Friday, December 5, 2014

First Friday Book Review - The Women of Christmas

Title and Author: The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna; by: Liz Curtis Higgs

Release Date: 2013

Page Length: 212 pages

How I got the Book: Amazon

Find OnlineGoodreads Amazon

Description: A sacred season is about to unfold for three women whose hearts belong to God. 

Elizabeth is barren, yet her trust in God remains fertile. Mary is betrothed in marriage, yet she is willing to bear God’s Son. Anna is a widow full of years, yet she waits patiently, prayerfully for the Messiah to appear in the temple courts.

Following in their footsteps, you too can prepare for the Savior to enter your heart, your mind, and your life in a vibrant, new way. Best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs explores the biblical stories of Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, unwrapping each verse with tender care and introducing you afresh to The Women of Christmas.

My Thoughts:
There is just something so special about a Christmas devotional. I've had my eye on this book since the summer, and I'm so glad Christmastime is here!

As we prepare for Christmas, it is such a joy to take a deeper look into the lives of Mary, Elizabeth, and then Anna. Liz (in her own unique way, which I love!) slows down the Christmas story to really understand the details written, and unwritten, that surround Jesus's birth.

Liz helps paint the picture of a woman (Elizabeth) who continues to wait and pray for a child, and also sheds insight into what Mary might have been thinking when the angel Gabriel visited her, and how she lived out the following months of pregnancy.

What I love about Christmas devotionals like this one, is that you can really saturate yourself in the Christmas story at your own pace, throughout the season. With only 8 chapters, you can read this book during the month of December, or every day during the week leading up to Christmas. Liz also includes study questions at the back of the book to help guide your quiet time.

Final Recommendation: 

I've always been fascinated by the Christmas story since becoming a believer in 2009. I always feel like each year I learn something more, something deeper. Please pick up a copy of The Women of Christmas, and use it to go deeper this year as well. I promise you will enjoy every minute of it!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christine's Favorite Things - Inspiration for Christmas Gifts

I'm taking a cue from Oprah, and sharing some my absolute favorite things! Hope these ideas give you some inspiration for Christmas gifts. 
(These are just ideas, so unlike Oprah, I won't be giving anything away! Sorry!)

My Favorite Fitness:

FitBit Flex Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband 

I've had my FitBit for about two months now, and I love it! 
It helps me track my work outs, steps, and activity throughout the day. 
Great gift to get in shape for 2015!
Check it out and buy here

Made to Crave book and Action Plan kit

Ready to make real life change in 2015? 
Use the accountability of the Action Plan as you read Made to Crave, to make healthy choices that stick!
I've had my eye on this for a while now, and can't wait to buy my copy for the new year! 
Check it out and buy here

A new fitness outfit

Who doesn't love new clothes? 
Treat yourself (or someone you love) to a cute new fitness outfit. 
This pink tank found at Khol's is perfect motivation to get active. 
Toss those old, gross t-shirts and look cute while working out!
Check it out and buy here

My Favorite Cooking:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays Cookbook

This is the gift that keeps on giving! 
My husband bought me this cookbook last Christmas, and I have thoroughly enjoyed using it all throughout the year! Have fun trying out all her holiday recipes including carrot cake for Easter, Halloween treats, and even a delicious Valentine's day romantic breakfast! 
Plus, she walks you through gorgeous, but easy to do, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Check it out and buy here

Set of Kitchen Tools

Who doesn't love new kitchen items? 
Whether it's been a year, or several years since you're wedding and bridal shower, you probably need to replace some of your hardworking kitchen tools. My recommendations: bamboo cutting board, zester, wooden spoon(s), new kitchen towels, etc.
My favorite stores to find great kitchen tools include HomeGoods, Khol's, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. 

My Favorite Beauty:

Birchbox Gift Subscription

Treat your lady to a 3 month gift subscription of Birchbox! 
Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that mails you a box of 4 - 5 beauty and makeup samples each month. They also offer 6 month and 1 year gift subscriptions. 
I started Birchbox in October and absolutely love it! I always get overwhelmed picking out make-up, hair care, perfume, and beauty items. 
Thankfully, Birchbox has got me covered. I just my monthly box in the mail and enjoy!  
Check it out and buy here

Christian Living: 

Some Highly Recommended Christian Books 

This year I've read my fair share of Christian Living books. I highly recommend the ones I've read throughout the year, but especially The Resolution, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, and One Thousand Gifts
You can find these books at any Christian bookstore, church bookstore, or on 

Note-Taker's or Journaling Bible 

Here's an idea that I'm personally going to start in 2015. Bible journaling! 
Also called a note-taker's bible or journal bible, these specific bibles allow you to take notes, draw, or just write your thoughts in the expanded margins. 
There are some beautiful examples on Pinterest, to help get you started. Check them out by searching journaling bible on Pinterest. 

Happy holiday shopping!

Disclaimer: I did not receive any of the above mentioned products for free and I was not paid for writing this post.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Books I've Read This Year - A Quick Re-cap

I've definitely read my fair share of Christian living books this year! Over the past 12 months I've gone through a dozen books and shared my thoughts right here on the blog.

To help make things easier, here's a quick re-cap of these same books. This can help you decide which ones you're going to read in 2015- hint hint. :) It can also help as a side-by-side comparison if you're trying to make decisions for a group book study in the new year.

And don't worry, I'm still going to share one more book with you in early December, (hint- it's an Advent book!).

Happy Reading!

Bad Girls of the Bible, by Liz Curtis Higgs

- I love this book for a group study!
- Each chapter is a different "bad girl", so it's easy to break up in chunks for a small group setting.
- Liz has an easy writing style, and will definitely keep you entertained!
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung

- Great book for a group study, or individual quiet time.
- Perfect read for the end of a year!
- Gives you a reality check on your hectic pace of life.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

Every Day a Friday, by Joel Osteen

- If your're struggling with balance and purpose in your work life, this book is a great read.
- Joel helps take the focus and pressure off of trying to be "perfect" or "amazing" at work.
- Great to listen as an audio book on your ride to work!
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

The First Five Years, by Bill & Pam Farrel

- Perfect read for any young married couple! Great Christmas gift for those newlyweds!
- Helps couples understand and navigate through those first few (incredibly important) years of marriage.
- Would absolutely recommend for both husband and wife to read.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

Good Call, by Jase Robertson

- A great inspiration for your faith!
- If you're looking for a fun, lighthearted read, I'd pick up this book.
- Not necessarily the best book for a group setting, since it's written in a narrative style.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

Jonah (Audio Recordings and Workbook), by Priscilla Shirer

- If you're looking for something to work on each day and each week, this workbook study is perfect!
- Priscilla goes through the story of Jonah, connecting how God "interrupted" Jonah's life, and how He too wants to "interrupt" our lives with His greater plan.
- Great study for a women's small group, or to do on your own!
- Buy online at Lifeway here, and read my extended book review here.

Made to Crave, by Lysa TerKeurst

- Please buy this book for January! Honestly, if you're looking to make REAL changes to your weight and nutrition in the new year, please pick this one up.
- Lysa makes the connection between our faith and our nutrition. So powerful!
- Oh, and did I mention that they have an Action Plan workbook? They also do Online Bible studies for accountability in January! Wohoo!
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman

- Ready to get on-fire for your faith again?
- Not a Fan takes a phenomenal approach to getting off the sidelines of your faith-life and encourages you to step out onto the playing field, and make a difference.
- I think I'd recommend this as a great book for husband and wife to read together.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

- Another great read for the beginning/ending of a year!
- Step into a world of gratitude and thankful living with Ann Voskamp.
- Ann's writing style can be a bit of a challenge, but this book is so worth it!
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

The Resolution for Women, by Priscilla Shirer

- I can't say enough good things about The Resolution. Priscilla is such a gifted author!
- I've given this book several times as a gift, and will keep singing it's praises!
- A great book for husbands and wives (there's also a book called The Resolution for Men), it will help re-inspire your faith and encourage you to be your best for God!
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller

- Such a classic book that you can go back to over and over again!
- A shorter book, at only 176 pages long, it's great for group study or a personal sabbatical day.
- This book helps you understand how much God loves you and cares for you as his little sheep. A great comfort book for times of sadness, loneliness, or distress.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

UnPHILtered, by Phil Robertson

- Let me first say, that I would definitely NOT recommend this for a group study. It's a book on hot-button issues with very specific viewpoints.
- That being said, it's a great introduction book if you're looking to (slowly) get into political ideas, opinions, and viewpoints on America today.
- If you're a fan of Duck Dynasty, this is one of the better books put out by the clan.
- Buy online at Amazon here, and read my extended book review here.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

First Friday Book Review: Crazy Busy **AND GIVEAWAY**

Title and Author: Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem by: Kevin DeYoung

Release Date: September 2013

Page Length: 118 pages

How I got the Book:

Find OnlineGoodreads Amazon

Description: “I’M TOO BUSY!” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. All too often, busyness gets the best of us.

Just one look at our jam-packed schedules tells us how hard it can be to strike a well-reasoned balance between doing nothing and doing it all.

That’s why award-winning author and pastor Kevin DeYoung addresses the busyness problem head on in his newest book, Crazy Busy — and not with the typical arsenal of time management tips, but rather with the biblical tools we need to get to the source of the issue and pull the problem out by the roots.

My Thoughts:
I have been wanting to read this book for about a year now. My good friend, Deborah, recommended it to me, my husband read it, and now finally it's my turn! I honestly can not contain myself when it comes to Crazy Busy! It's so, so good!

This book is not just a book on time management, or tips on handling email and schedules. It's about understanding just how tied our spiritual lives are to our everyday, super-packed, totally busy lives. Kevin points out that busyness isn't just dangerous physically (stressed out, health issues, etc), but even more seriously, busyness is dangerous spiritually. It can ruin our joy, rob our hearts, and in his words, it can "cover up the rot in our souls".

Kevin gets us back to a place of really setting priorities, and focusing in on what matters- remembering our mission in this life. Crazy Busy is a great book to read during a sabbatical or reflection day, a great book to go through with your spouse or even a group. Going Deeper questions are provided for free on the book site. Crazy Busy is divided up into 10 short chapters, and has a total page count of 118.

Final Recommendation: 
I absolutely would recommend Crazy Busy to anyone, yes anyone, whether you think you're crazy busy or not. I have friends within the entire spectrum of being crazy busy and crazy not-so busy.

The question for us all is are we missing opportunities? Divine opportunities that God has placed in our life that we are either so busy we can't engage in, or we are so used to saying "no" (that crazy not-so busy person) that we willingly walk away from. Don't let another minute pass before really considering where you are at in life with busyness!

Because I love Crazy Busy so much, I wanted to buy a copy for you! 
Yes, you! 
I am giving away a brand-new copy of Crazy Busy this weekend. 

All you have to do is comment below and answer my question,
Does life have you feeling Crazy Busy?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I did not receive this product for free and I was not paid for writing this post. No purchase necessary to win. Winner will receive one paperback copy of Crazy Busy by: Kevin DeYoung via postal mail approximately one week after giveaway has closed (11/8/14 at midnight EST). Winner will be randomly chosen and notified via email.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Craft Fair Season is Upon Us

This weekend kicks off craft fair season! Woot woot! 
Central Florida has some pretty amazing events going on, so I thought I'd give you all the details.


Mount Dora: Craft Fair October 25th and 26th

Orlando: Fall Fiesta in the Park November 1st and 2nd

Melbourne: Main Street Fall Festival November 7th through 9th

Oviedo: Great Day in the Country November 8th

Longwood: Arts & Crafts Festival November 22nd and 23rd

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival 2014

This Sunday was absolutely gorgeous here in Central Florida! It was just cool enough to tempt us to spend the day outside at Food & Wine Fest.

We are so blessed to have the opportunity to earn free park tickets by volunteering at the Disney running races throughout the year. Saturday we were out late volunteering at the Tower of Terror 10 Miler race at Hollywood Studios, but we got up the next day and headed to Epcot!

While we wore our Cowboys gear, we also saw tons of other NFL fans rockin' their teams! It was neat to spot everyone's different shirts and jerseys. 

Chef Remy came along for the food again this year! :) Although we bought him in Downtown Disney a few years ago, I did spot him in one of the stores in France this year. Check out our adventures from last year at Food and Wine fest here.

This year, we really enjoyed Australia, Craft Beers, Desserts & Champagne, and Hops & Barley. We got a few things at each of these four stops, which all were delicious!

Check out the full line-up of food on Disney's website here.

Cheese sampler

Dessert Trio

Frozen S'mores

Disney always does such a fantastic job with this event! Even though it was our third year in a row going, it was such a nice day out and a delicious event!

I absolutely recommend! :) Enjoy!

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Friday, October 3, 2014

First Friday Book Review: unPHILtered

Title and Author: unPHILtered: The Way I See It by: Phil Robertson, with Mark Schlabach

Release Date: August 2014

Page Length: 224 pages

How I got the Book: Amazon

Find OnlineGoodreads Amazon

Description: In Phil Robertson’s #1 New York Times bestseller, Happy, Happy, Happy, we learned about Phil’s colorful past and the wild road to becoming the beloved patriarch of A&E’s smash hit show, Duck Dynasty. Now, he returns to share his philosophy on life, which can be summed up in five short words. Love God, love your neighbor. 

In this inspirational and entertaining book, you will learn what makes Phil Robertson tick. Robertson shares his views on faith—and how it has totally changed his way of life and how he treats others; family—how he raised his kids and is raising grandkids while teaching them the life principles he lives by; ducks—and the business principles that started the Duck Commander empire; marriage—including what he’s learned from his own marriage; and of course, his opinions on controversial topics like gun control, taxes, prayer in school, and the government.

My Thoughts:
I actually was a bit undecided on which book I would read this month. I started off with the heavily promoted "The Best Maybe" book for women going around the Christian circles (like how I changed the title there?). But that book was so lukewarm, and frankly just bad.

With only two weeks to go in the month, I knew I needed to make a decision to either finish that book, or search for something else. Boy, am I glad I stumbled upon this book, unPHILtered. As a recently released book, it's been getting such high ratings and I absolutely agree! I read the entire prologue on Amazon, and knew I had to buy it!

Here's what I love about this book. It's not a biography like some of the other Duck Dynasty books. It's Phil just sharing truth- plain and simple. He gets bold and brave enough to talk about topics that everyone in America is thinking about, but just doesn't share with one another. Pretty empowering!

The book is broken up into three sections, personal lifestyles, hot topics, and faith. But I almost feel like the book is broken up into three audiences as well.

The first section talking about personal lifestyles (which I loved the most), I feel like is written for a Christian audience. The second section about hot topics I feel like was written for "the world" or "the media". It's basically Phil's response to things the media has said about him. And lastly, the section on faith, I believe is really written toward the non-Christian audience. It goes over the basics of sin, repentance, and new life.

Although there were good moments in the last two sections, I really enjoyed and felt so empowered by the first section. It made me feel like I wasn't the only one who felt a certain way about where America is headed. It felt good to know that other people have similar opinions on social media and money, etc.

Here are my top 5 favorite quotes from the book:

  • The way things are going, it's okay to have an opinion in America, as long as you don't offend anyone and don't quote the Bible. 
  • Being spiritually flabby is far worse than being a little plump physically. (on America's obsession with counting calories. Boy, was that freeing to hear!)
  • We were content when we were poor, so we won't ever feel rich. (quoting Miss Kay, on when the Robertson's would feel "rich")
  • Disciplining, correcting, and teaching your children requires consistency and good communication between the parents. It's a cooperative effort. 
  • We have positioned our government as an enabler, and by doing so we've robbed many people of their own sense of personal responsibility. Many Americans are no longer teaching their children the virtues of hard work, self-reliance, and determination. 
Final Recommendation: 
Overall, this book is a definite page-turner. If you are at all interested in getting a bit more plugged in to topics going on in our country today, please please read unPHILtered. It might help you gain a bit more perspective, and be a good jumping off point to research and prepare yourself for educated voting in 2016. 

I would also recommend this book for people who, like me, want some assurance and encouragement that there are others out there who share similar views. Phil gives a incredibly fresh perspective.

All that to say, I would absolutely NOT recommend unPHILtered for a group setting. I have learned in my (short) adult life that there are plenty of reasons you don't talk about religion, politics, or money in company. It can let out all sorts of evil, and things the direct opposite of love. 

If you're looking for a fairly quick read, and something a bit more substantial than how to make good decisions (oh boy, don't get me started!), please pick up a copy of unPHILtered. I promise, you won't be sorry!

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