25 Before 25 Challenge

A delightful happy second day of November to y’all! So, today I get to share with you the things I chose for my 25 Before 25 Challenge. I wanted to do some more whimsical ones this round, so yay! Looking forward to getting to work on these during the next eleven months.

  1. Buy 25 Books 
  2. Do 25 new things and write them down 
  3. Take pictures of Sequoia (teddy bear) in 25 different places
  4. Request 25 Books for Review
  5. Vlog 25 Times
  6. Dance, Skip, or swing in the rain 25 times 
  7. Watch the sunrise or sunset 25 times
  8. Memorize 5 chapters from the Bible 
  9. Run 25 ten minute miles (not at once)
  10. Eat paleo 25 weeks (not in a row)
  11. Send something to missionaries 25 times
  12. Try 25 new recipes 
  13. Read to, or cook with, children 25 times
  14. Color 25 pictures 
  15. Have less than 5 emails in my inbox Saturday night 25 weeks (not in a row)
  16. Write “thank you” letters to 25 people who have influenced or helped me
  17. Have a picnic in each season 
  18. Move over to WordPress
  19. Host a contest or giveaway on Noveltea
  20. Go to bed by 10:30 sixty times (not in a row)
  21. Finger paint 
  22. Blog by 9:30 a hundred times
  23. Go to Wednesday night church 20 timesJump rope
  24. Drink coffee or tea while reading or journaling 25 times 

November Goals: Vlog – Plus an Exciting Announcement

Happy November, y’all!

Today I have some exciting news to share with you that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. It has to do with one of my goals for November, so instead of just typing it out, I wanted to share it with you via a vlog.

I’m looking forward to tackling my November goals, especially the last one. It’s going to be so much fun and it’s something that y’all will get to be a part of. Yay for surprises!

What are some of y’alls goals for November? How did you do on your October goals?

Paleo Chicken & Cauliflower Soup

A happy Monday Morning, to y’all! 

Today I’m doing something a little different on Noveltea. It’s such a lovely autumn day and November is just around the corner (or, depending on where you live, it’s here), and November is the month of soups. Or, at least it should be. Because soups and cold weather go together like a hand and mitten. Or a neck and scarf. Or a torso and fuzzy sweater. Or feet and sparkly socks. It’s warm and comforting and creates a lot of happiness. 

Therefore! Today I’m sharing with y’all a recipe for some of my favorite soup. I found the basic recipe in a cookbook, tweaked it around a bit, and came up with what you see below. (The food. Not the picture. In reality the sunset and soup have very little in common, but they’re both autumnish, so…)

If y’all try the soup, I’d be delighted to hear how you liked it. And, if you have any questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them. (Unless it’s how much of each seasoning to put in, because I have no clue how to answer that.) 

 

Paleo Chicken & Cauliflower Soup 

Ingredients

1 Pound Boneless Chicken Thighs 

1 Medium Yellow Onion, peeled and diced

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and minced 

5 cups Cauliflower Florets – Half of them in small pieces, half of the minced

3 cups Water 

1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk

3 Bacon strips 

1 Large Carrot 

Coconut oil

Pepper

Sage

Seasoning Salt 

Garlic powder 

Tuscan Garlic seasoning blend 

Chicken Flavored soup base, Gluten and MSG free

Directions: 

1. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces, cook in coconut oil and season with seasoning salt, garlic powder, and Tuscan Garlic blend. After the chicken is cooked, set aside. Fry bacon, remove bacon from fat and crumble. (Optional: Save bacon fat and add to soup as it’s cooking for added flavor)

2. Sauté onions and garlic (freshly minced tastes the best) in coconut oil 

3. Add cut up cauliflower florets, water, unsweetened coconut milk, add seasonings to taste, simmer until tender. 

4. Add chopped carrot and chicken, cook until carrots are tender.   

Take Your Life Back By Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop – Book Review

Take Your Life Back

By Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop

Find it on: 

First Person Narrative

Non-Fiction

200 Pages

About the Book (Back cover Blurb):

“I want to have better relationships . . . but is it all on me to fix things?”

“This person’s approval means everything to me. It’s like it controls me.”

“Why can’t I get free from this cycle?”

If you find yourself having these feelings, it’s time to take your life back. Through personal examples, clinical insights, and spiritual truth, Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop will show you how to

• overcome the habits and history that are keeping you down―and take new, positive steps toward change;

• heal from the hurts, setbacks, and broken relationships that affect you every day;

• develop better boundaries with others in your life;

• stop overreacting and start responding appropriately to any situation or circumstance;

• break the cycle of behavior that harms you and your relationships;

• find the freedom you have longed for.

Your past and current circumstances don’t have to define you, and they don’t have to determine the direction of your life. Take Your Life Back is the key to moving from reactive attitudes and behaviors to healthy, God-honoring responses that will help you live the life you were meant to live.

Why I Choose this Book: 

The book looked interesting, and I figured it would help me relate and be more understanding to other people. 

What I Thought About this Book:

Part 1, which was the first 60% or so went through a lot of different problems that people have, and what could have caused those problems. It was enlightening and made sense. Since I haven’t studied this type of thing a lot, a fair amount of the information was new to me, so it was interesting to learn about. Part 1 was about reacting: Why we react, how reacting looks, and the issues that come from reacting.

Part 2 was about learning how to respond instead of reacting. I enjoyed part 2 a lot more than part 1. It was great to see how they brought the Bible into the book and spotlighted the way we need to give our lives to God in order to make our lives work the way we’re supposed to. 

There were plenty parts in the book that I didn’t fully understand, but mostly I appreciated and agreed with what I read. The book ended with a chapter of what our lives look like when we’ve given control to God which was very hope-filled. 

Conclusion:

This book wasn’t geared toward me, but I’m still glad I read it. I can see how it will help me understand people better. I recommend it to most people who have had trauma, abuse, or big issues in their past. 

Rating:

I’m giving Take Your Life Back 3 stars out of 5, and 5 stars out of 10. 

*I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing*

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating By Daniel Anderson and Jacquelyn Anderson – Book Review

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating 

By Daniel Anderson and Jacquelyn Anderson

Find it on: 

First Person  

Non-Fiction

239 Pages

About the Book (Back cover Blurb):

Few topics are more difficult for parents to discuss with their daughters than dating and relationships.  Due to their lack of knowledge about the world their teens face coupled with the scant dating information they received as teens, many parents feel ill-equiped to guide their daughters through the minefield that is teen dating.

In The 10 Myths of Teen Dating, this father and daughter team combines the latest scientific research with poignant, personal stories to help parents engage their daughters in wise conversations. Weaving in solid biblical truths with practical application and discussion starters, Daniel and Jacquelyn seek to equip parents to teach their daughters how to date for today … and tomorrow.

Why I Choose this Book: 


The premise sounded interesting, although it wasn’t something I especially wanted to read. I have been curious about the subject though because I know a lot of teens who date and the rational behind it never made complete sense to me. Then I found out that the author of this book co-wrote it with his daughter, and that impressed and intrigued me. And, after watching a short interview with them, I was like “Hey! I want to read this!” and so I did. 

What I Thought About this Book:


Just to be clear before we start: I’m not a fan of teenage dating, or dating just for fun, *but* if y’all are in that setting, then I highly recommend this book. 

This book wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The author says in the intro that he’s a Christian, but it’s not a Christian book, and it’s not necessarily written for Christians. (Although biblical principles do leak onto the writings.) The author has been a high school teacher for over twenty years, and he’s gained tons of insight into what all goes on, and has walked hundreds of teens through difficult times. Mr. Anderson wrote this book hoping that parents would take up the ball and begin having needed conversations with their daughters so that they wouldn’t have so many troubles and heartaches. (Let me take a moment here to say that Mr. Anderson sounds like a totally amazing guy and exactly the kind of person I would have as my teacher if I had grown up in public school with absent parents. Way to go, Mr. Anderson! I also really appreciated Jacquelyn’s honest and insight. Her parts really made the book more relatable and helped link the facts in numbers with reality.)

The book is obviously serious and has some heavy topics, but it was also written in a way that is easy to read and understand. There are tons of facts, scientific discoveries, and averages and percentages talked about in the book. We get to learn about how our brains develop and why people react to certain situations the way they do. The book makes modern teen dating trends make a lot more sense. There were a couple of chapters that I only skimmed because I don’t feel the need to know all the information right now, but for parents I can see how it would be incredibly enlightening and helpful. 

I didn’t agree with everything the authors said, but that’s to be expected. Overall though, the good info far, far out weighed what I disagreed with. And, I very much appreciated how the book was a father/daughter team effort. 

Conclusion:


As I said before, if you have a daughter of dating-age (or even if you are a dating teen), then this book should probably be on your to-read list. 

Rating:


I’m giving The 10 Myths of Teen Dating 4 stars out of 5, and 8 stars out of 10. 

*I received this book free from Litfuse*

Morning Gratitude

Good morning, people! This morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and figured today would be a fantastic day to write a quick list of things I’m thankful for. Remembering some of the things I have to be thankful for always gives my day a boost, and I hope my list inspires you to be filled with gratitude, too. I set my timer for eleven minutes then worked on my list until it beeped. I was rather amused when I numbered them to find out I had written down exactly 100 things. (Another thing to be thankful for, cause even numbers like that are so much fun!)

I’d be delighted to hear some of the things at the top of y’alls list if you feel so inclined to share.

I am thankful for…

1. Christmas music 

2. Family time 

3. Sunrises

4. Camping 

5. Cooking in clean kitchens 

6. Beautiful maps

7. Autumn’s delight 

8. Clean rooms 

9. Cute bunny rabbits

10. Friends who are like family 

11. Pictures 

12. Winterish clothes

13. The wind rustling through leaves

14. Stuffed animals 

15. Country roads 

16. Card games 

17. Blogging 

18. Blogging friends who I email with 

19. Brainstorming 

20. Working on new books 

21. Making progress on old books

22. Books for review

23. Being caught up with books for review 

24. Friends who will help me with my work 

25. Being able to make a difference 

26. Being understood 

27. Half marathons 

28. Calendars to keep track of stuff on 

29. Tracking books 

30. Andy Griffith with the family 

31. Making memories

32. Swinging 

33. Star gazing

34. Goals

35. People who influence others for good 

36. Our church

37. Living in Ohio

38.Living in a place with all four seasons 

39.The coziness of winter

40. Apple cider

41. The ability to read

42. Internet 

43. A computer to work on 

44. People who like to listen to my stories

45. Family meals

46. Accountability partners with goals 

47. The ease of keeping in touch with people in other countries 

48. Airplanes 

49. Pixie sticks 

50. White chocolate s’mores

51. Our Wednesday night group 

52. Rocks I’ve collected

53. Fuzzy blankets 

54.Sparkly socks

55. Cotten candy 

56. Sweet little babies

57. Dreams come true

58. Dream lists

59. Hedgehogs 

60. Skunks

61. Inside jokes

62. Cool, refreshing water

63. Checking things off lists

64. Happiness being a choice

65. Having people around me who make choosing happiness easy 

66. People who encourage me 

67. Being able to encourage other people

68. Using my words to lift people up 

69. Using my talents to bring glory to God 

70. Helping other people realize that they can bring glory to God, too

71. Letters and notecards 

72. Doing mail runs 

73. Driving with the windows down 

74. Flowers 

75. Jumping on hay bales 

76. Listening to birds sing

77. Dancing in the rain 

78. Salt 

79. How my office is decorated 

80. Being able to think and reason 

81. Living in this time period 

82. Being able to study pervious times 

83. Learning in general

84. Having the Bible to gain wisdom from 

85. God loving me 

86. Watching leaves change colors and fall 

87. Cute colors 

88. Shuffling through papers

89. Doctors 

90. Eating healthy 

91. Celebrating things

92. Hardwood floors

93. Sleeping on the floor

94. Mummy bags to keep me warm

95. Cute little puppies 

96. Connecting with other people

97. Sundays

98. My Sunday school kids

99. Coffee breaks at church 

100. Laughter 

Life Creative By Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart – Book Review

Life Creative 

By Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

Find it on: 

First Person  

Non-Fiction

196 Pages

About the Book (Back cover Blurb):

A celebration of motherhood, creativity, and the faith that binds them In our Pinterest age of handcrafted children’s parties, artistic Instagram photos, tutorials for renovating old furniture into new treasures, and blogs filled with poetry, prose, and other creative expression, it is clear that a brand-new generation of creative women is rising up. It is a renaissance born not in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs but in kitchens and nurseries and living rooms around the world. But when Christian women become mothers, they often feel expected to lay down their creative pursuits in order to properly parent.

Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart know that struggle. While they acknowledge that some seasons of mothering require setting artistic pursuits aside, they also argue that these seasons don’t have to last until empty nest time. Instead, mothers with creative gifts are called to actively use them in order to bless their families, their communities, and everyone they encounter.

Inspiring and encouraging, Life Creative celebrates the ways mothers can live their art in the midst of their mothering. They tell the stories of women such as author and speaker Angie Smith, recording artist Ellie Holcomb, and jewelry designer Lisa Leonard who do just that. By following God’s leading to embrace His gifts, renaissance moms can model the joy of obedience for their families.

Why I Choose this Book: 


Life Creative. I see nearly everything in the world through the eyes of creativity, and the title of this book promised to do the same. Besides, the back cover blurb sounded amazing, despite the fact that I’m not a mother. 

What I Thought About this Book:


Where do I even start? How do I even go about reviewing a book like Life Creative? It was beautiful – every single aspect of the book was simply and incredibly beautiful. From the formatting to the page designs to the different fonts, to the dividers… The words flowed like art, flinging images into my mind, and creating wings that carried me away in my own imagination and inspired me and made me want to do more. 

The scope of the topics that Life Creative covered was also amazing. The book was written in such a balanced and thought-provking way that multiple times I just wanted to shake my head and say “Wow, their insight is incredible.” I was extremely impressed by how well-rounded and Biblically based their points were. It was clear that the authors not only *really* studied God’s Word and listened for Him, but that they also took council from other Christ-followers. 

I was delighted by how their view of art was extremely uplifting. I’ve been blessed for years at the thought that God is creative, and He’s created me to be creative, too, and Life Creative really highlights that. God has given us each gifts and talents and it’s our privilege to in turn use those gifts and talents to bless Him and point people to Him. Life Creative offers so much practical advice on how to do that, why it’s important, and how busy moms can play the juggling act while staying accountable. I felt like clapping when they even included a section about how important it is to communicate with your family about art, because communication rocks. 

Conclusion:


There were a few minor things I didn’t agree with, but mostly I was blown away and impressed by the book. It will most assuredly be a re-read. The fact that I enjoyed and gleaned so much from the book when I’m not even it’s target audience is a huge testament to how fantastic the book is. I can only imagine how much more I would have gotten from the book if I was a mom. Way to go, Miss Wendy and Miss Kelli! I hope you write more books together in the future. =)

Rating:


I’m giving Life Creative 5 stars out of 5, and 10 stars out of 10. I highly, highly recommend it to any mom, or even non-mom, who has a creative bend. (In fact, I took a break mid-review to email a friend about the book and ask her if I could buy her a copy. It’s *that* good.) 

*I received this book free from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review*

P.S. I liked this book so much I wrote this post while in the middle of reading the book. 

October the Beautiful

Happy Monday, y’all!

Between the half marathon, an extremely busy several days at my non-writing job, having amazing out-of-state friends come and help with said job, and just life in general, last week was pretty crazy. It involved a lot of frantic dashes to get everything done on time, curling up with a fluffy blanket to catch a short nap whenever possible, consulting co-workers on how food tasted, dancing around the kitchen, dining on all manner of deliciousness, late nights, early-for-me mornings, and putting my problem solving capabilities into play.

One of the best memories from last week was realizing to my detriment that I hadn’t looked at the schedule carefully enough, so I had to throw everyone into full gear. It wasn’t long before we were rushing hither and yon, and some of my co-workers who are fantastic singers decided to sing Christmas carols at the top of their lungs. Totally off key.

Autumn also let loose it’s magnificent beauty and delighted my little heart to it’s very core. The sky took turns being a brilliant, cloudless blue, and layering heaps of dark, gray clouds all about us. There was rain. Coldness. Lazily falling leaves. It was the perfect autumnish week, and reminded me once again of how utterly wonderful October is.

And, as you can guess, I didn’t do hardly anything on writing. I eked out three blog posts, wrote 100 words each day, and gave an excited try at brainstorming one evening. If you’ve corresponded with me via email recently, you’ve probably noticed my lack of replies. The replies I did send were ones typed throughout the day when I had breaks at work.

I’m excited, though. I accomplished all of my goals for last week. I have new goals set for this week. Hopefully I’ll not only get caught up on my emails and writing, but possibly even pull ahead a bit. And, of course I only have seven days left to finish my October goals, so I’ll have fun chopping away at them, too.

* * *

What do y’all have on your plate for this week?

Happy Friday Morning

This morning I walked to my non-writing job in the drizzling rain, skipping along the road and avoiding mud puddles. We’ve got a hugely busy day at work, so I was trying to get a head start on the day by being out in the fresh air.

Today I’m eating off Paleo, which makes me wonderfully excited. I walked into the kitchen, saw all the goodies there are that I can partake of (aka cranberry-orange scones, white chocolate-coverd pretzels, and delicious coffee), and squealed something along the lines of “Oh my goodness! It is so good to be alive!”

Before I left for work I read Proverbs 21, which left me feeling very encouraged and also extremely thankful that I work with non-contentious people. And speaking of being easy to get along with, my break is nearly over, so I’d better get back to work. I hope y’all have a fantastically blessed and victorious day!

* * *

If y’all read the Proverb of the day, which was your favorite verse? Mine was Proverbs 21:21 “He that follows after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honor.

Princesses and Castles and Imagination, Oh My!

Princesses fascinate me. (No, really?) My first full-length story, way back when I was thirteen, involved a princess (who lived in a hidden, underground house in the middle of a huge forest because bad guys had taken over the throne). My first trilogy, back when I was sixteen, involved a princess (who thought she was a slave, because, why not?). And now, my current series, when I’m twenty-four, is all about twin princesses. (And y’all probably know all about that by now.)

Therefore, as you can imagine, exploring castles and palaces in Europe a couple years ago made my little princessy heart extremely happy. I still dream of going back and exploring the castles and palaces more, one day. It’s kinda a dream of mine to write book in Europe while sitting and walking among castle ruins.

This morning I sat down to blog and somehow got sidetracked reading something about Princess Kate from Great Britain (don’t ask me how that happened). So of course that made me think about castles and palaces and princesses. And, it made me so happy I decided to look up a couple of my Europe trip posts and share them with y’all again.

Here you can read all about the Newschwanstein Castle (pictured above) and our hours of standing in line and freezing. It really was a totally delightful, and extremely memorable, experience.

The Heidelberg Castle in Germany was one of my all-time favorite places to visit. Thinking about it nearly brings tears of joy even now because it was that amazing. I can barely even comprehend a more lovely setting to write a book in. There’s SO much room for the imagination to go totally wild, which is of course wonderful.

We also got to explore a fantastic amount of palaces that were stunningly beautiful, but generally had a “no photos allowed” rule. That didn’t mean I couldn’t take snapshots in my mind to sigh over in delight for the rest of my days. And of course those snapshots will most likely one day make their way into my princess-stories, so that’s even better than a picture.

By the way, if y’all have any suggestions for clean books that involve princesses, I would be utterly delighted to hear them.

* * *

What about you? Do you find princesses as inspiring and intriguing as I do?