I can begin to live more boldly by…

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“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1:7

In my walk with Christ, my boldness and confidence can be like a rollercoaster. Sometimes I feel so on fire I can’t contain myself. I can walk up to anyone anywhere and share the good news. Some days it’s easy to be an ambassador for God.

But then, there are the difficult days. Those are the days when I’m afraid to read my bible in public. Those are the conversations where I doubt all of my biblical knowledge. But as the scripture reads above, God did not put a spirit of fear in me but he gave me a powerful ally in the Holy Spirit to speak and act boldly.

I can live more boldly by throwing out fear, timidity and self-reliance. My boldness does not come from my own strength, but comes from the all-powerful Alpha Omega. I can share my faith more. I can stand up for what is right. I can choose to love other above all else.

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them, the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Proverbs 28:1

I recently joined the Live a Life of Love February Journal Prompt lead by @KelseyMoriah. Join me as I explore a different daily theme that leads back to God. If you would like to jump in, click here.

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Baby’s First Image Las Vegas

3D and 4D ultrasounds are such an awesome experience to have during pregnancy. With so many places to choose from in town, it’s hard to decide which studio is right for you. I was able to visit two different offices, one in Henderson and one in Summerlin, and I would highly recommend Baby’s First Image.

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Baby’s First Image 3D/4D Studio is located at Russell and Forte Apache, just off the 215. The studio has one tech, Maria, who has been with the company for several years. My family first met her when my sister was pregnant with her now 3-year-old son!

Maria warmly welcomed us into the comfortable studio. The lobby is small, just big enough for a large family to wait, but the viewing room was enormous! There was a large wrap-around couch and multiple comfy chairs for family and friends to watch your baby on the big screen.

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If your baby is anything like mine, it may take a while to get them to show their face. My little guy kept hiding his chubby cheeks behind his hands and feet. However, Maria was very patient and coaxed him to move a bit and  was able to show us his whole face.

The main packages offered at the studio include printed photos or a photo cd. Since my baby wasn’t photogenic the entire time, Maria offered to give us four printed photos and over 70 digital images on a cd without any extra charge! My husband and I didn’t miss out on any snapshots.  We even got to take group and individual photos.

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Every customer also receives a mommy package filled with coupons and samples of formula. If you’re looking for an amazing studio to get your 3D/4D photos, I highly recommend Baby’s First Image.

 

A Necessary Evil Book Review

*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAIN SPOILERS*

Wonderful World of BreeA Necessary Evil  can be categorized as a modern thriller with twists around every corner. The story is told by a handful of characters whose relationships intertwine in very unpredictable ways. Each chapter is written in the perspective of a key character in the story, beginning with Collin, the assumed biggest sociopath and serial killer in the book.

Author, Christina Kaye, throws her readers into the mind of psychopath from page one. Collin begins the book with his final stalking and kidnapping of 19-year-old Mollie. Kaye allows him to describe his devilish 30-year plan to get revenge on the murder of his late, also serial killer and psychopath, father.

Every decisions Collin makes prior to the story beginning draws a parallel to the disturbing life his father lived. Both men stalked pretty young girls, kidnapped, raped and then murdered them. It’s unclear where they bodies were disposed of except for the one victim that ties every character together, Addie.

In 1977, Collin’s father, Julian, kidnapped Addie – twin sister to Detective Kurt Jamison and girlfriend to Franklin Cartwright (Mollie’s gangster grandfather). In response to this gruesome murder, Franklin Cartwright spends over a year tracking down Julian, torturing and murdering him for the death of his girlfriend (whom we find out later was secretly pregnant) and robbing Julian’s newborn son of his father. A pretty heavy story so far for a less than 300 page book, right?

This murder, over 30 years, is the center point for the entire store. 50 percent of the story is told underground where Collin has Mollie held captive and chained to wall. The other 50 is split between Franklin and Kurt trying to beat each other to Mollie. The competition between those to is so fierce because prior to Addie’s murder, they considered themselves blood brothers. After her death however, Franklin chose the crime filled dark side and Kurt joined the Army and then the police force. Their entire relationship is a comparison of good vs. evil.

Eventually, which the reader expects, Franklin finds his granddaughter and holds Collin hostage to await a trail by his criminal peers and innocent Mollie is returned to her distraught mother. Up to this point in the story, Collin is presented as a complete monster – stalking, kidnapping and killing young women for the sake of preparing for his big date with Mollie. At some point, you start to feel sorry for this guy as he openly shares about his tormented childhood and Daddy issues. Mollie, who also grew up without a father, is seen as the bastard child who chose the right path and suffered love and loss at no fault of her own.

Since the capture of Collin and release of Mollie, the suspense has been building. Kurt is desperately trying to track down Franklin before he kills Collin; Collin is attempting to escape, and Franklin is having a field day allowing his cronies to decide whether Collin will be drugged, burned or mutilated to death.

All characters come together in an epic death scene when Kurt figures out that Franklin is holding Collin hostage on an old farm owned by Franklin’s ex-wife. Franklin’s team decides to drug Collin, eliminating the function of his body, and then burn him alive. Unfortunately, the evil genius doctor overdoses Collin causing him to seize and die.

At that moment, Kurt bursts into the room “catching” Franklin in the act (clean knife in hand) and attempted to put him under arrest. Both men are described as well past middle-aged so it’s easy to image two grandpas trying to tackle each other to the ground. Kurt seems to have the upper hand, then BANG! He’s shot and killed by the biggest master character of all, Mollie.

At this point, I was completely confused. Mollie’s character had been presented as childlike and innocent – not a murder.  The final chapter gives some clarity on this shocking turn of events. Kurt’s partner, Lonnie, finishes up the book with Kurt’s funeral and the discovery of Mollie’s confiscated diary. After looking through just a few pages, Lonnie discovers that Mollie is no angel at all, but fits right into her crime family.

Lonnie reads a page from the anniversary of her late boyfriend, Dalton’s, death, whom we are told in the beginning of the story committed suicide. Mollie admits on these private pages that she shot Dalton in the head for cheating on her and somehow managed to convince everyone it was suicide. Lonnie even continues to find out she was not naive to her grandfathers line of work as we all assumed. Mollie paints the real picture of her hidden dark side, even down to killing innocent animals her mother keeps buying her.

Reading these words was the biggest twist of them all. I was completely caught of guard and left speechless. Those entire 200+ pages I thought I had this story and characters figured out, but really had clue how it all would end.

After reflecting back on this full story, I believe I can see the major theme. Everyone has skeletons in their closest and will do just about anything to protect them.

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Christina Kaye released her latest book, A Necessary Evil, December 2017 and I was privileged enough to read her latest work. Her previous work, Like Father, Like Daughter, was named Suspense Finalist for the Indie Excellence Awards.

Follower Christina on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bookbub and Goodreads.

Smokey Turns 5!

Wonderful World of BreeBirthday’s are important, even if you’re a dog. Mr. Smokey Robinson, my adopted fur son, is celebrated his 5th birthday!

You may have read his adoption story and know that it’s been almost a full year since he joined my little family. I still can’t believe it took four years to find him and I want to spoil him on his special day.

I don’t know if little Smokey has ever celebrated a birthday. I’m not sure it crossed his mind that he’d make it past a few years old. He’s previous life in California is a mystery. My husband and I like to joke that he’s a retired gangster and his street name was Denesious. (He’s shelter name was Denise and the story spurred from there.)

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Even though I can only imagine Smokey’s previous life, I am treating every holiday and celebration like it’s his first. He’s brought such happiness to my husband and I and of course his fur sister, Fiona, and I know our little baby will love him just as much as we do.

Choosing to adopt Smokey not only gave him a second chance at furever, it gave us, as a family, the ability to stand up for those that can’t speak for themselves. Pet’s of all species are such a blessing. They really are little people that leave prints on our hearts.

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If you’re considering adding a furry, feathered or scaled member to your family, considering adopting a homeless pet. There are organizations all around Las Vegas and across the country that have loving animals waiting for their chance to go home. You can read more about why adopting is so important here.

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Get into the Twilight Zone at Bally’s

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

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If you haven’t taken a trip to Bally’s Las Vegas in a while, you’re missing out. In December of 2017, Bally’s opened Twilight Zone Mini Golf. Located downstairs near the Bodies Exhibit, this 18-hole course bring to life the most popular Twilight Zone episodes as well as a small arcade with miniature bowling.

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For only $11.95 a person, fans of all ages are transported to the fifth dimension from 10AM – Midnight daily. Players begin their journey through the Door to Nowhere and meander through the Twilight Zone.

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One of the most popular episodes, “Time Enough at Last,” has a custom-built hole modeling the library stone steps Henri Bemus stacks books on prior to breaking his glasses. I even achieved a hole-in-one on this hole!

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Each hole allows you five chances before requiring you to move one. If players choose to keep score, the employee at the end will tell them which character they are. If you score high enough like I did, you’ll receive a FREE invitation to come back and try again.

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Twilight Zone Mini Golf is owned and operated by Monster Mini Golf – the company that has also built Kiss Mini Golf currently residing at the Rio Las Vegas. Checkout the Las Vegas Review Journal’s coverage during opening here.

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Gender Reveal Photo Ideas

Oh BOY was this holiday season a surprise. My husband and I found out our little bundle of joy is a bouncing baby boy! Alejandro Clemente (a.k.a. AC) will soon be revealing himself to the world in just a few short months. In honor of this beautiful miracle, we had to plan some amazing reveal photos.

For this shoot, I ordered blue smoke bombs from Gender Reveal Co. and headed to Red Rock Canyon to light them up. Each tube lasts about 80 seconds and created a picture perfect background. We also brought some confetti and balloons to experiment with on a few other photos. All photos were taken by the talented Jesse Sutherland. (Follow his IG here.)

Red Rock was such a great choice for photos. We set-up in Calico Basin which is free to the public! We had plenty of space to spread out and take photos on the boardwalk, near a trail or just in an open area.

First we started with the balloons. The wind was pretty crazy so battling the elements and trying to make balloons behave was a challenge. Nevertheless, Jesse captured an amazing photo.

Jesse came prepared with some launching blue streamers and fun confetti.

At one point the confetti actually blew back in my face. I wouldn’t recommend this piece on a breezy day.

My all time favorite photos of the shoot were the smoke bomb images. Once again, wind wasn’t exactly on our side so some poses didn’t work. But I the ones we did get are frame worthy.

Any moms out there do some creative gender reveals?

Easy Puerto Rican Rice

This year, I’ve been getting more adventurous with my recipes. I’ve tried to incorporate some new Mexican inspired dishes, especially since that’s my pregnancy craving, and now I’m moving on to Puerto Rican dishes.

I love traditional Puerto Rican rice but have never dared to make it myself. I’ve helped my sister-in-law or jumped for joy at a restaurant that actually carries it. This Christmas holiday, I got brave and realized making my favorite rice was actually less scary than I expected. So here’s the recipe to try in your home!

Prep Time: 20 Min.

Cook Time: 40 Min.

Ingredients:

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  • 3 cups medium or long grain white rice, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large tablespoons sofrito
  • 4 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 can gandules (pigeon peas), partially drained
  • 2 tablespoons alcaparrado
  • 1 packet Sazón with Achiote
  • 1/2 packet ham flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon adobo
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups hot water

Get cookin! 

1. First, rinse rice with water and set aside. We’ll add this into our pot later.

2. In a large pot (about 6 quarts), heat oil and mix in sofrito until it’s soft. Pour in tomato sauce and simmer on low for 2 minutes. Stir in additional ingredients: gandules, alcaparrado, all spices and 4 cups of water. Stir and taste. You may need to adjust some of the seasonings to add more flavor. You want the broth to be heavily seasoned and a little salty.

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3. Bring broth to a boil, add rice and stir. Make sure the rice is covered by 1 inch of          water. (Add in a bit more water if needed.) Reduce heat to low and let the rice absorb the broth. Stir occasionally.

4. Mound rice towards center of pot, top with foil and cover. Drop heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Stir by folding rice from the bottom up. Cook for another 20 minutes and check to make sure rice is tender. Depending on your stove and pot, you may need to cook a little longer.

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Serve hot and enjoy!

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Party

 

 

As I mentioned in my previous post on Christmas Traditions, The Grinch is my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Every year, I watch it, more than once, and repeat line after line. This year, my sister turned the Grinch love up a notch and threw a kid friendly party! Here’s how it’s done.

First you start with decorating ornaments. When kids are little, it’s easy to play with finger paints and handprints. Get as crafty as you want and try to keep it red and green. Don’t forget to have the kids sign their names and put the year.

Next, warm up with Grinch green hot chocolate. Melt white chocolate chips and green candy melts in a pot. Add some vanilla extract and a few drops of green food dye to the mix. Serve and top with whipped cream, M&M’s and red sprinkles.

Wonderful World of BreeGrab your drinks and cozy up on the couch to watch the Grinch. Feel free to sing and sip along. I suggest the shorter cartoon version if you’re hosting toddlers or younger.

You can even throw in a Grinch story time around the tree!

Enjoy!

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Wonderful World of BreeI wait all year for the Christmas season. It’s not just everything that happens the day of, but it’s every special tradition leading up to it. Every year, my family has held tight to fun traditions and introduced new ones as more members joined the pack. Of all the fun things we do, these are my favorite.

Watching Classic Christmas Movies

The Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph and Santa Clause is Coming to Town are Christmas staples in my family. My mom even has the collectible characters and houses from the movies! Every year since I can remember, my mom and I have broken out those Christmas movies and binged on popcorn and hot chocolate. My sister and I event like to throw Elf in the mix (although my mom will object every time). It’s the memories of watching movies we may know every line to that make the Christmas season so special.

Breakfast on Christmas Morning

With so much family living in our city, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be busy. When I was little, my family and I would go to a big Puerto Rican party every Christmas Eve. Sometime, it would even be at our house. Now a days, my husband and I spend Christmas Eve with his family playing games, opening Secret Santa gifts and eating tamales. Christmas Day has always been reserved for my family. But my favorite tradition about Christmas Day was breakfast in the morning,

My siblings and I would wake up extra early and wait at the top of the staircase. We couldn’t go down stairs until Dad went first. My mom always had a delicious breakfast waiting for us on the counter when we finally made it. We’d sip orang juice and eat donuts as my dad set up his old school video camera. Then, someone was elected “Santa” and passed out the presents. All the unwrapped stuff was actually from Santa and we’d lose our minds waiting to open those gifts. But those few hours of bed head and pajamas are the biggest Christmas memories I have. That short time when my siblings and parents were celebrating with just each other will always be my favorite.

Now that we’re all grown and have our own little ones, each of us does a Christmas morning at our own houses. But, we always meet at Mom and Dad’s at night to celebrate as one big family.

Jesus’ Birthday Cake

Now this tradition has only been around my family for a few years. In honor of the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ’s birth, my sister has begun making a Jesus cake. Every Christmas, we all gather around a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. All the little kids love it because of the candles, but I really think one day they’ll understand how important it is.

Seeing Christmas Lights

Las Vegas has so many wonderful lighting displays around town. When I was younger, my family used to hop in the car and drive around the neighborhoods together. Although we do still admire individual workmanship, we’re moved on to the big displays. We’ve visited Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, Ethel and M’s Chocolate Factory and of course the Motor Speedway’s Glittering Lights. Visiting these places really makes Christmas come to life; especially with the oversized inflatable characters and hot chocolate.

Decorating the House

IMG_2502I can’t waiting until Thanksgiving night or the day after to start transforming my house into a winter wonderland. I’d start decorating sooner, but my husband wants to appreciate Thanksgiving first.

Every year, my parents broke out the big decor. We’d spend hours decorating the front yard with lights, putting candy canes on the walkway, setting Frosty up at the front door and trimming the house with icicles. Inside, snowmen were everywhere – on the stairs, fireplaces, kitchen and front door. The Staircase was even lined with lit garland. And of course, a huge tree (most of the time real) sat in the living waiting for use to decorate.

My mom always liked to pick themes for our tree. Some years it was blue and silver. Others, it was red and green. No matter what color, we always had an angel at the top.

In my own house, I also like to do themes each year. I started with Lakers, then went to Star Wars and now we have the Grinch. However, I am incorporating the tradition of adding a custom ornament each year. So far, I have ones for our new home, our pets and our wedding date. Next year, I’ll add one for our baby’s first Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

My 3rd Spirthday – Mountains & Valleys

Wonderful World of BreeThree years ago I made the bold decision to follow God. I chose to die to myself and live renewed in the Spirit. November 10 is my spirthday – spiritual birthday. It’s the day that I participated in the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died for my sins.

I was baptized in the spirit and proclaimed Jesus is Lord of my life. Three years ago, I made this decision fully knowing that life may not get easier but I was allowing myself to be held to a higher standard. I was making the decision to live like Christ and not myself.

As I reflect on my third spiritual year as a disciple of Jesus, I remember a lot more mountains than valleys. I can remember struggling emotionally to live like Christ and not give into my selfish mentality. I fought to vanquish envy and hate and replace them with grace and love. I struggled to see the path that God was building before me. I felt desperate in my career, praying for God to give me the answer of where He wanted me to be.

But my year wasn’t just filled with many, many, many teaching moments. It was also filled with an abundance of blessings. God blessed with an amazing new job in the non-profit world where I can connect my love for the community and animals. He blessed me with my own home. He blessed me with a furry new addition to my family as well as the news of my pregnancy. I was able to meet another nephew and a great-nephew.

Day one to-day 365 wasn’t a cake walk in any way. God challenged me to live like Christ in every area of my life. He pushed me to get down on my knees and pray to allow Him to work. He reminded me what life looks like without Him and why I chose this difficult journey. But most of all, He reassured me that He is always in control.

When I try to manage my own life apart from God, I create a disaster. When I choose to glorify myself instead of Him, I fail. As I sit back and try to remeber what is was like to be 22 and fresh out of the water, it’s hard to imagine how I waited so many years to say yes to God.

No matter what the world throws at me, God’s got my back. And when the people around me are being hateful, God’s love is unconditional. And when I fail over and over, God says, “It’s okay. Let’s try it again.” He’s never given up on for one second. He’s shown me grace every time I didn’t deserve it.

I don’t know all that year four entails. I know there will be some trails but I pray for even more blessings. I’m excited for where God wants to lead me and the amazing things He wants to use me for. I hold tight to the scripture I wrote on my heart three years ago at my baptism.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make nyour paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6