Friday, October 31, 2014

A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas Book Review + Giveaway

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

About the book-

You believe your marriage has eternal purposes. You long for it to reach beyond your home and encourage others. But what does it look like to have spiritually intentional relationship in the midst of dirty dishes, work deadlines, and car pools.

In Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas showed us that God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Now, in A Lifelong Love, Thomas gives us the practical tools to craft our marriaes into inspiring relationships that breathe spiritual life to others.

Whatever season of marriage you are in, A Lifelong Love  gives you the practical help you need to infuse your marriage with a spiritual passion that will not only change you but will change the world around you.

My thoughts-

I try to read books about relationships and marriage whenever I can. I definitely believe that marriage is a learning process through each season of our relationship. A good marriage is a constant work in progress and A Lifelong Love is a great resource. This book can be applied to a newlywed couple or a more seasoned couple, so it is a great one to have in your home library. The pages are full of sage advice and examples of living your life and treating your marriage beyond the bare minimum. It teaches you not to just go through the motions, but really work at making it into something lovely, something sacred, There are even examples of things that are common occurrences in marriages or things that are different between women and men to help us understand why our husbands might act one way or to explain to our husbands why we might react a certain way to a situation. At the end of each chapter there are wonderful questions designed to really get you thinking, as well as prayers for your marriage. A Lifelong Love is the kind of book that you can revisit and get something out of each time. I know I will be reading this again and I am sure that I will gain something new with each time I read it!

A Lifelong Love is available on and other retailers nationwide.
About the author-

Connect with Gary Thomas on Facebook
Connect with Gary Thomas on Twitter

Enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a copy of the book!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Banfi Chianti Wines + Crazy for Chianti Contest

*Disclosure of material connection. I received free products in exchange for my honest thoughts. 

A little over a year ago, I started attending a book club full of people I had never met. I am not exactly a social butterfly (at least not with a bunch of people I don't know) and everyone that attended was drinking red wine. At the time I was a huge white wine fan, but didn't have much experience with reds. Since that is what we had, that is what I drank. The same thing happened at the meetings each month and soon I was preferring reds over whites. I almost can not drink white anymore because they are too sweet! haha. Now I like to try new red wines and tell the ladies in the book club all about them, or better yet, bring a bottle with me on meeting nights.

Anyway, I was very excited to try a trio of Banfi's Chianti wines. I did not previously have a ton of experience with Chianti so I tried it the way I like to try new things, in a recipe. I found this great recipe for zucchini lasagna, using the zucchini as the pasta and it called for red wine. I thought what better way to try the Bolla Chianti. The lasagna was amazing! The combination of the ingredients, especially the zucchini and the wine brought it all together. I also had a glass of the Bolla Chianti with dinner. It was a little bolder then what I would normally have, but I enjoyed it.

Another way you can enjoy your Chianti is to pair it with a gourmet grilled cheese. My favorite way to up my grilled cheese game is to make a tomato basil grilled cheese. It has kind of an Italian flare, perfect for pairing with Banfi Calssico and easy to assemble. I like to use honey wheat bread, provolone cheese, fresh basil and slices of tomato. I like mine dry, but it would also add a new level of flavor if you added some pesto or even some mayo to the bread. What a great pair!

Think you have what it takes to make the perfect grilled cheese and Chianti combo? Try your luck by building a virtual grilled cheese. The winner will win $2500. The contest ends October 31!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (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

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might die. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself--a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

My thoughts-

As you see above in the book description, All the Bright Places is being compared to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. I haven't read Eleanor and Park (yet. it IS on my Kindle and I plan on it soon) but I found it to be more like another John Green book, Paper Towns. It is a love story, but mostly it is a story about adolescence dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. There is definitely some tough subject matter, but I think it is good to get this conversation going. There are so many kids out there dealing with these feelings and maybe this book will show them that they are not alone. It breaks my heart to be inside of Finch's head. On the surface, he is such a likable person, but because people think he is weird because of rumors they have heard they don't even take the time to get to know him. His thoughts are often of death, he is definitely preoccupied. When he meets Violet, she brings a little bit of light back into his life and the same could be said of her for him. I enjoyed seeing their relationship unfold, but this was a very heavy book. If your teen wants to read it, I suggest reading it as well and having a discussion about it. Suicide is a difficult subject, but touches so many. This is a tough, but very good read. It has already been optioned as a movie with Elle Fanning signed on to play Violet. I think it will be very interesting to see who ends up playing Finch. He will need to have some fantastic range in his acting skills. I will be looking forward to it. 

About the author-

All the Bright Places is Jennifer Niven’s first book for young adult readers, but she has written four novels for adults—American Blonde, Becoming Clementine, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, and Velva Jean Learns to Drive—as well as three nonfiction books—The Ice Master, Ada Blackjack, and The Aqua-Net Diaries, a memoir about her high school experiences. Although she grew up in Indiana, she now lives with her fiancé and literary cats in Los Angeles, which remains her favorite place to wander. For more information, visit,, or find her on Facebook.

All the Bright Places will be available Janaury 6, 2015, You can pre-order it on ( it is currently on sale for $9.98!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy (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 year to forget. The perfect escape. And a little Christmas magic…
Touching, uplifting, and filled with delicious French cooking, The French for Christmas is the perfect Christmas treat.
Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.
When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan.
Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.
And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste-tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?
With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything?
My thoughts-
I have not been in the same situation as Evie and I can't even imagine the pain she feels, especially such a loss during the holidays, so I absolutely understand her wanting to avoid Christmas and just be on her own in a different place. This book was so sad to me the more I learned about Evie and her life, how things ended with her husband and what led to that happening, his success in the wake of all of her sadness, so I enjoyed reading about her finding herself and a new beginning in Paris. I didn't feel completely connected to this book for some reason. I thought it had a great message and I liked the overall story, but found myself bored and skimming in several places. I still think it is was worth a read. 
About the author-
Fiano Valpy is the author of The French for Love, The French for Always and The French for Christmas. She also teaches yoga at her home in the Bordeaux winelands. Learn more about her at
Connect with Fiona Valpy on Twitter

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka (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-

Gina Homolka is America’s most trusted home cook when it comes to easy, flavorful recipes that are miraculously low-calorie and made from all-natural, easy-to-find ingredients. Her blog, Skinnytaste is the number one go-to site for slimmed down recipes that you’d swear are anything but. It only takes one look to see why people go crazy for Gina’s food: cheesy, creamy Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli with only 420 calories per serving, breakfast dishes like Make-Ahead Western Omelet "Muffins" that truly fill you up until lunchtime, and sweets such as Double Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies that are low in sugar and butter-free but still totally indulgent.
The Skinnytaste Cookbook features 150 amazing recipes: 125 all-new dishes and 25 must-have favorites. As a busy mother of two, Gina started Skinnytaste when she wanted to lose a few pounds herself. She turned to Weight Watchers for help and liked the program but struggled to find enough tempting recipes to help her stay on track. Instead, she started “skinny-fying” her favorite meals so that she could eat happily while losing weight.
With 100 stunning photographs and detailed nutritional information for every recipe, The Skinnytaste Cookbook is an incredible resource of fulfilling, joy-inducing meals that every home cook will love.

My thoughts-

There is so much this cookbook has going for it, I truly don't know where to begin! I think by now most people that use the internet to search for recipes have probably come across Skinnytaste at some point or another either via the blog or Facebook page. I love that this book is written by a home cook (with the help of registered dietitian Heather K. Jones), but is full of fantastic recipes. The goal was to make food we all love into food we don't have to feel guilty about eating, but that still tastes amazing and I think that goal was met. This is the most organized cookbook I have ever seen. There are several categories the foods are divided into, there are symbols for special diets and as reference points for certain types of food (vegetarian, gluten free, freezer friendly, slow cooking, ect.) and there is a nutritional break down on every page of every recipe. To me, the nutritional break down is key and I wish that every single cookbook that is out there would do the same. It is nice to see the calories, protein, fiber, sugar (ect.) content right there without having to figure it out on your own. For me that alone will make this a go to cookbook, but beyond that I love that all of the recipes sound and look delicious, that there is a vast array of different types of food (I love international cuisine and there is plenty of that here as well as more traditional foods for the finicky eater). Just typing this review is making me hungry! I like to plan my meals a week at a time and I normally take out several different cookbooks to compose my meal plan, but I could use Skinnytaste all on it's own for the whole week and have a great variety of tasty and healthy meals to make for my family. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who likes to eat good tasting food, but wants to maintain a healthy diet as well. This is a fantastic addition to any home cook's cookbook collection!

About the author-

Gina Homolka is the founder of Skinnytaste, the award-winning blog that's been featured in Fitness and Better Homes and Gardens and on and, among other media outlets. She lives on Long Island with her husband and their two children.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Becoming Myself Journal Review + Giveaway

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

I am so excited to be writing my first review and holding my first giveaway as a Family Christian blogger! I hope this will be the first of many. 

I love to write, I love to plan and I love encouragement (and let's face it, I can use it just as much as the next person!). The becoming myself journal is a great opportunity to intertwine all three of these in one. The journal can be used as a supplement to becoming myself: embracing God's dream for you by Stasi Eldredge, an encouraging book meant to help women let go of past and current critical thoughts of themselves and become the woman God intends for them to be. It is a positive book with a positive message. The journal can also be used on it's own to take notes during Bible studies or personal quiet times or to journal thoughts in. What I love most about the journal are the quotes from the book spread through out. Each quote that I read was incredibly encouraging and all were about things that most women can relate to and might need to hear. becoming myself is a beautiful book that will scream out to be picked up and written in and would also make a great gift. 

Enter below via the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a copy of the becoming myself journal for yourself!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Tucci Table (Cookbook 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-

Featuring family-friendly recipes and stunning photography, an all-new cookbook from New York Times bestselling author, beloved actor, and respected foodie Stanley Tucci.

Stanley Tucci’s association with wonderful foods began for fans with the movie Big Night and resonated in his role as Julia Child’s husband in Julie & Julia. But well before these films, he was enjoying innovative homemade Italian meals throughout his childhood, when family and food were nearly inseparable and cooking was always a familial venture.

Now, in a completely new, family-focused cookbook, Tucci captivates food lovers’ imaginations with recipes from his traditional Italian roots as well as those of his British wife, Felicity Blunt, tied together with a modern American ribbon. The time-tested recipes include pasta alla bottarga, mushroom-stuffed trout, pork chops with onions and mustard sauce, barbeque chicken wings, and much, much more! Nothing will make you happier to spend time with family than the aroma of a hearty Italian dish sizzling on the stovetop.

Featuring 100 luscious new full-color photographs, The Tucci Table captures the true joys of family cooking. Buon apetito!

My thoughts-

When I saw that Stanley Tucci had a cookbook coming out, I had to read it. Immediately .I am always compelled to watch everything he is in and apparently, I am also compelled to know what goes on in his kitchen. I learned a couple of new things that I probably should already know. A. He has released previous cookbooks (that I can not wait to check out!) and b. he is married to Felicity Blunt. If that name doesn't sound familiar to you, perhaps you have heard of her sister Emily? You know, Emily Blunt, who was in The Devil Wears Prada with Stanley Tucci! I think it is adorable that Tucci met his wife through his former co-star. I also think Felcity's background also lends a hand at making this an all around great cookbook. Tucci's Italian roots are the main focus of the recipes, but there are some great British recipe in the book to celebrate his wife as well. I was salivating as I read each recipe. I loved that these are all wholesome, whole foods, from scratch recipes. I would pretty much try anything in this book. The thing that really ties the recipes together are the personal stories from Tucci throughout the pages. There is something about memories evoked by the recipes that make the even more special. If you are a fan of Stanley Tucci or are a foodie, you will enjoy The Tucci Table.

The Tucci Table will be available October 28. You can pre-order it on

When Calls the Heart: Change of Heart Review

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

See my reviews of the previous episodes before reading this one if you don't want to read spoilers of the series.

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"

When Calls the Heart "Second Chances"

About the episode-

Jack finally gets Elizabeth to agree to join him for a dinner date just as Elizabeth's young sister, Julie Thatcher, arrives in Coal valley, surprising Elizabeth. Julie is accompanied by Mountie Patrick O'Reilly, the man who has been sent to inform Jack of his new posting and become the new Constable of Coal Valley. Jack had already forgotten that he sent in a request to transfer the week he arrived in Coal Valley, and the news takes him by surprise.

My thoughts-

I always get so excited when I get the opportunity to review episodes of When Calls the Heart. I think it is just the cutest show and I can never wait to see the relationship continue to develop between Elizabeth and Jack so this was a really exciting episode for me! He FINALLY asks her out on a real date and makes it clear that he is into her! It was done in a really cute way too. It definitely made me smile. Of course, there always has to be a conflict of some sort and of course right as Jack realizes he wants to pursue Elizabeth another Mountie shows up telling him his request to change posts has been granted. Elizabeth's sister Julie comes with Mountie Patrick to surprise her sister and gets into some interesting situations of her own. Julie has a very romantic outlook on life so it is interesting to see that play out for her in this new place among new people and to see Elizabeth try to warn her about it. My favorite parts of the episode (as always) are the scenes between Elizabeth and Jack, but there are also some very dramatic moments with Abigail as she tries to figure out what happened in the mine and, The whole overall episode was wonderful. I can not wait to see what happens on the next one!

When Calls the Heart :Change of Heart" will be available for purchase on December 30. You can pre-order it on

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Mason Jar by James Russell Lingerfelt BlogTour & Book Review

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

About the book-

What if your old college roommate called, raving about a book someone sent her, calling it the most beautiful book she's ever read? "But," she said, "it's about you." The author is your college ex. In The Mason Jar, Clayton "Finn" Fincannon is a Tennessee farm boy raised at the feet of his grandfather. He and his grandfather leave letters for each other in a Mason jar on his grandfather's desk; letters of counsel and affirmation. When Finn attends college in Southern California, he meets and falls in love with a dark, debutante from Colorado, named Eden. However, when an unmentioned past resurrects in her life and she leaves, Finn is left with unanswered questions. Finn goes on to serve as a missionary in Africa, while he and his grandfather continue their tradition of writing letters. When Finn returns home five years later to bury his grandfather, he searches for answers pertaining to the loss of the young woman he once loved. Little does Finn know, the answers await him in the broken Mason jar. A story about a girl who vanished, a former love who wrote a book about her and a reunion they never imagined. Written for the bruised and broken, The Mason Jar is an inspirational romance that brings hope to people who have experienced disappointment in life due to separation from loved ones. With a redemptive ending that encourages us to love again, and written in the fresh, romantic tones of Nicholas Sparks, The Mason Jar interweaves the imagery of Thoreau with the adventures and climatic family struggles common to Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall.

My thoughts-

I don't think any of us forget our first love. There is just something about that first strong, serious, romantic relationship that grabs ours hearts and always has a place there. Finn falls hard for Eden and very quickly. She is the first girl he dates and he can't get her out of his mind. I think a big part of that is the harsh and quick way she leaves without much closure for the relationship. Finn wasn't interested in having a relationship before her and there is no one that interests him after either. A part of me wishes Eden would have told him exactly why she had to leave, but I can also understand why she did what she did. I liked the idea of having a novel within the novel, that was definitely interesting. It gave us the opportunity to discover what Finn had been up to and what he had been feeling through Eden's eyes. Besides the great storyline between Eden and Finn, I absolutely adore that this book is about overseas missions and microlending. These are things that maybe the average person doesn't know a great deal about, so hopefully this book will open some new doors for some of it's readers.

I thought The Mason Jar was a beautifully written book. It only took me a few days to work my way through it. It will definitely keep the interest of anyone who enjoys a good love story. I can't wait to see what future books James Russell Lingerfelt comes up with, I will definitely be reading them!

Connect with James Russell Lingerfelt on Facebook
Connect with James Russell Lingerfelt on Goodreads

Monday, October 6, 2014

Younique 3D Fiber Lash Mascara Giveaway!

A while back I wrote a glowing review of Younique's 3D Fiber Lashes. A good friend of mine had started selling Younique products and I had a party for her, tried the mascara and all of the other products and fell in love. I fell so deeply in love that I joined Younique as a presenter myself! I love everything about this product. Not only does the fiber lash mascara give you 3 times the length and volume of mascara, it is made of natural products. Do you know what is in your mascara? A bunch of stuff you probably don't want to know about! Here is a comparison-

As someone who only uses natural products and who advocates the same on this blog, I was so excited to find a makeup company like Younique who feels the same way! It is important to put good food in our bodies, but it is equally as important to use products ON our bodies that are free of synthetic chemicals. This was the biggest reason that I fell for Younique, but the other huge reason is because it looks SO fantastic-

If you are interested in looking beautiful, working from home, mostly on social networks, and getting instant commissions, I would love to have you on my Younique team! We have a fabulous and encouraging support system and I know you will love being on the team! Contact me for more information or join here! 

I love the 3D fiber lash mascara so much and I am confident you will too! That is why I am giving away a set here for one lucky follower! I want to share this amazing product (and all of the other amazing products also made by Younique!) with anyone that I can! Enter below via the Rafflecopter for your chance to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (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-

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. 

The Underground Girls of Kabul 
is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. 

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

My thoughts-

When I read stories about the oppression women deal with in other parts of the world, especially the middle east, I am so very thankful to have been born an American. I could not imagine my whole existence being nothing more than bearing a male child or to be ostracized, shamed or even starved by my family for having a girl. I ave never heard of the practice of bacha posh, but that is exactly why this book intrigued me. I tried to imagine myself in these women's shoes and I could see why they would dress up their girls as boys. It is a desperate measure, but it can make all of the difference in a family. I find it appalling that these Afghani men could treat their women this way. It just does not make sense to me. A. A woman can not control what sex her child is (the Afghani people believe that they can just through sheer determination) and b. the man's sperm is actually what determines to the sex of a baby. Imagine if these men realized they were to blame for what they consider a shortcoming. Honestly, I doubt it would make a difference. This book broke my heart. I knew that it is looked down upon to have all girls or to not be able to bear a son, but I had no idea about the shaming and starving and just downright mean treatment of these women. It makes perfect sense that to have a better life as a family they would resort to presenting their girls as boys. I can not imagine the fear they must feel pretty constantly at being found out or the desperation that lead them to make the decision to live this way, but at the same time I applaud them and admire them for fighting the only way they can against the oppressive society in which they live. This was a fascinating story. I do not think many people realize the atrocities that happen when it comes to child bearing in the middle east and even if they do, this is definitely an interesting read. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes learning about other cultures or who is interested in social change. 

Connect with Jenny Nordberg on Facebook
Connect with Jenny Nordberg on Twitter
Connect with Jenny Nordberg on Goodreads