Saturday, June 30, 2012

saturday spotlight: books

Since this was a week of reviews, I thought it fitting for today's Saturday Spotlight to reflect that. Here are a few of the bookish blogs I follow. This isn't a complete list but a handful from me glancing through my Google Reader subscriptions:

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Friday, June 29, 2012

book review: "entwined" by heather dixon

"Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her...beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with's taken away. All of it. 

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest. 

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things. 

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late."

What sold me on the book is the cover. It's beautiful! I like the font of the title and the dress and the colors - it completely grabbed my attention. I first heard about the book through the Reading Clean Spotlight on Reading Teen. Having read The Twelve Dancing Princesses children's book, I was excited at reading a YA book based on it. Overall, it was an ok read for me - I found it to be a little too dark for my liking. It had its good points though. For example, I liked Bramble - I thoroughly enjoyed her sarcasm :) However, while I loved the cover and the idea for the story, this wouldn't be a book I'd re-read again. 
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

book review: "crossed" by ally condie

"In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky--taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake. Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart--change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever" (Google).

This second book was harder for me to read than Matched. I didn't feel as compelled to find out what would happen next. A big difference in this book from the first is that both Ky and Cassia take turns telling it from their point of view. While I like the change in perspective, I also had to keep reminding myself of who was currently talking and I felt that it sometimes took away from the story. There were still twists throughout the story and plenty of action but I just felt a little lost. I'm still excited about the final book coming out this fall but this second book was a bit of a letdown for me...

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

book review: "insurgent" by veronica roth

"One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so" (Google).

I read Divergent last month and was super excited to get my hands on book two in the trilogy. However, I was slightly disappointed :( I thoroughly enjoyed Divergent and was unable to put it down – I had to keep reading because I wanted to know what happened next and then what happened after that. Though Insurgent has tons of action, I almost think it had too much. There was so much going on that it was hard for me to keep up at times. You’re introduced to a handful of new characters and at times I had to remember who was who. I would recommend reading it right after reading Divergent so the story is still fresh on your mind. I had about a two-week break in between because I had to wait for  Insurgent to be released. It was still a good book and I’ll re-read them both when the final book comes out. Insurgent isn’t lacking in action and Roth keeps you guessing the whole way through but in the end, Divergent won me over.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

book review: "matched" by ally condie

"Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow" (Amazon).

This is a good book :) This is a YA book unlike any other I've read. The idea of a society controlling everything down to the food portions, customizing them to meet the nutritional needs of each person blows my mind. She does a fabulous job with the details, painting a very vivid picture of the world in which Cassia lives. And unlike most YA books where I find myself pulling for one of the two guys, I like both Xander and Ky. They're very different from each other but both have likable qualities. And Ally kept me guessing the whole way through. Towards the end of the book there's a scene that caught me completely off guard - a twist making me dislike the Society very much - and when I finished, I already had Crossed on hand so I could continue Cassia's journey. I really enjoyed this book and it has a theme that makes you think...

You can find out more on the Matched trilogy and learn about the final book, Reached, coming out this November.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

week of reviews!

I've decided to go a little crazy and post a review every day this week! Here's what this week will look like:

Tuesday ~ Matched by Ally Condie
Wednesday ~ Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Thursday ~ Crossed by Ally Condie
Friday ~ Entwined by Heather Dixon

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

saturday spotlight: alissa with "rags to stitches"

Alissa has a super cute blog. She posts about everything from fashion to diy to everyday-ness. She also has a fabulous store where you can find these:

Go take a look and see for yourself how great Rags to Stitches is!
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

recipe: creamy chicken noodle soup

Recently, a very sweet woman at my church was nice enough to open her home up to those who were interested in taking part of a cooking class she was hosting. She, along with two other women, showed us how to make an amazingly simple meal that tasted soooo good! She ended up doing two classes and for the second class, she made chicken noodle soup. I tried the recipe myself this past week and though it didn't taste like hers, it was still pretty good. I've made note of what to do differently next time but you've got to start somewhere, right? So here we go...

1 store-bought roasted chicken
1 cup diced onions*
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
4 cans (14 oz) low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (10.75 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic*
2 teaspoon fine herbs (I bought Morton's Nature's Seasoning)
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked egg noodles (I used a whole bag)

*ingredients I did not use

"Remove the skin from the chicken and shred the meat from the bone. Put the chicken into a slow cooker along with the onions, celery and carrots. Stir in broth, mushroom soup, and fine herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high setting for 3-4 hours or low for 8-9 hours. When soup is finished, stir in egg noodles. Adjust seasonings and serve." 

I don't like mushroom and after confirming with her that she didn't use them in the soup she made for us, I chose to leave them out. I probably should've added at least another can of broth to replace that liquid but I didn't, only using four (I bought two that were low sodium and two that were normal chicken broth). I also didn't let my soup cook long enough. It took longer than I planned on to shred the chicken and then cut and dice the vegetables. I ended up leaving it in the slow cooker for three hours but it needed at least four. While it tasted fine, the carrots and celery were both still a little crunchy. Overall, I was pleased with how it turned out :)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

book review: "angel eyes" by shannon dittemore

"Brielle went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She's come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt...and an incredible, numbing cold she can't seem to shake. 

Jake's the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption. 

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what's going to happen. And a beauty brighter than either Brielle or Jake has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices begin.

A realm that only angels and demons - and Brielle - can perceive."

I wasn't sure about this book. I've read other stories that incorporated the whole "angel/demons and good/evil" theme but for the most part, found them lacking. However, I enjoyed Angel Eyes! I liked the way dialogue flowed and found Jake and Brielle to be really cute :) I like how Dittemore captured  the characters acting real. One of my favorite scenes was Jake watching Brielle dance. 

I was also glad that the book wasn't too far on the "this is a book I'd rather not read at night" scale. I've read a few of those and was relieved this wasn't one of them. This is a book with a great blend of humor, edge of your seat-ness and seriousness - with a splash of romance. Great book!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can read other reviews on the tour by clicking here.

Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

Find out what readers are saying here.

One "angelic" winner will receive:

  • A Brand New Nook Color
  • A copy of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Angel Eyes" Author Chat Facebook Party on 6/26. Shannon will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Angel Eyes and join Shannon on the evening of the June 26th for a chance to meet Shannon and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

voxbox: june 2012

Influenster is a site that mails you a free box of products in exchange for your honest review. It doesn't get any better than that :) Here's what came in my box:

Chapstick - Lip Shield 365
Loved this! It smells like lemonade and my lips just feel so much better after putting it on! I've used chapsticks before that just didn't last but I really like this one. 

SOYJOY - Blueberry 
I'm not a fan of soy but wanted to give this a try. The first bite was ok but it was downhill after that. If you like soy, you'd probably like SOYJOY but it wasn't for me. 

Aveeno - Daily Moisturizing Body Wash
I was pleasantly surprised with this product! It lathers amazingly well without having to use a lot of it. I would definitely buy this once I use all of the sample.

Dr. Scholl's for Her - Ball of Foot Pads
I've never bought or used Dr. Scholl's before but I've heard of the brand. I have a pair of great silver heels that are a little big for me. My toes gradually slip down into them, making them uncomfortable - though they're super cute :) I put this product in them and so far, am excited at the result. They keep my feet from slipping so I'm hoping this'll be the beginning of a great relationship with my shoes :)

Bath & Body Works - Fine Fragrance Mist
I received a bottle of "Paris Amour" (not pictured) and LOVE it! I was already a fan of Bath & Body Works before this Voxbox but was super excited to receive a bottle of spray! I love the variety of scents they have and just the whole experience of shopping there! I love the product and would definitely recommend it! 

Sheer Cover - Duo Concealer
I normally don't use concealer in my everyday makeup routine but have used this a handful of times. It's been ok - what I don't like is having two shades in one container. I'd rather have just the one shade instead of including one that isn't right for me. I've not been amazed with it but not disappointed either.

Sally Hansen - Salon Effects
I like having color on my nails though I'm constantly frustrated when I chip my polish. I was excited at this alternative to nail polish - something almost like tape. However, my trial run using it was not impressive. I had a hard time pulling off the backing and then making the edges nice and clean from filing off the excess. I'm not sure if you're supposed to apply a top coat of nail polish but I didn't. I loved how shiny the strips are but they started chipping right away and I ended up taking them off the next day. For a special occasion they would probably be great but I'm thinking not for every day. 

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

saturday spotlight: kimmie with "sugar and dots"

It took me seeing this on Pinterest to know I was going to like Sugar and Dots:

It's a mustache theme baby shower and absolutely adorable! And then I read her disclaimer and liked her even more:

She has lots of great ideas and link-ups at her blog! Go see for yourself!
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

recipe: bacon peanut butter banana bread

Jessica's blog is one of my favorites. She has amazing recipes and has a knack for making me laugh :) I'm not a huge peanut butter fan so I think instead of spreading it on top, I might use some of Pioneer Woman's sugar glaze for her delicious apple fritters and drizzle it on top. The whole idea of bacon in this intrigues me - it seems like such a contrasting pair that I want to try it :)
6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup bacon drippings resulting from cooking bacon
4 bananas, mashed (about 2 1/4 cups mashed)
1/3 cup milk
"Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon, cooking until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and let drain on a paper towel until ready to use. Reserve 1/4 cup of bacon drippings and set aside.
Spray a loaf pan liberally with non-stick spray or grease with butter. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon then set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk egg and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in vanilla extract, peanut butter, bacon drippings and butter, then add bananas and milk and mix until combined. Add in dry ingredients slowing, mixing with a spoon until batter comes together. Fold in bacon until it’s equally distributed.
Pour batter into loaf pan. Set pan on a baking sheet, then bake for 45-50 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove bread from oven and let cool completely before cutting.
Note: if you’d like even more peanut butter flavor, stir in a big handful of peanut butter chips!"

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

diy: trash to treasure

I shared this project as a guest post recently on The Crafty Scientist. This is a super simple idea that I came up with and I was excited at the end result. I could've maybe bought a new bag for not much more than I spent (not sure how much they cost - I've had mine for at least five years) but the idea of being crafty and just giving it a makeover was more fun to me :)

I recently bought a new car and the trash bag I have was not only faded from being in the sun, the pattern didn’t really match my new interior. This would just not due. So I had the idea to simply recover the bag so I could still use it. It was super simple and only cost $3 – way cheaper than buying a new one!
what you need:
  • fabric (I bought this for a $1 in the quilting section at Walmart – they had tons of choices!)
  • buttons, flowers – whatever you want to make it “pop” (I bought the flowers for $2)
  • hot glue (great for just about any project)

what to do:

  1. Measure the width of the bag and cut the fabric accordingly (I let the fabric hang a little loose – if you want to pull it taut, you’ll need less fabric).
  2. I started at one side and carefully hot glued the fabric to the bag, repeating the process until all sides were secure. I then glued the flowers on.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

saturday spotlight: kristanlynn with "adelynSTONE"

I just discovered KristanLynn's blog and am very excited about it! Allow me to show you why:

She has tons of great stuff at her blog! All kinds of diy projects and recipes. So much amazing-ness! Take a look at KristanLynn's blog and see for yourself!

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Thursday, June 7, 2012


I don't know what you're going through but I want to take just a moment to encourage you. Don't lose hope. No matter what, don't let go of hope! God's timing is not our timing and it's in those times of waiting that we can begin to doubt. I'm looking forward to when I can share with you how God answered a prayer I'm believing for right now. Refuse to give up on what you believing for Him to do. He is so able. Wanting to give up and settle for less than His best can be so very tempting but just hang on to hope and know - know - that He's working things out for you. Hold on to hope (which made me think of this 90's Christian music reference)...

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

to read

I don't know why I enjoy doing this to myself. My stack of books to read is steadily getting smaller but then I act on a whim and add no less than five more books to my stack. It's a vicious cycle :) I went to the library today, just browsing the shelves and walked out with (as I just mentioned), five books. I want to throw out a disclaimer that since I'm in the elementary education profession, I have permission to read YA books. In case you were curious :) On top of these, I have a few more titles I'm wanting to conquer for my summer reading:

from left to right, top to bottom:
a Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman, close to famous by Joan Bauer, Ida B by Katherine Hannigan, Tumtum & Nutmeg: The Rose Cottage Tales by Emily Bearn, Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn, Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow, The Cause Within You by Matthew Barnett, and The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead. 

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

saturday spotlight: christie with "a lemon squeezy home"

Christie has some fabulous stuff going on at her blog! I was looking at her different tutorials and am very excited to be able to try these for myself! Go take a look for yourself - she has some great stuff to make for small kids as well! Here are three that grabbed my attention:

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Friday, June 1, 2012

book giveaway: "letters to a young pastor" by calvin miller

Congrats to Britt for winning my copy of Caroline's Choice by Martha Rogers!

This month I'm giving away my copy of Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller. Contest ends Saturday, June 30 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT). To enter, just leave me a comment along with an email address so I can contact you.

For bonus entries:
- tell me how you heard about my giveaway
- become a follower of my blog

*Giveaways with the above logo are books that aren't new but still in really good condition.

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