they all piled up on the couch with me and watched it anyway. I think anyone who enjoys a heartwarming story will like this movie. 

Connect with A Long Way Off on Facebook
Connect with A Long Way Off on Twitter
Connect with A Long Way Off on Instagram
Connect with A Long Way Off on Google +

Where to buy A Long Way Off-
Family Christian Stores

Watch the trailer for A Long Way Off below-

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Freedom Superfoods Organic Cacao Powder Raw Review

We try to eat fairly healthy at our house, but we like our sweets too. I have been wanting to try raw cacao for a long time and I was so excited to get the opportunity to try this amazing cacao from Freedom Superfoods. I have been wanting to try my hand at making some raw food recipes and of course the first and easiest place for me to start is with dessert. The first thing I tried to make with the raw cacao powder was raw vegan truffles. They were delicious and so much healthier than a traditional truffle. I love the fact that cacao comes with health benefits too. You can use that as an excuse to add it into your diet every now and then! I have so many more raw recipes containing raw cacao pinned on Pinterest to try soon- raw peanut butter cups, cacao fudge and so many others I can not think of at this moment!

Another cool thing about raw cacao is that it makes a terrific DIY beauty product ingredient. that body butter I wrote about a week or two ago that I used the shea butter in? You guessed it, this cacao was a key ingredient in that recipe. I have also since made a facial mask that felt divine and I think I might try to use this cacao as an ingredient in a lip balm soon.

I love that I can use raw cacao in both food and beauty recipes. I specifically enjoyed the Freedom Superfoods raw cacao because of the quality of the product, but also because of the packaging. The bag is resealable to keep the cacao as fresh as can be for as long as possible. The ingredients are clearly labeled on the front as well and all of the information you need is right there on the package. As a label reader, I really appreciate the clear information.

If you are interested in eating healthy but still tasty foods, I definitely recommend you give this raw cacao a try!

 I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda K. Garelick (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-

Certain lives are at once so exceptional, and yet so in step with their historical moments, that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person. Such is the case with Coco Chanel, whose life offers one of the most fascinating tales of the twentieth century—throwing into dramatic relief an era of war, fashion, ardent nationalism, and earth-shaking change—here brilliantly treated, for the first time, with wide-ranging and incisive historical scrutiny.

Coco Chanel transformed forever the way women dressed. Her influence remains so pervasive that to this day we can see her afterimage a dozen times while just walking down a single street: in all the little black dresses, flat shoes, costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, and tortoiseshell eyeglasses on women of every age and background. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is sold every three seconds. Arguably no other individual has had deeper impact on the visual aesthetic of the world. But how did a poor orphan become a global icon of both luxury and everyday style? How did she develop such vast, undying influence? And what does our ongoing love of all things Chanel tell us about ourselves? These are the mysteries that Rhonda K. Garelick unravels in Mademoiselle.

Raised in rural poverty and orphaned early, the young Chanel supported herself as best she could. Then, as an uneducated nineteen-year-old cafĂ© singer, she attracted the attention of a wealthy and powerful admirer and parlayed his support into her own hat design business. For the rest of Chanel’s life, the professional, personal, and political were interwoven; her lovers included diplomat Boy Capel; composer Igor Stravinsky; Romanov heir Grand Duke Dmitri; Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster; poet Pierre Reverdy; a Nazi officer; and several women as well. For all that, she was profoundly alone, her romantic life relentlessly plagued by abandonment and tragedy.

Chanel’s ambitions and accomplishments were unparalleled. Her hat shop evolved into a clothing empire. She became a noted theatrical and film costume designer, collaborating with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Luchino Visconti. The genius of Coco Chanel, Garelick shows, lay in the way she absorbed the zeitgeist, reflecting it back to the world in her designs and in what Garelick calls “wearable personality”—the irresistible and contagious style infused with both world history and Chanel’s nearly unbelievable life saga. By age forty, Chanel had become a multimillionaire and a household name, and her Chanel Corporation is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury goods manufacturer in the world.

In Mademoiselle, Garelick delivers the most probing, well-researched, and insightful biography to date on this seemingly familiar but endlessly surprising figure—a work that is truly both a heady intellectual study and a literary page-turner.

My thoughts-

I remember the very first bottle of perfume I bought. I was 19 and I was in Paris with my parents and siblings, in awe of all of the romantic surroundings and at the most amazing shopping center I had ever seen. I wanted to buy something quintessentially French, but something different than the norm. I knew I wanted Chanel because what girl doesn't want something Chanel in her house? I chose a very spicy scent called Coco. I still have a tiny bit left in the bottle 13 years later because it is such  special purchase for me, my first Chanel perfume! There is just something so classy about the Chanel brand, so when I saw this book I wanted to learn more about this woman and how she came to be one of the most famous fashion icons of all time. I absolutely did not know a thing about her. Her life, especially her young life, were full of sadness. That is clear by the fact that she constantly was lying about where she was from and making up stories about her young life. She clearly wanted to create a different life for herself and with determination, individuality and the right people, she managed to do just that. Her style was quite risque in her younger days, in a time when everyone was wearing frumpy long, constricting dresses, Coco wanted to wear pantsuits. Even in that time period she wasn't well known but made a name for herself by word of mouth really. I absolutely loved learning about the girl with the humble beginnings turning into this person that will be talked about for centuries to come. Her life story is interesting, one I think even someone that isn't interested in the Chanel brand would enjoy reading. There are some parts that made me extremely sad for her, but in the end, I think she was exactly who she wanted to be and I think that is her legacy. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Coco Chanel, French history,or who enjoys reading biographies about iconic figures. 

Connect with
Rhonda K. Garelick on Goodreads

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History will be available September 30. You can pre-order it on

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection. I received an advanced 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-
How can 11-year-old Gabriel find his missing father,who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin—a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature—he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father...or to his death.
My thoughts- 
I remember when I was in high school and my English teacher became obsessed with Harry Potter. I turned up my nose and thought "why is she reading a children's book?" A few years later when the first movie came out, I understood. I too fell in love with Harry Potter and still love that series to this day. I can not wait for my kids to read it! And I am so glad as an adult that I lost that uptight uppity attitude I had as a teenager. I get so much joy out of reading children's fantasy novels and as my kids get older and the prospect of reading them and enjoying them together makes it even more exciting!
Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle has been said to be a cross of Harry Potter and The Phantom Tollbooth.I absolutely think that is an accurate statement. It is full of imagination and crazy fun story lines and mysteries. You will be cheering Gabriel along as he tries to figure out how to find his father. He, of course, has some friends along for the ride which only adds to the story. The book is full of great riddles that are fun to try to figure out. I will admit, I didn't get a lot of them until I read the solutions, but it was so much fun trying to figure them out, it definitely added another great layer to this great adventure story. There is a bit of history and folklore in these pages as well. I think kids will really enjoy Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle. I know I did. 
About the author-
George Hagen is the author of two novels for adults.The Laments—a Washington Post bestseller and recipient of the William Saroyan International Prize for writing—has been compared to the work of John Irving and Ann Tyler and described by Publishers Weekly as "a funny, touching novel about the meaning of family." Tom Bedlam was called"a Victorian three-decker novel [that] shines with contemporary clarity and moves at the speed of 'The Sopranos'" by the Los Angeles Times. Hagen had lived on three continents by the time he was twelve. The father of three children, he now lives in Brooklyn. This is his first book for kids.
For more information, visit

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle will be available on August 26. You can pre-order it on

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received an advanced 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-

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators. After the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds disappear. Ava has an unusual gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. Now the whole world knows, and suddenly people from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to catch a glimpse of The Miracle Child. But Ava's unique ability comes at a great cost, and as she grows weaker with each healing, she soon finds herself having to decide just how much she's willing to give up in order to save the ones she loves most. Elegantly written, deeply intimate and emotionally astute, The Wonder of All Things is an unforgettable story and a poignant reminder of life's extraordinary gifts.

My thoughts-

I have been anticipating this sophomore effort from Jason Mott pretty much since I finished reading The Returned last year. When I read the plot synopsis, I was excited that this is something different than his first book, but still in the same vein of things. I really had a difficult time putting this story down. There were so many questions that I wanted the answers to and so many things that I wanted to see unfold. I enjoyed all of the parts where Wash and Ava were interacting. There were such sweet moments between these two best childhood friends and you can tell that theirs is a deep, deep bond. As I read on in the story, I found out part of that bond is shared tragedy. Another interesting part of the story is how Mott interweaves the different events of Ava's life to really give us a whole picture of what she has gone through. I was interested in reading this story to learn about Ava's gift, but that ends up being just  a small part of this story in the grand scheme of things, even though it is constantly being talked about in the book. I don't know if that makes a lot of sense, but the best way I can explain it is this story is so much bigger than Ava's gift. At the core of things, it is definitely about love and about sacrifice. I am so excited that The Wonder of All Things has already been optioned by Lion'sgate for a movie (just like The Returned, this occurred before the book is even released because Mott is just THAT good!) I will be stalking the internet to find out who will be starring in this movie and will be anticipating it's release date just as I did for this fantastic book. I recommend The Wonder of All Things to anyone who enjoys thought provoking books or love stories. 

The Wonder of All Things will be available for purchase on September 30. You can pre-order it on with Jason Mott on Facebook
Connect with Jason Mott on Goodreads
Jason Mott's Website  "

Beauty by Shea Raw Organic Unfiltered Shea Butter Review + Giveaway

I have been pinning diy beauty projects on Pinterest for pretty much as long as Pinterest has existed. A lot of those do it yourself products call for shea butter. It's soft texture and mild & pleasant scent make it a great addition to lotions and soaps so I was very excited to get the opportunity to try this shea butter. I was even more excited because not only it is raw and organic, but also fair trade. 

The first thing I noticed when the shea butter arrived was that it was in a resealable package. When I opened it up, I sniffed it and was happy to smell the mild, pleasant aroma. The texture is almost like a really soft clay. I rubbed a little of it between my fingers and applied it to my skin like a lotion. A little goes a very long way. It made my skin feel super soft. I am definitely happy with using it all on it's own, but I still wanted to play with making something to add to my ever growing collection of diy beauty products. I found this awesome bronzing body butter on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. It only required a couple of other ingredients. If you decide to make this particular body butter, make sure it is clearly labeled. These are all natural ingredients, but you wouldn't want someone to accidentally eat a spoonful. All 3 of my kids asked me if they could have a bite when I was making it! Anyway, the body butter was a super simple recipe and turned out fantastic! Next on my list of diy products that have shea butter are shaving cream and hair moisturizer. The sky is the limit really. 

You can purchase Raw Organic Unfiltered Shea Butter on As of this posting, it is on sale, so hurry over there and get yours!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. "

Friday, August 8, 2014

Treat Yourself by Jennifer Steinhauer (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books 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-

If you grew up on corner-store treats, memory lane is paved with Ho Hos, Yodels, Oreos, and Ring Dings. And while your taste buds may have grown up a bit, chances are you still crave these classic flavors. Now you can re-create the lunch-box delights that made you the envy of other kids, with all-natural homemade versions.

After much obsessing and experimentation, Jennifer Steinhauer has cracked the code for 70 iconic treats to re-create in your own kitchen. There are cookies with a perfect crunchy base for cream filling, snack cakes with frosting so thick you can peel it off all at once, candies dipped in chocolate and dusted with sugar, and ice cream pops so juicy that they drip down your arm. A self-taught baker, Jennifer had no interest in complicated techniques or chemical gunk, just easy hacks that break down and remaster these throwback snacks.

So go ahead—treat yourself to your own homemade version of these favorites:
• Samoas, Pecan Sandies, Chips Ahoy!, and other classic cookies
• Nutter Butters, Mint Milanos, Oatmeal Creme Pies, and other sweet sandwich cookies
• Twinkies, Drake’s Coffee Cakes, Devil Dogs, and other snack cakes
• Fig Newtons, Lemon Mini-Pies, Strawberry Pop-Tarts, and other fruity, filled treats
• Soft Pretzels, Pizza Pockets, Funyuns, and other salty, savory snacks
• Cracker Jacks, Goo Goo Clusters, Candy Dots, and other candy favorites
• Orange Creamsicles, Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Pops, Nutty Buddies, and other frozen treats

My thoughts- 

You may be surprised to learn that I grew up in a house full of junk food. There were chips of every kind, Popsicles and ice cream and always around were my mother's weakness- Little Debbie snacks. My whole family balks when they come over to my house and look for a snack because I do not keep that kind of thing in my pantry. All of those treat may taste delicious, but they are full of chemicals, artificial flavors and colors and are likely full of GMO ingredients. I love when I run across a great copy cat recipe online. It is great to be able to enjoy the indulgences of my childhood without the terrible ingredients of the commercial products that are just never going to make an appearance at my house. When I came across Treat Yourself, I knew I had to have it in my cookbook collection. It is full of such awesome copy cat recipes. I was not even sure which one to try first, so I went with a classic favorite- Oreos. These cookies were not very difficult to make. They did take a little time because I had to make the dough, freeze it, roll it out and cut the circles and make the filling, but any sandwich cookie takes the same amount of time. After I baked the cookies, I tasted the cookie and it was pretty similar to the real thing. The filling was spot-on.  The only thing I did wrong was make the cookies too thick, so next time I will roll them out a little thinner. They were tasty. All 3 kids and my husband devoured them. I am so excited to have these recipes and I can not wait to try each of them. I think next I will try the Star Crunch recipe or the Thin Mints. There are so many wonderful options! This book is really going to come in handy during the holidays! I absolutely recommend Treat Yourself to anyone who enjoys baking. You will love re-creating your childhood favorites!

About the author-

Jennifer Steinhauer has been a reporter for the New York Times for twenty years. Her weekly column at, "Weeknights with Jenny," shares her adventures in weeknight cooking. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Washington, D.C.

Treat Yourself
is now available on

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Escape Monthly Subscription Box heads to Paris for August! Sneak Peek at a product + 20% Off Coupon!

*Disclosure- this post contains affiliate links. 

Escape Monthly has been one of my favorite subscription boxes for  a while now. I love the idea of a vacation in a box. I can not always afford to venture off to the places I would love to go, but I can get this box and have some of the local things from places show up on my doorstep! There have been many escape boxes since they started sending them out around a year ago. There have been escapes to Hawaii, Napa Valley, Las Vegas, Ireland, India and many others, but the box I have been waiting for since I signed up is headed my way this month- Paris! I think you would be hard pressed to meet any person that likes to travel that does not have Paris on their travel bucket list. I am extremely blessed that I have actually had the opportunity to visit when I was younger. The problem with that is that I have been itching to go back ever since. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I hope to go back some day, but in the meantime I am happy to have a little piece of Paris arrive at my house in a few weeks!

The picture above is a sneak peek at one of the items that will be included in the box. The lotion alone is worth more than half of what you will pay for the box (and that is if you pay full price for the box...I have a nice coupon code that will take 20% off your subscription FOR LIFE making it even more affordable!) Just look at that lotion container. It SCREAMS Paris and makes me super excited to see what else will be included in this awesome box!

Perhaps the ABSOLUTE coolest thing about Escape Monthly, is that each month one lucky subscriber will actually win a vacation to the destination! I am always up for traveling anywhere, but I will cross all of my fingers and toes this month. Whoever wins the Paris Escape is one lucky person indeed!

For 20% off of your subscription (for life!) enter coupon code CRISTIMARASHI at checkout! If you have not tried Escape Monthly yet, this is definitely the month to do it! You will fall in love with. "

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley 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-
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He's bossy. He's cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie's grandfather, a scientist who's always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.
My thoughts-
I loved this book. It was engaging and interesting all the way through. The chapters were short, which is great for beginning readers and the main premise about the grandfather making himself young again was an interesting concept that I think young readers will enjoy. What I love most about this book were the great lessons that children won't even realize are lessons in history and science with mentions of several prominent people in the science community. I love that this was a fun book about a granddaughter and her wacky grandfather, but that it may open up children to an interest in science. Some of the funniest parts to me were when 70-something year old Melvin stuck in a 12 year old's body, deals with his own daughter who is now acting as his guardian. Parents and children alike will enjoy this book. It would be a fun one to read aloud together. I would recommend The Fourteenth Goldfish to elementary aged children. It is easy enough for a little one that is just at the point of reading chapter books, but interesting enough to keep the attention of a pre-teen as well. 
The Fourteenth Goldfish will be available for purchase on August 26th. You can pre-order it on
About the author-
Jennifer L. Holm's father was a pediatrician and she grew up listening to him talk about the wonder of antibiotics and how science could change the world. Today Jennifer is the NY Times bestselling author of three Newbery Honor Books, as well as the co-creator of the Babymouse series (a 2013 Eisner Award Winner) and Squish series, which she collaborates on with her brother Matthew Holm.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

iGotTech Magnetic Screen Door Review

The Texas summers not only bring extremely high temperatures outdoors, but also the pesky critters that come with that heat. I have three little ones that are constantly coming in and out of the backyard a good majority of the day, so we get more than our fair share of flies. I feel like most summer days all I do is hold a fly swatter and chase those little critters through my house. I have been saying for a long while that I need to do something about it. I was so excited to have the opportunity to try out the iGotTech magnetic screen door. I have been wanting to get a magnetic screen door for the back door for so long and I am so glad I did. The magnets definitely help keep the screen door up, but there is also velcro all the way around the product as well as tacks that come with the door to make sure that it is securely in place and has no chance of moving. There is an instructional video that I posted below that shows you just how easy it is to install the door. Once you get the magnetic screen up, you will be very impressed to see that there are no longer any unwanted bugs making there way into the house. I am definitely impressed and look forward to my house being a fly-free zone year round!

You can purchase iGotTech's magnetic screen door on This is a risk free product. If for some reason you do not like the screen door, you can return it for a full refund, no questions asked!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. "

The Nightingale Nurses by Donna Douglas (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.
About the book-
'Pay attention please, nurses. The next six months will be the most important of your lives'
It's the final year of training for three young nurses at The Nightingale Hospital.
Helen is at a crossroads in her life as she battles with her domineering mother over both her love life and her future career.
Dora can't stop loving Nick, who is married to her best friend, Ruby. But Ruby is hiding a dark secret with the potential to destroy Ruby's marriage.
Millie is anxious about her fiance, sent to Spain to cover the Civil War, and things only get worse when she encounters a fortune teller who gives her a sinister warning.
With war looming in Europe, and the East End of London squaring up to the threat of Oswald Mosley's blackshirts, the women of the Nightingale have to face their own challenges, at work and in love.
My thoughts-
I am breezing through this book series. I am going to be so sad when I finish the fourth one and have to wait until November for the next one! Read my book reviews of the two previous books Nightingale Girls and Nightingale Sisters before you read my review of the third book here.

The further I get into the Nightingale Girls series, the more invested I am in knowing what is going on in the lives of Helen, Millie, Dora and friends. My heart breaks for both Helen and Dora as they each try to navigate their own respective love lives with road blocks standing in their way. I am used to Dora's relationship with Nick not working out because of the trauma she has suffered that she suffered and her own friend standing in the way, but it is Helen's  tenacity to finally stand up to her mother and the situation that unfolds with Charlie that really captured my attention and emotions in this book. Millie is also grappling with her fiance being overseas where they are just on the brink of a full out war. There is plenty or romance and drama to keep you interested in what is happening with these final year nursing students. Speaking of it being the final year of nurse training at the Nightingale, all of the girls trying to study as well as trying to remember everything they have learned over the last few years makes for some very interesting dialogue as well. I love that with each new book in the series we get to know Helen, Millie and Dora a little bit better and that we are often introduced to more characters to get to know as well. As we get closer to the next book and the one that follows that, it is almost to a place in time where WWII is set to begin, so in each book there is gradually a little more about the war happening as well. I can not put these books down. I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or a little bit of romance.  Have the tissues handy for this one.