What’s On My Bookshelf


I have been on a hiatus from writing book reviews for a while now but decided to do a quick one because I though this was such a terrific little book!  With the holidays coming soon (gasp, trying not to hyperventilate thinking about it) The Daily Question for You and Your Child, A Three Year Spiritual Journal would be a great gift idea for almost anyone with littles, smalls, mediums-basically from the time they can answer a simple question all the way up to the age when you can’t get them to answer your questions.

Brought to you by the folks at WaterBrook & Multnomah, this sweet book provides an opportunity for you and your child to spend time together, even if it is just a couple of minutes, asking thoughtful questions and recording their answers. There are spaces on each page for multiple years (it’s a three year book but could be stretched out if you miss a day or two or ten like I would be apt to do) and in asking a variety of questions-the same ones each year on that day-you capture your child in that moment. How they think, their humor, their thoughtfulness are preserved and you can both look back to see how they’ve changed over the course of those years.  I consider that opportunity a lifetime treasure.


So, grab yourself a copy and start going deeper with your child. Ask after dinner, or during breakfast, or when you tuck them in at night-make time to ask a good question and reap the benefits for years to come!


Now for a little housekeeping-WaterBrook & Multnomah (an imprint of Penguin Random House) provided a review copy in return for a few words about the book. I have not been paid for my endorsement.  Life is short so I only choose to write about the things I think would be good to share. I think this one qualifies.



I have love affair with cookbooks-and, if they are gorgeous…I am over the moon.  When French Country Cooking, Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson landed on my front step I, literally, dropped everything I was doing to sit down with it.

 Just holding this book is a treat; its weight, the color, the feel and attention to detail-down to the ribbon page marker-make this cookbook a treasure to keep, use, and pass down.  The design and layout is incredibly well done and the recipes range from something as simple as Mashed Potatoes with Fenne (page 251) to Quail stuffed with Foie Gras (which sounds harder than it actually is and is found on page 145). It’s the best of both worlds-a gorgeous book and an amazing cookbook.

I have a number of food sensitivities and allergies and this makes cooking, something I love to do, a challenge at times.  It doesn’t diminish my addiction to cookbooks since I am usually able to adapt recipes fairly easily.  However, if it is something I can’t adapt without ruining changing the nature of the dish then I make it anyway and rely on reactions of folks I serve it to for feedback/reactions. Luckily, for me, there are several recipes in French Country Cooking that I will be able to adapt and achieve good results –and, luckily for my family there are dozens they will be able to enjoy!

The first recipe on my list was Butternut Pancakes with Sage Brown Butter (page 108). Oh, my goodness, just saying it makes my mouth water!  I know some folks are intimidated by French cooking but this is as simple as it gets.  There are plenty of more difficult recipes but sometimes simple is beautiful.  With fall here and leaves drifting through the air this is the perfect comfort food on an autumn day, any day for that matter. The ingredients are ordinary but the results aren’t. You’ll love it.

The rest of my list is just about the entire book.  I know this sounds over the top for a recommendation but when I get excited about a cookbook, I am all in. I have a few on my bookshelf that I go to again and again and I usually know from the beginning if it is one that will stand the test of time. French Country Cooking will go on that shelf. You’ll be able to plan a great meal from appetizer to dessert at whatever level you choose and be pleased with the results.

I encourage you to check out  Mimi Thorisson’s website, Manger,  to get a taste of what  you’ll find in French Country Cooking. With Christmas around the corner French Country Cooking would be a great gift-you’ll feel good giving it and your recipient will thank you!

As always, my views are my own. I believe life is too short to waste your time or mine so I only post the good stuff.  I am not paid for my reviews or endorsements but did receive a copy of the book in return for my words.



I love Henri Nouwen’s writing. I’ll start there so that you know from the get go this will hardly be an impartial review.  I was given a copy of Return of the Prodigal Son and was immediately taken by Nouwen’s use of language, his gentle spirit and his ability to get to the deeper parts of you without tearing you apart.  I was a little hesitant about this book because I am not a huge fan when it comes to reading correspondence that wasn’t intended for my eyes.

There is something so intimate about reading someone’s correspondence but once you get past the feeling that you are eavesdropping, it begins to feel as if he is speaking to you directly. His voice comes through.  His deep desire to become more Christ like in every aspect of his life is reflected in Nouwen’s more traditional books and even more so in his letters. You have been invited to his writing desk to witness his unveiled openness with friends and acquaintances, family and strangers.  In each letter he is the same-real, honest, self deprecating and accessible.

As I mentioned before-I am a fan of his writing so it’s a no brainer that I would recommend this book.  I have to believe that if I weren’t familiar with his work that I would recommend this book as wholeheartedly.  Henri Nouwen’s spirit is present on these pages:  his love of others, his love of God, his devotion to growing towards Christ is infused in each letter.  If you have never read his work before then this is a great introduction to who he is-if you know his work then this will be a perfect complement to your library.

As always, my views are my own. I believe life is too short to waste your time or mine so I only post the good stuff.  I am not paid for my reviews but do receive a copy of the book in return for my words.

Summer is drawing to a close and while my book list was long and full one of the best things I did for myself this summer was read (and study!) Katie Orr‘s Everyday Peace.

I am always on the lookout for what my next study is going to be and I was delighted to stumble on Everyday Peace. I don’t even remember how it happened but I found Katie and signed up for a chance to get a pre-publishing sneak peak as well as take part in a pilot group for developing online studies.  I loved it!

I was basically the resident ‘lurker’-an affectionate term for someone who is part of a group but lurks along the edges. I am the quiet sort but I am a sponge (they are quiet too) and take in all there is to learn, think about it awhile and then put into practice what I have learned.  This said, the study was amazing and whether its a group situation (which I shy away from), online or simply an independent study this one would be a  perfect choice!

With busy lives demanding our attention, our time and our energy bible study can often be lower on our agendas and frequently can be set aside to face the urgent needs of the day and those around us.  Peace in the midst of all this busy-ness is something we each deserve and can have but it can feel out of reach. Everyday Peace reinforces and reminds us that true Peace is something God longs for us to experience.  One step at a time each 15 minute section builds on the other for a stronger, deeper realization that Peace is not only available it is waiting for us.

If you have ever longed for a deeper engagement with the word but don’t have hours of time to set life aside to make it happen Everyday Peace  by Katie Orr is a great place to start.  With her series of Everyday Studies (Faith, Hope, Love and Peace) Katie has developed a method of study that draws you into the word that unpacks passages in 15 minutes a day.  Everyday Peace was my first study using #FOCUSed15 and I immediately fell in love!

Katie is a wonderful teacher and if you visit her website (www.katieorr.me) she provides resources to support your study. You can learn more about her #FOCUSED15 method and find downloads for online bibles that support the type of interlinear study Katie uses in her Everyday Series.  Interlinear study was new to me before finding Everyday Peace and I am completely hooked!

While I did receive a pub copy of the book from New Hope Publishers, as always, my reviews are unpaid.  I believe that life is way too short to waste it on things that don’t make the world around you better so I seldom post a negative review. Honest? Yes, because I don’t want to waste my time or yours. I couldn’t endorse Katie’s study series more (check it out here) and Everyday Peace will definitely make your world a better Place. I can’t thank Katie or New Hope Publishers more for the opportunity to take part in their pilot group and to study Everyday Peace-THANK YOU!!!



It’s summer y’all so grab your beach towel, something yummy to drink (preferably with a bendy straw because that’s fun…) and dive into good book for a mini vacay! There is something about summer that makes me want to indulge in quick escapes between the pages and   A Fine Imitation, by Amber Brock, fits the bill.

I don’t typically review fiction-mostly because I really enjoy hands on kind of experiences-but with summer in full gear I thought it was a great time for a little get away.  What better way to escape than into prohibition era Manhattan, a ritzy Park Ave. address,  gossips and a mysterious, handsome artist?  There is nothing new about a neglected and lonely wife, gossiping neighbors and steamy afternoon trysts but that doesn’t make them any less fun when they are crafted together in a great story. There are few surprises in A Fine Imitation and the ending is predictable in a boy meets girl sort of way but there are enough twists along the way to keep it interesting

Hit the beach and tuck this into your basket for a quick read, a fun little diversion and don’t forget to pack the bubbly….

As always, my review is unpaid.  While I did receive a copy of the book from Blogging for Books, I believe that life is way too short to waste it on things that don’t make the world around you better so I seldom post a negative review. Honest? Yes, because I don’t want to waste my time or yours.


This book arrived when there was snow thick on the ground and all I could do was stare at all the amazing images longing for spring!  It may seem odd to think of a book about flowers as delicious but that is exactly what The Flower Workshop by Ariella Chezar is, delicious. Every image is a feast unto itself and the writing is perfectly paired.

Chezar  walks you through the entire process of creating  every kind of arrangement from the most simple to the extravagant in  a way that makes you feel like you could recreate each piece accurately and well.  She also offers a philosophy of flowers that provides a little history, reasons for using flowers everywhere in your home and the benefits of sprinkling their beauty throughout your space. In her section Living With Flowers Chezar lays out great ways to introduce flowers into your lifestyle, where and how to find just the right blooms for the time of year and placement as well as how to grow your own.

The Flower Workshop is thoughtfully laid out to introduce you to the basics of flower selection, vessels, color, texture and others and the significance of making appropriate pairings for the most effective presentation.  It is even an easy to use guide if all you want to do is thumb through the pages and pick out something you want to recreate or reference. It will be well worth your time to read through and savor each image because you will miss so much just picking and choosing.

Broken down into sections, you can quickly find a project that is right for any occasion from a casual Sunday brunch to a wedding.  With the exception of the Dutch Masters-which would be an ambition (but doable) undertaking- each arrangement, bouquet or ornament has an air of easy sophistication. I especially love her single flower or single color options which look lush and almost decadent when she pairs unexpected elements like grapes or blueberries. She has a gift for making the art of arrangement unstuffy, unfussy but completely put together.

If I were going to pick my favorite element of the book, aside from the aesthetics and just about everything, it would have to be that I feel like I could go in my yard and find enough of what I would need to create something which would be perfect for almost any situation.  I don’t have a flower buying budget-the best I can hope for is a grocery store bouquet on special occasions but I think I could make even the simplest awkward bunch of flowers into something special using the tips Chezar provides.

As always, my review is unpaid.  While I did receive a copy of the book from Blogging for Books, I believe that life is way too short to waste it on things that don’t make the world around you better so I seldom post a negative review. Honest? Yes. Thankfully this book fits the bill for making the world around you a little bit better so I hope you get the chance to grab a copy-you won’t regret it and will go back to it again and again for inspiration and it is the perfect companion for those days that need just a little bit of brightening.


What a privilege it has been to read, watch and learn from Holley Gerth’s Life Growth Sessions! You’re Already Amazing, Life Growth Guide and DVD series are based on her bestselling book, You’re Already Amazing  Embracing Who you Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be.YAA_LifeGrowth_Guide_Cover_1024x1024

Through a series of six sessions you dive into the understanding that you were created by an incredible God to be an amazing and unique creation; a one of a kind.  AND you bring to the world a voice that only YOU can bring.  I jumped in without having read the book and was so blessed by the material that I grabbed a copy of the book to make sure I was able to get the most out of the experience.  Meant to complement each other, the guide and dvd sessions could stand on their own as a great study experience for a group-or even an individual but I recommend reading the book to make sure you get the best experience possible.

The guide is filled with page upon page of effective exercises to help you discern gifts and abilities.  Holley does a great job coaching and leading you into a better, and deeper, understanding of who you are and how you are put together.  She reinforces that you are made in a very specific way and that God fit you and equipped you with gifts necessary to fulfill your calling.  Her DVD series adds just the perfect touch-it is like sitting down over a cup of coffee and hearing the encouragement we all need, so desperately, to hear. Holley’s authenticity (I love the messy hair pajama story!)and sincere desire to see your fulfill God’s deepest purpose for your life comes through loud and clear.

In a world that inundates us nearly every second of the day with images of how we are suppose to look, what our homes should be and how we could be better if we just ____(you fill in the blank) so that we too can fit the form of a world that requires external affirmation and assimilation. We are created by a God who desires us to fulfill only His vision for our lives and that is so much more.  Holley offers an opportunity to pull up a chair and find our way to that quiet voice that can silence the noise of the world and hear His calling on your life.

It is not easy to be pulled in the many directions that a woman’s heart and life can be pulled. Finding or building a community of women who desire to seek God first for their lives and choices can be a challenge too.  I encourage you to go to Holley’s beautiful website, holleygerth.com , and connect with her and the many other amazing women who are building community around this great guide!  If you are a church leader and are looking for ways to reach out to women of all ages consider a study around the videos and guide. It doesn’t require a great deal of prep-just a pot of coffee or some great tea-Holley has done all the hard work for you!!

Like I said, it was truly a privilege to participate in the launch of this great series.  I have taken classes, done workshops-anyone remember Networking??-and left feeling let down, discouraged and like I just wasn’t a good fit.  This led me to be discouraged in service and discouraged in church.  Not a great feeling.  To be encouraged that I am who I am meant to be-even if that doesn’t fit a specific mold or ideal-is refreshing.  That I can be of service to Him where I am and with what He has equipped me with is such a hopeful and strengthening gift!!

While I did receive a copy of the Growth Guide and companion DVD I have received no other compensation (well a couple of good cups of tea that came with the launch pack 🙂 )for reviewing You are Already Amazing.  It was a great gift to participate and have the opportunity to be a part of such a great book launch!!  Thank you Holley and best wishes!!!

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Oh. My. Gosh.  To say I love this cookbook would be an understatement!  Often when I review a cook book I may use one or two recipes to give it a try, may even go back to them to use again.  Just as frequently I shelve a book and don’t go back to it where it lingers collecting dust and irritating my conscience because I’m just not that into it but can’t part with it. This book was a whooooole ‘nother story! The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider and published by Penguin Random House is, at this point, my all time favorite cook book I’ve gotten for review.

The recipe from the cover image is worth the price of admission alone. My copy-which I got early December-is already dog eared and stained-a good sign that this one is not only a keeper but one that will not be collecting any dust. Perhaps the favorite and most used recipe so far is for the Shredded Chicken on page 97.  I use this as a foundation for almost all the other recipes that I frequent.  Several  of the recipes call for a stock-whose recipe is in the book as well-but I have found that the stock from making the shredded chicken is an absolutely amazing replacement. It also kills two birds with one stone (especially if you double or triple the recipe which is super easy to do).

I tend to stick with chicken or meatless recipes but have found that it is easy to substitute in almost any recipe.  I still have more to try so I may run into a stumper but I doubt it. I think it is a tie for the top two, go-to recipes, Torta de Tamal (page 90) and the Pazole Verde (cover image and found on page 21).

If you like tamales then the Torta de Tamal is going to satisfy on many, many, many level-did I mention many?  Think one giant, beautiful, corn wrapped tamale that serves 6-8 in one shot and you get the picture.  AND the best part is you can drop it in your crock pot, pour yourself a margarita  and read the other recipes in the book until it’s time to eat.

2015-12-15 11.33.38I also did one up in my cast iron dutch oven and it was equally beautiful, equally tasty and done in less than half the time. One thing I discovered is that if you are going to go through the trouble of making one you may as well double or triple the recipe and get some crock pot loving friends and make up a bunch to share.  I made at least two double batches in the space of a week over the Christmas holidays for pot luck and new baby meals. I borrowed my sons crock pot and filled it with this and had it waiting when they got home from the hospital-nothing to return and they had enough for a couple of meals. Boom. It is a little time consuming but that’s why I suggest doubling or at least tripling and making a part out of it.


If you love Mexican food, have a crock pot and need an excuse to mix up a batch of margaritas then this one is a no brainer. Go. Get. This. Book. Seriously. Now. This cook book is so easy to use, beautifully designed and one I highly recommend (in case you hadn’t picked up on that.)  I have a lot of great books lying around collecting dust and hurt feelings but this one is seldom off my counter. Pretty sure I heard it sigh one time and mention something about a headache but I put it to work anyway.

Here is where I give a little disclaimer about receiving this book as a part of Blogging for Books.  I am not paid for my endorsement nor to I receive anything more than a copy of this book in return for a quick review. Life is too short to spend time on things I don’t like and aren’t worth wasting someone else’s time so I have to like something to write about it. I think this one really fit the bill. Enjoy!!

Ok, so, I have a confession-I am not pregnant.  9781607746799That would be just shy of an immaculate conception at this point.  I may not have a growing belly (at least not from pregnancy) but I do have a daughter (2nd) AND a daughter –in-law(1st) who are fully pregnant and have an excuse to have an enlarging waistline.  When I saw What to Eat When You’re Pregnant by Dr. Nicole Avena  I thought it would be a great resource for them to have around.

The impact of eating a nutritionally sound diet while pregnant has been proven to affect fetal development as well as impacting intellectual development and reducing the predilection of obesity. What to Eat When You’re Pregnant offers a simple to follow guide for trimester to trimester nutrition and gives great information on fetal development throughout pregnancy. Both girls have very different personalities and each had their own way of approaching how they used the book. One used it as more of a guide-something to look through and glean little bits of information along the way. The other really enjoyed the developmental references and made choices based on what was happening along the way.

I don’t think there were any specific recipes that they chose to use-again, very different approaches to meal planning and food choices but the information was readily adapted to each individual taste.  As a non-pregnant person I enjoyed thumbing through the book and would have really enjoyed something like this back when I was pregnant!

It is a pretty basic book and being a cook-book/image junky I enjoy a beautiful book for the motivation it can provide to try new things and I think this one could have benefited from a few aesthetic tweaks to make it just a bit more appealing.  Aside from that, I think the girls found it to be a useful resource and I think they had fun gaining a better understanding of the developmental stages as their pregnancies have progressed. As a guide for the mom-to-be or the newly pregnant I think this is a terrific resource and should be a book shelf must!

Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She is an expert in the fields of nutrition, diet, and addiction. She received a PhD in neuroscience and psychology from Princeton University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology at The Rockefeller University in New York City.*

As usual, I only write about things I love because life is too short to waste on things you don’t!  I did receive a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for my review but that is the only compensation I receive.

*information from Penguin Random House Publishers




I have a real soft spot for great cookbooks-especially ones that are beautifully crafted, filled with easy and delicious recipes and have a story.  Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady (also the name of her amazing website www.sevenspoons.net which if you aren’t following you need to be) is a feast that covers all the bases providing traditional family recipes as well as fusion styled dishes that never fail to satisfy.

I think I mentioned that one qualifier of a great cookbook is easy-as in E. A. S. Y.  and I am happy to report that Seven Spoons delivers.  I did have to grab a few ingredients that I don’t typically have on hand, like spices, but now that they are a part of my pantry I know I can revisit my favorite recipes from this book with ease! One thing that I love is the section on ‘Staples’. Here you can find ways to create necessary ingredients.  Dressings, sauces (harissa…sigh), doughs and even pickles can be found in this handy section. I am dying to try the Pickled Jalapenos with Garlic and Orange (pg 271).

Truth be told there are so many recipes I am dying to try! I did finally settle on Chaat Tostadas-one because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and two because I needed a quick dinner that wasn’t the same old standby-chicken.  Oh, man. Did I pick the right recipe!  My hubby-who is a dyed in the wool meat eater who will stop and grab a burger if he knows there is a meatless dinner on the horizon-loved these (I didn’t tell him ahead of time there was no meat 😉 ).  I mean, really loved these. There is the perfect blend of substance and flavor and it was filling!  So, even though this recipe lands in the Lunches section of the book I highly recommend pinning it to your fridge for a great dinner option.

O’Brady has a long pedigree as an author and chef with her work and writings featured in  SaveurThe Globe and MailKinfolk magazine, Style at Home, and Parenting.com, UPPERCASE magazine, The Guardian, on Bon AppétitOprah.comThe Splendid Table, and Design*Sponge (information taken from www.sevenspoons.net). Take a few moments to visit her website and you will find beautiful images, amazing recipes and a wonderful story of how Seven Spoon came to be.  You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook (sorry no link for Fb-I dont use it and yes-I am that person and happy to be so).

Just so that you know-I was not paid for this review-my thoughts are my own and, as usual, I only write about things I love because life is too short to waste on things you don’t!  I did receive a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for my review but that is the only compensation I receive other than a lot of really delicious recipes and a great cookbook to revisit over and over!


In full disclosure I am a Boardwalk Empire junkie. Not sure what it is or why it is but the history around this era is fascinating to me.  Prohibition was an ill-conceived, though well intentioned, hiccup in history that helped solidify the sanctity of whiskey in all its forms.  Naturally I jumped at the chance when I found out I could write a review for The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum. This book is rich with history, imagery and my personal favorite-recipes.

Rothbaum takes you through history beginning with the 1800’s and landing you in what he calls the New Golden Age.  Each page is artfully crafted to include images culled from labels and signage through the ages and is as visually pleasing as the smoothest bourbon tastes going down.  His attention to detail is clear resulting in a layout that is easy to navigate and pleasure to just flip through for the casual browser.   I enjoy having this book laying around because inevitably visitors pick it up and thumb through it.

No book about whiskey would be complete without recipes, at least in my opinion. One could try but what would be the fun in that?  As a ‘Manhattan’ purist I look forward to working my way through these cocktail recipes to see if I could be persuaded to change my tune.  From the ‘Boilermaker’ to the ‘Presbyterian’ I intend to be committed to diligent and thorough research…and if I can remember any of it I’ll return with a post-script in the future. My guess is that they’re all gonna be good so let’s just leave it at that….

As always-I never write about things I don’t like-life is too short to dwell on the negative. I am required to let you know that I have written this review as part of Blogging for Books but I would have done this one anyway!

And, if you’d like a bit more info on Noah Rothbaum here ‘ya go- a writer and spirits expert based in New York City, he is the author of The Business of Spirits, the former editor-in-chief of Liquor.com, and has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times,O Magazine, Details, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Food & WineGastronomica, and more.


Always on the hunt for things to do and try I thought this book would offer some great diversions on rambling summer (or any season for that matter) days.  I am the type that when I head into a restaurant I always look for something  new to try-I mean, why go out if you are going to get something you can make at home!  I feel this way about cocktails and other drinks too. Except maybe for bubbly-I don’t mind ordering a glass of something I would have at home because, well, it’s bubbly but that’s another subject…

So, back to Infuse, presented by Eric Prum and Josh Williams. Notice I don’t say written by?  Infuse isn’t just a plain old book to land on a dusty bookshelf somewhere in your basement-this book was crafted. From the velvet soft touch of the cover to each individual pic this book is a well put together presentation of all the great things you can do with infusions. Well, maybe not exactly ALL, but a lengthy enough list to keep one busy for a bit!

With it’s simple to access, step by step instructions and the gorgeous-sometimes mouthwatering-images,each of the infusions are doable even in the smallest kitchen.  Infuse offers up a variety of oil, spirit and water infusion recipies as well as food recipes and menus to put your new skills to work.

I am going to make a true confession and spill that I went straight for the spirits section.   With a holiday weekend on the way I wanted to be well prepared and have my infusions ready to go!  Birefall will be making an appearance in a July 4 styled cocktail that will-hopefully-provide some sparks to start us off and rumor has it that it may show up disguised a barbecue sauce sometime over the weekend! An undocumented source has confirmed that the Bloody Mary Concentrate on page 81 will be hitching a ride in ye olde picnic basket as well.

If spirits aren’t your thing (and even if they are) you can find some spirited (but spirit free) cold brewed teas, cold brews and spicy, any time of the day pick-me-ups that will keep you hydrated and happy. The Sunday Morning Reviver and Jalepeno-Spiked Grapefruit Water are stand outs!

For the foodie in all of us you can find basic oils to season your goodies, easy vinaigrette’s and flash infused oils to use in oh. so. many. ways.  I especially love the Flash Infused Oil because I am usually the person who remembers at 5:30 in the afternoon that I need to come up with something for dinner! While most infusions do require some planning (though some as little as 24 hours-yay!) these little quickies come in handy for making it seem like I planned it all along (thank you she mouths quietly to page 49).

As is my way-I don’t write about or endorse things I don’t like because life is too short.  I will disclose that I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review(not to be confused with bloffing for books-which I somehow manage to type almost every time.). I am not paid for my endorsements nor do I receive and other sort of remuneration-much to my husbands chagrin.

Yes, I do recommend you add this to your well dusted shelf and reference it often-pretty sure you won’t regret it!! You can pick up Infuse here and here and request it at your local book shop…go ahead, you know you wanna 😉


‘How to’ art books are not high on my list of favs but when I saw this one I thought I would take a chance on it.   I have my MFA in painting though never explored watercolor as a viable medium for my work. I have always thought it might be fun to try my hand at it and decided to try and find a book to get my feet wet, per se. In looking for something that would give me ideas without the step by step, happy cloud approach I stumbled on this sweet book-and in all truth, it was the cover of Just add Watercolor that convinced me to give it a second look.

Author Helen Birch, who teaches courses in art and design, fine art, and illustration at Bradford College, UK, did a great job assembling a diverse compilation of artists and their work.  The variety of techniques and the multiple approaches to surface, concept and execution makes this a great book for finding inspiration without the rote step 1, step 2, step 3 and voila you have made just what you saw in the book.  This little guy opens doors to exploring and expanding ones painting vocabulary so that you can take this inspiration to your own work.

I love the little tips that have been highlighted throughout the book that help to explain certain techniques or applications.  I also appreciate that Birch has included various water media-not just good old fashioned watercolors! While there is some direction for the basic how to get started, the best part is that it is open ended and you can explore and play away to develop your own voice. The smaller size of this book is perfect for keeping on hand without cluttering up my table and (bonus!!) it looks great sitting on an end table or to top off a stack of boring books with a little color!

This is a great addition to any artists library-or anyone who wants to try something new!  You can find out more by visiting Penguin Random House or checking it out at your local library (if they don’t have a copy make sure request it!)!

And, just so you know and that I keep it on the up and up, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All views are my own and I receive no financial reimbursement for positive reviews. On a personal note-I only write about the things I enjoy 😉

Image from MarthaStewart.com

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions or declarations of what I am going to change but Clean Slate by the editors of Martha Stewart makes me want to do just that!  I deal with a number of food sensitivities and am always searching for clean, safe and easy recipes to accommodate both my ‘issues’ and my husbands unwillingness to adjust his diet…which can be a HUGE frustration.  If he sees me eating the same foods he is he gets suspicious that I am trying to sneak gluten free or other ‘health’ food’s past his meat and potato nose.  When I got the opportunity to write a review of this cookbook/guide I jumped at the chance hoping that there were recipes and ideas we could both live (in my case comfortably) with while cutting down on making two meals for a single mealtime.

One of the problems with dietary issues is the expense of specialty foods and the complicated nature of recipes. Consequently, I have some beautiful cookbooks filled with delicious looking recipes that gather dust instead of dirty fingerprints from use.  One of the first things I noticed is that there was a simplicity in layout (read ease of use!) as well as the simplicity of recipes (read real food that is readily accessible and affordable!).  Give me a beautiful cookbook and I am happy look at it again and again but give me a beautiful cookbook I can actually use over and over again and you will find my happy dancin’ all over my kitchen!

I didn’t waste any time picking out a few recipes that I knew the hubs wouldn’t balk at when I added them to the menu. Mostly they were sides-which are frequently my main dish because I eat very little meat.  I made my selection and then added the ingredients I didn’t have on hand to my weekly shopping-easy peasy.  I chose some cross over types of recipes and was even able to make a GF substitution in one of them without compromising the overall result…

IMG_3789The first recipe I tried was a Barley with Brussels Sprouts, Spinach and Edamame salad (page 143 so you can head right there when you pick up your copy 😉 ).  Barley is a grain and filled with yummy gluten which would land me in a whole heap of trouble so I substituted quinoa and it was still prettyIMG_3795 darn tasty. Since we both love Brussels Sprouts, the next recipe was another salad (pg 154) that had avacados and the best, fresh tasting dressing I’ve had in ages.  The original recipe calls for pumpkin seeds but we substituted pistachios because that is what we already had on hand-not a bad switch up!

The next recipe I tried was the Poached Chicken with Bok Choy in Ginger Broth (pg 232) and even though I was too busy to grab some pics you need to know that this soup was simply beautiful-both in appearance and taste! This one was a little more time consuming and had a few more steps it still had the simplicity that I love. I don’t mind spending a little extra time if it is the main part of the meal and something we will both enjoy.  The flavor of this soup the next day was incredible and it was pretty darn good the first go around!

I have a whooooole long list of other recipes that I can’t wait to try, including the smoothies! The section on smoothies is organized by what benefit can be found in the ingredients-which I LOVE. Period.  I am especially enamored of the anti-inflammatory….

I can unabashedly and unashamedly recommend adding this one to your library. I would offer to lend you mine but, well, no. It’s not leaving my grubby little hands.  I have to be honest that I while I did receive a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for a review I received no other compensation for my review.


I made the mistake of picking this book up at one of the busiest points in my life in the last couple of years. This weighty toWhen Lions Roarme-in both size and content-deserved lengthier reads than I was able to provide but even with only snatches of time it was informative and compelling. Author Thomas Maier captures the feeling of the times as well as the frustrations and challenges of being a leader in a changing world.

I love great historical writing so this was a no-brainer for me to add to my reading list. Partner that to the fact that I love most anything written about Winston Churchill and this set out to be a win-win read. Many of the information was what I expected (having done reading on Churchill before).  Not being familiar with the Kennedy family much beyond JFK it was interesting to get the back story set in historical context-and much of that information was unexpected.

Whether it was a lapse in my education or a glossing over of certain information in what I have read from this time period, I got an education in the seedy, elitist backdrop of American politics of the era.  Throughout the book, while Churchill’s foibles were expounded on as well, there appeared to be a great attention to detail to the failures and weaknesses on the Kennedy side of the telling.  To be fair, Churchill’s son, Randolph, got his fair share of discredit for his bad behavior along the way.  There was also an honest attention to the tragedy that faced the Kennedy clan-losses that went beyond the highly publicized assassinations of Robert and John Kennedy.

The rapidly changing world of the early 20th century is captured as well as the drama and almost soap opera like theatrical nature of life during that time.  As a fan of Downton Abbey it’s hard not to see the parallels and similarities in the scandals and day to day existence of these very real characters.  If you are looking for a good long read to help make it through the remainder of this cold, cold February I think this would be a great book to add to your reading list-especially if you are a history junkie like I am.

Just a note-I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review


This week on my website I wrote a review of an awesome little book and wanted to share it here as well!

When I set out to work through the problem of rejection I looked long and hard for resources to cite-like any good recovering academic worth their salt would do.  Lacking the discovery of really great content to source that would demystify rejection I tried searching other terms and came up with this little gem of a book, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure.  While rejection and failure may be considered siblings, I do not see them as twins and therefore was not searching for failure, per se, but when this showed up in my search results I couldn’t resist!

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure

This cheeky little tome, edited by C. D. Rose and published by Melville House, is filled with account after account of missteps, bungles, oversights, bad judgement and miss placed manuscripts.  I knew before I completed the introduction that this was going to be a page turner of the best sort of slow motion, train wreck sort of way. From quoting Guy Debord to the truth of schadenfreude, the wit and savvy with which editor C. D. Rose pulled together these 52 tales of authorial woe made this a pure guilty pleasure read for me.

The BDLF is based on a year long blog experiment in which Rose and a team of researches published one essay a week  that focused on a different author and his or her ignominious almost but not quite grasp at literary fame. The documented failures ranged in scope from the deeply conceptual (think along the lines of blank pages or writing while rowing) to sheer bungling at every turn. In fact, I had a couple of out loud “no way!” moments because I found it hard to comprehend that so many wrong turns could happen to a single person followed by a punch line of and then they died.

Perhaps my favorite ‘failure’ is the tale of Veronica Vass who wrote in code so dense and complex that the likes of Alan Turing would be hard pressed to unravel. In fact, Vass is portrayed as being a contemporary and acquaintance of Mr. Turing which may have been the ultimate downfall of her already less than stellar literary career.

I did begin to wonder as I went along if these could quite all be true. Reading through the essays I experienced a mixture of humor and disbelief at the layer of coincidence and connection that runs throughout the pages. Even the etchings pushed the envelope of believe-ability-author #7 bears a striking resemblance to an aged Edgar Allen Poe but it works for we will fittingly quote Mr. Burscough nevermore.

Without giving any more away I will end with a strong recommendation to give this petite compendium a read! I need to add that I am not paid for my opinions or representations regarding any reviews or recommendations in regards to this book.  I did receive a review copy* but views are my own and since I got a real kick out of this book I think you might as well.

And, after reading BDLF I am left with this question….

If a tree falls in the forest will the words not written on the pages not made from said tree comprise some of the best literature never penned?

*My thanks go out to Melville House for sharing BDLF with me and for the opportunity to share it with others!

P.S. See what else I’ve been up to this week…I was featured on Midlife Boulevard!

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