Booklook Review: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door by Denette Fretz & Gene Barretta

In this follow up to Denette Fretz & Gene Barretta’s first duo children’s book, Pirates on the Farm, they have collaborated once more on Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door! As part of The Next Door Series, this book is ideal for children 4-8 years of age.

Conrad is spending some time at his Uncle Clint’s ranch learning to be a cowboy, but he quickly admits, “I don’t know the rules.” He is in for a rocky introduction to life as a cowboy. Thankfully, he packed his Mega Ultimate Extreme First Aid Kit, because he will be needing it from Day 1! Conrad learns many lessons throughout this story, including “don’t squat with spurs on”, and that cayenne pepper is HOT! Meanwhile, Imogene (the Cowgirl Next Door) is quickly making herself an enemy to Conrad with her less than kind remarks! What is Conrad to do?

The message Denette Fretz portrays is that of a “love your neighbor” parable. All children can relate to this as they learn what it means to have friends and enemies, those who can be difficult and those you just can’t stand at times. This message was presented in a truly engaging and funny manner, with a clear moral at the end. As well, Fretz has included a letter to parents in her book with scripture, questions for discussion, and a brief telling of her own experience and motivation for writing this story. I was very impressed with the spiritual and Biblical basis for this book!

Gene Barretta’s illustrations are colorful and clever, and assist in telling the story, particularly for younger children. My two-year-old daughter loved this book, and was really taken by the pictures as we read it (and then read it again)!

I would highly recommend this book to other parents and children, particularly those who are looking for ways to teach kids about loving your enemies. I would agree that this is more geared to older preschoolers/young elementary aged children; however, as in our case, there will be some younger 2’s and 3’s who will enjoy the story and grow into its message! I look forward to other titles by Fretz!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FAVE: How to Get Motivated!

Motivation is something we all need, and I found Tony Horton’s 6 Tips SO incredibly inspiring!

  1. Find your “WHY”
  2. Find your INSPIRATION
  3. You are the COMPANY you keep
  4. Say YES!
  5. Set reasonable GOALS
  6. REWARD your progress

I hope that these help you as well, and if you are looking for a Coach to help keep you motivated, get in touch with me.

This is truly my JOY to encourage and assist YOU as you grow and change.

Email me: marlastanley at beachbodycoach dot com

The Struggle to Love

Having spent most of my life in a Christian environment, I have heard statements like this a million times:

“I love the Lord with all my heart.” 

And sometimes, I believe it.

Other times, I have to fight the confused look that I’m sure is overtaking my expression.

What I think of is, I see your love for “X” person or “X” thing (money, some possession or value in the person’s life), but I don’t see the love for God.

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”

-Proverbs 27:18, ESV

It’s really a simple thing to observe. Each of our individual lives reflect what we are invested in. That which you love, you place as the highest priority. It (be it a person, place, or thing) receives the best of you!

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

-Matthew 6:21, ESV

So what do you really love?

Do you love God?

Do you love yourself?

Do you love _____________?

Be honest with yourself for a minute and think about it…can you truly say that you love the LORD with ALL YOUR HEART?

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

-2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV

I love that last passage in 2 Corinthians, because it is a reminder of my reality…

I am transparent before the Lord (He knows every part of me, inside and out, true motives, fears and brokenness)

I am being transformed into Christ’s image, and that is GLORIOUS! (insert tears here…wow, what a privilege to be on that path!)

ALL of that comes directly from the Holy Spirit, my seal and promise of the hope and love God has placed in my heart.

I do love God, and I love my family, and most days I struggle to quit loving ME first and foremost.

I hope that you, like me, are praying and striving and working DAILY to truly love God with all of your heart!

Booklook Review: Love Letters from God by Glenys Nellist, Illustrated by Sophie Allsopp

We have been so blessed to experience a few new children’s books this summer via Booklook Bloggers Review program. Little Girl is always so excited to open packages, and finding a colorful new book inside just lights her up!

Our growing library has several Bible Story books already, but this title looked a little different, so I was eager to get it and review, so here’s my take!

Glenys Nellist has authored this new book, Love Letters from God-Bible Stories. This engaging book not only tells key Bible stories, but included with each account is a “letter from God” which can be personalized for your child. These letters are encouraging and connected to the truths in the Scripture stories. Nellist wrote this book with children ages 4-8 in mind and covers eighteen Bible stories: half from the Old Testament and half from the New Testament. A correlating Bible verse is also present. Lastly, the book closes with a special invitation and letter for children to write their RSVP response to God.

My initial reaction to this book was how incredible the illustrations are! Sophie Allsopp has done a phenomenal job with detailed, colorful pictures to really tell the narratives as Nellist recounted them. I could rave for days on the beautiful work here-I would purchase this book just for the illustrations!

As far as the Scriptural accounts and re-telling of Bible Stories, I am fairly opinionated and nit-picky. There were several points in Glenys Nellist’s writing where I didn’t care for the expansion or storytelling flair she used. With my background and even college degree in Biblical Studies, I hold highly the value of accurate Biblical truth being taught even at a Children’s reading level. I understand someone taking creative liberty, but again, it’s an area I struggle with. I noticed this mostly in areas that were non-issues, but particularly in some of “letters from God”, I will be adapting the wording as I read to reflect what I believe to be more accurate to the Bible. There was one in particular that I felt muddied the steps to salvation, which for me are a closed-handed issue.

I would recommend this book for the illustrations mostly. Like I stated above, I would not *highly* recommend it for Biblical accuracy, but most of the Bible Stories are great and creatively on a child’s level.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Booklook Review: Goodnight, Ark

Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman have crafted a brilliant bedtime book based on the narrative of Noah and the Ark in The Bible. Laura, the author, captured the chaos that may have ensued as a storm engulfs the ark floating on the open waters. The unique animals that they chose: boars, skunks, and quail to name a few, offer a delightful change from the typical Children’s book. Jane Chapman’s illustrations are bright and detailed, with textures that bring the story to life! The most fun and engaging aspect of Sassi’s story-telling is the use of onomatopoeia’s. While this children’s book is geared for those 4-8, younger children may enjoy it as well!

The message of Goodnight, Ark is simply meant to help the reader understand what it may have been like to live on the ark with the animals, and there isn’t really a strong spiritual message portrayed here. If you are looking for a narrative of Noah and the Ark, this isn’t the book for you. However, if your young reader enjoys animals and fun noises, they will likely love this bedtime tale. 

I found the illustrations to be exquisite, colorful, and entertaining. Even the boars and sheep have expression! The textures bring the animals to life and one could even begin to feel like they are a fly on the wall of the ark, watching the entire escapade unfold.

I would recommend this book as a gift book. Ideally, I am sure older preschoolers and young elementary children would enjoy it, but I found that my 2-year-old also loves it! This would make an excellent birthday gift or present for a baby shower. I will look forward to seeing more of Laura Sassi’s work!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Learning to Whisper


As our schedule became more chaotic towards the end of the summer, Maddy’s behavior followed suit. She is typically pretty easy going, happy, and *mostly* obedient. I don’t want anyone to think I have a perfect child, because she certainly isn’t. However, I would say that for the most part she has been a pretty “easy” kid thus far.

Not so the last few weeks.

I have to keep in mind, her sleep has been thrown off.

She is growing and super hungry.

Her routine and schedule keeps being changed or interrupted.

She is also VERY 2 and becoming more and more independent, which we encourage, but within appropriate boundaries at this age.

A general tone of “Whining” has become the new norm and I found my patience becoming shorter and shorter each time I heard fussing. The tone of my own voice went from calm to laced with frustration and louder as the whines persisted. I knew something had to change and QUICK!

Thankfully I saw this article come through my FB Newsfeed (thank you to whatever fellow Mom-soul shared this gem).

I instantly noted to test out the “If you’re feeling angry, whisper” tactic, and I am happy to report that Maddy and I are both doing better. She is listening a little closer, and I am not reacting emotionally! YAY-Mommy WIN!

There are so many great tips in that post that I will have to revisit it many times I’m sure!

Stuck or Submitted?

So often we find ourselves stuck, hearing these things…

you’re alone…

you’re unloved…

you can’t do it…


As believers, we have been given everything we need for a godly life, if we will just live in submission to our renewed spirit. It’s time to STOP searching the things of this world for what God has ALREADY given you and embrace our God-given identity!

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,

and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,

 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

2 Peter 1:3-9, ESV

Recipe: Fresh Guacamole

For years I was missing out on the delicacy of avocados (particularly good, fresh guacamole)! To be perfectly honest, I’m not 100% certain that I could have identified an avocado until I was in college. You know, just one of the many things you aren’t familiar with when you grow up overseas. ;-)

Living in TX for a couple years I suddenly saw avocados everywhere, but not knowing what I was doing, I would just grab the basic guacamole seasoning packets and mix it up that way. At the time we were happy with it, but now that I know just how easy it is to make a batch fresh, I will never go back!

Here’s my super simple recipe:


3 medium avocados, pitted and diced

1/2 medium red onion, diced small

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 lime, juiced

Pinch Salt, just a light sprinkle to bring out the flavors


Gently mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and adjust your seasonings to taste. The key to getting your batch of guacamole the way you like it is to mix to YOUR taste! And of course you can add in chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, etc.


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