What I’m Reading {February 2015}

Thanks to free audio books on OverDrive, I did pretty good on my reading this month! I’m still making my way through Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries and You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity.

I always like to know what you’re reading so chime in in the comments! Here’s what I’ve finished so far this year:

Jesus Prom by Jon Weece

I haven’t read Love Does yet (It’s on my shelf.), but I’d imagine this is similar. I guess that’s a no brainer since Bob Goff wrote the introduction… Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and will probably read it again. It’s the kind of book that you almost wish you hadn’t read because it necessitates change and action.

Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

I won this in a giveaway and was pleasantly surprised when it came in audio format. Though I whole heartedly believe the message delivered in this book, I can’t picture myself actually saying any of the suggested responses for teachable moments. I know they’re examples and not meant to be repeated verbatim, but it’s the practical part of showing your kids grace that is difficult and that’s where I disconnected from the book. It did challenge me to consider if I was practicing grace in my own personal life.

The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve gotten hooked on Bible journaling. It’s reawakened my love of lettering. This was a fun and inspirational book that majors on making your own handwriting into something special. I loved the exercises Joanne lays out to get you practicing.

Zenspirations: Letters & Patterning by Joanne Fink

Not much instruction in this little book, but I especially enjoyed the monogram inspiration. The ideas in this book are based on the Zentangle Method of drawing. Joanne translates that into lettering in a fun and easy to follow guide.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Sarah Kerner had recommended Maisie Dobbs and while scrolling the OverDrive audio books I ran into the first in this mystery series. It’s part Sherlock Holmes, part All Quiet on The Western Front, part Downton Abbey. Maisie is maid turned nurse turned personal investigator. There was suspense and intrigue but nothing that kept me up at night. I listened obsessively and then downloaded the next two books in the series.

The Secret Life of Book Club by Heather Woodhaven

Heather contacted me to see if I’d like to review her new book and I’m so glad she did. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything in the Chick Lit genre, unless you count novels by Meg Cabot read in early high school, and those would be more Chickie Lit… Well, this was Chick Lit and it was a quick, enjoyable read. Four gals in a book club embark on a alphabetical challenge to try new things. The challenge effects each woman (and her family) differently.  The characters are likable, the plot convincing. Bonus: the Kindle version is only $3.99.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

A suicide, two murders, and a missing person. Is there a link between them? Maisie Dobbs is the woman to find out. The second in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series is more Psych then Sherlock, but her methods didn’t bother me. The series doesn’t need to be read in order, but I would read the first one to get her back story before skipping around. Bonus to this one, her love life develops.

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

I was sad to realize the third installment of the Maisie Dobbs series was the last available on audio via OverDrive… They all had different readers which took a little getting used to. Pardonable Lies was another enjoyable mystery focusing on the aftermath of WWI. Maisie is investigating the death of a fighter pilot who went down across enemy lines in France. There are 11 books in the series so far. I’m interested to see if/how Winspear handles WWII.

Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

Light in the Wilderness is a fictionalized true story about Letitia Carson, a free slave who travels the Oregon Trail with her non-legal, white husband. Not only was this a well crafted and engaging story, I’m related to Letitia’s husband, Davey! I’m going to geek out genealogically for a second about this book… I’m the fourth great granddaughter of Smith P. Carson (mentioned a couple times in the book), the brother of Davey Carson. Which means, I’m the fourth great grand niece of Davey. It was so neat to read about my own relatives! My grandparents are genealogy buffs and some of their research was used in the book. My grandma (Lila Hyder) is mentioned in the acknowledgements. Okay, geeking out is over. Bottom line – it’s a good read.

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It’s complicated…

It' complicated

Four years and 2,700 miles separate the top two photos and the bottom two photos. The top photos (I just realized Tim is wearing the same shirt – ha!) were taken while Tim and I were dating – one at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA and the other in Yosemite. The bottom two photos were taken this Winter after we moved to Pennsylvania.

This little collage holds an ocean of emotions in its four boxes. There’s joy, gratitude, anticipation and love mixed with exhaustion, anxiety and fear. Sometimes I have a hard time looking back at photos from when Tim and I were dating. Not because they bring back bad memories; quite the contrary. I look at that carefree couple and envy their stage of life.

Their weight of responsibility was lighter. Less of life’s worries filled their minds. (And, because I’m particularly missing California right now, they had the beach at their fingertips.)

But that couple was just two pieces of rope inching closer and closer together. Their connection was just beginning. With every bill they paid together, with every move they made, with every tough decision, and who gets the car today discussion, those two ropes made a knot. Knot upon knot have made those two people closer, albeit more complicated, couple.

Every little thing that makes this stage of life complicated makes our relationship stronger, deeper. I’m over on Kindred Grace sharing about the power of complicated…

Since I didn’t date much before I met my husband (and by much, I mean barely at all), that particular season in our relationship has always been a favorite. Dating was fun. The thrill of getting to know someone can be intoxicating.

I’m not a naturally talkative person, but I loved staying up late discussing our families, our college experiences, and our faith. I also loved the doing of dating. We had season passes to Disneyland, so if we weren’t exploring our favorite beaches, roaming Barnes & Noble, or eating frozen yogurt, we were making memories at the Happiest Place on Earth. It was a fun and easy time, punctuated by increasing depth of attachment and possibility.

Continue reading The Power of Complicated

What I’m Into – January 2015

We’ve been in Pennsylvania for two months and it feels like we are finally getting in the groove. All of my clothes boxes are unpacked (It took almost the entire two months *insert embarrassed emoji here*) and there are things hanging on the walls. I love the proximity to my family and our new church family is wonderful. I joined MOPS which has been a fun way to meet new friends,too.

February is already looking like it’s going to be packed, but here’s a look back at January.

Linking up with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer!

Birthday Hat Collage

I love that our family gets to celebrate a birthday in January. It helps banish some of the Winter blues that set in after Christmas. My parents and brother were able to come in for James’ 1st birthday, and though we made it a pretty mellow day, we did spend his birthday eve crafting these awesome party hats out of kraft paper. A huge roll is 7 bucks at Walmart and I have an endless supply of scrapbook papers, pens and other crafty ephemera.

Books

This is a glimpse at what I’ve been reading. I do my book reviews in the middle of the month, so check back for my thoughts on these and a couple more.

Jone's Sausage

We are a bacon family. But, over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom introduced us to Jones sausage. Game. Changer. They live in the freezer section. No filler or icky chemicals, just pure, sausagey goodness. I avoid our local Walmart at all costs, but I make an exception to purchase these mondo bags of sausage so we don’t run out. We had breakfast for dinner seven times in January and they all included this sausage.

Sugar Paper

I love planners and calendars of all sorts. They feed my inner organizational diva. This year, I’m loving these beauties from Sugar Paper (via Target). I got the large one on the left for Christmas and then purchased a smaller one to complete my calendar needs.

The larger planner has a month at a glance layout before the individual days. I use the month page to record what we had for dinner, anything I made (yogurt, bread, granola, etc.), and dinner guests. I like to have a record of our eating habits and as we continue our real food journey, It’s helpful to have a visual guide of how long our homemade staples last. I record Bible reading, exercise, and prayers in the individual days.

I bought the smaller planner for the blog. It’s slim with just a single double page spread for each month, but it’s just enough to record the posts that went live and jot down ideas for future posts. There are several pages in the back for bigger picture dreaming and brainstorming.

Bible Journaling

I got a text from my mom on January 2nd telling me all about Bible Journaling and that she had Amazoned (absolutely a verb) me an ESV journaling Bible that would be arriving the next day. I am no artist, but everything about Bible journaling thrills me. The practice of turning what I’ve read into something visual helps me mediate and remember what God has shown me. I’ve filled my Instagram and Pinterest feed with Bible journaling inspiration and I just can’t wait to fill my Bible. Shanna Noel is an amazing resource as well.

I decided to read the Bible chronologically this year. (Job was tough… I’m back in Genesis now.) Crossway has an amazing list of Bible reading plans in various formats. You can have the day’s reading sent to your email, put in your iCal or print it out!

I got Tim an Aeropress and milk frother for Christmas. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving… My $30 investment replaced our cheapy espresso machine and it gets used everyday. I’ve been getting up at 6 to do my devotions and, more often than not, it’s the thought of a homemade honey latte that gets me out from underneath my warm covers.

Frying Dutchman

We like to explore a place through its food. One of our recent explorations was The Frying Dutchman in Kutztown, PA that makes and tops your donuts to order. If you’re local and haven’t been – it’s a must. Having worked at The Donut Man I have a very high standard for donuts. These definitely pass with flying colors. (Top to bottom: French Toast, PBJ, S’more, Powdered Sugar, PB Cup, Honey Graham). Pretty sure this will be a weekly tradition. And, yes, Tim and I ate all of these.

When words are a hobby and a business. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

What started as a desire for encouragement and advice as I struggled to balance my passion for writing and my new normal as a mom became this Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing series I’ve so loved hosting on my blog. Twenty amazing women took time to fill this space with grace and the gift of their words. It’s been a privilege to learn from them.

I’m pretty sure this blog would not be up and running in its current state without Gretchen Louise, our last Motherhood and Writing guest. Her techno savvy and endless patience has kept me from throwing my computer out the window and giving up blogging altogether. She is an old soul when it comes to the blog world and a fount of knowledge!

If you’re new to the series, check out the archives for all 20 posts!

Perspectives GretchenWhy do you write/blog?

I can’t not write. I process everything through the written word. Maybe it was the influence of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder in my early years of voracious reading. Maybe it is the fact that I am a visual learner (with a good bit of kinesthetic) and must read and write anything I need to know and remember. But writing has been an intrinsic part of my personality for as long as I can remember.

When my husband and I were teenagers, he began writing me letters (the old-fashioned kind sent to my mailbox). Soon, I began to view my days through the lens of how I would describe the happenings to him in a letter. I looked at everything through the filter of the written word.

In my early days of motherhood, writing literally became my lifeline. It was how I processed everything. The schedule or lack thereof. The sleepless nights. The frustration of how little I really knew about this thing called being a mom. Sharing the funny stories about my day with my children helped me to realize all I had to be thankful for, even in my sleep-deprived state. Soon, that blank screen became symbolic of being still before the Lord, waiting for Him to speak to me. And He did. Whether it was in a Five-Minute Friday writing prompt that week or a simple childish illustration I began to share, He used what I typed to speak to me.

How long have you been blogging/writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember—outrageous stories in my early grade school years, countless letters to my cousins and numerous pen pals, and a newsletter for a girls’ club I started when I was young. In my teens, that newsletter took a more serious and professional turn, becoming a magazine I edited and published. I think that’s when I knew writing wasn’t just about letters or school, but a lifelong love.

That magazine got a website in 1998 (the same year we got the internet), created on a free host by one of our readers. I fell in love with all things web as I took over that website and started creating my own. But it wasn’t until 2001 that I started blogging on what would become a shared Blogspot blog, an extension of what is now known as Kindred Grace. That was back before there were comments, before I understood RSS feeds or how people found new posts. Indeed, it was before anyone knew what the word “blog” meant. Little did I know how it would change my world.

In those days, I treated my blog like I now treat Facebook or Twitter: it was a quick way to share a brief link or thought without much effort. But as I read longer form posts and explored other forms of private blogging (anyone remember LiveJournal and Diary-X?), my posts gradually moved from informal personal updates to essays shared with friends. The world of blogging was constantly changing, but I was thrilled to be along for the ride.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

When I was a teenager, I thought I had life pretty well figured out. And I wrote about it. Whether it was my firmly held beliefs about the way relationships should happen or my political stance that year, it found its way onto my blog. I shudder now to re-read some of those old posts. I’ve long since made them private so only I can see them, but I keep them as a reminder for myself. It gets lonely up there on a soapbox, and not even the choir really wants to hear a sermon from one of its own members. While there is always a time and place on the internet and in life for firmly held convictions, I learned the hard way that controversy divides and pride polarizes.

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mom. And being 12 years old when my younger siblings started coming along, I felt like I knew how to raise children. But no amount of babysitting or changing diapers for my siblings prepared me for the actual role and responsibility of motherhood. Coming to the end of myself and having nothing to hold onto except for my Savior brought me to a point of a lot more honesty and humility in my writing. It’s still not easy to admit I don’t have it all together, but being real has brought me a lot more true fellowship than having noisy opinions ever did.

Gretchen LouiseHow has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I miss naptime. I think with fondness of those long stretches of quiet in both the morning and the afternoon. I remember when I wrote most of my posts while juggling a nursing baby. Those days are long gone. My children are 7, 5, and 3, with another little one kicking in my belly as I type this. Sleeping in isn’t something that happens in our house. Quiet is not a word that defines our home except for some of the hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

I made a commitment when I was still single that I would always go to bed at the same time as my husband each night. And with a few exceptions of sickness or special projects, I’ve kept that resolution. But that means I don’t write late into the night. Nor is it the season of my life when I can get up any earlier. Each time I try it, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. And no early-morning writing accomplishment is worth being tired and grumpy the rest of the day. So I write through the noise, in the in between hours—not always perfectly, not always patiently, but He meets me there.

I’ve also spent the last four years building up a business of coding WordPress websites for other bloggers and authors. That’s provided a unique challenge as I learn the balancing act of assisting others while not neglecting my own writing. It would be easy to permanently push my own projects aside in lieu of those with instant payment. And often, there are weeks or even months where client projects do become my priority.

But I don’t want to forget my own passion while helping others. So I’m learning to manage my energy and write while I’m fresh. Sometimes that means not checking email until I’ve sat down to write. Others that means putting off a simple coding job for the afternoon so I can get my words organized while I’m a bit more rested.

Because those long hours of peace and quiet are gone, I’ve learned to multi-task. I brainstorm post ideas while I’m in the shower. I compose my opening paragraph while I do dishes. I mentally edit and rearrange the words until they are just right in my head. Then, whenever I do get a chance to sit down at the computer, the words are there, on the tip of my tongue, ready to fly out of my fingers onto the keyboard. Except for the times they are not. And then I assume that God had something different for me to say than what I had so carefully composed. So I sit in front of that blank screen and listen again for Him.

What is your blogging/writing battle cry?

My tagline is “connoisseur of words and code”, encompassing the two sections of my blog. One is my personal blog where I share the life lessons I’m learning about faith and trust, motherhood and marriage. This is where I share the things my children show me, the trust that farming teaches us. And being the bibliophile I am, my blog never goes long without a book review or two.

I write to the other moms like me who are in the midst of the up-all-night with crying babies and sick toddlers. I want us to remember to laugh at the crazy antics and funny sayings of our children. I want us to take time to write those letters to our children, to capture those moments that are so quickly forgotten. My prayer is that I’m reminding other moms (even as I remind myself!) to slow down, to cherish the moment. Because truly, the days are long, but the years are short.

The other area of my blog is composed of tips for authors and bloggers. I write about everything from managing your email inbox to blogging in community through mastermind groups. In my work with writers, I realize how often we feel alone with our words on this side of the computer screen. It’s easy to get discouraged. To get overwhelmed with all the technical details. To feel like no one is reading the words we write.

I want to encourage the weary, lonely blogger. Even if we can’t have a cup of coffee together at the local coffee shop (while I tweak some settings on her blog and give her a few pointers on her newsletter), I want to give her the next best thing. I want to provide the education to understand how her blog functions, the courage to put her words out there, the power that comes with developing her own community.

I want to encourage others. Over and over again. As long as it is called “today”. (Hebrews 3:13)

I want to become a connoisseur of life giving glory to the Creator of life. To take time to taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

How does faith, writing, and motherhood intersect in your daily life?

As a stay-at-home mom who works part-time from home, part-time in the family business, it’s a constant juggling act to balance my callings and my responsibilities. Words are the thread that link together all of my roles: the gift of writing is the skill I use in both work and homeschooling, the gift of creativity is one I draw on every day in my jobs and my homemaking. I know He made me for a purpose, and writing is an intrinsic part of that purpose. To borrow a phrase from Eric Liddell, when I write, I feel His pleasure.

gretchen louiseGretchen Louise is a farmer’s wife and mommy to three curly-haired children. When she’s not working in the family business, hanging out laundry, or washing dishes, she writes in CSS, HTML, PHP—and English. Gretchen loves to brainstorm about everything to do with websites and WordPress, and is passionate about helping others navigate the social media jungle.

You’ll also find her blogging at Adornabelle, sharing blogging tips with the Inland Northwest Christian Writers, and managing the community over at Kindred Grace.

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half-way healthy chocolate chip cookies

Half-way healthy Chocolate chip cookie

This was not the recipe I planned to share today, but when you have a (rare) baking experiment success, you change your plans immediately so other people can benefit. Plus, I’m in a celebratory mood because my little man turns one in a few days. Who doesn’t like to celebrate with cookies?

A recent Table Topics question revealed that both Tim and I have the same all-time favorite dessert… chocolate chip cookies! Not a huge surprise given the endless variations I’ve pinned on Pinterest and the fact that Tim has memorized the recipe for a single serving microwave cookie.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

Our default cookie recipe is from my Auntie Lo. She concocted a recipe that makes a huge batch of soft, chewy cookies without fail. I introduced Tim to these dreamy cookies while we were dating and I now trust his AL Cookie making ability to let him make them himself (we’ve made them that often). But I digress from the cookie at hand.

We had a very savory dinner last night and wanted to cap off our night on the sweet side. Despite having just been to the grocery store, we didn’t have any Crisco (part of what makes AL Cookies so fluffy) so our default was out. I’ve been trying to eat as sugar-free as possible lately and have been waiting for an opportunity to try a less fatty mc fat fat cookie recipe.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

I’m not anti butter but I remembered making coconut oil chocolate chip cookies last year and liking them, so I decided to start there. I love the precision required in baking. It’s part of the reason I prefer baking to cooking. If you follow the recipe, the product generally turns out perfectly. I’m not sure what happened last night, but I was making changes all over the place and *cue the angel chorus* the cookies turned out wonderfully!

These cookies aren’t sugar-free, but they’ve earned the title half-way healthy because they are made with whole wheat flour and a nutrient dense fat. The cookies are soft and beautifully domed with a lightly crisp exterior.  Chocolate and the faint hint of coconut contrast perfectly with the warm brown sugar and nutty whole wheat flour.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookieA note about the ingredients/tools:

  • Coconut oil – The benefit of having pantry storage that is the same temperature as the rest of our house is that my coconut oil stays in a soft, scoopable state. Make sure your coconut oil is room temperature ish, not melted.
  • Whole wheat flour – I’ve been baking with 100% whole wheat flour for awhile. I love the hearty taste, but for whole wheat newbies, it may be jarring when you don’t bite into a white flour cookie. Try white whole wheat if you want a more traditional white flour taste.
  • Milk –  I used 2% since that’s what we drink. Any type of dairy (soy, almond, whole) will work.
  • Cookie scoop – If you make cookies with any frequency, you NEED a cookie scoop. They insure consistent size and a nice domed top. I used a large cookie scoop for these cookies, 1.5″ in diameter.
  • Silicone baking mat – I love my Silpat. Even, non-stick baking at its finest.  Parchment is a good substitute.
  • AirBake cookie sheet – Just in case you were wondering what kind of cookie sheet I use….

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

Half-way Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Print
Author:
Serves: 22-24 cookies
Soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies with the health benefits of whole wheat flour and coconut oil.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup (heaping) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the coconut oil, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined. The dough will be a little crumbly.
  3. Add milk and chocolate chips. Mix until the chips are evenly dispersed.
  4. Scoop dough into balls using a large cookie scoop. Place dough balls on a plate. Put plate of dough balls in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  5. Bake frozen cookie dough balls at 350 degrees F for 11 minutes, util the edges are just turning golden brown. The tops will appear a little undercooked.
  6. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes (You will be tempted to do otherwise, but don't skip this!) then move to cooling rack.
  7. Store in an airtight container.