Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blueberry Oatmeal Yogurt Pancakes

In search of the perfect, semi-healthy pancake recipe to make for my blueberry fiend of a husband, I concocted this batch and they turned out perfectly.

Yields 3-4 servings
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Maple syrup, for serving
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F and a nonstick griddle to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter and eggs.
Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.
Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on top and underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer; keep warm in oven.
Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Bold as Love by Bob Roberts, Jr.

Bob Roberts Jr. offers a challenge to the believers in Christ. In Bold as Love, Roberts confronts us - the American Christian - with the simple fact that we do not get to pick and choose our neighbors. We are not called to love only the poor, or only the people in our demographic and our subdivision. When Jesus was asked the question, "Who is my neighbor," he responded with a parable that specifically pointed to a man from another region, another nation, and another faith.

"The world we minister to is very much like the world Paul ministered to. The point is, we needn't scratch our head and wonder what in the world we're going to do in this new world. God has given us not only the strength of his Holy Spirit but the wisdom to be found in the Scriptures. The message of the New Testament and the example of the church's first missionaries (especially Paul) can be so helpful for us today." (p 16)

This short paragraph really is the heart of Bob Roberts' message. We DO live in a world filled with people and religions from all over the globe. We are as likely to work with a person of the Muslim faith as we are to work with a fellow church member from the local Baptist church. And the Bible does call us to be salt and light to everyone. To love as Christ loved. To share the truth of the cross with everyone in love. That means reaching out and offering genuine friendship and love to people of different faiths. That means being so grounded in the truth of God's Word that we can share ourselves without compromising the truth.

As Roberts notes, "we can only love those we know personally." Bold as Love is a call to action for the Christian. It is a call to step out in faith and obedience to build relationships with those of other faiths. We live in a time and a place where the opportunity to rub shoulders with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs is like no other in history. The true call on the Christian, Roberts asserts, is not to retreat and build walls, but to break through those walls in boldness. We are compelled by love to build relationships with everyone, not just those of our choosing. Without love, without reaching out to others and forming relationships, the Gospel will never go out to the lost in our world.

While I found the message a bit repetitive at times, I did enjoy the book. I would recommend sharing it with anyone who needs a reminder that a Christian’s mission field is in our streets, and neighborhoods as much as on the other side of the world.  

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Journey

Davis Bunn has captured me with his most recent book Prayers of a Stranger: a Christmas Journey.

Amanda and her husband Chris Vance suffered a tragic loss last Christmas. Amanda is rather ambivalent about trekking to meet up with her husband's family for Christmas this year. Then, an unexpected gift comes in the form of a trip to the Holy Land. Chris senses Amanda's need to heal her heart and sends her off on an adventure that changes grief into something more and a stranger's prayer brings about a change we can all believe in.

This book offers memorable characters, strong emotion, extraordinary personal challenges, and, above all, eventual healing by the Spirit of God. Its rich emotions and detailed descriptions draw you in and refuse to let go. I am always pleased and surprised when I come across a book that I want to reread as soon as I finish it, and this is one of those books.

The book is equally beneficial for men and women, and appropriate for any time of year. I liked the interplay between the older married couple and Amanda and Chris. Put it on your reading list for an entertaining read that you just wont want to put down.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  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.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for a beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

  •   The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. 
  • The fifth would pay $1.00
  • The sixth would pay $3.00
  • The seventh would pay $7.00
  • The eighth would pay $12.00
  • The ninth would pay $18.00
  • The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.00

So that’s what they decided to do. The men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
"Since you are all such good customers, he said, I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.00.“ Drinks for the ten men now cost just $80.00
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected; they would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get their “fair share?”
They realized that $ 20.00 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth
man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the
same amount and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so: 
  • The fifth man like the first four, now paid nothing (100%savings).
  • The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
  • The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
  • The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
  • The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
  • The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings). Each of the six was better off than before and the first four
continued to drink for free. Once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a dollar out of the $20“ declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got $10!”
"Yeah, that’s right, shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
"Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in union.“ We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible
  David R. Kamerschen, PH. D
  Professor of Economics, University of Georgia

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: The Trouble With Cowboys by Denise Hunter

Nothing feels worse that rushing to a conclusion about someone based off of an old experience and then finding out that not only were you wrong and misjudged that person but you wasted a lot of your time with a wrong opinion. I feel like that is what exactly happens with Annie Wilkerson in The Trouble with Cowboys She had a bad experience with cowboys in her past and then comes to this irrational conclusion that all cowboys are trouble. She thinks she knows what Dylan the cowboy is all about and boy does he get on her last nerves. Even more frustrating than that is that she can't stop this growing attraction to him and she is determined to NEVER date a cowboy!!

If the story seems familiar, all you have to do is read a few pages in to find out Jane Austen is Annie Wilkerson’s favorite author and she is deep into re-reading Pride and Prejudice. The Trouble with Cowboys by Denise Hunter is that novel come to life in Big Sky Country. Annie is Elizabeth Bennet letting her prejudices cloud her feelings for her Mr.Darcy; Dylan Tyler. While it makes the storyline a bit predictable, it is also charming and endearing. Those characters are timeless and seeing them paralleled in a different setting are worth the read.

The most enjoyable part of the book is the dialogue between Annie and Dylan. It’s very well written. The banter and flirting between the two keep the book moving at a nice pace.
In return for some romantic advice from Dylan for her new column in a magazine, Annie helps Braveheart, Dylan's horse, to try to cope with blindness... But in the meantime Annie and Dylan each have their own "blindness" that requires a "brave heart" to persevere through while learning to "see" in new ways. It's an enjoyable journey for the reader - but not without its serious struggles regarding misunderstandings, prejudice, and learning to let go.

The best part of The Trouble with Cowboys has got to be the dialogue between Annie and Dylan. Their banter and flirting is just hilarious and kept me smiling throughout the entire book. I also love the forbidden romance idea to it and the secondary store going on with Annie's sister!! Lots of things to keep ya entertained!

If you have not gotten the chance to read anything by Denise Hunter you need to change that and I say starting with The Trouble with Cowboys is a great start! This is a third book in a series but I believe it stands on its own great and it is by far my favorite of the three.

The family angle is easy to relate to, and I found the message about trusting in God to be presented in a moving and inspiring way. The Trouble with Cowboys combines everything I look for in a good, faith –based romance novel - an engaging romance, an interesting setting, great secondary characters, and a faith lesson(without a preachy or condescending tone) that I can take to heart.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  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.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Playlist For Heartbreak Ranch

Here is an updated version of my playlist courtesy Spotify. Enjoy: )

Book Review: Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

Tangled Ashes is a work of historical fiction, in which author Michele Phoenix transports the reader to Meunier Manor in Lamorlaye, France. She weaves a tale of two castles; the castle in more recent times as it is being renovated and the same castle during World War II. The chapters weave back and forth between the past and the 1990s.
First the reader is introduced to two young women that are hired to work at Meunier manor which has been made into a Nazi headquarters. One of them meets a soldier and love ensues. Although the two French women, Marie and Elise, only took the jobs to supplement their families meager existence, they end up in midst of a medical experiment of Hitler's regime.

In the alternating chapters, reclusive architect, Marshall Becker is introduced. He is hired to restore the now decrepit manor to its former glory. Becker is reluctant to take on the project, yet goes to France to complete the task. As he begins the restoration, Becker finds himself fighting his own demons and the distant memories of a time past at the manor.

This book has a lot of strong points. First, the character development is top-notch. As the mystery builds throughout the novel, the character’s personalities reveal the past. Next, the quality of writing Michele Phoenix offers is exceptional. Her ability to weave a masterful story with appropriate, descriptive word choices is above par and made for a quick read, but also one that pulled me into the plot. 

The thing I find most compelling in Tangled Ashes, is that although it is labeled as a Christian Fiction book, it doesn’t come off like one. I am usually hesitant to read novels in this particular genre, because I find them to be sugary, over-the-top characterizations of people of faith. I enjoyed this book immensely because it is not that.  Rather, it represents life in its gritty, messy glory. The book is full of realistic characters and life situations most people can relate to. It also doesn’t tie the matter of finding faith up into a neat little ribbon. Jade doesn’t present her faith in a nice, neat formulaic manner and the character of Beck doesn’t accept what she says blinding. Instead, he goes kicking and screaming, full of doubt and lingering questions, which is closer on how most people wrestle with God..

The story's intricacies made this one top-notch. It is gripping, engaging and enticing. It is thought-provoking and sad, hopeful and deep. The story is riveting and the ending is unexpected and memorable. If you are historical fiction fan, Tangled Ashes is a must read. 

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing.