What I’m Reading {Summer 2015}

Please don’t be alarmed by the length of this list. If pregnancy is the kryptonite to my writing, it seems to have the opposite effect on my reading habits. And this list is really what I’ve read from April thru August, not just over the Summer.

I kept my commentary pretty short since there are 29 books listed, but I’d love to hear what you thought if you read any of them or have recommendations! I also didn’t really describe what many of the books were about because this post would have been ginormous, so the links will take you to Amazon if you want to know more about one in particular. (Amazon links are affiliate.)

My Fall plans look like rereading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read since high school, in preparation for Katherine Reay’s third novel, The Bronte Plot, due out November 3rd.

What I'm Reading

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Lovely, complicated story of forgiveness and family that made me want to surround myself with flowers.

Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan: Abandoned midway.

Longbourn by Jo Baker: I know Austen fans are split on this rendering of Pride and Prejudice. I fall in to the Nay camp.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple: This had been on my list since Shauna Niequist talked it up last year. An engaging and humorous read.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: Reread. Loved as per usual.

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Colllins: The setting of this particular novel is reminiscent of the little towns a wee bit North of where we lived in Idaho (Brandilyn lives very near where Tim and I used to live in Coeur d’Alene), which made for fun reading. I have to be careful though, with this type of novel, since the murder aspect can get in my head.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: So many authors I respect love Anne Lamott, so I jumped on this for 25 cents at a thrift store. Struggled to get half-way and then didn’t want to waste precious reading time on finishing.

Miracle at Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado: My first encounter with Lucado’s fiction. Kind of predictable, but good characters and a really neat perspective on spiritual warfare.

The Secret of Mirror Bay by Carolyn Keene: I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan and still pick them up every once in a while for a light, quick read. This one is set in Cooperstown, NY which is 20 miles from where my parents live.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Incredibly well-written. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn: What would happen if it were illegal to use an increasingly large number of the letters in our alphabet?… Lots of fun for the English major types.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: First but won’t be my last of Rainbow Rowell.

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith: Loved everything about this book. I’m a horrible unpacker and avoid putting decor up because it may not be perfect or the best place to put it, so The Nesting Place was like a needed and beautiful kick in my decorating bum.

Rules of Civility by Amor TowlesWas on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. Left me kind of depressed, though it was well-written.

All Dressed Up by Scarlett BergFun, light read that felt like a mash-up of Robin Jones Gunn and America’s Next Top Model.

First Impressions by Charlie LovettAlso on MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. Jane Austen + mystery + antique books = loved it!

Bossypants by Tina FeyI expected to love this one because I think Tina Fey is quite funny. Abandoned half-way. I’ll stick with Mindy Kaling and Ellen DeGeneres.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoI’ve done some simplifying before, but the KonMari method of evaluating everything you own by asking, “Does this give me joy?” really seemed to resonate with me. People get up in arms about the oddities in this book (which do exist, mostly due to cultural differences), however, I think it’s worth looking past. Since reading it in July, I’ve tidied our books (never thought I’d do that), clothes (even the hubs jumped on board!), our files, the kitchen (another one I didn’t think needed any work), my hard-copy photographs, and various boxes from the garage. We’ve taken endless loads to Goodwill. I’m much more mindful of what we own and what we purchase.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: A nice collection of short stories from an author I love.

Well Fed & Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan: Though we don’t eat Paleo, these two cookbooks have provided amazing inspiration and recipes for cutting back on sugar and preservatives while amping up our protein and vegetable consumption.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee: Our son’s middle name is Atticus. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of TKAM and the Finch family. I’m not sorry I read this (mostly from a literary history and criticism stand point), but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster: Finally read the book that Dear Mr. Knightley a fantastic read) is loosely based on. Quick and very enjoyable.  The movie, with Fred Astaire, was great too.

All Things New by Lynn Austin: Lynn Austin is a reliably good Christian fiction author. Her novels are always well researched and engaging. Having recently read Go Set A Watchman, the Antebellum setting of this particular novel was timely.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle: Wasn’t the best mom-memoir I’ve read. (Surprised by Motherhood is one of my favorites.) I wouldn’t be opposed to reading one of Melanie’s other two books – one on marriage, the other on friendship.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fantasy isn’t generally my genre, but I really enjoyed this book (another from MMD’s Summer Reading Guide).

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: I apparently had something going for epistolary novels this year… Utterly lovely book written in letters. Wonderful characters.

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker: I don’t want to be too nit picky about this book because I adore Jen Hatmaker. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite of the three books that I’ve read (plus her blog). It was good, I think I just had REALLY high expectations.

Second guesses and sweet tea. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

“Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles…” I’m channeling my inner Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof reference, for those non-musical people) because I haven’t posted anything in these here parts for months. Sweet Scarlett Berg did this interview at the beginning of the year and I’m just now getting it out to y’all. Blogger. Fail.

This Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing series officially wrapped up in January, but I wanted to sprinkle a few more here and there because I always need this type of encouragement. Scarlett is the author of All Dressed Up (Robin Jones Gunn meets America’s Next Top Model), a fun read perfect for the last few beach days of Summer.  I connected with her through Katie Eller, a previous Perspectives participant.

I read Scarlett’s book earlier this year and enjoyed it. I’m hoping to do a recap of all my reading since my February Quick Lit post soon, but in the meantime, enjoy what this author-momma has to say!

And if you’re new to the series, check out the archives for all 21 interviews!

Perspectives ScarlettWhy do you write/blog?

I’ve had a desire to journal for as long as I can remember. My journaling over the years became more a part of my prayer life and continues that way today, yet it’s only been fairly recently that I discovered that I like to write fiction stories, also. I think this passion grew out of a need to escape some of my own personal struggles. At the time I began to write creatively, my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and my husband and I were also facing what was to be a long road of infertility battles. Writing became a daily distraction to the intensity of my own day-to-day pain of struggling with loss and disappointment. I had never even thought about writing a novel. As I wrote each day, the unfolding story became a place I wanted to visit, and I became increasingly invested in the characters as the story continued to expand. It, truly, became a fun process and has now grown into a deeper passion for me.

How long have you been blogging/writing?

I’ve been “journaling” for over 20 years, but writing creatively around six-seven years.

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

This season of my life is the most amazing, wonderful, chaotic and utterly exhausting time I’ve ever experienced. I never realized how much one little person can change your life. Andrew, our son, came to us through the precious gift of adoption.  Often times I find I want to lavishly express my joy and love for him through writing. There are also days that I’m so overwhelmed by all that God has done for me that I’m speechless to write anything.

Scarlett Berg

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

In addition to being a wife and a mother to an extremely active toddler, I also continue to work full-time as a registered dietitian.  My day is packed with regular employment responsibilities and activities, and just finding time to write can be difficult.  I find, now, I write more in segments than with fluidity of thought.  I’ll type notes or jot down a thought on whatever I can find—computer, paper, grocery list, and even my trusty little iPhone.  It seems these days there is a phone app for just about anything, and I’ve found that to be true for writing as well.  I often use the app on my phone to compose notes or even to write potential new story ideas.

What is your blogging/writing battle cry?

God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). It’s been easy to second guess my writing skills at times because my educational background is not in language arts, creative writing or English, rather in nutrition.  I had to let go of the fear of failing in my own limited perfection and remember the truth of God’s love for me.  He gently reminds me that I can accomplish anything that He has purposed in my heart to do!

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

My faith is the substance of all I hope to be and it is the driving force of my life. Writing is an expression of the creativity and love God has placed deep in my heart. Motherhood—a miraculous gift of God’s goodness and favor! The three interweaved together have given me great joy and remind me that all things are possible with Christ.

Scarlett BergA Southern girl, North Carolina is where Scarlett Berg calls home. She attended college in the beautiful mountains of Appalachian State University. Her favorite things are snuggling with her precious little boy and sharing tender laughs with her husband.  Being raised in church, you could say that she’s known Christ all her life, yet still discovering His fathomless grace and immeasurable depths of love. One thing she knows is true, when God is the center of her heart there is nothing they can’t accomplish together.

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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.


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.