During our Divergent Walking Tour, we strolled around Navy Pier and I was in awe of Lake Michigan partially frozen. It was eerie and beautiful with the large sheets of ice, all shattered, floating around... it was gorgeous!



Co-hosting with the lovely Aimee for Finding Beauty 

Finding Beauty Link Up | This Darling Day

My favorite pick from last week's link up was Lauren's from My Passion Journey gorgeous photo! It inspires me to hang in there for Spring. You'll see what I mean when you check out here!


Join us, too! Link a photo you've found beauty in, below! 

Shattered Frozen Lake

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*I received these books complimentary for my honest review from Tyndale Publishers and Blogging For Books. 

You guys know that I am a through and through book worm. And I absolutely LOVE to review books. I've been fortunate to find a couple of companies that offer books for reviews, and this is honestly one of the best perks of being a blogger! They give you options of books, and you pick one. Sometimes it's a little out of your comfort zone, and you may not like the books, or sometimes, it's new and different and you end up loving it!

Last week, I received these two books- Lighten Up Y'all (*Affiliate Link) by Virginia Willis and The Unveiled Wife: Embracing Intimacy with God and Your Husband(*Affiliate Link)by Jennifer Smith.

Now, let's jump into my reviews!


"A collection of classic Southern comfort food recipes--including seven-layer dip, chicken and gravy, and strawberry shortcake--made lighter, healthier, and completely guilt-free.
  
Virginia Willis is not only an authority on Southern cooking, a French-trained chef, and a veteran cookbook author; she is also a proud Southerner who adores eating and cooking for family and friends. So when she needed to drop a few pounds and generally lighten up her diet, the most important criterion for her new lifestyle was that all the food had to taste delicious.

The result is Lighten Up, Y’all, a soul-satisfying and deeply personal collection of Virginia’s new favorite recipes. All the classics are covered—from a comforting Southern Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grits to warm, melting Broccoli Mac and Cheese to Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie. Each dish is packed with real Southern flavor, but made with healthier, more wholesome ingredients and techniques. Wherever you are on your health and wellness journey, Lighten Up, Y’all has the recipes, tools, and inspiration you need to make the nourishing, down-home Southern food you love."



MY THOUGHTS:

  This cookbook is amazing! I often feel torn because I want to cook good ole southern food, but I am trying to get the Mr. and I into a clean diet, and y'all, it's soooo hard to choose between the two! This book solves the problem! 
   It's a nice, sturdy book, the photos are amazing, and I can't wait to try each and every one of these recipes! There isn't any weird, exotic, or expensive ingredients, so it's mostly things you already have in your kitchen. I feel like these recipes could've easily been passed down through the generations. 



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The Unveiled Wife: Embracing Intimacy with God and Your Husband(*Affiliate Link) by Jennifer Smith.

"As a young bride, Jennifer Smith couldn't wait to build her life with the man she adored. She dreamed of closeness, of being fully known and loved by her husband. But the first years of marriage were nothing like she'd imagined. Instead, they were marked by disappointment and pain. Trapped by fear and insecurity, and feeling totally alone, Jennifer cried out to God: What am I doing wrong? Why is this happening to us? It was as if a veil had descended between her and her husband, and between her and God—one that kept her from experiencing the fullness of love. How did Jennifer and her husband survive the painful times? What did they do when they were tempted to call it quits? How did God miraculously step in during the darkest hour to rescue and redeem them, tearing down the veil once and for all? The Unveiled Wife is a real-life love story; one couple’s refreshingly raw, transparent journey touching the deep places in a marriage that only God can reach. If you are feeling disappointment or even despair about your marriage, the heart-cry of this book is: You are not alone. Discover through Jennifer’s story how God can bring you through it all to a place of transformation."







MY THOUGHTS: 

Honestly, I was skeptical about this book. I've heard of The Unveiled Wife website, and seen tons of pins on Pinterest, but to actually sit down, and devote myself to this book was tough for me. It wasn't long, or hard to understand, but it did make you get real with yourself and your relationships with God and your husband. That's the tough part, and Jennifer walks you through it by telling you what she went through, showing you that you can overcome the rough patches of a marriage with God. It has changed my views on many different things. She includes questions at the end of the chapter to really force you to hear what she's said and apply it to your life. I would recommend this book for anyone looking to reinforce their marriage! 

Healthy Southern Food with a side of real marriage

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 My goal was: each month, I would highlight/introduce you to the lovely ladies on my sidebar. Sadly, I've been slacking on this.... but NO MORE! Let me introduce you to the current sponsors of this lil' ole blog-

From Bisons to Buckeyes
From Bisons to Buckeyes





Hi, I'm Charlene and I blog at From Bisons to Buckeyes. I am a 20-something wife and fur mamma living in Ohio. I started blogging to help keep in touch with friends and family. Now I use the blog to inspire other young wives to keep God first and their husbands second in their lives. From Bisons to Buckeyes is a place to find marriage tips, ideas for dating your spouse, and advice based on biblical principles. 

          Instagram: http://instagram.com/mrsmaugeri
          Twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsMaugeri


I asked each sponsor: What is your favorite item for February? 

Mary Kay Satin Hands. Mary Kay Satin Lips. Fleece Lined Leggings. Wool Socks.






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The Nerdy Fox




I am a geeky lifestyle blogger over at www.thenerdyfox.com. I have an all-encompassing blog – I blog about food, lifestyle, geek culture, video games, photography, and my kids.  I am an almost 30 single-mother of two wonderful littles that share a love of geek culture and video games.



I asked each sponsor: What is your favorite item for February? 

Favorite items for February:
My peppermint lipbalm from Cheaha Soaps and my black slouchy beanie! I can’t survive the cold without them.

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Corter Moon/Positively in Pain

Jennifer is a 25 year-old stay-at-home mom by day and a freelance journalist and blogger by night. She's the founder of Positivity in Pain, a website devoted to helping those with chronic illness thrive and live a positive life in spite of the pain they feel on a daily basis. In her spare time (what's that?) she regularly makes jewelry to spread awareness of the various chronic illnesses out there, and sells them in her online boutique. 


I asked each sponsor: What is your favorite item for February? 

My favorite items for February is most definitely a bright neon scarf knitted by my grandmother, my "I'm a Fighter" Fibromyalgia awareness sweatshirt, and of course my eyeliner. I never go anywhere without wearing some good eyeliner!



I hope you take the time to check out these awesome folks on their blogs and social media sites! 


Your turn:  What is YOUR favorite item for February? 




Ladies you NEED to know!

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One of the things I wanted to share with my Australian friend, Kate, (fellow Divergent lover) was landmarks in Chicago that appear in the books and movies. I searched for hours to find a tour or itinerary for this online, and couldn't find much. So, I decided to make our own tour! This is how we did it. 

 At the bottom of this post is a printable PDF with walking directions and maps. 


Total distance: 4.8 miles 


1. We drove to Navy Pier and parked there. If you remember, this is where they played Capture the flag, and where Tris and Four climbed the ferris wheel. So park there, and then stroll down to the end of the pier. It's gorgeous! Take a ride on the Ferris wheel ($7 per person) and take advantage of the great photo ops while on the ride! Don't forget to capture a great Chicago sky line photo op! 
 

ALSO: Take notice of the trains throughout the day. Places along the trip will be the overhead train track like the one Tris had to climb to jump the train right after choosing Dauntless. There will be great photo ops if you remember to listen for the train coming and get your camera ready quickly! ( Tris Climbs Up The Post To Get On The Platform To Catch The Train / W. Monroe Street At S. Wells Street)

Divergent Tour, Part 2

2. After exploring Navy Pier, we set off for the 2 mile trek to the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears tower.  Along the way, stop in Millennium Park. This is where Tris and Caleb talked. From the book, “… Now we just call it “Millenium”, and it is a stretch of bare land and several rusted metal sculptures– and it is a stretch of bare land and several rusted metal sculptures– one an abstract, plated mammoth, another shaped like a lima bean that dwarfs me in size…” (Divergent, p. 351) 



   This is a pretty park, and a nice half way point along your walk. In the Winter, there is an ice skating loop, but in the warmer months, you can find a cool spot and have a refreshment break. Be sure to take lots of photos with the gorgeous Cloud Gate (A.K.A. The Bean) as your backdrop! The buildings behind The Bean would be the Erudite headquarters. 


Traveling along, in Divergent, you will remember the Willis Tower being called "The Hub" which is this one! This is where the Choosing Ceremony takes place  It's a glorious sight and do yourself a favor, go to the Sky Deck and stand in the glass box, if you're feeling a little extra Dauntless! It's thrilling and scary at the same time! The cost is $19.50, and you have to go through long lines and security, but so worth it!  



Divergent Tour, Part 3

3. After you've explored "The Hub" and gawked at the gorgeous sights of Chicago through the floor to ceiling windows, be on your merry way to the John Hancock building. This is a 2 mile trek, but reaching the river and grab some great photos is a good half-ish way stop.   The John Hancock  building served as the place where Tris zip lined with other members of Dauntless. It's a beautiful building from the outside, but you can also go up to 360° Chicago observation deck.  Be sure to buy tickets online (saves hassle) at $19, it's worth it! More dynamic views of Chicago! 



Optional: The Merchant Mart (a couple of blocks over along the river) was featured in the second book as the Candor headquarters. It's a massive building, you can't miss it! If you're inclined to walk there, it will add some time to your day. OR, you can do as we did, and drive by it on your way out of the city! 


Divergent Tour, Part 4


4. Last leg of the tour, you're going to head back to Navy Pier. There isn't really anything Divergent along this route (pictured above), but it's the quickest way back to Navy Pier. IF you'd like to walk a bit more, you can walk down N. Michigan Ave, which is what street Tris takes to see her brother at Erudite. There is also major shopping happening, so if you're wanting to do a little retail therapy, this is the place!

And that's our Divergent Tour! We had plenty of stops and laughs along the way. It's a great way to explore Chicago AND show your Divergent fan-girl/boy side!  Be sure to click the PDF below and print out walking directions!

Divergent Tour, Chicago. Printable Walking Tour
Divergent Walking Tour

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Just a reminder:

I write posts, mostly because they would be something I'd like to read. Oftentimes, though, I wonder about YOU, who are you? Where are you? What are you most interested in reading? What have you ever wanted to know? With this in mind, could you do me a huge favor, and take this reader survey linked below?

Reader Survey


I thank you a million times over! 

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 Happy Friday! I'm so glad it's the weekend, and hopefully the last of this really cold weather! Today, I link up with the incredibly talented Aimee from Aimee-Lynn Photography for Finding Beauty Friday.

I wanted to wait until next week to show you our Divergent Tour we made last week in Chicago, but I just had to share this one photo. This is the ferris wheel that Tris and Four climb and y'all, it's so gorgeous! We went in on it and it was absolutely worth it!


I can't wait to share the rest of our Chicago adventures with you, stay tuned for that next week! 

Wanna go 'round?

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Bad days seem to be more frequent these days for me. Winter blues, Fibromyalgia pain, Endometriosis pain, and just too cold to go outside even IF the sun was out. What's a girl to do at times like this when it's either stay cooped up in the house or even Husband and/or doctor ordered bed rest days? Surround herself with the things that make her happy, and that exactly what I do!

 This is my list of happies:

Journaling, stationary, and pretty paper products from Tiny Prints.  I LOVE to journal about my day, write my pain levels, and do my bible study all in one journal. It's soooo much easier than having multiple books to keep up with. My stationary is for writing my pals when I don't have the energy to call or Facetime with them. I love snail mail and when I saw these cards, they had to be mine! I am all about the beach/coastal! And of course my to do list. I jumped at the chance to order this note pad because I could list what needs to be done on my next good day. And who doesn't love to check items off a list? It makes you feel so accomplished! 


My Vera Bradley Slippers.  Ah, my feet are in love and so cozy with these things! I purchased them at the annual factory sale for a fraction of the retail cost, and I couldn't pass them up. Money well spent, my friends. 


The Volcano Candle- if you've been into an Anthropologie store, you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven't, you need to go there pronto and just smell the candles, AMAZING! And a little secret... Target sells the Bali Sunrise candles, and it's soooo close to the Volcano candle, I can't tell a difference! 


The Bible-Hi-Gliders- I've been on the hunt for a highlighter that is bright in color, and NOT bleed through the pages. I've spend a good $50 on highlighters, and they all failed me. Until I heard about these on the Women Living Well website. When I finally found them at my local Christian store, the clerk had one out to demonstrate and it was everything I've dreamed of! Since they only had one color, I bought that, and then found a whole pack of them on Christianbook.com. Do yourself a favor and order a pack! 


Lush Bath Bombs- I just found these and my life is forever changed. Great ingredients, fair trade, and they all smell amazing. I love a good bath every other night to soak this achy body, and these just make it even more special. I grab a good book, light my lavender candle, and soak for an hour.... pure heaven! 


Jane Austen books and movies- I'm a true Janeite and her beautifully penned words always perk me up on the rough days. I just found Death comes to Pemberley on Netflix and it was pretty good! 



There you have it! 6 of my favorite things that are sure to make me in a better mood when I'm stuck inside. What are some things that make you happy?



*I received complimentary products from Tiny Prints in exchange for my honest opinion. 
6 things that make me happy

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(To learn a bit about Mardi Gras and the Cajun culture, check out this link)

As promised, here is my gumbo recipe! It's not terribly hard, but, as always, everyone has their own recipe and their own way to cook. This is no exception. If you ask any Cajun, theirs will have some special ingredient, or a special way to cook it. I say, to each his own, because gumbo is good regardless!  OK, let's get to it.


Chicken and sausage gumbo

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp roux, (I use the jar kind, but if you want to make it yourself, this recipe is a good one)
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 pkg. Andouille sausage, sliced thin
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional:  throw in a couple of eggs (shell in all) and when they boil in the gumbo, take them out, peel them, and put them back in to boil with gumbo. It soaks up flavor and they are DELICIOUS!


Instructions:

  In a tall stock pot, fill it half full with water, stove on high and bring to boil. (While water is heating up, I normally chop all the ingredients.) Once water is boiling, add roux, stirring occasionally until all roux clumps are dissolved. Then, carefully add all other ingredients in. Bring to a boil again, and lower heat to med high.
  Once the boil returns, I time it to boil for 3 hours, pot lid on, but with a crack so it doesn't boil over. Stir about every 20 minutes. IF the water is getting too low, add a bit, but you don't want it too watery.

Now, I have a rice cooker like the one below, but if you don't, this is a good recipe to cook rice on the stove.




I serve with a spoonfuls of rice in a bowl, and about two spoonfuls of gumbo. You want it kind of soupy. I also make mashed potatoes with it. You can also serve crackers.

It may take a couple of times to get it right, or perfected to your taste, but keep at it! This is a good, hearty meal that is "Stick to your ribs" perfect for winter!

 I also made king cake, (Recipe found here)  And I didn't do the dough right, but it still tasted amazing! Don't be afraid to take some chances in cooking... most of the time, it works even if it's not the prettiest!













It may be that I'm Cajun, but this is my absolute favorite meal. What's yours?

And if you haven't already, could you please fill out this Reader Survey? I want to know what you think!
Gumbo Recipe

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Hey Y'all! Happy Mardi Gras!! I'm so excited for this, even when I'm so far from home.

Today, I will be submerging Kate in all things Cajun & Fat Tuesday. Which means, tomorrow, I will have my gumbo recipe on here!!!! Depending on who you ask, it's a coveted recipe, and I want to share it with you! So stay tuned for that!

 Until then, my friends, have a safe and Happy Mardi Gras!


Mardi Gras Mambo

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As I've been taking a little bit of a break from the blogging world since my friend, Kate, is here from Australia, I've been doing a little thinking as well. Thoughts go round and round about this blog- where it is now, where I'd like it to go, etc.

DON'T worry, I'm NOT quitting this blog!

I write posts, mostly because they would be something I'd like to read. Oftentimes, though, I wonder about YOU, who are you? Where are you? What are you most interested in reading? What have you ever wanted to know? With this in mind, could you do me a huge favor, and take this reader survey linked below?



Yes, this blog is something that I love, but I want to keep my readers happy! Thank you in advanced!
What do YOU like?

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Love one another, friends, family, spouses... anyone and everyone... show
 L-O-V-E! 

Happy Valentine's Day, I hope your day is filled to the brim with love. 


Linking up for Finding Beauty Friday with Aimee from Aimee-Lynn Photography.

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Pizza has to be one of my favorite foods, but unfortunately, it's not so great for my hips. You know what I'm talking about!

I've entertained the idea of making my own pizza, and even bought the "Pizza kits" at the store. They just didn't taste right, kinda tasted cheap... if that's the right word to describe them. I just didn't like it! I looked for other recipes, but it always seemed so hard to make the dough, get the sauce right, and honestly, was just looking like wayyyyyy too much work. So, at least twice a month, we order pizza and I always love/feel guilty about it.

Enter- The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignai.



When this book came into my life, I about died, y'all! I scooped this book up so fast it didn't know what happened to it! And when it got here, I dived into it for a good hour. Tony Gemignai makes it seem so easy! The way he writes the recipes, it's just not scary at all. I can totally do this! I failed to take photos when I attempted to make my first real pizza, just because I was a little nervous I'd make a giant mess of it,  but I promise to update you with photos the next time I bake a pizza. And, I mean, look at these gorgeous pictures... inspiring! 


This book gives me hope that I can make a delicious, good for you pizza and not spend the whole night in the kitchen. Will we ever order out again, I'm pretty sure of it, but at least now I have options if I don't want the guilt associated with the fatty pizzas! He includes step by step photos, and let's face it, when you're cooking something for the first time, that's always helpful to me since I'm a visual learner.




If you come across this book, scoop it up! I am planning on keeping this in my cookbook collection for life. It helps that this book is pretty large, and has thick pages and a good sturdy binding, since I'm a clutz- it should last for a while!

Have you ever attempted a pizza from scratch?

* I received this book complimentary from Bloggingforbooks.org in exchange for my honest opinion. 
Pizza with a side of guilt?

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  Happy Friday, y'all! Today, I link up with the ever so talented, Aimee from Aimee-Lynn Photography for her Find Beauty Friday link up. I love this link up because we can share our little bits of beauty from the week. And let me tell you, this week, where it's beyond a Winter Wonderland, I needed to find some beauty!



Snow and the flag, how patriotic of me! 

We are venturing out to Chicago sometime this weekend, to play tourist with my mate, Kate, so I will update you guys next week with many photo dumps. You will like it, I promise! 

I hope you guys have a great weekend! What's going on in your neck of the woods?
A little Star Spangled banner and a whole lotta snow

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