Book Review: Love Letters from God

Stinker loves getting mail, just like any other kid. She’s been having fun being a pen pal to her friend who lives across the country, so she’s always excited to check the mail to see if anything came for her.

Love Letters from God Bible Stories is a new children’s book written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp. It presents a handful of favorite Bible stories, each story accompanied by a verse, some wonderful illustrations, and a lift the flap envelope that is written as a love letter to the child from God. I love the layout of the book and the illustrations, and Stinker was duly impressed with each “letter from God.” There is even a letter at the very end for your child to write a letter to God.

The only con to the book was the creative liberty some of the stories took. I understand that it is a Children’s book, and the stories have to be appealing to kids, but it’s still the Bible, and I don’t like anything added or taken away. In the story of Adam and Eve, Satan is presented as a snake instead of a serpent, and Eve eats an apple, instead of the fruit, as is said in the Bible. (Many of us grew up with those misnomers, so it’s not a huge deal, just something that bugged me.) However, in the story of the Loaves and Fishes, the boy with the food is named “Nathan”. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention the boy’s name, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable adding things just for the sake of entertainment.

That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I love the concept of the “love letters” from God. I only wish the creative license had been toned down.

*I received a free copy of this book from Zondervan Publishing and BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

Book Review: The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible

I grew up in the church and have heard every version of every Bible story possible. I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable regarding the Bible, but I must admit that I get lost in certain books, and while I know plenty of verses and stories, I’m not always as comfortable in explaining the big picture significance of each book as a truth still applicable today. (Like how does the book of Ezra prove the faithfulness of God’s promises?)

In order to grasp a little more understanding about the Bible (you can never learn too much!) I decided to look over The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible, written by Dr. William H. Marty and Dr. Boyd Seevers. This book tells you the setting, summary, and significance of every book in the Bible. It was part-history, part-commentary, and gave good information.

I would have preferred some visual resources within the book (such as maps and charts), and the summaries to be more in list form. Everything is written out in paragraph form, which makes it a little difficult  to digest. It’s not something you can just glance at to get the gist of each book in the Bible. This book had much of the same information you would find in a study Bible, minus the Scriptures. The authors are obviously well-versed in the Bible, and their analysis and research are sound, but without a lot of visuals and with everything written out in paragraph form, it became very dry, very quickly.

Bottom Line 6.5*/10*
*I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

10 Ideas for Leftover Or Frozen Meatballs-Update


This post, originally written in 2012, has been one of the most popular posts on my site. So I figured it would be fun to update it with a nice, shiny, new Pin-able picture and some updated recipes!

Making a double…or triple…batch of my freezer friendly meatballs doesn’t take much more prep work than a single batch, and there are so many options for leftovers. I love having these in the freezer for those “uh oh, what’s for dinner?!” weekdays. I make sure to freeze them without sauce, so I’m not bound to use them for Italian food!

1. Meatball Sandwiches

2. Meatball Pizza
-Slice meatballs into thin pieces. Prepare a pizza crust with sauce and cheese, and sprinkle meatball slices on top of cheese. Add other toppings or vegetables of choice (such as onions, bell peppers, olives, etc), and bake at 450* until bubbly and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Chili
-Crumble up meatballs and add to your favorite chili recipe instead of the ground beef, onion, garlic mixture. This is especially easy for rushed mornings, to throw into the crock pot.

4. Meatball Soup
-My friend Kerstin gave me the recipe to this awesome and FAST soup in the crock pot.

1 lb leftover or frozen meatballs (I make mine larger, so about 4-5. I cut them into bite size pieces before serving)
1 can Beef Broth (14oz)
1 Cup Water
1 can of Diced Tomatoes w/Basil, Garlic and Oregano (14.5oz), undrained (or 1 can regular diced tomatoes with some italian seasoning sprinkled in)
1 can of Cannellini Beans or Kidney Beans (14oz), drained
1/2 onion chopped
1 C chopped carrots
1/2 C chopped celery
2 C cooked noodles (optional)
Parmesan Cheese to garnish individual servings

Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours
Garnish individual servings with Parmesan Cheese, add noodles to individual bowls if desired, and serve.

5. Meatball Gyros
-Slice heated meatballs and add to warm pita bread. Top with sliced cucumber, sliced onion, lettuce, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.

6. Meatball Calzones
-Mix 2 C ricotta cheese with 1 egg, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 C mozzarella cheese, and several sprinkles of Italian Seasoning. Fold in chopped pieces of meatball. Cut 1 lb pizza dough into 4 equal portions, and roll into squares. Place 1/4 cheese mixture on each square. Fold diagonally and seal edges with a fork. Brush tops with one egg whisked with 2 TBS water. Bake at 450* until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

7. Sweet and Sour Meatballs
-Simmer meatballs with store bought or homemade sweet and sour sauce. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped scallions.

8. Lasagna
-Crumble or slice meatballs, use in place of ground beef, onion, garlic mixture in lasagna.

9. BBQ Meatballs
-Simmer meatballs in your favorite BBQ sauce until heated through. Serve over mashed potatoes with coleslaw on the side.

10. Sloppy Joes
-Crumble meatballs and use with your favorite sloppy joe recipe instead of the ground beef and onion mixture. Our personal favorites: This Rachael Ray recipe on Food Network, and this recipe over on Allrecipes   

What are your favorite ways to use up leftover or frozen meatballs?

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The “Ah Bahm Oo” Miracle…An Update on Junior

Junior talking to Bionic Buddy, the mascot for his cochlear implant company.

To most of you it would sound like gibberish. The meaningless jargon of a toddler, as he learns to find his voice. But to me, it’s a miracle.

“Ah bahm oo”

It represents our journey. All the fears and pain. All the things I thought I was giving up when I accepted that Junior was deaf. The dreams I thought I had to abandon because our child wasn’t “perfect” in the eyes of the world.

It represents the last two years of sacrifice, appointments, therapy, and tears.

It represents hope. Picking up the pieces and realizing that joy doesn’t come from circumstances. That miracles happen in the mundane.

Because this time, when I picked him up and said “I love you”, Junior looked at me and replied “ah bahm oo”.

The dream I had once discarded–of my child hearing me say I love you–was picked up, dusted off, and  presented to me as a gift. A gift of his not only hearing me, but telling me that he loved me too.

“Ah Bahm Oo” may mean nothing to a stranger, but to me it means everything.

Have you read Junior’s Story?

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Family Favorite Recipes: Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup

This Lentil Soup recipe is one of my family’s favorite. It’s gluten and dairy free but still manages to be creamy, filling, and satisfying. The bacon adds the heartiness, but since it only calls for 3 slices, it’s budget friendly. (Simply freeze the leftover bacon in increments of 3 slices.) We grow thyme in the backyard, and I’ve decided I absolutely love the taste of it. The soup is slightly smoky, creamy, and has a beautiful balance of flavors.

This soup is better than most soups I’ve gotten at restaurants and have paid $8 a bowl for. This soup is only $1.25 per serving! Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread, and you have perfection!

Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup–serves 6
(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

-3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-(1) 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
-1 C green lentils, rinsed and picked over (pick out any stones)
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 C dry white wine
-4 C chicken stock
-1 1/2 C water
-1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
-4 oz. fresh baby spinach
-pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon in a large stock pot (I use a cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat, stirring, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. About 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften. About 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the lentils, the 1 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste. Cover, and reduce heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are soft. About 10 minutes.

4. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially. Simmer until lentils are tender but not overcooked, about 30-35 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

5. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot. Add the balsamic vinegar (it gives the soup a really nice balance) and stir, heating until hot.

6. Add the fresh spinach, and cook a few minutes until wilted. Serve with crusty french bread or biscuits and enjoy!

Cost Breakdown (vinegar, salt, and pepper are freebies)
Bacon-$5 for a pack of 12 slices. Freezing in increments of 3 slices, each pack of 3 is $1.25
Onion-$0.69. Saving remainder of onion, each half is $0.35
-2 Carrots-$0.50
-3 cloves Garlic- each head of garlic is $0.50. Saving remainder, three cloves amounts to about $0.10
-Can Diced Tomatoes-$0.50
-1 Bay Leaf-$0.05
-Thyme-if grown outdoors, free. If purchased, $0.50
-1 C green lentils-$0.90 (purchase in bulk section of your local health food store)
-1/2 C white wine-I purchase “2 Buck Chuck” and use it for cooking. Each 1/2 C increment equates to about $0.40
-4 C Chicken Stock-$2.00
-4 oz Baby Spinach-$1.00

Total Cost-$7.55, or $1.25 per serving.

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