Monthly Archives: December 2016

12/28/16

Best Books of 2016

I read 38 books in 2016, 36 of them brand, spanking new… at least to me!

Theses were some of my favorite reads from this year, and ones that I highly recommend to all those other avid readers out there!

I try to read a few Classics each year, and this year was no different.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

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‘On what slender threads do life and fortune hang’

For me, the tale of Edmond Dantes is one of betrayal, incomprehensible sorrow, and ultimately revenge and retribution. He was such a real, meaty character that I could sink my hero-loving teeth into- a wronged man, imprisoned, innocent, and seeking to not just escape his current circumstance, but unearth a hidden and secret treasure, reinvent himself, and plot against the 3 men who imprisoned him all those many years ago.

An epic tale of adventure in Dumas’ beautiful style and prose.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

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This was a book that my Mom has been talking about for 4 years now, ever since her book club read this in their very first year.

And it opens with a truly famous line in literary history… “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .” and it is really all about Manderley. The one thing that Maxim de Winter loves more than life itself and he will stop at nothing to protect it.

A hauntingly beautiful tale.

And in other fiction, I am a lover of all things historical fiction and WWII in particular. And this one was just about the best…

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

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“An indomitable blind heroine, tiny wooden model cities hiding precious secrets, accursed diamond, trip wires and high tension, secret passages hidden in giant moldering cupboards, an old walled French town, and the beautiful notes of music and lore travelling over time and distance to receptive ears.”

This novel was absolutely enchanting and I was spellbound from cover to cover. A literary tour de force!

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati 

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Really, really intriguing historical read. Explores the great divide between the rich on the isle of Manhattan and those living in extreme poverty in the tenements during the Gilded Age in New York City and those most faithful civil servants- particularly doctors and law enforcement- that serve both classes of people equally.

I fell in love with the characters of Anna and Sophie Savard, cousins that both are female physicians at a time when females were not doctors, much less accomplished surgeons and renowned in their fields. They were so completely real, so raw, and strong, independent minds that weren’t afraid to stand up for the “little man” or woman. A blend of action, mystery, and romance, this book had a little bit of everything, and I for one, cannot wait for the sequel still to come.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman 

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So heartwarming & inventive. Such a simple, but powerful story about the power of the people you surround yourself with. So charming! You will be in love with this grumpy, old curmudgeon from page 1.

And a year cannot go by without reading a little Charles Martin either…

A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin 

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And this book blended a few of my greatest loves- football, romance, and Charles’s categorical heartbreaking prose. A tale of unforgettable love and forgiveness and lengths we go to achieve each.

One of my favorites of his! And I just closed the cover on his most recent novel, Long Way Gone and it made this heart soar with a modern-day retelling of the Prodigal Son parable.

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“… no gone is too far gone…” A timeless and priceless message to all our hearts.

And in business, my team and I read this book this year.

Lean In : Women, Work, and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg 

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For me, it was a bit “doom & gloom” at certain parts painting a very negative picture of women excelling in their careers, but for the most part, I found this book to be encouraging of women choosing to pursue their careers, and not at the cost of their home life, but in strong support of women sitting at the table, reaching for new challenges, speaking up, and leaning in. Overall, a read I would recommend for women in business, or any industry really. It challenged my thinking.

I am also a fan of some religious or Christian-life non-Fiction, and this year debuted 2 of my absolutely favorites!

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist 

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Living a life of meaning, passion, purpose, & connection instead of constantly pursuing perfection. Find a way to live, marked by grace, love, rest, and play. And, in the end, it will change everything.

A book, in all truth, that I need to go back and read year over year as a healthy reminder to find my center and balance.

Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst 

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The enemy wants us to feel rejected, left out, lonely, less than, and found wanting. When we believe his lies, we allow him to undermine the purpose He has set before us, cripple our courage, and destroy our dreams. And, ultimately, will blind us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful, all-encompassing, and redeeming love.

And finally, in the final category, and one I absolutely love, Cookbooks! I try to discover a few new ones to add to my home collection each year.

Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-free, Dairy-free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion by Danielle Walker 

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With my health challenges this year, eating Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free, has made all the difference in my Thyroid and Adrenal issues. Some of my favorites from the book include her Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps, Prosciutto Apricot Glazed Shrimp, “Corn” Bread, and Grain and Gluten Free Peach Cobbler! I love a good, ooey gooey cobbler topped with vanilla frozen yogurt.

And for Christmas this year, guess what was wrapped under the tree from good old Santa?!?

Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten 

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He knows the keys to this Ina-loving heart. And at first flip, it was already one of my top books of the year!

Her recipes are so tried and true and I trust her implicitly. This is know as Ina’s most personal cookbook yet, and it is filled with the recipes Jeffrey and their friends request most often as well as charming stories from Ina and Jeffrey’s many years together. I love how their personality shines through every page.

Recipes I cannot wait to sink my teeth into, quite literally- Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken, Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta, Butternut Squash Hummus, and her Spicy Hermit Bars. Pretty sure you may see some of her recipes featured on this very blog very soon.

And, on the bedside table now?

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and

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Here’s to great books here in 2016 and even better ones in 2017!

Have a book you loved that you think I’d enjoy too?? Leave it in the comments section below. Thanks for the recommendation!

xoxo…

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12/24/16

The Birth that Changed Me.

I think I read Luke chapter 2 every single year at exactly this same time, and I hope and pray it never loses its magic and mystique with me and my heart. May my heart continue to be pliable and receiving rather than hardened and closed off.

He is the giver of all good things, but none compared to the incomparable gift of His only Son. To come and dwell among us, serve us but not to be served Himself,  and ultimately to die and be the ransom for many. I know that my fragile, childlike heart was forever changed and was eternally saved at Easter time when I was 9 years old, but I think His Holy Spirit power began stirring at Christmas. It was the birth, and then the death, that forever changed me.

And you. I hope and pray.

nativity

This is a little nativity scene I have in my house on a side table to the left of my sofa in my living room.

It is precious and hand crafted and shaped out of clay. It’s so simple, so small, and so seemingly insignificant, that I think many miss it when they walk through my house. They see the tree, decorated and glittering, and maybe even the ivy topiary and ornamental Christmas boxes on my dining room table and bookshelf, but this  is my favorite Christmas decoration of all.

I love the symbolism of being made out of clay and the simplistic nature by which it was crafted. Mary and Joseph, the Angel proclaiming His majesty, the Bethlehem star that led Wise men to Him, the sheep that rooted around in the hay back in the far corner of the stable, and finally, the Christ child front and center, lying in a food trough. Such a lowly birth. “No room” for Him in the world He came to save.

I hope and pray that during this Christmas season, we dedicate our hearts and lives to make more room for Him in 2017. What a tremendous New Year’s resolution that would be. It would pretty much kick all the other’s butts, if you ask me.

More room, more wisdom, more righteousness, more courage, more love, more generosity, and more faith. More of Him. Less of me. Less of us.

May the reading of this scripture bless your heart this Christmas…

The Birth of Jesus Christ 

Luke Chapter 2 

“In those days la decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,2 who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.3

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel ha multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14  “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And pat the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29  “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;

30  for my eyes have seen your hsalvation

31  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was pa prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.6 She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that eI must be in my Father’s house?”8 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” 

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas season as you gather together with your loved ones, families, and friends, and worship Christ together. He is worthy, worthy, worthy!

xoxo…

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