Book Review: The Alchemist

Book Review: The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

My Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

This book has been on my list of books to read for a while.  I recently heard it being compared to a great book that I just finished reading a few months ago, Life’s Golden Ticket.  I decided that was the sign I needed that it was time to read The Alchemist.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book is a fairly easy read, although it took me longer than I had expected to get through it.  I didn’t consider this book to be life-changing for me personally, but I did find it to be filled with much wisdom!  A few of the things this book teaches:

  • Each of us has our own destiny, or “personal legend”
  • Once you recognize that destiny and always follow your heart to pursue it, the universe will help you to achieve it.
  • The boy in the story travels a great distance in search of his treasure, but in the end, he finds it in the place where he started from.  Oftentimes, the things we are looking for are right there close to us right from the beginning.  We just need to stop and notice them more often, and take time to appreciate them.
  • Pay attention to your dreams…they are the language of God
  • Focus on the present moment, and you will be happy
  • We can learn so much from nature and the constant signs all around us…we just need to pay attention and let them lead us.

These are all good reminders that we can all use from time to time.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy self-help books or those looking to find their purpose in life, and I would read this book again.

Favorite Quotes

To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation…and, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

 

Dreams are the language of God. (p.12)

 

Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.

Book Review: Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances

Book Review: Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances

by Brendon Burchard

My Rating: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I read this book because I got a promotional email from Brendon Burchard offering the book and some of his inspirational videos for only the cost of shipping the book ($5.00).  I enjoyed his other books, The Charge and The Millionaire Messenger, so I wanted to give this one a try, too! (Click on the book cover above to get your free copy for only the cost of shipping).

Summary (from Goodreads)

The classic inspirational parable from the top motivation and marketing trainer and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Millionaire Messenger—a triumphant tale of personal growth and change that will inspire anyone who has ever wished for a second chance.

What if you were handed a golden ticket that could magically start your life anew?

That question is at the heart of Life’s Golden Ticket. Brendon Burchard tells the story of a man who is so trapped in the prison of his past that he cannot see the possibilities, the choices, and the gifts before him. To soothe his fiancée Mary, clinging to life in a hospital bed, the man takes the envelope she offers and heads to an old, abandoned amusement park that she begs him to visit.

To his surprise, when he steps through the rusted entrance gates, the park magically comes to life. Guided by the wise groundskeeper Henry, the man will encounter park employees, answer difficult questions, overcome obstacles, listen to lessons from those wiser than he, and take a hard look at himself.

At the end of his journey, the man opens Mary’s mysterious envelope. Inside is a golden ticket—the final phase in turning his tragic life’s story of loss and regret into a triumphant tale of love and redemption.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

I loved this book!  I was expecting this to be another non-fiction self-help book like Brendon Burchard’s other books (all of which I loved), but I was surprised when I began reading to find this was actually a story.  It was an easy read, and it held my interest throughout the entire book.  This book helps you to take a good look at your life and ask yourself if you are truly happy.  If you are not, it helps you to think about steps you can take to change that, to overcome your fears, and to let go of bitterness and other things from your past that may be keeping you from following your dreams.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in personal growth.  There are many valuable life lessons taught all throughout the book.  Although I didn’t consider this book to be life-changing for me, I think it could be life-changing for so many people!

Favorite Quote(s)

The miracle makers in this world are the people who live by choice and live to contribute. (p.181)

 

Though you cannot recall it ever happening, a spell has been cast upon you, and it has mesmerized you into believing that you are not good enough and that there is something wrong with you.  This spell is Society’s Spell, and it has made you secretly feel inadequate, ugly, weak, slow, small, useless, and helpless for far too long.  Tonight we break that spell. (p.35)

Book Review: What on Earth am I Here For?

Book Review:  What on Earth am I Here For?

by Rick Warren

My Rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Read?

I read this 63-page booklet because our church was giving them away.  I read The Purpose Driven Life many years ago, also by Rick Warren, and I loved that one so I thought I would read this, too.

Summary (from the back of the book)

You can live the life you were meant to live.

This small booklet answers life’s three biggest questions:

The Question of Existence:  Why am I alive?

The Question of Significance: Does my life matter?

The Question of Purpose: What on earth am I here for?

Knowing your purpose in life will:

  • Give your life meaning
  • Simplify your life
  • Focus your life
  • Increase your motivation
  • Prepare you for eternity

Discover the principles that have transformed millions of lives around the world.  Excerpted from The Purpose Driven Life: “The bestselling non-fiction hardback in history.” – Publishers Weekly

What Did I Think/Recommendation:

I loved Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life.  This booklet seemed to be a condensed version of The Purpose Driven Life.

I love that this booklet is a very quick and easy read at only 63 pages.  It is filled with lots of wisdom and ideas, but I could not give this 5 stars because I was really turned off by the line on the first page, written in bold: “you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself.” Honestly, I stopped right there and put the book away for a few weeks before I decided to continue on with it. As the author of a book about self-love and someone who did find God and my life’s purpose by looking within myself, it was hard for me to get past that line. I believe there are as many paths to God as there are people, and it is a turnoff to me when someone thinks that their way is the only right way. I’m glad I did eventually pick the book back up and continue with it because there is a lot of good content in the book. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but the parts that I do agree with and accept as truth are very comforting.  Regardless of your beliefs, it does make you think about life.

Book & Movie Review: The Help

Book Review:  The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the-help-cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I bought this book at a library book sale years ago.  I saw the movie with some friends from a book club when the movie first came out, but I had not read the book.  This summer, I decided I wanted to read something easier than the self-help books I usually read, so I pulled this off my book shelf.  It pretty much took me all summer to read, but I’m glad I did.  When I finished the book, I went to the library and got the movie to watch again.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me much longer to read than I had anticipated, but I really liked it a lot, and I learned a lot from it.

This book taught me a lot about the relationships between blacks and whites in the South in the 1960’s.  It really opened my eyes to the cruelty and injustice that existed during that time.  This book reminds me of how far we have come in working towards eliminating inequality and racism.  There is still much progress to be made, but I think this book and movie helps to bring us one step closer to that.

I really came to love and admire the courage of many of the characters in this book.  I liked the way the chapters switched between the perspectives of the 3 main characters:  Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny.  Two of these characters are black, and one is white.  Each of these characters provides her own stories of life in the South during that time, and I admire the way each of them was willing to risk everything to fight for equality and a better life for all.

Thoughts on the Movie

I thought the movie was really well done!  It followed the book closely.  I saw the movie when it first came out.  I had not yet read the  book, and I did not understand a lot of the little details.  When I watched the movie again after reading the book, the details stood out and made much more sense.  I would definitely recommend both the book and the movie!  My daughters (aged 13, 12, and 9) all watched the movie with me, and they all enjoyed it as well.

My Favorite Quote from The Help:

the-help-quote

Aibileen, one of the black maids, said this often to Mae Mobley, the little girl she was caring for.  If nothing else, she wanted to teach her this important truth about herself.  I believe everyone should be taught to believe this about themselves.

For more reviews on The Help, visit Goodreads.

Recipe: Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie logo.jpg

It’s the time of the year that my daughters and I love the most – blueberry picking season! We traditionally go on many blueberry picking excursions during this season.  Most of the time, we eat the berries just as they are, but we also enjoy baking them into delicious recipes.  Blueberry pie is a yearly tradition in our home – we make it once each year using freshly picked berries.  We have tried several recipes throughout the years, but this one from Allrecipes.com is our favorite so far.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over blueberries.
  3. Line pie dish with one pie crust. Pour berry mixture into the crust.  Dot with butter. IMG_7014.JPG
  4. Top with remaining pie crust.  Crimp and flute edges.
  5. Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Be sure to place a pan or foil underneath it to catch any drippings.

Next time we make this, we are going to attempt to make individual pies rather than one big one.  I will update this post if we are successful.  Happy pie-eating! 🙂

 

 

Recipe: Banana Muffins

Banana Muffins

This is our family’s favorite banana bread recipe.  To simplify the serving process and speed up the cooking time, I have modified this recipe to make muffins instead, but the taste is just as delicious as the original Banana Bread recipe from Allrecipes.com.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Line 12 muffin cups with muffins liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.  Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Alternatively, bake in a loaf pan for 60-65 minutes for Banana Bread.

February Wellness Challenge – Acts of Kindness

February Acts of Kindness Challenge promo

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what REALLY makes you happy?

When I asked myself that question last month while I was taking The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, my answers surprised me.  But, what didn’t surprise me was that HELPING OTHERS was on the top of my list.

If helping others brings you joy and happiness as well, I would love to invite you to join us in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge. I promise you it will be a rewarding experience!!

How the Challenge Began

When I think of the month of February, the first thing that comes into my mind is Valentine’s Day.   And when I think of Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of love.  So, I thought it might be fun to challenge myself and my family to spread our love during the month by performing at least one act of kindness each day.

When I first suggested the idea to my family two years ago, they were all really excited. I’m sure their excitement probably had something to do with me mentioning a reward at the end if we were able to complete it, but the real reward turned out to be the experience in itself. We took the challenge again last year.  This will be our third year, and we are all on board and excited about doing it again!

I invite you to join us and many others in spreading love and kindness all month!  Feel free to make up your own rules, or follow our guidelines:

Act of Kindness Challenge Guidelines:

  1. Prepare.  Print out this February 2016 Acts of Kindness Log for each member of your family.  Use it to record your acts of kindness throughout the month.  Also keep track of the acts of kindness performed toward you each day.  You might be surprised to actually see how many nice things people do for each other each day. 🙂  We put ours on the refrigerator so it stays in view and is easy to remember.
  2. Identify a Reward to keep You Motivated.  If you are taking the challenge with others, take a vote to see how you want to reward yourselves once you have completed the challenge!  In the past, we have rewarded ourselves by going out to dinner together as a family (something we usually only reserve for birthdays or special occasions.)  Come up with something that works for you and your family and that will motivate you to complete the challenge.  Don’t skip this step.  This is the step that keeps my kids motivated to keep going throughout the challenge.
  3. Spread your love!  Each day in February, perform at least one act of kindness and write it down on the log.  Try to come up with something different each day.  My definition of an Act of Kindness is:  any action you take to brighten someone’s day without expecting anything in return.  Also, write down any acts of kindness others performed toward you.
  4. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable.  Each day, share your ideas with your family members or loved ones who are also participating in the challenge.  Talk about the acts of kindness you performed.  Also, feel free to share your ideas and inspiration in our February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group so we can continue to support and encourage each other and keep each other accountable.
  5. When the month is over, share what you learned from the experience.  Feel free to share your stories with us as well in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group.
  6. REWARD YOURSELF!!  Don’t skip this step, either.  For many of us, the real reward is the experience in itself, but make sure to recognize your accomplishment and follow through on the reward you set in step 2.

I invite you to join us in this challenge and spread your love. It only takes a small act to make a big impact. Let’s make a difference together! “Like” the Facebook page February Acts of Kindness Challenge for inspirational stories and quotes each day, or join the Facebook support group at February Acts of Kindness Challenge to share your ideas and inspiration. 🙂

Feel free to do more than one Act of Kindness a day.  Don’t be afraid to write them all down.  You may already do several acts of kindness each day without even realizing it.  The point here is to become aware of all the good things you already do and realize the impact it has on others.  You may also want to try to take it a step further and do some things you normally wouldn’t do.  When we make a small effort to brighten someone’s day out of love (not obligation), we are rewarded with happiness.  Anything done out of obligation is not an act of love and will only cause you to feel resentment.  It doesn’t matter whether your acts of kindness are random or intentional, but to honor your own self-care, please make sure they are performed out of love.

As you perform more acts of kindness, you may also notice yourself becoming the recipient of more acts of kindness.  Learn to accept these gifts with gratitude.  Many times it is more challenging for us to receive than it is to give.  We may resist acts of kindness toward us because we may feel like we will owe the other person, but when you let people do nice things for you, you are actually giving them a gift.  Learning how to let others help you might be just what you need to learn from this challenge…I know from previous years it was exactly what I needed to learn.Act of Kindness Aesop

RESOURCES

If you run out of ideas at any point during the challenge, this Random Acts of Kindness generator is fantastic!

Check out this link for some great Random Acts of Kindness ideas!

“Like” the Facebook Page The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Check out the inspiring movie, The Letter Writer. It is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.  If you have some suggestions for more inspiring movies about kindness, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Random Acts of Kindness week is a 7-day celebration of kindness.  This year it falls on February 14-20, 2016!

Check out this inspiring 5 minute video to see how one small act of kindness can make a big impact.  

Do YOU have any kindness ideas, quotes, videos, or inspiration you would like to share? Feel free to leave them in a comment below or share them on the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook support group. Thank you! 🙂

kindness mark twain