2/27/16

Giveaway! Children's Book "When Spring Comes" by Kevin Henkes

 Welcome to the
Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop
Hosted by BookHounds
February 28 - March 7

Hop to each of the blogs below and enter to win
prizes for book-lovers on each blog!

I'm giving away
a hardbound copy of
the children's picture book
by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
ARV $17.99
Available for purchase from Harper Collins
Photo courtesy of Harper Collins
To enter, just fill in the giveaway form below.
Giveaway is open to US residents, ages 18 and up.
Giveaway ends on 3/7/16. Good luck!

Enter my other giveaways HERE.
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2/26/16

The Sea of Galilee and The Jesus Boat #travel #VisitIsrael

#sponsored travel
The only disappointment I had during my week-long trip to Israel was that the waters in the Sea of Galilee were too choppy for us to sail, but there is so much to see and do in Israel that I got over it quickly. Even Jesus and his disciples had to deal with rough waters in the Sea of Galilee:

Matthew 8 23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! 

The same event is also recorded in Mark 4 36-41.
Before venturing out to see the shore, just around the corner from our hotel in Ginosar, we stopped in the Bet Yigal Alon Museum (mapped a couple of photos down), to view the remains of a recently excavated fishing boat that dates back 2000 years. This archaeological find in a freshwater sea is what I would call a miracle. Given its age, Jesus could have actually been in this boat!
The accompanying video shows that a couple of brothers (who were fishermen) discovered it one day in 1986, when they were out walking along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The receding shoreline revealed a part of the boat during a severe drought. When they discovered it, a double rainbow appeared in the sky!
The video shows the painstaking process of removing it from the lake without damaging it and the process to preserve it for future generations. It measures over 25 feet long and could hold a crew of five, plus up to fifteen others. The boat was constructed by first building the outer planks, then inserting the inner framework, which is opposite from the process of how boats are built today.
The Sea of Galilee is actually a very large freshwater lake, measuring 64 square miles. It is also the place where Jesus walked on water.

Mark 6 45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. 46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. 48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. 49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: 50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. 51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

The event is similarly recorded in Matthew 14 22-33, which also includes the story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus.
Bethsaida, the location mentioned in the Book of Mark, is located along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but there is some question as to whether Bethsaida was located on the northeastern shore at Et-Tell or further south at El-Araj. Regardless, the event occurred at the Sea of Galilee. The Bible mentions boats as a part of Jesus' life fifty times in the Gospels.
Since I'm nearly always behind the camera, I did make an effort to occasionally hand my camera over to the other two journalists traveling with me, so I would have proof that I was actually in Israel. Below are Erik Tryggestad with The Christian Chronicle (on my left) and Cory Whitehead with Christianity Today (on my right).
The scenery around the Sea of Galilee was absolutely beautiful. Imagine, I could be standing on the very spot on the ground where Jesus stood! I took about 100 photos at this stop on our itinerary and shared some of my favorites below. Enjoy!






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Choice Hotels Just Enhanced Their Choice Privileges Program #travel

This post sponsored by Choice Hotels.
No matter where your dream destination may be, you don't want to have to wait forever to get there! The Choice Privileges Program has been enhanced so that you no longer have to wait to use your loyalty points at Choice Hotels, like Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Quality, and Clarion. The new program offers members GREATER and FASTER value! Their new Flex Rewards benefit gives you FREE nights for fewer points at more than 1500 Choice Hotels, including economy and extended stay hotels, such as MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge, and Rodeway Inn. Plus, you can earn 10 points per $1.00 at over 5500 Choice Hotels and you no longer need to stay two consecutive nights at economy brand hotels. You even get EXTRA points for midweek stays. Where are you dreaming of going? I'm always dreaming of warm, tropical, beach vacations!
I've been a member of some loyalty programs that take so long to accumulate enough points to even use, that my points actually expired (which is extremely frustrating when you're on a budget). The new Choice Privileges Program points DON'T EXPIRE as long as you stay an active member. You can even redeem points for digital gift cards to use immediately. Choice Hotels is the first hotel company to offer immediate in-app gift card downloads! You can use your points to stay at hotels around the world, redeem them for exciting activities that are on your bucket list, dine at restaurants, shop for souvenirs, or even use them to pay for gas for a road trip. How will YOU use your Choice Privileges points?
Sign up today for the NEW Choice Privileges Program
and start doing more of what you want to do!
Click HERE to enroll for free.

Photos courtesy of Choice Hotels.

2/25/16

Nof Ginosar Hotel, Israel by the Sea of Galilee #travel #VisitIsrael

#sponsored travel
After a very busy day of wine tasting, seeing Caesarea, climbing up Meggido, and visiting Nazareth, we retired to the Nof Ginosar Hotel. Much like the decor at the Ktze Hanahal Restaurant in Kibbutz Ginosar, the hotel decor was simple yet welcoming.
Since it was dark when we arrived, I didn't realize how close we actually were to the Sea of Galilee, but the hotel is very close to the shoreline. I could see there were several buildings with hotel rooms and my group was in the last building, with my room being the farthest away. I looked forward to the peace and tranquility.
I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't get my computer to connect to the free wifi that evening, but my phone connected to it so I could check in with my husband. I even had someone from the hotel office come down and try, so I could upload the hundred or so photos I took that day, but perhaps my room was just too far away. However, the wifi connected easily on my computer in the morning, so perhaps the overcast weather interfered.
As I settled in for the night, I heard a wolf howling nearby, so I made a mental note to not go exploring outside in the dark. After a good night's sleep, I wandered around the hotel grounds and the hotel property is beautiful. There are lots of places to sit in the sun and in the shade, stunning gardens with lots of flowers, and many beautiful palm trees.
I found the hotel website and they also offer a Deluxe room and Grand Deluxe room for those who are looking for more lavish accommodations. The hotel site also mentions a private beach, a restaurant, a pool, and additional facilities, such as a bar, grocery store, spa services, and even a Jewish Synagogue.
I didn't get to see any of that, since we were packing up our luggage, grabbing breakfast, and getting ready for another busy day of sightseeing across Israel. The light-filled hotel lobby featured plenty of gathering spaces, where I waited for the others in my group.
We filled our plates with lots of delicious food and sat near a window. The breakfast buffet offered plenty of choices and the food was amazing. I was really excited about the day, since our itinerary included possibly being able to sail on the Sea of Galilee.
I snapped a quick picture of our driver, Nisso, and our tour guide, Michal, before we loaded up the van and took off for the day. They were wonderful people to spend our week with, and Nisso knows the roads like Michal knows the history of Israel.
Are my posts making you want to visit Israel? I encourage you to go! During the entire week I was there, I never felt unsafe for even a moment. The people of Israel are friendly and welcoming. Find out more about visiting Israel HERE and start planning your trip!

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2/24/16

Heart Healthy Food Choices - Infographic

I don't normally share infographics, but I am sharing this one in honor of my dad, who died of a heart attack at age 51, and in honor of my husband, who suffered several heart attacks in his 30s (thankfully he's still here). Take care of your heart!


This infographic was created by www.veestro.com.

2/23/16

Weekly Giveaway Linky - Wednesday Wealth (February 24 - March 1)



Giveaway! Children's Book "This Is The Earth"

Reading rocks!

Win a hardbound copy of "This Is The Earth" by
Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander,
paintings by Wendell Minor. 
ARV $17.99 from Harper Collins.
Photo courtesy of Harper Collins
To enter, fill in the giveaway form below. 
Giveaway open to US residents ages 18 and older. 
Giveaway ends on 3/10/2016. Good luck!

Enter my other giveaways HERE!
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Giveaway! Book "Prayer" by Timothy Keller

Disclosure: I received product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

*** My apologies, but this giveaway had to close early due to sponsor requirements.
Timothy Keller is one of my favorite authors. The pastor of the church I attended where I last lived quoted him often. I was very eager to read "Prayer" by Timothy Keller and I'm so glad that I did. Prayer is one of those things I struggle with, for several reasons, and Timothy Keller actually addressed them all in his book!

I don't struggle with making the time to pray, because I do that several times a day. But I do struggle with whether I'm praying the right way, whether I'm praying for the right things, and whether I'm approaching prayer with God Almighty, creator of the entire universe, correctly. Prayer can be intimidating, which is why many people may avoid the regular practice of it, at least until something horrible is happening in their lives. Timothy Keller's book "Prayer" is not a book you can read in one sitting. It's filled with tons of information that needs to be digested slowly. I took almost two weeks to read it, in short bursts, so I could mull over what he had to say.

The book is divided into five parts, Desiring Prayer, Understanding Prayer, Learning Prayer, Deepening Prayer, and Doing Prayer. Within each book part, there are several chapters, so it was easy to read just a section at a time. In his book, Keller refers often to some of the past theologians who studied prayer in depth, including St. Augustine, John Owen, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and of course, Jesus, the master of prayer.

I loved Keller's incredibly deep study of The Lord's Prayer. Since this is a prayer I say daily, it was enlightening for me to see even more clearly the intentions and implications of it. Since it is how Jesus taught us to pray, Keller shows us the emphasis is on "how" to pray, rather than "what" to pray. I know The Lord's Prayer by heart, but Keller defines knowing something "by heart" means to know WITH my heart, not just to have the ability to recall the words. He breaks down each line of The Lord's Prayer into a model that can be used to know God more intimately.

I highly recommend Timothy Keller's "Prayer." In fact, I recommend ALL his books. "Prayer" aims to help you "experience awe and intimacy with God" and Keller's biblical guidance is an excellent resource for deepening a connection with God.

Buy this book at FamilyChristian.com!

Win a copy of Timothy Keller's "Prayer"
To enter, just fill in the giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US readers, ages 18 and older. Giveaway ends on 3/6/2016. Good luck!

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Ktze Hanahal Restaurant, Kibbutz Ginosar, Israel #travel #VisitIsrael

#sponsored travel
Kibbutz Ginosar in Israel is located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. I learned that a Kibbutz is a communal settlement, or a farm, in Israel. It has a population around 500. Since it was fully dark by the time we arrived for dinner, I wouldn't be able to see the sea until the next morning. We had our dinner at Ktze Hanahal (or Kze Hanachal) Restaurant. The decor is simple, but very welcoming.
The photo above and below are the appetizers and it's really easy to fill up before the main dish arrives. There were five of us eating and seriously, this is a lot of food. A stack of pita bread was delivered to the table, which is perfect for dipping into the many sauces, hummus, and veggies. Israelis love their veggies and I had no idea that veggies could be so flavorful.
For my main dish, I chose the Spicy Curry Beef. I was warned it was hot, but since I'm from Texas, I'm used to spicy foods. It was EXCELLENT. Just spicy enough, but not so spicy I couldn't taste the delicious blend of flavors. It was so much food, I couldn't even finish my entree.
Apparently we all overate, so when it was time for dessert, we begged them to only bring one dessert for all five of us to share. They brought two plates of this delightfully sweet Israeli flan, covered with syrup and drizzled with a fancy chocolate sauce accent. It was simply scrumptious. I had room for just one bite, but I made room for a second bite.
An after-dinner espresso is pretty common in Israel and I love this antique coffee server. Notice the long, straight handle on the side. On there tray, there were teeny-tiny espresso cups that looked more like paper shot glasses. The espresso was delicious.
The food is amazing and the service is excellent, so if you ever find yourself lucky enough to be near the Sea of Galilee in Ginosar, Israel, stop in have dinner here!

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2/22/16

Dining Area Update with Jerome's Furniture

Disclosure: I received product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.
When we did our kitchen makeover, I used one of our old area rugs under the dining table and chairs. I really wasn't happy with it because it seemed to darken the kitchen, making it feel smaller. Not only that, but the sliding glass door in the kitchen leads out to the backyard, which means my dog walks over it several times a day and he sheds like a snowstorm. His light-colored fur clumps on the dark area rug and no matter how often I vacuum, I just cannot seem to make it look clean for long.
Jerome's Furniture offered me a golden opportunity to update my dining area! I wanted a new area rug, with the same color scheme, but with a much lighter tone. My kitchen isn't very large and the dining table and chairs sit in the middle of the kitchen, so choosing the right one is important. The Maple Falls 5'x8' area rug was the perfect solution!
Rather than a dark background, it's a combination of tan and gray, with accents of the burgundy and black colors. It's still an abstract design, which I generally prefer, but the print looks almost like tree branches and leaves. We passed our old rug onto a neighbor (after vacuuming it repeatedly) and unrolled our new Jerome's area rug.
The fibers are heavenly soft, almost silk-like, and cut in a very short pile style. It feels SO good on bare feet! The exact dimensions are 91" x 63" x 0.5" which are perfect for staging my round table and four chairs. It's an excellent quality rug and the edges are perfectly bound for long-lasting use. I am so incredibly pleased with the area rug from Jerome's!
The new rug completely changes the amount of light in the room, making it feel bigger and brighter. Rather than the black absorbing the light, the tan reflects it. Even better, the dog's fur doesn't show up on this area rug and I no longer have to vacuum it daily!
Visit www.jeromes.com to update your home with beautiful area rugs, lamps, pillows, and wall art. You can even do a complete home remodel with Jerome's living room sets, bedroom sets, and dining room sets. They've got mattresses, office furniture, and much more. Spring is coming soon and Jerome's has gorgeous patio furniture too! Shop today!

Solutions for Swollen Feet and Ankles - plus a Giveaway!

Disclosure: I received product at no charge in exchange for my honest review.
A few weeks ago, I returned from a week-long trip to Israel. The day after I returned home, my feet and ankles were incredibly swollen and it was painful for me to walk. I posted to my Facebook page, asking for solutions and got plenty of responses, such as: soaking in Epsom salts, elevating my feet above my head, taking water pills, drinking dandelion tea and water, and eating watermelon, bananas, and pineapples.

Collectively, the most suggested idea was to wear compression socks, which to me evoked images of my grandma wearing white knee socks, and I giggled about how silly I'd look wearing them. Then a friend suggested I check out BrightLife Go socks, so I contacted them and they sent me a pair of their compression socks.
BrightLife Go has the cutest compression socks for women that I have EVER seen! Zensah compression socks are specifically made for travelers. This style is called Zensah Ditsy Flower Travel Socks and they come in navy, hot pink, or brown.
These compression socks increase the circulation on legs, which is very important when you're spending hours sitting in a cramped airplane. They decrease swelling that often occurs on long trips, like my twelve-hour plane ride from Israel. They energize and massage legs, helping to relieve aches and pains.
I put on my new compression socks from BrightLife Go. Actually I made that sound simple; in reality, I struggled to get my new compression socks onto my feet. Swollen feet and ankles don't make anything simple. But I noticed an immediate difference!
These compression socks are very soft, and yet they are just stretchy enough to allow you to put them on. They firmly hug my feet, ankles, and calves. They are very comfortable to wear, even all day, and I could actually feel a difference when I was wearing them. And I really dig the Ditsy Flower pattern!
When I took my compression socks off, my feet were back to normal after just one day of wearing them. I am a huge fan of my BrightLife Go Zensah Ditsy Flower Travel Compression Socks! I will definitely take them with me every time I travel and hopefully prevent the swelling from happening ever again. BrightLife Go also offer styles for men.
Here is a side-by-side comparison shot so you can see the real difference in my feet:
Don't buy ugly compression socks! Get yours at BrightLife Go! Shop their website for the cutest compression socks EVER - www.brightlifego.com.

Win BrightLife Go Ditsy Flower Compression Socks!
To enter, just fill in the giveaway form below. One winner will get to choose her size and favorite color of Zehsah Ditsy Flower Travel Compression Socks from BrightLife Go. Giveaway is open to US residents, ages 18 and older. Giveaway ends on 3/6/2016. Good luck!

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