Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Nook: Do I Have to Say Hello?

Blue Rider Press recently set me a copy of the re-release, Do I Have to Say Hello? Aunt Delia’s Manners Quiz for Kids and Their Grown-ups. In a light-hearted series of quizzes, alternate scenarios, and true-or-false questions, bestselling author/screenwriter Delia Ephron and New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren teamed up to create a book experience that covers all types of manner guides – whether it’s for the playground, the car, or the dinner table.
It was a fun book. The questions and options were interesting enough to keep both of my girls intrigued, but contained some situations that they didn't know, so it provided a great way to start talking about some etiquette issues they hadn't experienced. It's a great book to read to help prep your kids for situations they may experience at holiday parties or get-togethers, in school, or when running errands out and about!

Soul Sustenance: If - Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If Possibilities

If is such a powerful word. It can be full of possibilities - or it can be used to destroy them. It can convey hope or regret. In Mark Batterson's new book "If" he looks at changing from regret to a forward-looking view of how God can use us.

I had a chance to review this book, and it was definitely worth my time. As I've gotten older, I've regretted less and less - in fact, there was a question that came up in Bible study a few weeks ago, asking what we would change, and I said nothing. Not that there aren't things that I would have done differently if I could do them over, but I've realized that even the mistakes, the tragedies, the struggles, have shaped me into who I am. So this book was mostly a confirmation of that gradual shift in attitude that's happened.

However, many of us struggle with regret, and that's perfectly normal. This book helps shift that attitude, based on the verse "If God is for us, who can be against us?" God has amazing things He wants to do to use us for His work, and if are open to the "what ifs" in life - the what can we do, not the what should we have done - we'll be in a better position to do that.

Movie Minute: The Letters

MOTHER TERESA, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of modern times. Her selfless commitment changed hearts, lives and inspired millions throughout the world. THE LETTERS, as told through personal letters she wrote over the last 40 years of her life, reveal a troubled and vulnerable women who grew to feel an isolation and an abandonment by God. The story is told from the point of view of a Vatican priest charged with the task of investigating acts and events following her death. He recounts her life’s work, her political oppression, her religious zeal and her unbreakable spirit.

I had a chance to review the film in advance of its Dec. 4th release. It was well-done, providing more insight into who she was and how her relationship with God changed over her life. It's unfortunate that she had to see so much sorrow, but there are certainly live that have been changed because of her.

Book Nook: Passing the Baton of Light: Saving a Family Tree

In her autobiography, “Passing the Baton of Light: Saving a Family Tree,” former burlesque performer and actress Beverly J. Powers narrates her life starting from her youth, to working in Hollywood, to married life and raising her two sons, to working for God as a member of the clergy.

This book, which I was sent a copy to review, was a story of unconditional love, from a mother with a storied past and a son who ended up in prison on felony charges. Her book is designed to inspire mothers to never give up on their children, no matter what happens as they grow and mature. It was well-written and encouraging, honest and interesting.

About the author
Beverly J. Powers is an ordained minister with The Living Ministry ( in Hawaii, and serves as a chaplain at Maui Memorial Hospital. She has performed more than 2,700 weddings and vow renewals to date, and has co-pastored and founded multiple churches across the Hawaiian Islands. Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Powers spent 25 years in Hollywood starring in iconic movies and television shows, including her role as the Queen of Burlesque known as “Miss Beverly Hills.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mealtime Magic: Family Pizza Nigh

Pizza is a really easy way to have a fun family night. Pizzas can be very healthy - and there are a lot more options out there than just cheese and traditional meats. You can even make it into dessert! Rustic Crust ready-made crusts has a ton of recipes for really unique flavors, like Thanksgiving pizza, ice cream sundae pizza, butternut squash pizza with cranberries and ricotta, and more!

They also have some ideas to share for your family pizza night.
1. After cleaning your countertop surface, place the Rustic Crust pizza crusts on top of some flour (gluten free is an option!)
2. Get in the cooking spirit, providing the kids with chef hats to decorate and wear while they cook
3. Put all ingredients in small bowls and arrange them around the crust so the kids can pick and choose what to put on their own pizza. Below are some of our favorite ingredients:
Mozzarella cheese (lots of it!), Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shaved Parmesan, Prosciutto, Grilled Chicken, Diced ham, Pepperoni, Crumbled sausage, Bacon, Tomatoes, Chopped spinach, Diced scallions, Onions, Arugula, Diced pineapple, Assorted olives, Sundried tomato, Artichoke hearts, Peppers, Basil
4. Use one all natural Rustic Crust sauce bag per pizza crust- help little kids by spooning it onto the pizza for them and let them have fun spreading it
5. Add toppings and create your family’s favorite pizza combinations.
6. Make it a family game night while the pizza is in the oven.
7. Have fun and remember it's ok to play with your food!

I did have a chance to try out some crusts and sauce for our own pizza night, and they were delicious. My daughters loved each of the crusts we tried, and the sauce was just right - neutral enough to go with a variety of flavors, but not bland. These crusts, wchich are GMO and trans-fat free, are made in the USA from unbleached whole grain flours and bake quickly. Right now you can get a coupon on the website to try them out!

Soul Sustenance: Advice from a Turkey Dog

by Douglas Green
The word is out.  There’s something wrong with Thanksgiving.  
As with so many other holidays, we have ruined its original concept with enforced “traditions:” Macy’s parade, turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, televised football. Don’t get me wrong, I like all of these traditions, I just don’t know what they have to do with gratitude, or with immigrants thanking locals for helping them survive.
The secret to re-legitimizing the day isn’t the food, or even family. It’s the name. Can we return to actually giving thanks? 
To find a way, I turn to the greatest teachers on gratitude I’ve ever known: dogs. Never unselfish, but habitually giving credit whenever they see it due.
So, from their pure integrity, here are some canine keys to a true Thanksgiving:
1. Sit in your front doorway and look around.  A clever pooch knows this is the best place to relax. He can watch everything going on outside, while poised to jump if any food should drop. And it’s a perfect first stop on the gratitude trail.
What sort of home do you have? Do you rent or own? Does the doorway reveal a Downton Abbey landscape or a parking lot? Whichever, sit on that threshold and find twenty things you appreciate about your shelter and the astounding world outside it. If you can’t, you’re not looking hard enough.
2. Pretend that everyone in your life didn’t have to be there, or do what they’ve done for you. Then realize that’s the truth. We laugh at the enthusiasm pups show over the simplest things – their human, a treat or leash. But only because we take those sights for granted. What if you never assumed the one who’d cared for you would come home? What if you harbored doubts about ever tasting another cookie?
Then look at your present relationships. Your parents, your spouse, your friends, and even your dog. Take a moment to ask what your life would be like with any of them not there, or not caring about you.
Scary? Then take it further; focus on your love for them. Feel it till your heart could burst. That appreciation, that pain, is what dogs feel for us all the time. When they’re staring up from the floor, unable to intellectualize their feelings as we do. That’s being alive.
3. Whatever your religious beliefs, pretend you’re wrong. Dogs lack dogma. Their brains aren’t big enough to perceive a rationale for the universe. Dogs are neither theist nor atheist, sectarian nor agnostic.
Instead, they just appreciate. Do any of us honor the sun like a pup who shifts her sleeping to follow the rays? Do we run out after rains to absorb every enhanced scent?
Take a breath, close your eyes, and forget all that you believe about why the world is. And when you free your brain from the “why,” let it all roll over you: The enormity of outer space, the miracle of an ant, the luck of our proximity to the sun, the breathtaking complexity of your own body. And just try not to feel grateful.
4. Even if you absolutely, 100%, know it’s completely and totally wrong, pretend for just a wee moment that things are actually better today than they were a year ago. And see how many of them you can count. Have we ever been told as often that our world, our leaders, our lives are horrible? News channels screaming, rants on Facebook, forcing us to focus on lousiness. And then all the great people who’ve died, all the pollution, and get a load of what the kids listen to – it’s just garbage! 
But if we put aside that all these worst-politicians-ever just lie and cheat, maybe we could remember that most of them, most of the time, are trying to do their best, and often get things right. 
And are you happy about anyone who was born this last year? And how many new inventions reduce pollution? And have you noticed that all the music you like is still around, and maybe you’ve actually enjoyed one new song? So then, things are better, right?
Okay, maybe that argument doesn’t hold, but just give a moment to thanking the few things that you can agree have improved. If you can’t think of any, then admit that you have less brain than any dumb mutt, who has no trouble saying, “Right now, at this moment, that mushroom gravy I smell from two houses down is the most glorious creation ever!”
5. Embrace everyone, in the way they can accept. True gratitude should glow, not just in feeling thanks, but in expressing it, as dogs do every waking moment. 
Now that doesn’t mean jumping onto the white dresses of frightened strangers. Own your social intelligence, like an obedience-school graduate, and treat people as you believe they would wish. Greet that work colleague with a warm handshake and smile. Embrace that chic friend with a peck-almost-on-the-cheek, that child with a warm hug, and your significant other with the passion you’ve stifled since Labor Day.  
And who knows?  Maybe these actions will give you more to be thankful for next year.
Now these canine behaviors create their own rewards, but there’s a higher goal here, too.  And again, I learned it from a dog.
My pooch, Shirelle, had a fatal cancer, and was supposed to have died already; I lived in fear every time I left her for even a few hours. So this Thanksgiving, I gently took her with me to the home of some neighbors for their family celebration.  
This couple had lost their own dog a couple of years before, and had embraced mine with an openness like grandparents. And Shirelle adored them, always lunging toward their door on our walks. I’d wondered why.
After chatting with some of their relatives, I realized the dog was missing. I checked room after room, until finally looking across at the open doorway to the kitchen.
There stood “Grandpa,” carving the turkey, with my big mutt sitting oh-so-politely at attention next to him. He carved slowly, methodically, putting one slice onto a platter for the family, handing the next slice to her, the next slice to the family, the next slice to her…spoiling the being I loved most just rotten.
Months of emotion welled up in my eyes. It was too goofy, too beautiful. He was thankful for her and she was thankful for him and I was thankful for both and for their gratitude to each other.
That should be our goal for the day. For thanks to go all the way around – everyone beholden to everyone – and the emotion overwhelming with its simplicity to where you realize that this is really the way the whole world should be, the way all of life should be.
Douglas Green is a psychotherapist, specializing in helping kids and teens build lives they can be proud of. He is also the creator and writer for, which helps kids, teens, parents, and others around the world with advice from the point of view of a friendly dog, and is the author of the upcoming book, The Teachings of Shirelle – Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead. Learn more about Green at, and connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Shopping Savings: Black Friday Roundup (and Cyber Monday Deals)

ACTIVEON Action Cameras will be on sale for $99.99 this Black Friday, Nov. 27th at GameStop as well as at their partnering retailers listed below. With the purchase of an ACTIEON CX Action Camera, consumers will also receive a free 16 GB MircoSD Card. Key features include: super wide view, full hd 1080p/30fps, built in WiFi, 2” Built-in LCD screen, longer battery life (120 mins) and underwater capabilities.

Mabel’s Labels has some huge deals in store as well, to be released 9am on Black Friday and live through November 30th. Standard shipping is always free, and you'll be able to get some awesome deals (I can't share what, but I can say that the prices will be the best I've seen for personalized labels).
MilestonePod, a small shoe-worn wearable for runners and walkers, will be available for 30% off the retail price of $24.95 Black Friday-Cyber Monday with code GIFTAPOD. Using a free mobile app, runners are able to track workouts using a combination of metrics like stride length, foot strike, pace, cadence and more.

On Tuesday, November 24, the first fifty children to visit Santa at select Westfield locations will receive a complimentary toy from Disney Junior’s The Octonauts. On Wednesday, November 25, the first fifty families to visit Santa at select Westfield centers will receive a copy of the self-titled deluxe album by platinum selling group Pentatonix.


Starting November 28 throughout November 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Merry Makers will be surprising guests at Westfield centers with special acts of kindness and giving. “Westfield is proud to work with the Merry Makers for the third year in a row. Every holiday season, Westfield is committed to provide an enjoyable experience to our retailers, employees, and of course the shoppers who look forward to seeing the Merry Makers every year, ” says Myf Ryan, CMO Westfield Corporation.

For those who are not able to experience the virtual reality performance, the first 50 families to visit Santa at select Westfield centers on November 30th will receive a copy of Pentatonix’s holiday CD, “That’s Christmas to Me.”



Beginning on Black Friday and continuing through Christmas, Westfield shoppers can support St. Jude Children’s Hospital Thanks and Giving campaign. On select dates throughout the holiday season, children waiting to see Santa will be invited by the Merry Makers to pay it forward with the opportunity to give a gift to a child at St. Jude. Each child will be given a special wristband and a gift tag that will include the story of a St. Jude patient along with a donation amount (from .25 cents to $10). The child will write his/her name on the tag and hang it on a dedicated Giving Tree.  The amounts on all of the tags will then be tallied and a donation will be made by Westfield to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


For more information about Westfield’s holiday events, hours, locations and resources, please visit

New this holiday season, James Cox Knits is offering a Black Friday-Cyber Monday deal of 20% off all sweater and accessory kits from 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 27th through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 30th. Also offered is a James Cox Knits Gift Card in denominations of $30-$400 (exempt from the Black Friday-Cyber Monday offer). 

This holiday season, you  can get something special with Black Friday and holiday deals from, the world’s largest privately held online retailer of diamonds, engagement rings and bridal jewelry, including:
·         25% off site wide excluding loose diamonds/gemstones
o   Runs Black Friday (Friday, Nov. 27 starting at 4am EST) to Cyber Monday (Monday, Nov. 30 ending at 11:59pm EST)
o   Cannot be combined with any other offer
·         $100 gift certificate to either Airbnb or OpenTable with purchase
o   Runs Thursday, Dec. 3 starting at 4am EST to Thursday, Dec. 31 ending at 11:59pm EST
o   Minimum order of $1,000
o   Cannot be combined with any other offer

Dedicated to creating the most effective, organic product on the market, Jeffrey James fashioned a sophisticated, natural skincare line that adapts to every skin type and concern. Jeffrey James Botanicals combines modern skincare with science and natural actives to create a truly luxurious, organic experience. Starting Friday, November 27th, save over 85% when you purchase the Jeffrey James Botanicals’ Cyber Monday set, containing 5 full-sized products, for $29.95 and receive FREE SHIPPING.The Cyber Monday set will be available Friday, November 27th through Tuesday, December 1st via Limited quantity available. 

Book Nook: The Conciliators

The Collectibles Trilogy, by James L. Kaufman, tells the story of Joe Hart, Preston Wilson, and Katherine Kelly. I got to review the conclusion of the trilogy, The Conciliators. In this book, Preston Wilson’s life is once again imploding – this time as headline news, bylined by Katherine Kelly.  Under fire thanks to the financial shenanigans of a longtime friend, the CEO finds himself in trouble with the FBI, the Russian mafia, and his creditors. If he doesn’t come up with a plan – and quickly – he could lose everything and find himself, his wife, and his shareholders in prison. Inspired by Joe Hart’s life lessons, Preston sets a new course, vowing to fight for what matters most: his family, his friends, and the Collectibles.

The book is a thrilling, exciting novel. It's easy to read, and provides a good conclusion to the trilogy. If you like other action novels, you'll enjoy this one. The topic of financial trouble isn't general seen as an exciting tale, but Kaufman manages to make it so, weaving in elements of danger and the human element of relationships.

James J. Kaufman is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Collectibles, Book I of The Collectibles Trilogy, The Concealers, Book II of the Trilogy, and now — to be released September 8, 2015 — The Conciliators, Book III of the Trilogy.  In writing the acclaimed Collectibles series, Mr. Kaufman has drawn heavily from his experiences in law, dealings in the business world, and his interactions with people from widely different backgrounds.  Kaufman is an attorney, former judge, and business man —CEO of The Kaufman Group, Ltd. and former Chairman of the Board of Imaging the World. He is also a proud member of the Cape Fear Club, the New York City Union League Club, and the esteemed Players, Gramercy Park, New York City. He lives with his wife in Wilmington, NC.

Giveaway: Chris Tomlin Adore

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
Chris Tomlin is a well-known contemporary Christian music artist, worship leader, and songwriter. We often sing some of his songs in church, like "How Great Is Our God", "Jesus Messiah", "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)."  
He released a new Christmas album this year, Adore. It's a mix of classics and original songs, which includes guest performances from Lauren Daigle, Leslie Jordan, Kristyn Getty, and Sons & Daughters. It's got the same easy-to-listen-to style as his worship music, and the original songs are great new worship songs for Christmas time. His songs have the ability to be both interesting to listen to and easy to sing, and this CD is no different.
You can download from ITUNES or look for the CD in music stores near you. You can also enter to win a copy. To do so, leave a comment on this post with your favorite Christmas song. Deadline is December 2nd.
Learn more:

Consumer Critique: Organic India Tulsi Tea

ORGANIC INDIA'sTulsi Tea Line  are USDA organic teas infused with a sacred Indian herb that's packed with goodness + deliciousness in over 20 flavors. A cup of Tulsi tea warms up the soul - lowers stress, bolsters immunity, enhances stamina and promotes a healthy metabolism. ORGANIC INDIA works directly with marginalized farmers in India providing healthcare, education, gender equality and empowerment programs.

I had a chance to try out some of the tea, and although I'm not a huge tea drinker, these were tolerable. To get a better review, I gave them to my parents, who do actually like tea, and they enjoyed them. There are a ton of flavors, all with slightly different benefits (but all aim to provide stress relief). You can learn more about the Tulsi tea in the video below.