Thursday, December 17, 2015

Whatever is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship

WaterBrook Press (December 15, 2015) 96 pages


Color your way to peace and worship.

We live in such a busy, hectic world—but what waits for you inside this cover is a way to quiet the noise, express creativity, and spend some sweet time with God. Each page features an original design from one of a dozen different artists, beautifully illustrating a contemplative quote from an inspirational writer, a beloved hymn, or Scripture.

When we create, we echo the heart of our Creative God who designed everything and gave us the capacity to recognize beauty.

So go ahead! You have permission to pick up your colored pencil and be reminded of truth in a fresh way.

My Thoughts:

I started trying a bit of scripture journaling awhile back. I was super excited about it at first, but I don't do it near as often these days. While I know "practice makes perfect" and all, sometimes one must admit that a talent for something just might not be in one's future. That's the way it is with me and art, and crafts for that matter. While I'm not quitting by any means, it IS nice to just color and reflect on scripture with the help of another person's beautiful artistic talent. (I use the phrase "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" much too often, especially teaching reading to allow myself to quit anything these days.) ;)

There are Bible verses, quotes, and hymns within the pages, all by various authors. The coloring pages are also drawn by various artists. They're all lovely, though, as the title suggests.

The coloring pictures within this book aren't near as detailed as many coloring books these days. They're much more simple. That might be a positive or negative for you, depending on your tastes. Personally, I have a couple of more detailed coloring books already, so I don't mind this one being a bit more simplistic.

Each picture is only on the front of the page. The back is empty, other than the name of the artist(s), and a bit of information about the page/quote/hymn, etc on the front side(NOT the page beside it, as I initially thought).

Overall, I'm thrilled with this coloring book! I'm also thrilled that adult coloring books have become so popular, giving me so many choices. I don't typically care for jumping on bandwagons and all. I actually detest it a bit! :P I already loved coloring before this bandwagon came rolling through, though, so I don't mind so much in this case. ;)

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

Whatever Is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship


Invest in Your Community With Help from Adventures in Odyssey!


Tired of the Christmas shopping, the baking and sugar overload, the Christmas festivities that keep you away from your family during the season? Take time special time to spend with your loved ones and invest in your community—with Focus on the Family's help!

You can download a fun gift to give to your friends, family, and community! Each Christmas stocking stuffer card directs you to a special place to hear an Adventures in Odyssey Christmas episode. Plus, you’ll be able to read a special excerpt from Imagination Station #12, “Danger on a Silent Night.” Sign up here to download the free cards.

Plus stop by this page for a slew of crafts, recipes, and stories to share with your family during this special time of year!


If you're still looking for one last gift to give your kids this year, give the gift of the Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC). It offers safe and free content for everyone in your family, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts, and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.
To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Get Your Town of Odyssey Freebie!

The holidays are a busy time . . . but life can be even more hectic! In the midst of work, after-school activities, grocery shopping, and business trips, how are parents supposed to find the time to build within their families a lasting foundation of faith?

Focus on the Family wants to step in and give you some tips. Sign up by clicking here for a free e-book called 101 Surefire Ways to Strengthen Your Child's Faith. With creative ideas on weaving faith into everyday conversations, turning family activities into learning opportunities, and having faith-filled holiday celebrations, this book is jam-packed with fun and interesting, easy, faith-building ideas for your family.

Another way to invest in your child's faith is through the Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC). It offers safe and free content for everyone in your family, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts, and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.
Another fun way to build your child's faith: have a family craft night and use it as a faith-building opportunity! Click the image below for a printable Town of Odyssey cutout set. Bonus points if you listen to an Adventures in Odyssey episode while you put together your town!

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To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama Plan: The Easy-Does-It Approach to Vibrant Health and a Slim Waistline by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison


Harmony (September 15, 2015) 338 pages


Forget the Fad Diets, Join the Food Freedom Movement

Counting calories is out. All the food groups are in. Becoming trim and healthy doesn't have to be difficult or painstaking anymore. After trying almost every fad diet out there, Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett, creators of the Trim Healthy Mama movement, took matters into their own hands. Through trial and error and much research, they created the TRIM HEALTHY MAMA PLAN, the breakthrough lifestyle program to help readers of all ages and stages get healthy, slim down and keep off the weight once and for all.

Based on the authors’ successful self-published book, this simplified, improved, practical plan shows readers a unique way to lose weight and get healthy by eliminating sugar, and still eating hearty, delicious food. The biblically-sound and highly effective eating approach centers on Satisfying meals (which include more fats and protein) and Energizing meals (which include more carbs and protein), as they are the key to success. Scrumptious whole, unprocessed foods, including fats, blood sugar friendly grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables, are eaten in a way that boosts metabolism, yet still fits into anyone’s hectic lifestyle. It’s family friendly and effective for pregnant and nursing mothers, pre or post- menopausal women, and also those without weight or health issues—even men and growing children.

The book includes menu plans, a list of key super foods to eat on plan, time-saving tips, and pantry stocking and lifestyle advice to help readers successfully reach their goals.

Join the Trim Healthy Mama movement and along with thousands of others, discover the groundbreaking, easy-does-it, and delicious way to eat for health and weight loss.

My Thoughts:

Long post warning!

At the end of October, I reviewed the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook. Really, though, the cookbook doesn't do you much good without knowing about the plan. I immediately requested the plan book, Trim Healthy Mama Plan, afterwards.

First, I'll tell you a bit about my journey so far. Before my scales got broken by a sweet little boy, they were telling me I had already lost 15 pounds. I'd be happier if my clothes were fitting different, but I have so far to go, 15 pounds is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm EXCITED about those lost pounds, either way, though, especially in such a short amount of time. This is the beginning of my journey and I'm happy I'm finally along for the ride, instead of sitting in my sugar obsessed life.

I've taken baby steps with the plan. Sugar was my most difficult step, which is why I did it first and focused on nothing else until I succeeded in this area. There was some trial and error, mainly revolving around caffeine. I NEED it, y'all! ;) Plus, my taste buds had a hard time adjusting to Stevia. I'm grateful to say that bad sugar is gone from my life now, and I don't want anything to do with it. I've even mostly kept my fruit intake in the berry range for now. I told Jonathan it was like a fog had been lifted from my brain, and I see just how addicted to it I was, and just how damaging it was to my body. I still have sweet cravings occasionally, but not enough to eat the sugar. (Note: There are plenty of recipes for sweet things. I haven't tried any of them yet, since I haven't splurged on the "Super Sweet" and "Gentle Sweet" blends the ladies have, and which most recipes call for. I hope to soon, though!)

Next, I worked at cutting out the soy products that I was relying on way too much. Unhealthy breads were next to go, and I'm now at the stage of fixing my meals in the recommended way, which revolves around protein, fats, carbohydrates, and non-starchy fruits/vegetables. (That process is described a bit more in the description up top.) As a vegetarian, this has been a little challenging at times, but I'm grateful for the extra help from other Trim Healthy Mamas, mainly from Pinterest posts.

So, the plan works! To God be the glory that I'm finally trying to get healthy! :D

Now about the plan and the ladies behind it.

I'm thrilled that I've had the opportunity to get to know Pearl and Serene through their books. They're humorous, and so very encouraging. They have tons of tips for success, and you can tell they're rooting for you to succeed. They also have health in mind, over weight loss, though that will most likely happen. They want us to take care of our bodies, and they describe several super foods that will help on the journey to health.

At first I was turned off by the fact that they had specialty foods for sale at their website. I felt like I'd been suckered into a money making scheme. The more I read, though, the less I felt this way, and it truly seems like they've tried to give us the best options for the least amount of money. I haven't bought any of the specialty products yet, but after Christmas, I DO hope to work an item here and there into the budget.

I was also a bit turned off by the fact that it doesn't seem overly vegetarian friendly at first, but so far I've been able to work around this part. I've been experimenting with cooking way more than I have in a long time, and my Grasshopper has made sure to compliment me plenty on my efforts. ;) I've actually had fun with it, and I'm cooking most things from scratch now. There's been some failures(sweet potato oatmeal soup...blech!) and some successes(cauliflower crusted grilled cheese...yum!).

I do love that with this plan, it's easy to cook the same thing for my children, and just add a little something extra to make sure they don't lose weight(like extra fats or breads and I DO make meat for them). We're all starting to eat better, though, and I'm grateful to God and to Pearl and Serene.

I could gush on and on, but I really do highly recommend this plan. It has already been a dramatic change for us, and I can't imagine that anyone would regret it, especially if you've been relying on junk food too much and/or have weight to lose.

(Lord willing, I'll keep y'all updated on my journey!):D

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Links:

Trim Healthy Mama Plan: The Easy-Does-It Approach to Vibrant Health and a Slim Waistline

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook: Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The One Year Home and Garden Devotions by Sandra Byrd

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 24, 2015) 400 pages


The One Year Home and Garden Devotions offers an encouraging, applicable, sometimes humorous, and always personal word each day for contemporary women of all ages who delight in being busy at home. The devotions are written in first person, offering transparency and personal life lessons like the following:

“There is something poignant and meaningful about upcycling an abandoned planter with its well-earned patina while considering how the lines life has etched on us actually make us more appealing.”

My Thoughts:

Sandra Byrd is one of my most favorite authors, and I always enjoy reading more about her in the blogging world. I've greatly enjoyed all of the books of hers I've read. When I found out she'd written a book about her life, devotional form, I was beyond excited. I couldn't wait to get to know more about Sandra, and spend a little time with her each day.

The devotionals within this book focus on home, garden, family and really anything most women could easily connect with. At the beginning of each month, there's a tip or a recipe or something fun. Then there's a devotional for each day of the year. Each devotional takes up one page, so it's a quick read for each day.

I think the fans of Sandra's will most appreciate this book. It's personal, and it was thrilling to learn about little things from her days. I can't say for sure about those that aren't familiar with Sandra, but I really do think most women will appreciate the little lessons, and will probably connect with many of her experiences. While the devotionals aren't super deep, they are encouraging and appreciated. I have enjoyed my time within this book very much!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

The One Year Home and Garden Devotions


Faith Builders Bible, NIvR

Zonderkidz (October 27, 2015) 1152 pages

Book Description:

A new NIrV Bible for kids 6-10 that follows the popular brick-building trend.

The Faith Builders Bible, NIrV uses the popularity of brick-building pieces to engage children with the Word of God. Includes 24 full-color pages of illustrations plus the complete New International Reader's Version (NIrV) of the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation) in a very readable, 9-point font size.

My Thoughts:

My children are finally old enough that I feel comfortable having Legos around. This was pretty exciting for me! I enjoy them myself, too. We've mostly relied on the sets with instructions so far, but we have Grasshopper a very large bucket of "classic" Legos this year for Christmas. We've been encouraged to use more creativity when building, so we've started looking at Lego books for building ideas.

We recently had the chance to browse through a history one, called Medieval Lego. In it, there are scenes and then a brief summary of the part of history that the scene is connected to. For some reason, I thought that is what this Bible was. I was expecting more of a Bible summary book. It's actually a full Bible, though(NIrV).

There are 12(double sided, so 24 total) thicker, glossy, full color pages with Lego scenes or simply an item(like a Bible) on them. These are scattered throughout the Bible. As always, depending on your beliefs, you might need to edit a bit. Some of them have devotional type messages on them. When you get opinions thrown in the mix, it's impossible to find one that one will completely agree with, though.

Even though this wasn't what I was expecting, and we probably won't be using it as a full time Bible, it does have great inspiration in it. If you have a Lego fan in your home, and you like the NIrV Bible, you'll probably enjoy this one. Even if you're not a fan of the NIrVersion, it still has great inspiration for building Bible history scenes with Legos. I'm excited to use some of the ideas for Bible class(both my own at home and the one at church services with our 2s and 3s).

(Note: I don't think this particular Bible ever uses the word "Lego". It repeatedly says "brick/brick builder/etc", so this isn't a "Lego" specific Bible. You can get inspiration for any kind of brick building. We're just particular to Lego.)

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

Faith Builders Bible, NIrV


Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs by Andrew Gant

Thomas Nelson (September 15, 2015) 224 pages

Book Description:

From Oxford professor and renowned British composer, a joyous account of the history behind our favorite carols.

Everyone loves a carol-in the end, even Ebenezer Scrooge. They have the power to summon up a special kind of mid-winter mood, like the aroma of gingerbread or the twinkle of lights on a tree. It's a kind of magic.

But how did they get that magic? Andrew Gant-choirmaster, church musician, university professor, and writer-tells the story of twenty of our favorite carols, each accompanied by lyrics and music, unraveling a captivating, and often surprising, tale of great musicians and thinkers, saints and pagans, shepherd boys and choirboys. Readers get to delve into the history such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas," "Away in a Manger," and "O, Tannenbaum," discovering along the way how "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" came to replace "Hark, how all the welkin' ring" and how Ralph Vaughan Williams applied the tune of an English folk song about a dead ox to a poem by a nineteenth century American pilgrim to make "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

A charming book that brims with anecdote, expert knowledge, and Christmas spirit, this is a fittingly joyous account of one of the best-loved musical traditions.

My Thoughts:

I couldn't resist giving this book a try. I like having little random facts in my head. Sure, it probably makes me a pain at times, but it's fun. ;) I thought it would be interesting to learn the stories behind some of the holiday songs.

It turns out that this book is more on the textbook kind of education side, as opposed to the just good fun kind. It's still interesting, but I'd recommend taking it day by day throughout the holiday season, instead of reading straight through. It can easily get boring if not taken slow, just to warn you. It could even be a great "school" kind of assignment for older students.

The chapters are broken down in sections. Some of them are more subject specific, like advent, angels, shepherds, the journey to Bethlehem, etc. Some of them have actual dates attached to them. Christmas is obviously set for Dec. 25th, but there's also St. Stephens day for Dec. 26th, Holy Innocents for Dec. 26th, Twelfth Night for Jan. 5th, etc.

If you don't mind reading it slowly, or you're in the mood for education revolving around Christmas songs, give this one a try!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for 'Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff ((Book Spotlight and GIVEAWAY))

Bach #1

Bach #2

Bach #3

Bach #4

Book Details:

Book Title: Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for 'Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff

Category: Adult non-fiction, 1189 pages

Genre: Biography / Music

Publisher: iTunes

Release date: June 2015

Tour dates: Nov 30 - Dec 18, 2015

Content Rating: G

Book Description:


A Totally Immersive Multimedia Experience

Richly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its Legacy

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd

Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby

Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites

From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.

Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.

For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.

In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.

Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.

Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.

In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.

The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:

• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.

• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.

• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.

• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.

• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.

• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.

Buy the music & ebooks: iTunes

Meet the author:

Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.

Connect with the author: Website   ~  Twitter  ~   Facebook

Subscribe to Steven's Hancoff's work on YouTube

Enter the Giveaway!

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Interview with Steven Hancoff

Do you remember the first book you read?

No. I don’t remember any time when I was not reading a book. But I remember that in first grade, the class was divided into three reading groups: the teacher, Miss Bean, assigned me to be the teacher of the group of kids who read least well!

What makes you laugh/cry?

Beth, my other half, makes me laugh – a lot. She somehow sees humor almost everywhere. She’s really the one who brought laughter into my life. I tend to cry over the experience of deep connection or deep feeling rather than deep pain. So, my tears tend to be tears of poignancy, or of being moved, rather than tears of rage or pain.

Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?

Way more than one. Bach, of course. Shakespeare, Newton… I would love to have been on the Beagle with Darwin. Why is obvious… theirs are the shoulders of modernity upon which we all stand. Euclid – I would love to know what motivated Euclid to spend his life constructing proofs of apparent reality.

What do you want written on your head stone and why?

I don’t know. I’ve once heard that Mel Blanc (the cartoon voice of Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, et al, had inscribed Th-Th-Th-That’s All, Folks! on his) How about: He lived a long, creative and adventure-filled life with his beloved, his soul’s twin. Many people the world over were touched by his music and his writing.

Other than writing do you have any hobbies?

No hobbies. Back in 1981 I had to make the choice whether to be a full-time guitarist or a full-time whitewater guide on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. I chose guitar. But I still love to get on the water.

Beth and I love to look at art together. Living these years near to Washington, DC, we haunt the National Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection.

What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?


Favorite foods?

On tour in so many countries, many times people insisted on taking me to their favorite restaurants, or cooking their favorite dishes at home. Favorite of all time was centolla (kind of like Alaskan king crab) in Ushuaia, Argentina; certain vegetable dishes (whose names I have no idea of) all over China, goat prepared over an open wood fire in Yemen, sushi, & in Israel the way restaurants put out about half a dozen different exotic salads on the table as soon as you sit down. I discovered I did not much go for kangaroo in Australia or pickled pigs ears in China!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Do what you love (whether you are a writer or not). And delve deeper, even when you think you have already gone as deep as you can. There is always more. As Paul Verlaine once said, “A great work of art is never completed; it is only abandoned.”


Note from Me:

As a gift, I was sent the CD set, The Six Suites for 'Cello Solo, for Acoustic Guitar by Steven Hancoff. While I'm not required to review it, I did want to briefly mention how much I've enjoyed it! As a way to relax, I frequently turn to classical type music these days. This music has been relaxing to me, and has also been a pure pleasure to listen to!