Looking for an Affordable Trip to France? Recreate Recipes from French Country Cooking

We are all starting the year with new resolutions, and mine are as always, same as they were, and have been almost every year – work harder, stay leaner, get a moment of rest now and then, and really relax, like in the old world days.

Nowadays we are always rushing, every task of the day has to be quick and well thought out. There is no time to relax and savor. There is no time to enjoy the moment. We are always on the go, running for the next opportunity, activity, or event, meeting deadlines, and squeezing in the efficiency in every possible activity.

The way I like to relax is planning out meals. I don’t like to do it in haste. I think about the pleasures of cooking, and how the dish is going to taste. I cannot do it quickly, I love to imagine the flavors, and this is one of the best ways for me to sometimes just forget about the tasks on hand – looking through my old favorite cookbooks and reminiscing about the food I once had made of those recipes, or looking through my new cookbooks and imagining what it would be like to eat some new dishes.

And so much in cookbooks goes with that impression. The idea, and the certain non-palpable impression that the picture gives – we cannot like the dish we haven’t cooked yet, we cannot like the dish that we have not smelled, so a lot lies in the food photography territory for us to like the cookbook we are reading. I have had a privilege to be a reviewer for many cookbooks, and as I am just one and only me, and I don’t have a test kitchen that I run, and I don’t even cook every day, or make all of the dishes that I see in any given book, I rely a lot on the skill of the food photographer to tell me the story that the cookbook preaches. I know that the likes of old world chefs could get away with actually having to cook every dish in the book that they have written about, and we would trust their name written on the front cover to get us through the ever so complex beef bourguignon or aspic recipe steps, but today we have to trust the visuals we see in the cookbooks to guide us along to be tempted to feel what the dish would taste like, and what to expect when we make it. That is the primary reason why I love my cookbooks to be in color, and have as many recipe pictures as there are recipes in the book. Any other variation of a cookbook without the necessary pictures leaves too much for interpretation, and for those of us with little imagination, we would just be too tempted to overlook such a book in favor of a more colorful and detailed kind.

Today I am looking over a new cookbook that immediately transports me to the world of perfect French cuisine, and this is “French Country Cooking” by Mimi Thorisson. This book is a relaxing read, for if you like the idea of cooking old world dishes with a modern twist, don’t have a ton of money for a trip to France, you will be guaranteed a pleasure of experiencing France, and inspired to cook French basics yourself, as the recipes are delectable to try, easy to follow, and absolutely stunning photography to only hope to ever come close to in my own photography attempts.

When I photograph food at home, I often obsess about perfection. The cupcakes have to be just perfect, better than on a picture. The colors and the theme have to match everything, and the mood. I obsess about not having dirt or crumbs in the background, or have to obsessively blur everything so that my readers can see that I have everything better than perfect. I use backgrounds that are always new and amazingly white, bleached out to a point that you don’t see any details of any possible stain or hair. I obsess and obsess. And then I take this book, and I see how the imperfections are embraced, and, in fact, almost highlighted. Do we have cracked floor, or a cracked piece of marble around? Hair in the picture messy? Did the sauce spill all over the pot? Who cares? This is France, people, this is a book about cottage living in France, now is it supposed to be all fancy? The food and the charm of the old world take front and center place in the book. This cookbook embraces the ugliness of organic and local ingredients, farm produce, and living the good life of enjoying the fruits of the harvest in France. The furniture, authentic family photographs, photos that look like still life from famous Dutch paintings relax and remind you that the world is not all conveyor belt products packaged up and all looking identical – apples in this cookbook are actually all different, every single one mushroom is wild, and imperfect, dishes are handmade, and are there to nourish and savor.

In other words, if you are looking for some cheap vacation to France, you have got yourself a bargain right here – get this book, a bottle of wine, and plan out your meals for the next few weeks out using the recipes from the book – I recommend checking out my favorites – tomates farcies, baba au rhum, gateau Breton. I couldn’t say anything else but agree with Mimi, the author, on just about everything in the book – the importance of family meals, living the good life. I love the relaxed attitudes, and the charm of country living.

Enjoy the picture perfect of French country cooking, and try to recreate the recipes, as they certainly look dreamy and pleasant, just like the book itself – love themed dinners in the fall when fresh local produce is in abundance, and we can try to imagine ourselves living the cottage life we always dream about.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Review and Giveaway of “When Jesus was a Green-Eyed Brunette”

Yesterday I got to read an interesting book of somewhat religious nature – “When Jesus was a Green-Eyed Brunette”. It is very rewarding to me to read about someone else’s walk in life, what they find important to them, how they found God, and how they interpret other people’s life and behavior. This book is about a life of a writer (Max Davis) who is finding God in his life in the most unusual places.

The most interesting parts of the book for me are the chapters about Max Davis’s son. I used to work in a company serving the deaf and the hearing impaired, helping them make those important phone calls that we, the hearing majority, definitely take for granted, but that can be a difficult task for anyone not able to hear. In that company we would receive calls from TTY machines which were essentially typewriters for the deaf that allowed them to communicate even when they couldn’t actually hear, or often speak they responses but instead could type them and then read them silently. Those TTY machines were instrumental for the deaf to be able to communicate with most of the businesses and agencies that they needed to reach by phone. I never realized fully that there are so many people among the deaf who cannot actually read English well enough to even be able to fully communicate, and it must be quite a feat for them to survive in the world that is dominated by the hearing people. Amazing to see the works of God in this book where Max’s son has to learn on his own mistakes how he can adapt in the world, and how, despite all of the difficulties, God finds a way to protect him, and stay on his side through it all – God always works in mysterious ways. It is a very peaceful idea to be a believer, and to know, and be at peace with the fact that there is someone out there who is looking out for you, and will always protect you, and lead you to the right path through all the trials. This idea can be very therapeutic when you know that you can put all your trust in God, and while you do what you can. there will always be a stronger force that can help you withstand what you are going through, and put everything together in this great puzzle of life.

So many encounters, so many different paths, everyone has their own story and ways that they find God through, so many events that take place, and they all lead to meeting and finding God. All the people with their stories are happy in their love to God, and peace that they find with their belief, despite the suffering that they have gone through, and the difficulties that their physical life has brought them through. It is absolutely enlightening to read – Jesus comes to people Max meets in visions, in live personifications, in many divine encounters – this would not be possible without believing. I find it humbling to read what some people get to see and experience – God has his mysterious ways of getting through to people, and heal the deepest wounds. It is definitely a comforting thought.

About the Book:

When Jesus Was a Green-Eyed Brunette weaves heartwarming and miraculous stories of Jesus showing up in ordinary people, revealing that He knows us and is fully present in our everyday circumstances, especially in our difficulties. Those hurting and weary from worn-out religion are longing for a fresh touch from the living Jesus. Best-selling author Max Davis challenges us to do more than simply receive God’s grace—we need to allow grace to soften, change, and shape us. As you read this book you will laugh, cry, and come face-to-face with the living Jesus, much like Davis did, when he found Him living in a green-eyed brunette. As Davis puts it, “Jesus is very much alive today and still does incredible things—sometimes supernatural things—through us!”

About the Author:

Max Davis is the author of over 20 published books and has been featured in USA Today and Publishers Weekly and has appeared on The Today Show and The 700 Club. He holds degrees in Journalism and Biblical Studies and is a much sought-after speaker for churches and organizations worldwide. He and his wife, Alanna, live on 50 beautiful acres in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.

You can purchase this book on Amazon below –

or here – http://worthypublishing.com/books/When-Jesus-Was-a-Green-Eyed-Brunette/

We also have one copy available for a giveaway – please, enter below.

One winner will be chosen at the end of the giveaway by Giveaway Tools widget randomly, and Propeller Consulting LLC will be mailing out the prize to the winner. This is a US only giveaway.

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.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sample of the book was provided for a review. This is a sponsored post.



Review of “Everything and a Happy Ending” Book by Tia Shurina

Everything and a Happy Ending Book Review

I often receive requests to review books on my blog, and only a few of them grab my attention. I was really looking forward to reading Tia Shurina’s book, and it certainly did not disappoint! I hope you can enjoy reading this interesting story as much as I did!

This book is full of surprises, just when you think you understand where the author is going, you will be happily surprised – the events take a different turn, and you will definitely stay engaged to keep reading throughout the story.

A lot of the times books I read I cannot get myself to read to the end, and just stop reading them somewhere in the middle as there is nothing in them that attracts my attention – here the story is so raw in its emotions, that you definitely want to keep reading to the end to see how Tia is going to be able to handle the next turn in her life.

Another reason why the story is so raw is that it is scarily sincere. The author is really putting herself out there, and this is a difficult thing to do – you know you are writing a book that anyone can read – your nosy neighbor, your friends, your relatives, your co-workers – and you have to be able to say it as it is, if it is a true memoir, and you are not trying to hide or sugarcoat anything.

I blog, and due to what I do, I also showcase my emotions, feelings, and true me online for everyone to read, and yet I feel that Tia’s book is a real revelation of her true feelings and inner thoughts, more so than I would ever dare to post on my blog – sometimes when we write things for others, we inadvertently want to please our readers, and it is hard to make a piece of writing perfect without stretching the truth, sweeping stuff under the rug to make everyone like it. Here Tia is not afraid of criticism, and there can be none – how can one criticize someone else’s innermost soul in its emotion, feelings, and experience – this is just what Tia has encountered in her life, for better or for worse, and there can be no criticism as to what one feels or has to get through.

Some of the most moving parts in the book for me have to do with Tia’s feelings towards her father. There is a lot of emotion, and tribulations that Tia had to endure in that relationship. It is very interesting to see the progress of their story, from Tia’s youth to the more mature period, and how the relationship evolved through the years. I find one of the most difficult parts for me was the grieving chapters. I tend to concentrate on grief a lot in my life, and agree with Tia that grief helps us sort through and deal with our emotions, sometimes better than what we experience and understand in the calm and positive days of living.

It is interesting to read Tia’s perspective on marriage, and how she had to face her unhappiness, and move to resolve it. This is not something everyone does, and it certainly deserves praise for being true to her own feelings, and being able to resolve the situation. Sometimes it is hard to find that bravery that might seem natural to some people, but is not always there for everyone. There are so many seemingly happy families out there that stay together, for better or for worse, and resolve to their unhappiness, and it does not need to be that way. It is very interesting to read as Tia goes through her thoughts and feelings, and how she finds peace in her decisions, and finds her happiness.

Tia finds a true friend in Emilio in her book, and describes how their relationship started, and went on. It is such a truly colorful journey of love that Tia describes, what an amazing way to put those thoughts on paper, what a beautiful love story! It is so realistic, and real, and so intense. This is a great, easy read if you would like to immerse yourself in a sensitive and difficult one woman’s journey of finding the connection through hardship of life, when people she cares about and loves are leaving her all alone to never come back again. Grief leaves you so vulnerable, and fragile, and it is lovely to be able to spring back to life through love that can heal some of the wounds, and inspire to live again.

EAAHE, a memoir published by Mascot Books, details the journey & soulful shift of her story as Tia shares her holy grail & trail she took to transform her life.  After moving through her own metamorphosis she then helped an old friend, Ray Romano, move through his own transition, going with the flow very privately, but most profoundly.

“My journey almost destroyed me.  Almost. Boy have I come to like that word.  What a pleasurable word almost can be.  You may almost be ready to buy my book.  You may almost be ready to begin an amazing new journey of your own.  You may almost be over that rainbow Judy Garland sings about.  What great potential almost can hold if you can flip your way of thinking.  Just imagine, controlled pessimism, doubt & fear flipped into blind optimism, faith & love.”  

That flip helped Tia move to a place where heaven meets earth…the pearly gates of her own happy ending.  Changing the ending for her story brought a pure, precious, peace of heart, but kicked her butt a bit as she made her way…committed to keeping her faith.  The book was a Plan C, maybe even D, but Tia was determined, after a dedicated intention & divine decision to start swimming more with the current of her life, instead of bucking that flow.  Her ordinary, relatable story took an extraordinary, fantastical turn when she showed the Universe she was committed to her intention & her desire to be given an opportunity to make some new, different choices.  EAAHE is a memoir that shares the “how’d that happen?” & the “how’d she do that?” in a holy hope of helping others to  see life in a new way.

EAAHE recounts 3 inter-connected relationships & love stories that enabled Tia to love truly, deeply, & most of all, love herself.  Three special circles she rounded with Ray, her dad, & her ex-husband.  A true woman’s full circle journey to learn how to really trust, how to “thine own self be true”, & then, the real & true love it led her ‘round back to.  It shares how the power of love & a journey to intimacy helped her make a faithful flip which began a sacred circle & new chapter…one that would allow a different ending for a story she had begun writing for herself when she was much younger.  One that Tia feels strongly will inspire other women of a certain age to keep faith that it’s not too late to write a new ending for their own, as they embrace their history, not try to re-write.

Tia is, most days, filled with joy.  She is, every day, filled with peace.  She looks forward to a happy ending each new day now, however it unfolds, whomever it holds,  & whatever way the Universe molds, as she continues to create a new “happily ever after”, staying committed to rising above her fears, moving out of her comfort zones, and going with the flow of her life.

Here is what the customers are saying about the book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015I13RDC/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#customerReviews

If you are interested in reading the book, here is where to find it – check out on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2h8Gy1N or from Tia’s own site – http://everythingandahappyending.com/

Here is a Press Release about the book – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/will-tia-shurina-give-ray-romano-a-happy-ending-new-memoir-reveals-relationship-and-unveils-transformation-300212049.html

This is a sponsored post. Some of the links in the post may be affiliate links which means that the blog you are reading it on may receive a small percentage of compensation if you decide to purchase the book on this site.


Have you Tried Book of the Month Membership? It will make for a great gift for the holidays!

My biggest problem is often having to choose things. I have trouble choosing in a restaurant, or what to wear, what to read, what to get as a gift for people. It often becomes a quest without any possible ending because I can never decide what to gift to people.

As an example, a book is always a great gift, and I love gifting books to my friends, avid readers, however, it is still often a struggle as I don’t know what books the person might have already read, and what books I could still gift safely. That is why a book club membership gift is the best. You can give a gift of a book and let your friend decide what they want to choose for themselves.

With a Book of the Month gift subscription, the gift recipient will get to choose the books that are right for them—every month. Whether you give a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription,this gift of literary goodness lasts well beyond the holidays.

The Gift Options:

3-Month Gift Membership: $44.97
6-Month Gift Membership: $83.94
12-Month Gift Membership: $143.88

Here are a few great deals that they have right now –

30% off 3 months at Book of the Month + free tote

Free one month trial to Book of the Month with gift subscription purchase

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Review of Soframiz – cookbook of Middle Eastern Cuisine

I have been looking for a proper modern cookbook of Middle Eastern techniques and cuisine for a while now – I was born in Azerbaijan, and grew up there, and my family brought me up eating and tasting flavors of the Middle East. I am familiar with the basic spices, and our family’s favorite recipes, but they have been done so many times by now I am somewhat tired of them. I have been looking for a book that teaches me new techniques, and expands on the historical recipes using modern fusion techniques.

This is probably one of the most advanced Middle Eastern cookbooks I have seen in a while. The recipes are fresh and exciting. All of the pictures are luring me into the Old World of scents and aromas I grew up with. I remember the street food in Baku – the honey glazed baklava, the soft puffy bread, and the sweet desserts people would gift us for holidays. Those are all the familiar old-fashioned treats that I remember growing up, that I have found in one version or another on the pages of this book, updated and upgraded.

I love the way this cookbook feels and looks. Just a few days ago I have reviewed a completely different book from a different Old World recipe collection, and compared with this book – there is a night and day difference. The photos in this book are extremely inviting, and give you the sense of the food, the mood, and the sense of where the food is from – it is made from the heart, keeping in mind the traditions and customs that each particular recipe came from, and was inspired by – this mood is very well transmitted in the book – I admire the food photography used, and I know I will be borrowing quite a few techniques from the book.

The authors of the book – Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick – are very accomplished – these are not chefs from the Middle East, but rather American chefs who have received training and expertise in studying the Middle East and its cuisine and flavors, and who applied their own knowledge of American and French cuisines, and modified the recipes to add a complex modern twist. These chefs are possibly the most accomplished chefs cooking Middle Eastern cuisine in America at the moment of time, and I am so honored to be able to read their recipes, and have a chance of cooking those up, using their advice!

I recommend this book either if you are new to Middle Eastern cuisine, or if you are a seasoned Middle East flavor aficionado – you will definitely enjoy it!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.