Friday, November 22, 2013

1 Girl Nation, a review

1 Girl Nation is an upbeat, positive, Christian girl band.  I had heard one of their songs before receiving the CD to review, so I was totally sure what to expect.  On the way to church one morning, I popped the CD into the CD player in our vehicle. I have 2 teen girls, 1 teen boy, 1 pre-teen boy and a 7year old girl -- MOST of them loved it!  The oldest girl didn't love the album upon first listen and the teen boy wasn't that in to it either, BUT the other three really got into it.  Honestly, it reminded me of dance party music.  It is very upbeat, very positive and God-honoring.  A girl can definitely get her jam on by herself or have fun dancing around with her friends. So much fun and wonderfully uplifting. I just can't say that enough!!  UPLIFTING-- in a world where girls are constantly being brought down by magazines, movies, music and people... these songs are uplifting and encouraging.

This would be a great gift for the preteen/teen girl in your life!!  Christmas is coming up, so how about a stocking stuffer?  For more information, check out their website: 

To purchase, check out, or

About 1 Girl Nation:
Landing in the space where One Direction meets TobyMac, 1 Girl Nation is an exciting blend of upbeat pop music, with lyrics that are totally focused on living life for God, even while you’re young. 1GN, as they’ve already been dubbed, stars Carmen, Kayli, Kelsey, Lauryn Taylor and Lindsey, five girls with a passion for telling their fans about Christ through their music. Their first single, “While We’re Young,” can be heard on radio stations across the country and their self-titled debut album is available now!

Primary Audience: preteens, teens, and young adults (as well as parents, too!)

Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

The Captive Maiden... a happily ever after?

Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son.  But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke’s son, Valten -- the boy she has daydreamed about for years -- and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have.  To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye.  Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart.  But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined. 
(from back cover)

Sound familiar?  Probably reminds you a little of Cinderella... only in this story the two evil stepsister call Gisela, Cinders-ela.  The cruelty from the step-family and the ball are about the only places Cinderella and The Captive Maiden collide.  

Dickerson has done a wonderful job reimagining the story of Cinderella.  In The Captive Maiden, Dickerson has written an enchanting story of cruelty, jealousy, even hatred along with beauty, love and chivalry.  This story is good enough to stand alongside the fairytales of yesterday!! What’s better is that Dickerson even weaves the love of Christ.. his grace and forgiveness, into the story as well.  

If you have teen girls that love to read, this is a great book for them -- it has all the parts of a good love story, yet it’s clean and Scripture infused.  I throughly enjoyed The Captive Maiden, and I believe that both my 16 year old and 17 year old daughters will enjoy this book as soon as I pass it on.  This definitely fits in a category of “Good Teen Reads,” even better... good Christian reads (teen or not!).   

About Melanie:

Melanie Dickerson is an award-winning author who earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught in Georgia, Tennessee, Germany and the Eastern European country of Ukraine. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), she now spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kroger Skillet Meals, Garlic Bread and Fresh Salad Selections Kit: A Review

Tonight I served my family a delicious meal of Spicy Orange Chicken, Salad and Garlic bread.  How long did I labor over this yummy, healthy meal?  Only about 15minutes!  What??

I am a member of BzzAgent, a product testing and reviewing program where I get to test out different products and share my opinion and start a buzz about these products.  Recently, I received coupons for one free bag of the Kroger Skillet Meals, a free garlic bread and one free Kroger Fresh Salad Selections kit and tonight I prepared this meal for my family.   Because the Skillet Meals are made to serve only 3 and we are a family of 7, I purchased a second Skillet Meal to prepare as well.

So, I pulled out the two bags of Spicy Orange Chicken... and preheated the oven for the bread. I started reading the directions and opened the Skillet Meals to find the following:

There are chicken and veggies, rice in a pouch, sesame seeds and the sauce.  All of this is frozen as you pull it out to cook.  First, you pull out the sauce and hold it under running warm water to thaw it.  Second, you start the rice cooking... set it on a microwave safe place and put it in the microwave for 8 minutes.  Third, you put 1T of oil in a skillet and heat on high.  Toss in chicken and veggies.  Cook for several minutes until done.  Fourth, add sauce and cook 30-60 seconds more.  


(Remember that whenever  the oven is heated to put it in for 8 minutes or so).

(This was before it was cooked)

 Next, you open the rice pouch... and split it between your plates (remember 1 pouch serves 3).

 Top with Chicken/veggie mix and sprinkle with Sesame Seeds.  Add Salad and bread.

Enjoy!! :)

It really was a delicious and filling meal.  I made a little extra rice, because I just didn't think there was enough for a family of 6 (even with 2 skillet meals).  I also added tomatoes and peanuts to my salad.  YUM!!  My husband couldn't stop raving about how delicious the Spicy Orange Chicken was.. and the bread too!  It was a great meal and quick and easy to put together!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

What’s Inside the Sparkle Box?

The Sparkle Box is “a gift with the power to change Christmas.”  Every year, we buy gifts, we give gifts and we receive gifts for Christmas.  Sometimes we spend a lot of thought about the gifts we purchase, and sometimes we buy a quick gift that we haven’t put much thought into.  Most of these gifts don’t make a real difference in the world.  They might make a loved one feel happy for a few minutes or warm for a while, but they don’t usually mean the difference between starvation and survival or the difference between warm fingers/toes/ears and frostbite.  

The Sparkle Box is an amazing story about a family who has a “sparkly gift box” on their mantle in the weeks before Christmas.  This family has a little boy, named Sam, who is really excited about Christmas... and very curious about the Sparkle Box.  Sam’s mom tells him they need to put some things in the sparkle box before they can open it on Christmas morning.  Throughout the book, Sam and his family go Christmas shopping and drop food and clothing off at a homeless shelter.  They purchase gloves for the Christmas Mitten Tree, where they could purchase hats, gloves and scarves for those in need.  Their family also participates in purchasing a well for a village in Africa.  Along the way, Sam’s mom is able to teach him a little bit about homelessness and those in need and how blessed Sam is to have what he has.

Christmas morning arrives and Sam runs down to the living room and sees the tree all aglow, and under the tree he sees a bright red train that he had liked in the store window... then, he sees the Sparkle Box.  When it is time to open the Sparkle Box, they sit down as a family and remove the lid.  Inside are little strips of paper... each one says something different: “bought mittens for the homeless,” “provided a meal to someone in need,” “purchased a well for village in Africa.”  Sam’s parents explain that The Sparkle Box is their family’s gift to Jesus on his birthday.  Sam is confused... they didn’t do any of these things to Jesus.  In this very teachable moment, Sam’s mom explains that no gift could make Jesus happier-- whatever we do for people in need, we do for Him.  

When I received The Sparkle Box, I set it aside until I could read it to my 7 year old daughter.  When the time came, we snuggled up in my big comfy chair and read The Sparkle Box together.  It was the first time I read the book and I couldn’t help the tears that pooled in my eyes.  You see, I live in an area that has a HIGH population of homeless people.  I actually volunteer locally to work with them at a place where they can get a shower and wash their clothes for free.  So, The Sparkle Box became special to me instantly!  As we read, my daughter was able to learn a little more about homelessness and those that are less fortunate than our family.  By the end of the book, she was so excited to put together our own Sparkle Box and start filling it with gifts for Jesus.  That made this momma proud and cry some happy tears.  

The Sparkle Box book we received for this review came with it’s own little Sparkle Box in the back of the book.  This would be great for parents and/or grandparents to share with the children in their lives.  It’s a great way to introduce a legacy that you will be proud to pass on from generation to generation.  It’s a great gift book as well.  The pictures are beautiful, the story is gripping and the end result is amazing and God-honoring!! 

Check it out here: The Sparkle Box

As a side note, I took The Sparkle box to our Wednesday evening Acteens group (a teen girl mission-focused group).  These girls are ages 11-17 and they, as well as the group leader, were enraptured by the story of The Sparkle Box.  These girls have actually been making fleece blankets for the homeless in our area.  Just a few weeks ago, we made 4 blankets that were given to a family known to be living in their car.... a family of 3 little boys, a mom and a dad.  We cannot even fathom living in our car, but these girls worked their fingers to a frazzle getting the blankets finished in a timely fashion so the family could have the blankets before it got cold.