Tyler Perry’s Higher is Waiting & a Giveaway!

When the days get shorter, the temperatures become cooler and it feels like I’m being pulled 100 different directions with mom life, there is nothing more comforting than a cup of tea, a cozy and worn patchwork quilt and a good read.

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Those moments of peace are some of my favorite and a great way to expand my thoughts beyond, “What’s for supper,” “did I get Bradley’s wrestling gear washed,” and “is this the weekend Madeline is coming in from school?”

While I love good historical fiction, a sappy (not trashy) romance, and a decorating book full of inspiration, without a doubt I will always choose nonfiction over it all.  And this fall nonfiction seems to be dominating my reading list!

“Ever since I was a little boy I’ve always known there was something greater than myself, This holy force was protecting, loving, and keeping me close. It was helping me live through physical pain and emotional heartache and guiding me to envision and believe in extraordinary possibilities.”

~Tyler Perry (Higher is Waiting)

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Tyler Perry has established himself as a cultural icon through acting, writing, producing, directing, as a playwright, and even songwriting.  Of course Perry is most well known for his Madea movies, but the road to reach this status was rough and troubled.  Perry’s new book Higher is Waiting is one of inspiration that will resonate with me for quite a while.  A little biography, inspiration and faith this book encourages readers to keep going in their lives reaching out for a more purposeful life, looking for something greater than self, and of course, never giving up.

“My childhood was a story of discouragement, belittlement, and unthinkable abuse.  There was no way I could have found any kind of happiness, hope or vision if my mother Maxine and my aunt Mae hadn’t shown me the grace of God.”

Due to hit shelves this week, Perry’s book is described as a “spiritual guidebook, a collection of teachings culled from the experiences of a lifetime, meant to inspire readers to climb higher in their own lives and pull themselves up to a better, more fulfilling place.”

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Perry’s life story is truly extraordinary and in sharing his experiences he hopes to inspire others to reach for the stars.  His success with the Madea franchise, television shows and plays is a stark contrast to the hardship he faced in an abusive home living in poverty, growing up in 1970s New Orleans; an area still suffering from generations of Jim Crow law.  He recalls the beautiful moments that shaped him despite the brutality that also existed through physical abuse of his father and sexual abuse from a neighbor.  He kept his dreams quiet, but worked hard with determination to reach higher.

Throughout Higher is Waiting, Tyler Perry affectionately recalls the people that kept him going, while instructing him in integrity, faith, discipline and even forgiveness.  He shares stories of his mother’s never-ending faith who always maintained “God is good,” no matter the pain she lived through at home.  Seeds of experiencing God even in the little things planted by his aunt Mae, and the kindness of a blind man, Mr. Butler who taught him that sometimes you have to stand still, wait and be patient when looking for answers to prayer.

 With each memory shared, Perry also shares a devotional thought and scripture encouraging you to dive into your own faith.

The book is divided into four sections using the metaphor of a tree: planting seeds, nourishing the roots, branching out and harvesting the fruit.  From early childhood and dreaming big despite the obstacles in his path, it is so refreshing to read of a man’s faith developing over time in an age where so many are content let their faith sit stagnant.

Perry’s vivid recollection of recognizing God’s presence growing in his life, learning to listen, carry on in the toughest of times, and choose faith over fear will inspire you to step out of your own box and reach higher in your own lives.

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I am giving away one copy of Higher is Waiting to one of my readers.  All you need to do is leave me a comment here on the blog, telling me someone who has influenced your life and faith.  I will announce the winner on December 3, 2017.  Winners will receive their books in 4-6 weeks after the giveaway ends from Penguin Random House.

** If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Review Wire Media for Penguin Random House. I received information to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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A Thanksgiving Timeline

The excitement of the holidays is upon us and I am relishing every moment!  This year not only will we travel to see my family, we will also be hosting my mother and father-in-law here for a Thanksgiving celebration!  There is so much to do, but I love the busyness of the season.  Sometimes it’s challenging not to let that busyness consume me and take me away from the things that really matter.

Whether you travel or host for Thanksgiving, the short weekend that comes along with it can often create for a little extra chaos in our already busy lives.  It’s a long weekend, but oftentimes not quite long enough accomplish all we want, plus enjoy the time with family or friends as well.

Why plan a holiday celebration if you can’t experience the joy that goes with it?

And, if there is no joy in what you are doing, your gratitude will often slip away as well!

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with Praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!”~Psalm 100:4 

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Being the control freak planner and organizer that I am, my family knows when November begins I’m attached to my planner and lists so that I can do what needs to be dome as the wife and mom, but still have fun as well.

While we do not host a big meal every year, I have a lot of cooking on my agenda (I am totally the Queen of Turkey roasting in our family), and make some pretty good deserts as well!   I’ve learned over the years, that the key to stress-free entertaining (and traveling with food to prepare) is to plan ahead.

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Don’t let a lack of organization and unnecessary stress steal your joy and rob you of a memorable and fun day with family. As wives, mothers and even grandmothers our mood often sets the mood for the entire home whether we intend for it to or not.  The Enemy loves to attack us in the sneakiest of ways and I think a stressed out wife is the most horrible of attacks!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice & be glad in it.”

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Besides living in the Word, preparing and planning ahead is a great way to help prevent that unwanted attack from happening! By doing much of the prep work in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the company of your family and friends on the day of the feast!

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Here’s my simple timeline for Thanksgiving (& other major holidays) planning:

1 to 2 Weeks before Thanksgiving (This would be now y’all):

*Confirm the number of guests you are planning to cook for, whether at home or away.  Then plan your menu.

*Make arrangements for your turkey.  If you want a fresh one, order ahead.  I won’t go   into detail, but trust me, order early so that it is ready when you want to put it in the  oven.  Go ahead and pick up your frozen turkey early as well so that you aren’t searching feverishly for one large enough to feed 15 people two days before.

*Plan your table settings, serving dishes and decorations. If you want china, use your china.  If you prefer paper plates by all means use them and don’t apologize!

*Read through your recipes to determine the food and items you will need for cooking.  This is perfect to accomplish while watching Hallmark Channel movies in the evening.

*Make your shopping and to-do lists.

*Shop for nonperishable food items, plus anything else you need for cooking and setting the table.

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A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

*If you are planning to brine your turkey (which I am this year), prepare the brine, cover and refrigerate.  Do not add the turkey yet.

*Prepare any food that can be done ahead of time, such as pie crusts and cranberry sauce.

*If your turkey is frozen, place it in the refrigerator to thaw.

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The Day Before Thanksgiving:

*Complete any shopping for food that you have left.

*Make plans to pick up your turkey if your ordered one fresh.

*If you are brining your turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.

*Prepare any dishes that can be made in advance, such as cornbread for dressing, soup and pies.

*Chop vegetables for the side dishes (if you have preteens and teenagers, this is a perfect opportunity for bonding in the kitchen), then refrigerate in covered bowls or Ziploc bags.

*Set the table.  This is also a great project for kids; give them a diagram of how to set a table properly and you have a learning experience as well!

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Thanksgiving Day:

*Prepare and stuff (I use fresh fruit & veggies in mine) the turkey for roasting and put in the oven at the determined time. Remember most turkeys take several hours to cook.

*Peel and cut potatoes (if you are using them for a side dish); place in cold water and refrigerate.

*Prepare the dressing and other side dishes.

*While the turkey roasts, you can make mashed potatoes; while the bird rests, make your gravy and finish (or reheat) any side dishes.

*Carve the turkey and call your guests to the table!

*And most of all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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Besides being easy to follow, the best part about this timeline is that there are several opportunities to delegate.  Use those to your advantage.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, step back, take a deep breath and regain your focus.  This is a holiday about family and remember THAT is the most important part of the day, even if you drop the turkey!

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

Galations 5:22-23

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Pumpkin Pandemonium

Nothing says “autumn” more than a plethora of pumpkins scattered around your home in early weeks of fall.  Everywhere you look from the grocery store to a local farm stand there are so many varieties to choose from!  If you are like me, you probably pick several up when you spot the perfect ones that fit your themes or decor.

At the end of the season you’re left with all these pumpkins sitting that just don’t match the Christmas stockings!

Have you ever wondered what to do with all your pumpkins as you start removing your fall decor and beginning to prepare for Christmas?  As our own decor began coming down on November 1st (yes, I know it’s early), I felt bad and a wee bit wasteful just throwing away so many colorful pumpkins!

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Just a handful of our pumpkin decor

Then it began to cross my mind that I know there is more than one kind of pumpkin to cook with; maybe some of mine were in that category!  After a little research using my gardening books, sure enough there were a list of pumpkins to grow for cooking, and ways to use them!

With a little downtime in my schedule this week, it was a perfect opportunity for knocking out this task.

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Do you have any of these?

Many are old European and Australian varieties with a newer resurgence here in the States.  When I was a kid we had jack-o-lantern pumpkins and maybe white ones, but I really love all the colors found in the pumpkin variety of the squash family!

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**Blue pumpkins tend to have deep, rounded ridges running from top to bottom. The skin ranges in color from dusky blue-gray to blue-green with a striking deep, orange flesh. Many varieties of blue pumpkin are known for they’re exceptionally sweet flesh which when cooked has a smooth, favorable texture.  Blue pumpkins have several names; the one I recognized most was Jarrahdale, and while you can find these at your local farmer’s market or grocery store, they are really popular in Australia!

Who knew?!

Blue pumpkins go well in pies, scones, and cakes, but these also are great for roasting, as a ravioli filling, or in stews.

{So now I’m hungry}

**Fairytale pumpkins (Also known as the Musque de Provence) are a French heirloom pumpkin that looks just like the illustrations in the old fairytales of past.

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{I don’t think parents read these to kids anymore…}

These pumpkins are very sweet and can be used in variety of ways, including fresh when cut from the middle as you would a wedge of cheese and then slicing very thinly. Roasting or grilling only enhances the sweet flavoring and would be wonderful with cinnamon and butter!

**The Cinderella pumpkin is also a French heirloom pumpkin.  When I look at this pumpkin I immediately think of the Disney version of Cinderella and imagine the Fairy Godmother swishing her wand with a “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” creating an elegant carriage to whisk Cinderella off to the ball!

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{I’m still enthralled by my recent visit to Disney World}

The Cinderella pumpkin is known for its sweet flavor and creamy texture making it ideal for use in pies, breads, cookies and cakes. Slice length wise and roast or grill to enhance its sweet flavor. Puree cooked Cinderella pumpkin and use to make pumpkin ice cream. It is also ideal cooked down when making pumpkin butter.

**Galeux D’ Eysines pumpkins (I couldn’t find a nickname for these) are a pinkish-orange color with little “warts”.  A little scary at first glance (Audley is afraid he’ll get warts from them… MEN… sigh!), this French heirloom pumpkin is quite unique indeed.  The “warts” are caused by sugars in the flesh  seeping through the skin; as the sugar content grows, the more nodes appear on the outside of the squash. The more “warts” on your pumpkin, the sweeter the squash.

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This sweet pumpkin is used in soups and for baking.  As you know, pumpkins are in the squash family, so think roasted or even grilled!  This pumpkin purees well making it ideal for pumpkin butter or a pumpkin cheesecake.

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**Boo, Ghost, Moonshine or lumina pumpkins are white and range from small to quite large; squatty to rounded and are so common in neutral autumn decorating.  These pumpkins don’t last as long as other varieties, so often they will begin to lose their coloring or go bad early in the season.

These pumpkins can be used in any traditional pumpkin recipe, but I have discovered that sometimes they have a lot more fiber which makes them not puree so easily.

The white pumpkin I cut had a white flesh, and after cooking it, shredded like a spaghetti squash, and tasted really good.

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**Who knew Tiger Stripe pumpkins were good for eating?  I’ve always used these in a centerpiece or scattered around a bookshelf, but according to my Momma (and you know Momma is always right!) these little pumpkins are excellent hollowed out and stuffed as you might stuff an acorn squash.  Tiger Stripe pumpkins don’t have a lot of meat to them, but these also make for great serving bowls for soups or dips at a party.

I think I will hang onto mine for when the in-laws visit for Thanksgiving dinner!

Believe it or not the hardest part of cooking and preparing pumpkin for culinary purposes is cutting it and cleaning out the seeds.

{I hate that part.}

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If you want to know how to prepare pumpkin, you can click here for easy instructions.

If you need ideas for cooking with pumpkin, try:

**Pumpkin cheesecake

**Pumpkin butter

**Pumpkin Spice Trifle

**Skinny Pumpkin Mousse

**A Healthy Autumn Bread

**Pumpkin Bisque

Or Pumpkin pie.

How do you use your leftover autumn decorations?

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What I Wore: A Glimpse of Fall

Living in gym clothes most of the time, fashion isn’t always something I think about.  While I do my hair and makeup everyday, as a stay-at-home wife and mom it seems I don’t require a huge wardrobe.  Between cooking, cleaning, high school sports and quick errand running, I just want to be comfortable most days,  For me that is yoga pants and tee-shirts.

{Now most of my tee’s are trendy with little sayings like “Wife. Mom. Boss”}

While I have gained confidence in a lot of areas since my days of being morbidly obese, how to dress is not one of those areas which may be why I am most happy in yoga pants.

Dress up days for me are Sundays and date night with that hubby of mine, but he sees me all the time.  Recently I posted a couple of pictures on social media from events I attended and was asked over and over by friends about what I was wearing!

Now I don’t know if it’s because I’m always dressed casually so dressing up is a big deal, or if because what I was wearing might actually be fashionable, but I thought I would share a little “what I wore” and  “where to buy” today.

You might find yourself surprised!

The first outfit I wanted to share is one I recently wore at Disney World and Epcot when I visited for the International Food and Wine Festival.

My girl friend Tami and I wanted to dress up just a little since we were there for a specific reason, and she is a fashion blogger so I needed to step out of my comfort zone a little.

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I loved this blue top/dress and everyone was amazed to discover that I found it at Cracker Barrel of all places!

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I loved the color and the fact it could be dressed up or left casual just by swapping jewelry, shoes (I wore it with 4-inch heeled booties to church services) and adding tights.  For this particular day I wore it with Hue leggings that can be purchased at Macy’s for under $20 and a pair of Sam & Libby ballet flats from Target.

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As for the mouse ears, you can find a wide variety throughout Disney, so it was easy to find the sapphire ones to match!  After all, every little girl needs mouse ears for her first visit to Disney!

My second outfit that stirred a flurry of comments was this fall ensemble that is actually from LuLaRoe.  Yes, I’ve read all the negative publicity surrounding the company, but I have several pieces that really work for me.

And I find them to be quite nice.

For this outfit I paired a “Joy” (the long vest) with a “Carly” (a high/low swing dress).

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I’m not big on extra flowy (it goes back to when I weighed 270 pounds & liked to hide behind my clothes), so I put a dart in the back so that it fit in a way I felt comfortable; not clingy, but also not baggy.

While I don’t have to shop there to dress my body anymore, my tall boots are a leather classic riding boot and were purchased at Lane Bryant.  I have large calves (a by product of years of catching in softball), and Lane Bryant carries boots that fit just perfectly over mine!

To dress up my LuLaRoe, I added a large pendant that I’ve had for years of a Fox Hunting scene (an eBay purchase) and carried a small leather purse from Brahmin (Purchased at Macy’s).  It’s always amazed me how well-chosen accessories can really add to a rather plain outfit!

Out of curiosity, what is your everyday look?  What type of pieces work best for you?

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