Celebrate? With all that’s going on in our world?
  You bet. We need to celebrate wherever, whenever, and as often as possible.

In their book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, authors Stephen Post and Julie Neimark tell us that celebration is gratitude in action. Celebration creates a circle of love. When we rejoice in the company of others, they feel uplifted. Like rest, seat belts, and green leafy vegetables, celebration is good for us. And what better way to celebrate than with food—sweet and decadent homemade bread?

Just in time for the holidays, authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, creators of the artisan-bread-in-five revolution have released their newest book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in 5 Minutes a DayIt’s a beauty. Their publisher graciously sent me a copy of this book to review and I could not put it down!




The 400-page tome is packed with dozens of recipes and photo instructions that are   super impressive—from Tahini Swirled Challah, to Christmas breads from all over Europe including Stollen, the Christmas bread I grew up with. Monkey bread and apple fritters, too. And there are several recipes for sticky buns and cinnamon rolls.

I can’t think of a better gift for the foodies and bakers on your holiday gift list!

Many thanks to Jeff and Zoë for permission to share two of their amazing recipes from Holiday and Celebration Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

And now let the celebrations begin!


Raspberry Star Bread


When Sarah Kieffer baked a version of this for our website, it blew our minds how gorgeous it was, and we just knew a star bread had to be in a book about celebrations.

It is an obvious choice for Christmas morning since it looks just like an ornament This is filled with raspberry jam, and we’ve also included the one Sarah created with cinnamon and sugar as a variation.

Makes 1 large loaf

2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Brioche dough (page 65), Amish-Style Milk Bread dough* (included below), or Challah dough (page 147), or any other enriched dough in the book.

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 cup raspberry jam
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for brushing the dough
  • Decorating sugar, for sprinkling on the loaf

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Divide the piece into 4 equal pieces, dust with more flour and quickly shape them into balls by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

2. Roll the dough balls out into 4 rounds about 10 inches wide. As you roll out the dough, add flour as needed to prevent sticking.

3. Place one of the dough rounds on a piece of parchment paper. Top with one-third of the raspberry jam. Repeat with next 2 layers of dough and raspberry jam. Top with the final layer of dough.

4. Place a 2½-inch biscuit cutter (or anything that size and round) in the center of the dough. Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the circle in 16 equal sections, leaving the biscuit cutter in place so you don’t cut all the way to the center.

5. Twist 2 of the sections away from each other with 2 rotations, then pinch the 2 sections together at the end to form a point. Continue with the rest of the sections until you have 8 points.

6. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 90 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 375°F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

8. Transfer the parchment paper with the star onto a baking sheet. Brush the exposed dough with egg wash and sprinkle decorating sugar in the center of the loaf.

9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and set.

10. Allow to cool on a rack before serving.

Variation: Cinnamon Star Bread

Mix ½ cup sugar with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon. Follow the Raspberry Star Bread recipe, but replace the raspberry jam with the cinnamon sugar, spreading one-third of the sugar mixture on each of the first 3 layers.

*Amish-Style Milk Bread (adapted for this recipe, from page 83)

Adding an extra starch like potato flour gives the bread a lift and lightness that you’d not expect from a lowly spud. This dough is one of our favorites for its rising power and flavor. Divided into small pieces and layered with lots of butter, it is the base for our springy but rich Parker House Rolls (page 113) or it makes a gorgeous Raspberry Braid (page 312). After you make this dough, cruise through the book and find a world of possibilities.

Makes two 2-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon granulated yeast
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1. Mix the milk, eggs, yeast, salt, and sugar in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix the flours and butter with the milk mixture without kneading, using a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle), a Danish dough whisk, or a spoon.

3. Cover (not airtight), allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours, and then refrigerate.

4. The dough can be used as soon as it’s thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours. Refrigerate the container and use over the next 5 days. To freeze dough, see page 42.

5. On baking day, grease an 8½ x 4½-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (large cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval and place it in the loaf pan.

6. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 90 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

8. Brush the top crust with egg wash.

9. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the loaf is browned and firm.

10. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before serving.


Swedish Tea Ring

This is like an ultra fancy cinnamon roll baked as a wreath and served at Christmas time in Sweden. The cuts and twists of the dough make for a super-festive bread that is actually really easy to make, so don’t leave this one for just once a year.

Makes 1 ring; serves 12

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ pounds (small cantaloupe-size) piece Amish-Style Milk Bread dough* (page 83 in the book)
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for brushing the loaf



  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk (or more to get the icing to drizzle)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted, for sprinkling on the loaf (optional)


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.

3. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and quickly shape it into a rough ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Visit BreadIn5.com, where you’ll find recipes, photos, videos, and instructional material.

4. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a ⅛-inch-thick rectangle, about 14 × 18 inches. As you roll out the dough, add flour as needed to prevent sticking.

5. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the dough.

6. Starting with the long side of the dough, roll it up into a log. Pinch the seam closed. Stretch the log until it is about 1½ inches thick. Join the 2 ends together to form a wreath shape; pinch together to seal. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Stretch the dough to make sure you have a nice, wide opening in the middle of your wreath, but leave plenty of room around the edge.

7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 40 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

9. Brush lightly with egg wash. Make evenly spaced cuts all the way around the wreath about 1 inch apart. The cuts should go just about to the bottom of the ring, but not quite to the bottom.

10. Gently pull every other piece to the outside of the ring and then twist that piece to face up. Do the same with the remaining pieces, but have them face up on the inside of the ring. The ones on the inside of the ring may not lay flat on the baking sheet, which is fine.

11. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and well set.

12. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

Make the icing: In a small bowl, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle the icing over the top and sprinkle with the almonds (if using). Serve warm or cool.



We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites. 

From Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Copyright ©2018 by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

It’s been a few years now since one of my staffers, Kim Penrose, was so excited she couldn’t wait to tell me about a book she’d just read. Kim was so moved by the experience, I asked her to write a review. I can’t think of a better day than today, Thanksgiving 2017, to post that review again. That book  has now become a classic, and for good reason. It’s just that inspirational. Thanks, Kim!

Recently, I caught a memorable episode of The View. Deborah Norville, whom I recalled from her stints on TODAY and Inside Edition, was a guest promoting her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You.

I was immediately taken by Norville’s self-assurance and passion for her message.

Norville is no Pollyanna, but rather a woman who has discovered the value of thankfulness and wants everyone to experience the change that can take place when we embrace this philosophy. I was so impressed with the interview I was at the bookstore before the show had even ended to purchase this book.

In Thank You Power, Norville sets out to use her skills as an investigative reporter to determine if there is any scientific value to “seeing the glass half full.” She states her case solidly and uses the first part of the book to lay the groundwork and share reasons why being thankful is good for your health, relationships and work experience.

Read more

Want to improve your financial situation? There are only two ways to do that:  1) Decrease your expenses or 2) Increase your income.

It should come as no surprise here that decreasing expenses is the overarching theme of this blog—as well as just about everything else I’ve written over the past decades.

When you reduce the grocery bill, it’s like giving yourself a raise. Refinancing your mortgage to get a lower rate of interest has the next effect of more money in the bank. It’s a solid principle, but cutting expenses does have its limitations.

You can only cut so far without cutting into basic needs and compromising quality of life.

If you are still unable to make ends meets, only one choice remains: Increase income. Theoretically, there are myriad ways to do that, most of which come with their own challenges. Especially for families with young children.

Today I want to introduce to you a very useful book on the topic that offers realistic, practical tools and advice for women—specifically moms with children in the home—for how to make additional money regardless of experience or education.

I love this book so much because it is as practical as it is empowering. Think you don’t have the time, talent or ability to bring an additional source of income into your home? You might be wrong about that!

Believing this might be a book with the potential to change the lives of so many of my readers, I asked our resident book reviewer to give us his thoughts.

Money Making Mom: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference, by Crystal Paine

Reviewer: Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

Call it bravery, call it stupidity. But yes, as a 40-something male, I am about to review a book aimed at women, moms in particular. My experience? Well…I was born to a woman, and have been married to one for almost 15 years now so practically an expert right? Of course I realize that my understanding of this book might be different from those in its intended audience, but fortunately Crystal Paine’s Money Making Mom brings some basic ideas and strategies that are very applicable to just about everyone.

Money Making Mom is aimed at moms who want to raise supplemental income, whether they are looking for part-time ideas while raising their children, are single and needing full time income, or maybe have a creative idea budding that needs help getting to the next level.

Paine makes it clear from the very start of the book though that her intent is not to provide a cheat sheet full of “get rich quick” schemes. Instead, she provides her thoughts to help others attain financial freedom, to grow a new mindset when it comes to money as well as potential new ways to obtain that money. Read more

This is a Book Reivew by Jeff Tompkins, Jr.  The opinions expressed herein are the reviewer’s own and meant only for informational purposes.

The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach

Reviewer: Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

Let’s face it, unless you’re a Marine, you’re probably not that crazy about the word “discipline.” It smacks of rules and constraints. Most of us just aren’t that keen to always do even those things that we know are good for us. Particularly in our financial lives. We know we should save more, spend less, invest smarter. We should be disciplined in these areas to achieve financial security.  So how do we get disciplined? According to the The Automatic Millionaire, by David Bach, we automate .

Bach focuses first on the idea of paying ourselves first. By this he doesn’t mean setting aside a couple of twenty dollar bills under your mattress each payday.  That would require discipline and the central theme of The Automatic Millionaire is that no one is disciplined enough to regularly save that way. Instead, Mr. Bach argues that the only way to get around our lack of discipline is to automate paying ourselves first, effectively taking our lack of discipline out of the equation.

Automating ones savings is becoming more and more prevalent in a tech-dominated world. It’s automatic, because once you set it up you don’t have to do a thing each month for it to continue putting funds into your 401k account or other savings vehicle. It’s the first money out so before you do any spending at all, you are saving. Read more

Several years ago, I had the outstanding opportunity to be one of the speakers at the Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit. I wasn’t nervous until I realized I’d be sharing that stage with world-class motivational speakers including Bill Hybels, John Ortberg and John Maxwell.

The entire conference marked a highpoint in my career, but it’s the kindness, authentic appreciation and personal encouragement of John Maxwell that I will never forget.

I left that conference far better than I’d arrived, having been truly motivated and inspired by all of the speakers, but mostly by the simple wisdom of John Maxwell. What an amazing communicator!

You can imagine how happy I was to learn that our book reviewer, Jeff Tompkins, chose John Maxwell’s latest book for this month’s review.


Book Review: Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell

Reviewer: Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

Welcome to 2017 my fellow readers! I hope this finds you having enjoyed your holiday, and ready to tackle a new year. Following my review of Smarter Faster Better last month, which focused on simple ways to up our game in terms of productivity, I found that Intentional Living by John Maxwell provides the perfect complement to helping us start the year off right.

If you haven’t heard of John Maxwell, he is a prolific leadership and management guru (writer and speaker) who started as a pastor and has now written over 50 books on leadership, worked with over 80 nations on leadership skills, and helps Fortune 500 companies with their leadership and management needs (including groups like the NFL, West Point and the CDC).  In 2014, Inc. Magazine named him the number one leadership and management expert. Needless to say, Maxwell knows what he is talking about when he wades into a topic like living intentionally.

Intentional Living focuses on the difference between simply living with good intentions (defined as the desire to do something; wishful thinking, thinking “someday”, living passively or in fantasy) as opposed to intentional living (defined as taking action, living with purpose, thinking “today”, strategizing, and applying discipline to our daily lives). While Duhigg’s book last month gave us the tools to be more productive, in Intentional Living Maxwell gives us more of the how—how do we use those tools intentionally to get the most out of our lives?

In Intentional Living Maxwell tells a good bit of his own story; where he started, how he got to where he is, and the triumphs and pitfalls along the way. This style resonates with me, as I am a big believer in the fact that stories are how we relate to one another. One of the most effective ways in which we learn and remember things. Read more

I have always disliked partings. I dread having to say goodbye. But most of all I hate being the one left behind. Tomorrow, I’ll be saying goodbye to 2016. It’s been a really good year, which could make this a sad parting. But wait! I’m the one leaving—and I’ll be heading straight into a beautiful New Year filled with endless possibilities and new beginnings. That makes it tolerable—even joyful!

With all of this in mind, and knowing this day was coming, I asked our resident book reviewer, Jeff Tompkins, to review a brand new, highly popular book that relates so beautifully to how all of us can make 2017 the best year ever.


Reviewer:  Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

I can’t be the only one thinking about possibilities in the New Year. For me, it’s with a certain amount of ambivalence, something with which you may identify: We make promises to lose weight, to be wiser with our money and our spending choices; to be more productive in our home and work lives. Promises made without much of a plan. Then, as if on cue, the good intentions fizzle out somewhere in early February.

Having just read Smarter Faster Better—billed to contain the “secrets of being productive in life and business”—I am hopeful  that 2017 will be different.

Read more

Join us in welcoming avid reader and reviewer, Jeff Tompkins, Jr. Jeff’s thoughtful yet entertaining Book Reviews will appear on selected Fridays, starting today. You can meet Jeff up close and personal in his biography, below. 

The One-Page Financial Plan (Portfolio / Penguin 2015) by Carl Richards
Reviewer: Jeff Tompkins, Jr.


My mother often describes my personality as microwave. I have little patience for the slow cooker; I want it now and with as little effort as possible. And by it I mean anything that is important at the moment.

When a book touting a “one-page financial plan” was recommended to me, you have to know it sounded like a match made in heaven. What I got from The One-Page Financial Plan wasn’t a magic key to a life of champagne and caviar. I got a very smart and simple reminder of the first step we all have to take as we wade into financial planning: relax.

Walk through Barnes & Noble, browse Amazon or even turn on any number of cable TV shows and you will quickly see what the author refers to as the massive financial entertainment industry—the countless “experts” barraging us with hot stock tips, the smartest money moves; the fool-proof places to put our money. Read more