Friday, February 12, 2016

DIY Valentine Treat: Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam

Valentine's Day is upon us! I enjoy making homemade valentine treats for friends and family, Here is one of my favorite DIY valentine treats that is also perfect for the upcoming Presidents Day holiday: "Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam". I make this cherry refrigerator jam with not one, but two kinds of cherries. I love the flavor combination of red cherries and black cherries. As a special touch for my valentine, I serve it on slices of toast that I cut into a heart shape using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.  Thank you to Shutterfly for providing me with these beautiful "Made with Love" labels for my homemade treats.  

"Cherries Jubilation Refrigerator Jam"

*makes 6 half-pint jars

1 cup red cherries, pitted and chopped
1 cup black cherries, pitted and chopped  
4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 (1.75 ounce) package powdered no-sugar fruit pectin
3/4 cup water
6 half-pint canning/freezer jars

Rinse 6 clean half-pint freezer-safe canning/freezer jars with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Wash cherries, remove pits and chop in quarters. Place in medium bowl. Do not drain cherries. If cherries have been chilled, set aside until the cherries reach room temperature. In large mixing bowl, combine room temperature cherries with sugar and lemon juice. Stir well. Set mixture aside 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. In saucepan, combine powdered fruit pectin and water. Stir well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Immediately add pectin mixture to cherries and stir well. Keep stirring mixture about 3 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Quickly pour into sterile jars to within 1/2 inch of top of jar. Wipe off top edges of jar and cover with lid. Makes 6 half-pint jars. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours to set. After jam has set, enjoy immediately or it can be frozen for up to one year. Once opened, it can be stored in refrigerator up to 3 weeks. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Women of Faith: An Amazing Joyful Journey the Movie

I'm excited to share with you that the uplifting Women of Faith events have been made into a special movie event that will be seen in limited engagement at select theaters on February 18 and 20 and March 3 and 5. This conference has been a tremendous blessing to me, especially during this season of my life, and I am so excited for the opportunity to see this movie with several ladies who are dear friends in my life.    

Over the last nearly 20 years, Women of Faith  has grown to become the largest non-denominational Christian women's conference, touching over five million lives with personal stories full of laughter and tears.  Stage events have included such inspirational and spiritual luminaries such as Campus Crusade for Christ's Mary Graham, author & reality TV star Corie Robertson, author & popular speaker Luci Swindoll, author Sheila Walsh, and others. 

Although the conferences have been around for 20 years, they only recently came into my life during a tragic season. The blessing and uplifting I received from each of the ladies sharing their testimonies at the gathering has been priceless to me.

You can watch the preview trailer for this joyful journey on the movie screen:

Women of Faith - An Amazing Joyful Journey from BY Experience on Vimeo.

This uplifting movie event will take viewers on a journey of Women of Faith through the years, on stage and off, on their travels with World Vision, their impact on audiences, in short the way they've changed the world.  Partly historical, and frequently hysterical, this unique cinematic experience will be packed with some of the most popular pieces from the beloved speaking team to include Anna Trent, Thelma Wells, Mary Graham, Luci Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, Jen Hatmaker, Sandi Patty, Patsy Clairmont, Nicole Johnson, and Marilyn Meberg as well as music and performances from Christian contemporary artists that appeared on the tour.  Featuring never-before-seen interviews, outtakes, and behind the scenes footage, this event presentation will bring back memories for all those who have attended a Women of Faith weekend as well as create new memories for those experiencing it for the first time.  
Do you have a Women of Faith memory or experience to share? Share your story in the comments below and you will be entered to win one of 5 Women of Faith prize packs pictured here and winners' stories will be featured on the Women of Faith Facebook page

If you are not able to post below, you can e-mail me your story at with "Women of Faith" as the subject line. 

For more information about the movie, including participating movie theaters and ordering tickets, you can visit the official website here

Happy Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday 2016

Happy Mardi Gras! I love the history of the Mardi Gras celebration. Here are some fun facts for you about this annual event imparted to me by a number of the French Quarter's fabulous tour guides: 

*"Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday"and it is an official holiday in the state of Louisiana since 1875.

*French explorer Sieur d'Iberville is credited with bringing the Mardi Gras tradition to America in 1699 because the festival had been celebrated as a major holiday in Paris, France since the Middle Ages.

*Some historians have said New Orleans' grand traditions began in 1827 when a group of students returned from school in Paris and donned strange costumes and danced their way through the streets during Mardi Gras after taking part in this type of revelry in Paris celebrations. Other history sources attribute early French settlers to Louisiana to the growing revelry of this literal holiday. During the years 1827-1833, the New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations became more elaborate, culminating in an annual Mardi Gras Ball. 

*The exact date of the first revelries cannot be determined, but  it was well-established by the middle of the Nineteenth Century. The Mystick Krewe of Comus presented its 1857 Torchlight Parade with a theme taken from "Paradise Lost" written by John Milton.

*The colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. 

I am serving up a "piece" of Mardi Gras tradition in a bite-size cake at my house today to celebrate. I am a huge fan of Nordic Ware baking pans because of their durability, non-stick coating and even baking nature. I love mini cakes for personal-size treats and this pan was perfect for my miniature King Cakes for Fat Tuesday. For their 65th anniversary, the Nordic Ware company released a special edition cake pan for mini cakes. They are called "bundtlette" cakes and I think the name is just as cute as the pan. 

Native New Orleanians and locals alike can tell you about the history behind the King Cake and here are some fun facts about this tasty treat. It is traditionally oval in shape, made from a sweet dough and covered with a poured sugar topping decorated in the traditional Mardi Gras-colored sugars of purple, green and gold, symbolizing the  Three Wise Men who visited the Christ Child. This cake tradition is believed to have begun with French settlers around 1870, who were themselves continuing a custom which dated back to Twelfth Century France, when a similar cake was used to celebrate the coming of the Magi twelve days after Christmas bearing gifts for the Christ Child. As a symbol of this Holy Day, a tiny plastic baby (symbolic of the baby Jesus) is placed inside each King Cake but other items sometimes used are coins, beans, pecans or peas. In 1871, the tradition of choosing the Queen of Mardi Gras was determined by who drew the prize within the cake. Today, finding the baby or other prize in the cake is a sign of good luck to the one who finds it. It can also mean the person who finds the prize has to host the next King Cake Party.

I make an easy mini King Cake, which is a convenient personal-size cake. I like to use ©Pillsbury reduced fat cinnamon rolls and ©Wilton ready-to-decorate writing icing, which can be found in the cake decorating section of the baking aisle. It is customary to place a plastic baby inside the cake, but for times when I don't have or want to use a small plastic baby in the cake, I have found a good and fun substitute is to use a pecan instead, and the recipients had just as much fun seeing who finds the pecan in their cake. 

I hope you enjoy your Fat Tuesday and as they say in NOLA, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" (let the good times roll!)

"Mini King Cakes"

1 can Pillsbury reduced fat cinnamon rolls
1 shelled pecan  
1 small tube purple writing icing
1 small tube green writing icing
1 small tube yellow writing icing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray mini bundt pan with cooking spray and dusting of flour. Remove rolls and glaze from can. Cut each roll in half to make each mini cake. In one of the pieces of dough, add the pecan and shape dough around pecan. In each mini cake mold, shape dough halves around center of bundt mold, then gently press the ends together. Bake 11-13 minutes, or until top is golden brown in color. Cool for 10 minutes and revert pan onto cooling rack or heat-safe surface and remove rolls from pan. Coat rolls with the glaze that comes with the can of rolls. I then drizzle the purple, green and yellow icings across the cakes in sections. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: "Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids"

During this month so associated with love, I am reviewing a book that I am very excited as an aunt to share with my young nieces and nephews along with other beloved young children in my life to show them how much Jesus loves them through devotionals written especially for them. 

"Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids" is 368 pages in length and aimed at ages 6-10 years, but I feel it shares a powerful message to reach readers both young and old. I love that it is worded in first person of Jesus Christ, as though Jesus is writing to the reader. 

About Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids

Jesus is the Friend who is always with you.  Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids will pour this powerful truth into your children's hearts as they learn that He knows everything about them and loves them more than they can imagine.  Each devotion is based on Scripture and is written as though Jesus is speaking directly to you, assuring that He is in control, that He is good, and that an amazing future awaits all who put their hope in Him.  Adapted from the ECPA 2013 Christian Book of the Year-winner Jesus Today, this devotional has the same themes as the adult version, as well as written-out scriptures.  It is a great choice for families to read and discuss during devotional time together.  

Here is the book trailer for this inspiring read:

I love that it comes in a sturdy, hardcover format. There are 150 devotions followed by a Scripture index and each devotion is 2 pages in length, which I believe is a very good length for reading to young attention spans. Some of my favorite topics for sharing with children include the power of prayer, hope, self control and peace. Throughout the book are uplifting Bible verses and inspirational sayings by famous writers and beloved preachers.

About the author: 

Sarah Young's devotional writings are personal reflections from her daily quiet time of Bible reading, praying and writing in prayer journals.  With sales of more than 14 million books worldwide, Jesus Calling has appeared on all major bestseller lists.  Sarah's writings include Jesus CallingJesus TodayJesus LivesDear JesusJesus Calling for Little OnesJesus Calling Bible StorybookJesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids, and Peace in His Presence -- each encouraging readers in their journey toward intimacy with Christ.  Sarah and her husband were missionaries in Japan and Australia for many years.  They currently live in the United States.  

You can find out more information about this book by going to the website here. 


One of you will win a copy of "Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids" (ARV $15.99).

To enter, please leave a comment below to let me know you would like to win. Giveaway closes Sunday,  February 7 at 5:00 pm EST. Open to US and Canada residents only. 

If you are not able to leave a comment on this blog post, please e-mail me at with "Giveaway Entry" in the subject line and that will count as your entry.

"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.”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holidazzle with Litehouse Foods

 I created this recipe featuring Litehouse products for their Holidazzle Photo Contest. I used their Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Blue Cheese Crumbles and Salad Herb Blend to create a tasty, cheesy spin on the classic green beans gremolata side dish for the holiday dinner table. I loved the ease of using the vinaigrette dressing and herb blend that allowed me to save time by being a one-stop source for what can amount to a number of individual ingredients.

"Blue Cheese Green Beans Gremolata "

1 pound green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons Litehouse Salad Herb Blend 
2 tablespoons Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles

Trim green beans and steam covered for 7 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and return to pan. Add vinaigrette dressing dressing and pine nuts to green beans; toss gently to combine. Transfer into serving dish. Sprinkle salad herb blend and blue cheese crumbles over top of mixture. Serve immediately. Enjoy! 

Do you have a recipe idea featuring Litehouse products? 
You can enter the Holidazzle Contest here for a chance to win one of three $1,000 grocery cards!  Enter through December 17th. You can also enter on Twitter, Instagram, or on the Litehouse Facebook page. Be sure to hashtag your photos #LitehouseHolidazzle

One of you will win a Litehouse Foods Product Pack. Prize includes one Litehouse Foods cheese, one Litehouse Foods dressing,  and one Litehouse Foods dried herbs.To enter, leave a comment below and let me know your favorite holiday dish. If you are not able to leave a comment, e-mail me at with "Giveaway Entry" as the subject line. Giveaway ends Thursday, December 17 at noon EST. 

Litehouse is offering a coupon for $1 off their products that you can view and print here.

You can connect with Litehouse Foods here:

Disclaimer: This review and giveaway was made possible by iConnect Influencer Management and Litehouse Foods. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really) by Kay Wills Wyma

I was given the opportunity to review I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison and I have been greatly affected by the message of this book.

I feel the subject of this book is so timely for my generation and the generations younger than me as a 40-something who have literally grown up in what has become a digital age of connecting us with friends and loved ones.

About the Author

Kay Wills Wyma is a blogger, mother of five, and the author of Cleaning House through which she has appeared on The TODAY Show, CNN, Glenn Beck, The New York Times, Focus on the Family, and more. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she held positions at the White House, the Staubach Company, and Bank of America. Kay lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jon, and their family.

Hydrate For The Holidays
With the holiday season in full force, tackling this subject seems not for the faint at heart because holidays seem to bring with them a heaping helping of comparison opportunities to abound in every facet of our lives. I felt as a blogger that this would actually be the ideal time to bring this topic of discussion to my readers. That's also why Kay has chosen to discuss this subject during this season. She is sharing reflections on her blog to #HydrateForTheHolidays to learn how to recapture contentment and joy, especially during the holidays and she’ll be sharing thoughts on this subject throughout the season.

So I ask this question that the author Kay asks the reader: "Is comparison living hijacking your life?" What a powerful question.

Joy Stealers
Now, meet two of the joy stealers in this digital age: comparison and competition. One can easily give way to the other one. In this age of social media, it seems there is always something waiting for us online to post or peruse. There can be a tendency for friends who see our posts and pictures to become our audience, our judges for the tidbits of our lives we share on social media.

Here is where trying to measure your value against others comes into play. Measuring yourself against your friend's marriage, job, clothing size, vacations, car, life. The seemingly fabulous life unfurling through your friend's Instagram snapshots. This time of year, seeing that relative's or that friend's Pinterest-worthy holiday decor can quickly give way to feelings of inadequacy.

The Pinterest Trap  
If you're a parent, your child or children can take on a likeness as though they are a part of your brand. If you're the parent watching another parent's post on social media as they unveil amazing child activities and crafts accomplished on any given day and then it starts to creep in, that feeling of inadequacy as a parent. I have a cousin who is the mother of a young child and she mentioned this particular tendency when looking at Pinterest. What I say to her is that I have seen wonderful and loving parenting to her daughter shine through her social media posts that no amount of Pinterest-worthy parent-child activity can diminish.

What's happening here? The yield this way of thinking brings is discontent, exhaustion, loneliness, undercutting of relationships and sapping contentment.  

In this book, Kay shares the simple remedies that helped her and her family reboot their perspective against this way of comparison thinking and the yield from this change brought their family freedom, authenticity and joy.

Kay confronts the comparison epidemic raging in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our social-media feeds, offering remedies along the way. She takes the reader on a journey exploring the troubling effects of living in an excessively competitive culture—and reveals simple yet effective ways to escape the comparison trap and trade comparison for compassion.

For more information on I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really)you can visit Kay's  Official Website here.

One of you will win I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really),
 valued at $14.99. To enter, please leave a comment below. Giveaway closes on Saturday, December 5 at 8:00 pm EST. Open to US and Canada residents only. 

If you are not able to leave a comment on this blog post, please e-mail with "Giveaway Entry" in the subject line and that will count as your entry.

"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.”

Review and Giveaway: Celebrate Hanukkah with Hallmark Personalized Books

Hallmark now has a line of personalized books that I think make beautiful heirloom-quality gifts for children. This year, there is a new addition to the holiday book selections: "Magical Hanukkah". I enjoyed being given the opportunity to review this selection and will be gifting a "Magical Hanukkah" book to a special brother and sister pair in my life who celebrate this holiday, Cecilia and Harry. They are receiving their books to celebrate this Hanukkah season, which begins on Monday.

I love that Hallmark allows you to personalize not only the child's name on the book, but also the child's hair, eye and skin color. The child and their name are featured throughout the delightful story. I had so much fun "bringing Harry and Cecilia to life on the pages of the book" for their Hanukkah adventure. 

A beautiful introduction page graces the book with the name of the child and the person gifting the book to the child. Here is the introduction page in Cecilia's book from me.

There is also a dedication page for sharing a Hanukkah greeting to the child from the person gifting the book. Here is Harry's dedication page from me. 

I love how they incorporate Hanukkah traditions into the story. Here is Cecilia pictured with a glowing menorah. 

I am so taken with the gorgeous illustrations throughout the book, like these colorful and fun dreidels from Harry's story.

I feel no story about holiday traditions would be complete without sharing about a food tradition and they did not let me down. I love how they not only show latke on the dinner table, but also shared about the preparation for making the traditional Hanukkah food, shown here in Cecilia's story.

You can view Hallmark's entire collection of personalized storybooks here or go directly to the "Magical Hanukkah" book information here. From now through December 13, you can receive $5 off the purchase of a Hallmark personalized book, both online and in-store.

Thanks to Hallmark, I am giving away a "Magical Hanukkah" personalized book, valued at $39.95, to one of my readers. To enter, please leave a comment below letting me know if you have a favorite Hanukkah tradition or food. If you are unable to post a comment here, please e-mail me at with "Entry Giveaway" as the subject line. Giveaway closes tomorrow at noon EST in order for the winner to be notified and order the book to arrive in time for a child in their life to enjoy during this Hanukkah season and my hope for many more, as well.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another winter holiday, I wish for you the common bond between all of these holidays: I send you wishes for a beautiful season of miracles!  

Disclaimer: Hallmark provided me with "Magical Hanukkah"for the purpose of my honest review and a book for a giveaway prize. I was not financially compensated for this blog post. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.