Book Review: Spider’s Gift: A Christmas Story

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I know! Three months until Christmas and already I’m going to start talking about Christmas books. Because you all know I totally have a soft spot for children’s Christmas books. Actually, it’s pretty much an addiction, but… that’s another blog post 😉

Spider’s Gift: A Christmas Story by Geraldine Ann Marshall and illustrated by Rebecca Sorge was an absolutely beautiful story. As much as I love picture books (Christmas ones even more so), I rarely will have pieces of the story keep popping into my head for weeks after I read it. Not so with this story.

It’s set in the stable and tells the Nativity story from the vantage point of three friends; a cricket, a honeybee, and a spider. Each is contemplating a gift they will give to the new baby, but Spider can’t think of anything.

Then she hears one of the wise men say:

God can make miracles when gifts are given with love.

An opportunity presents itself, and Spider is able to use the only gift she can think of, her ordinary web, as a gift to save the newborn Baby Jesus.

A bit fanciful? Maybe. But I think the message it tells is solid. We are able to give our ordinary everyday gifts to Jesus and he can in turn use them to bring about miracles. And that the message I keep find floating around in my head, even weeks after I’ve read this book.

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I received this book from the Publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Simply Ancient Grains

It’s high time I posted my review on this delightful cookbook: Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck!

I have always thought of ancient grains (you know, things like quinoa, barley, millet, etc…) to be “exotic”. Or, at the very least, too exotic for me (a self-defined simple, ordinary, every day cook) to be cooking with. This book has made those grains much more accessible. It’s made me much more at ease with even the thought of trying more “ancient grain” recipes.

Some things included:

  • General ways to cook the grains (different methods)
  • A overview list of the grains with their descriptions, textures, flavors
  • Menu ideas (!!!)
  • Little essays sprinkled throughout that are really nice to read, especially for someone who never really had a lot of practical teaching in cooking.

Many of the recipes I read through are fairly simple and seem pretty easy to put together. Not too involved (some a little more so), but nothing too crazy. For example, I made the “oatmeal butternut pancakes with brown buttered nuts” (pg 55) the other day (disclosure: I didn’t do the buttered nuts, although they sound absolutely amazing). But the directions went along the lines of: start the night before; put all ingredients in food processor; refrigerate overnight; make pancakes in the morning. That works for me.

I look forward to using many more recipes from this book!

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Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: The Day is Waiting

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The Day is Waiting. Illustrated by Don Freeman, words by Linda Zuckerman. Appropriate for any age child.

“What do you see when you look outside?” What are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with this day that has been given to you? How will you spend it? Will you spend it outdoors exploring? Visiting new places? Experiencing new things?

The truth is, you could do any of these. Sometimes you have to actually get up and go, and some times it just takes a little imagination.

This picture book, illustrated by Don Freeman, creator of Corduroy, is full of these imaginative things that one could accomplish in any given day, if only we’d take the time to experience them. The words are simple. I believe that they’re telling us, though, to seize the opportunities presented in any given day, even if it’s something as simple as going out to smell the flowers.

The message I get from this book is to simply “be” in God’s creation and to enjoy it. Sometimes I think we’re all a bit too rushed to enjoy things as they’re presented, and this is a very calming, relaxing, beautiful book to remember to just stop sometimes and take a little break.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A Single Bead

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I had the opportunity recently to review this new young adult novel, A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman. It is published by Pauline Books and Media and set to release in January 2016.

It follows the story of Kate, a teen who lost her grandmother in a tragic accident. During a memorial service she happens upon a single bead from her grandmother’s rosary. Throughout the story she finds others who have found beads from the rosary and discovers that many miracles have occurred for those who’ve found them.

This story was surprisingly engaging. It flowed really well and was very thought provoking. Even though it was a work of fiction it definitely challenged my thinking on the power of praying the rosary. Personally, praying the rosary is a devotion which I go back and forth on. Once I begin and/or finish a rosary I find that I am much more at peace, as is Kate in the book. But the mental block to even starting one (and the excuses that come with it) can really be a big hurdle.

I would say the book is written with a young-middle teen audience in mind, but even though, I think sometimes we just need to hear things simply. Sometimes we have the tendency to over-complicate messages. The book does a great job of “showcasing” the power of prayer in a simple and easy to follow way.

A quote that I keep coming back to:

“I think all of this is reminding us that we’re all connected, and that even one single prayer – one Our Father or one Hail Mary – counts. That’s the power of a single bead.” {emphasis mine}

I love how this ties in – in a very real and tangible way – how each bead is more than “just a bead”, it’s a very powerful prayer. Which I have a tendency to forget in the day to day, and I’m glad for this book to remind me of. 🙂

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I received this book free in exchange for my honest review.

Stephanie Engelman blogs over at A Few Beads Short or she can be found here on Facebook

Book Review: Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break

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Firstly, what is Fika?

…coffee plus something to eat…

.. the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee… and find a baked good to pair with it.

Further to truly “Fika” (used as a verb):

requires a commitment to making time for a break in your day, the creation of a magical moment in the midst of the routine and he mundane. Mika is the time when everything else is put on hold.

My grandmother is Swedish. She was born here in the US, but from what I understand retained a strong Swedish tradition. In the past year or so I’ve found myself drawn more and more to further discovering that heritage. So when I saw this book available for a review I jumped at the chance.

This book, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall goes into a bit of the history of Fika; both what it is and how it’s evolved over the years. It then delves into the recipes.

It’s broken into six chapters, each delving into a different aspect of Fika (modern-day, outdoor, and bread and sandwiches are just a few examples). Following a short little essay pertaining to each topic is a collection of recipes.

I would have submitted this review a few weeks back, but I decided that I absolutely needed to try a few recipes first!

I tried two that were chocolate based: kärleksmums (chocolate coffee squares) and chokladbollar (chocolate balls) and kronans kaka (almond potato cake).

The coffee squares turned out great (except I think I left them in the over about 3 minutes too long). But the flavor. Oh my! Actually the flavor of all three of the desserts was amazing. I found them to be very “grown up”. What I mean by that: (the first two) were chocolate. But they weren’t the sticky sweet chocolate that we normally associate with a chocolate dessert. That didn’t stop my kids from eating them. 🙂

There were also a few gluten free options (the chocolate balls and almond potato cake were both GF).

Something to keep in mind: if you aren’t keen on using a lot of butter then keep in mind that a lot of these recipes have butter as their starting base. I definitely wouldn’t classify these as “healthy”, but my view on desserts is: I would much rather have desserts made with real ingredients (real butter, milk and sugar) than a low-fat variety. Because at the end of the day desserts are still desserts and moderation is key 🙂

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I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.