Reviews

Book Review: The Sound of Rain

In search of a wonderful book to read during the upcoming holiday season? The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas is just what you’re looking for! 

In search of a wonderful book to read during the upcoming holiday season? The Sound of Rain by Sarah Loudin Thomas is just what you're looking for!

description of the book from the publisher:

After a terrible mine accident in 1954, Judd Markley abandons his poor Appalachian town for Myrtle Beach. There he meets the beautiful and privileged Larkin Heyward, who dreams of helping people like those he left behind. Drawn together amid a hurricane, they wonder what tomorrow will bring—and realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

As usual, my five point review:

  • From the opening pages, you will be pulling for the main characters–Judd and Larkin alike. Both characters, though remarkably different, with various goals and motivations, are passionate through and through. They are likable and you will be rooting for them to succeed. The romance element is sweet, believable, and present in the story without being the sole focus.
  • The secondary characters are also incredible. Granny Jane, Ben, George… though each has their own strengths (and weaknesses!), their role in the story was instrumental to its conclusion. I wish there was space for their motivations to be shared more! Especially George’s. Maybe a space for a sequel?
  • Christian fiction as a whole has changed substantially over the past few years (maybe longer?). I appreciated this book and the author for crafting a story where the characters’ faith did play a role in their life via convictions, priorities, and decisions but the telling of the story did not at all appear preachy.
  • I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a side of drama and romance. Larkin is a strong female lead and her struggles epitomize the challenges women have faced throughout history, so I think her character would be a great influence for many.
  • All in all, I just have to say: what a beautiful book. From the gorgeous cover to the lyrical writing to the great sense of place (1950s Myrtle Beach and Appalachian West Virginia and Kentucky), this book is unmatched. The author is also a wonderful storyteller, dedicated to the craft of writing and not just churning out the next book. I can’t wait to read more by Sarah Loudin Thomas!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

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Menu Plans

Menu Plan: Thanksgiving Recipe Style!

Wow, it’s hard to believe THANKSGIVING is coming up this week! If you’re still looking to plan your menu, check out these great recipe ideas below. 🙂

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving Recipes!

This month’s recipe round up was brought to you by:

The Pajama Chef | Savory Moments | The Cooking Actress | The Spiffy Cookie | Pies and Plots | Kelly Lynn’s Sweets & Treats | Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck

Pin this to your meal planning board for easy access all month long!

 

Thanksgiving Recipes! Thanksgiving Recipes!

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It's a great appetizer or side dish!
Appetizers, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables

Our Favorite Fresh Vegetable Dip

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It’s a great appetizer or side dish!

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It's a great appetizer or side dish!

At my house, the best way to make sure we eat our veggies is to always have some prepped and ready to snack on. I think that’s why those bagged salads, precut baby carrots, and ready-made vegetable trays at the grocery store are so popular. Preparing vegetables can be so time consuming! On the weekends, I like to spend some time cutting bell peppers and cucumbers, then portioning them into little containers to pull out of the fridge for my lunchbox all week long. Wait. I just reread that sentence. I’m not sure I like to do that… but I sure like the results. And you know when I like the results even more? When I’ve thought ahead enough to make some veggie dip like this one!

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It's a great appetizer or side dish!

It’s not that veggies aren’t tasty enough on their own, but sometimes we need some extra motivation, ya know? 🙂 My husband can testify to that, haha! Some people just like dipping their veggies in ranch dressing, but since my husband isn’t a ranch sort of guy, I have to be a little more creative. This fresh veggie dip meets both of our needs: it has a cool and creamy base with tons of flavor, but not that unmistakable ranch flavor. The ingredients are somewhat similar since it uses onion and garlic as the base flavors along with some herbs like dill and parsley, but what makes this vegetable dip stand out from the crowd is the addition of Worcestershire sauce! This adds a complex salty depth to the herby goodness.

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It's a great appetizer or side dish!

Like most dips, this comes together in a flash but I do recommend making it ahead of time so it can chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to marry and taste even better! 🙂 If you want to healthify the dip, you could substitute some plain yogurt for part of the sour cream. I think the recipe is amazing as-is though! Hope you enjoy!

one year ago: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake
two years ago: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
three years ago: Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins
four years ago: Pumpkin Graham Muffins
five years ago: Roasted Chicken
six years ago: Homemade Maple & Brown Sugar Almond Butter
seven years ago: Pumpkin Soup and Homemade Croutons

This cool and creamy fresh vegetable dip is easy to make. It's a great appetizer or side dish!

Fresh Vegetable Dip

  • Servings: ~ 2 cups
  • Print

from Taste of Home

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • a few cracks freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh vegetables, for serving

Directions:

In a medium bowl, stir together sour cream and mayonnaise. Add seasonings: onion powder, dill, garlic powder, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce and stir well. Taste and season with black pepper as desired.

Cover and chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

Serve with fresh vegetables!

Notes: You can also substitute some of the sour cream for plain yogurt (Greek or regular).

Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
Reviews

Book Review: Total Christmas Makeover

Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
description of the book from the publisher:
In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do. But it’s important to pause and remember that our priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forget to invite Jesus to his own party.
Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. Mindfully take time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Christmas story as the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provide encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and his wisdom for us today.
In Total Christmas Makeover, author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for you and your family to turn your attention toward God’s grace day-by-day as you prepare for Christmas. This 31-day devotional presents key scriptures, ideas to implement with each reading, and questions for reflection to guide you in rediscovering rituals, relationship, and rest to connect you more deeply with Christ this holiday season.
As usual, my five point review:
  • Devotionals can be really hit or miss–they can be too serious, too fluffy, too focused on a particular audience, or so many other “toos.” There are several times of the year where devotionals can be really helpful, in my opinion. Without going into too much detail about the church calendar, I believe that God has given us times of the year to refocus on Him. Christmas is one of those times! Melissa Spoelstra’s devotional is a great way to not just get “into the holiday spirit” but also keep Christ part of your celebration.
  • The book is divided into three sections: rituals, relationship, and rest, with ten days of devotionals that relate to each theme. These themes are extracted from the author’s study of Biblical celebrations (Passover, festivals, Day of Atonement, etc.). She explains, “these were times of remembrance to help focus on God’s character and historical moments of His faithfulness” (p. 2). That’s not how we celebrate holidays, is it? But that’s how we should… how I would like to.
  • Each devotion begins with scripture, printed right in the book to make it easy to read. The devotion itself is about two pages long and has a short prayer. The next two pages include reflection questions and practical application points. Though much of the “devotion” portion itself is directed towards women, the scripture, reflection questions, and application points could definitely be used in a family setting to encourage your family to seek after Christ during the Christmas season.
  • As with all devotionals or “Christian” books, good ones make you think. While I haven’t read every devotion yet (I wanted to save some for December!!), the ones I did read have caused me to consider what our family’s holiday celebration will look like as our son grows up. Of course we still want to be part of our family of origins’ celebrations but we also want to make our own rituals in Nashville… with our church, our neighbors, our friends, and as our own family. Balancing that is hard, and I don’t have any answers except to say that things will come naturally in time. I hope. 🙂
  • All in all, Total Christmas Makeover is a great devotional for the upcoming holiday season. It is short and sweet, but thoughtful and practical. Best of all, it is Christ-centered. I hope you will find a copy to read with me this Christmas season!
Spoelstra pin1
About the author:
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of the “First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree,” “Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness,” and “Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World Bible” studies and “Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home” book. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.
Spoelstra pin2
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review and received no compensation. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks for the chance to read this great book!
Desserts, Other, Recipes

Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping

My recipe for Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping has been submitted for the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge. Product samples received in exchange for posting this recipe as part of the recipe challenge. #steviva #sweetandeasy

My recipe for Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping has been submitted for the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge. Product samples received in exchange for posting this recipe as part of the recipe challenge. #steviva #sweetandeasy

Happy Halloween! I love candy as much as the next girl, but if I was being really honest I would tell you that I prefer fruit-based dessert more than chocolate-based desserts. Hence sharing a fruity dessert on the day ‘o candy, right? 🙂 But this isn’t just ANY fruity recipe. It’s a versatile sweet treat that’s healthy enough for breakfast and indulgent enough for dessert. Say whattt? Yup! Breakfast or dessert, it don’t matter. Originally I set out to make an apple crisp–using apples from a recent trip to the apple orchard, natch. But then I spied some pears in the fridge (from my brother-in-law’s parents’ house!) and added those bad boys in. Extra yum!

My recipe for Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping has been submitted for the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge. Product samples received in exchange for posting this recipe as part of the recipe challenge. #steviva #sweetandeasy

Since I was making this recipe as part of a recipe contest for Steviva, I wanted to make the crisp topping a little healthier than usual. (If you want, you can find Steviva on FacebookTwitterGoogle +,  Pinterest, and Instagram.) Instead of loads of butter and sugar in the crisp topping, I decided to toss in additional crunchy elements… chia seeds and sliced almonds, to be exact. And let me say… what a great idea! The crisp topping turned into this fanastic crunchy, granola-y layer. It actually stayed crisp in the fridge for a few days until we polished off the leftovers. Amazing! I used just enough Steviva Blend (erythritol and pure stevia) to sweeten up the topping a little bit. Plenty of warm fall spices and apple and pear flavor come through. This might be one of my new favorite recipes! It’s delicious served with vanilla yogurt or ice cream, and I think it would be perfect with a bit of whipped cream too! Enjoy!

My recipe for Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping has been submitted for the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge. Product samples received in exchange for posting this recipe as part of the recipe challenge. #steviva #sweetandeasy

one year ago: Apple Cider Pancakes
three years ago: Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin
four years ago: Sweet Potato Pie with Cranberry Compote
five years ago: Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew
six years ago: Individual Pumpkin Pie Parfaits
seven years ago: Aunt Charlotte’s Tex Mex Corn

Baked Pears and Apples with Crispy Granola Topping

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients:

for fruit

  • 8-10 cups chopped pears and apples, unpeeled in 2-3 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

for topping

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup Steviva Blend
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2-4 tablespoons sliced almonds, optional
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • vanilla yogurt, ice cream, whipped cream, etc. for serving, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch round baking dish with cooking spray. (A square baking dish or pie pan would also work.)

In a large bowl, toss together pears, apples, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Spread in prepared pan.

In the same bowl, stir together oats, Steviva Blend, chia, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If desired, stir in almonds. Cut butter into small chunks, then use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter into the oat mixture until it is evenly distributed in tiny pieces. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until topping is golden brown and crispy. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then serve with some vanilla yogurt, ice cream, or whipped cream, if desired.