Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Talk

The Summer 2016 issue of Bella Grace

It doesn't seem possible we are just a couple of days away from July.  My granddaughter, Faith, shares a birthday with the USA on the 4th.  My newest granddaughter is due in between Faith's birthday and mine.  Lots of birthdays of friends and family in this, one of my favorite months!

I will be sharing a new stack of books next week, those I plan to read in July. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been a wonderful reread (I'd forgotten how amusing it is) but with lots to do this time of year, it will be finished just in time.  However, The Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford will slip into July.  That's okay... both are perfect for summer reading.

One of my favorite people, Carolee Snyder, was in town recently and messaged me with an invitation to get together over lunch.  She would be my friend even if she didn't feed me.  I first came to know Carolee many years ago when she emailed asking if I would be interested in reviewing her first book.

That was one of the best "yes" responses I've ever given.  I loved that book and a long distance friendship was born.  We met in person the first time when she and her husband stopped by our home on their way to a vintage car show in Chicago.  My Hubby still talks with awe about their vintage car.

Carolee is one of my friends I hardly ever see but I feel like we have never parted when we get together again.  I highly recommend her books if you are like me and love gardens and herbs and a very good story.

Ummm... that is why after reading Herbal Beginnings, I stooped to begging to review her second book.  I wanted to know what happens to the characters and I didn't have enough extra spending money to purchase a copy.  I'm happy to say I am also in the possession of an autographed copy of the third book.  It will probably go on my stack of books to read in September.

There are now four books and I completely forgot to ask her if there will be a fifth since she retired from herb farming.  Although retirement is not a word I think of with Carolee, I receive her email newsletter and she is often off somewhere in the world visiting gorgeous gardens and meeting interesting people.  And me.  ;)

Speaking of friends and all... my very good friend in South Dakota ordered a copy of Liz Curtis Higgs' My Heart's in the Lowlands, Ten Days in Bonny Scotland for herself and one for me.  My copy came in just in time to be added to the July list of books to read and reread.

I've done a quick skim through it and it looks fabulous for those of us who love reading about Great Britain.  Although it is a nonfiction book, it reads just as easily as any Liz Curtis Higgs novels.  I can't wait to read it in July.

I save my dollars and put aside enough to buy Bella Grace magazine each season.  It isn't cheap but it is my very favorite magazine and I keep every issue I've purchased to pull out and reread over and over when I need a mental break or a spark to creativity.  The current issue stays out to slowly read for weeks.

It is amazing with no advertisements and a paper that is slightly heavier than normal magazines.  It is meant to come back to often.  I've tried to describe it to those who ask and all I can say is it is for those who love to write, journal, and who love beautiful photography.  I made a trip to Barnes & Noble through heavy construction on the roads in blazing heat (our AC doesn't work in the van) to purchase a copy.  There were only three left so it was worth it.

I'll be back next Tuesday on Book Talk (I think) with a book review.

Books Mentioned in this Book Talk Post
*My Heart's in the Lowlands by Liz Curtis Higgs... here.  (Lots of cheap used copies available.)
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society... here.
*The Illustrated Larkrise to Candleford... here. (Out of print but lots of used copies available.)
*Bella Grace... here. (You may find it at Barnes & Noble.)

Carolee Snyder's website "Book Store"... here

*Most links to are Associate Links.  I thank you.

Image: Instagram @coffeeteabooksandme

Monday, June 27, 2016

Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen, a review

Rarely do I say a cookbook needs to be in every cook's kitchen but this is one of those times.  I wasn't sure what to expect from Broth & Stock but knowing it was written by Jennifer McGruther of the Nourished Kitchen fame... it intrigued me.

On one hand, I make a lot of homemade stock during all but the hottest of summer months.  However, I don't cook completely in the method of the Nourished Kitchen book.  So would this cookbook be helpful in my kitchen?  Absolutely!

For one thing, the author tells us the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth.  We are told simply how to make each (including vegetable broth) and as a bonus... recipes for how to use them.  The recipes are not only for soup but other menu items.

The chapters include:

-The Broth Maker's Kitchen

-Master Broths and Stocks
Poultry (including morning broth, broth for infants, chicken soup recipes, turkey soup, and many more).

Meat (including beef tea, beef consomme', beef stew, Salisbury steak with mushroom sauce, oxtail soup, beef shank, pinto beans and ham hock, and many more).

Fish (including seafood stew, New England clam chowder, Thai style spicy prawn soup, simple miso soup, and more).

Vegetables (including bieler's broth, springtime risotto, fresh pea soup wih spring herbs, roasted beet soup, potato and onion gratin, and many more).

-Where to Shop

This book is book is loaded with information, easy to read, has beautiful photos, and good for the new cook as well as the experienced cook.  Not to mention it is not very expensive.  Highly Recommended!

Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.*

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When You Put God in a Box

For the sake of privacy, I will call his name Jim.  "Jim" has been one of my husband's best friends since they were engineers together in the 1980s.  Many a lunchtime was spent debating theological points of interest with Jim and a group of other Christian engineers.

The most common subject of debate was the return of Christ and what it would look like.  Hubby at the time tended to be definitely pretrib and the other men were just as adamant that Christians had to to go through every horrific event of the Tribulation.  They had it all figured out, especially "Jim".

A few months ago, my husband began mentioning that he was concerned his friend had gone down some theological rabbit trail for he was talking about living according to the Law of Moses.  Little by little he came to find out the truth of what was going on... our friend had rejected Christ.  He was involved in some odd offset of Judaism.  We have both Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends and none of their beliefs were like this.

So what happened to him?  Well, he no longer believed Jesus was the Messiah because the End of Days had not occurred exactly as he had them all figured out.  

Now, I have had to tweak my views of Eschatology through the years.  Most of us who came out of the Jesus Movement first heard about the second coming of Christ through Hal Lindsey's books and yes... the events didn't turn out in the way and the time he expected.  We see through a glass darkly says the Bible and he wrote given what the glass was showing at the time.

I get annoyed when I hear people speak against Lindsey because he didn't have every jot and tittle correct in the 1960s and 1970s.  In many of the biographies about well known Christians who came out of that era that I have heard and read, there are three authors whose names most often come up in which their books led the person to Christ.  They are C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, and Hal Lindsey.  It has been estimated in the millions how many came to know the Lord through The Late Great Planet Earth alone.

But I digress...

The Word of God is unchangeable.  Most of it is written in stone.  Well, all of it is if you come to think about it but the light the Holy Spirit gives to us to understand some Scripture... especially the End of Days stuff... it doesn't shine clearly all at once.

That may be a hard Truth to swallow but it is Scriptural.  Daniel was told:  "But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."  (Daniel 12:4 NIV)  The part of his writing in which this statement occurs has to do with what will happen at the end of the Age.

How have my own beliefs changed through the years?  As time has gone on and events in the world have happened, it is like the focus of a lens has become clearer.  Oh, I get it now.  Not everything, of course.  There is still a lot I don't know and it may not become clear until I look back on the timeline from Eternity... if that sort of thing is allowed.  None of us in the 1970s knew what we know now.  

We have to become careful that in our finite minds we think we have an infinite God figured out... for if He does not live up to our understanding of what He should do... we are tempted like our friend to believe the Bible (whether Old Testament or New Testament) is not True.

How arrogant of us when we think we have to understand the Infinite God or we cannot possibly follow Him.  But we've all known people who became mad at God and either left the faith or they still believe Jesus as Savior but not the Lord of their life.

Life happens and instead of running to Him for Peace... we stomp our feet and shake our hands at the heavens and yell at Him.  Some curse His name.  Others, like our friend, go on to say terrible things about their former Friend to others.  You are a fraud!  You are not real!  You can't be if life turned out like...

When we think we have life figured out then the unexplained leaves us floundering and angry and un-tethered.  When the person we were praying for dies.  When our child is taken.  When the job does not come through.  When we lose the house we worked so hard to purchase.  When the locusts consume the crop or the heavens bring no rain.

How about the people in West Virginia who are experiencing the 1,0000 year floods or the homeowners who watched their homes go up in flames in California?  How could God have allowed the terrorists to shoot bullets or the mentally ill young man walk into an elementary school and kill little children.

These are but a few of the questions we all wrestle with... and they can rob us of faith.  Is there an answer?  Well, yes and no.  

I have experienced many life shattering trials and I still don't completely understand it all.  But I do get this... we are in the middle of a galactic war that makes any movie pale by comparison.  Our loving God is on one side and the fallen cherub formerly known as Lucifer is on the other... and he hates us because he hates God and we were created in God's image.  

To understand it all even a little, you have to believe the Bible is true.   God created Adam and Eve and when they chose to disobey God... they turned over the Keys to the Kingdom (the title deed to the planet Earth and all who would live on it) to evil personified.

But God had a plan long before the world was formed.  A plan I find so amazing that it is beyond my comprehension.  I cannot understand why He would do it but before He created us, He already had a plan to redeem us.  A plan that meant the Creator would become one of the created.  To live a perfect life.  To die as a sacrificial lamb.  To legally take back the Keys of the Kingdom and that all important title deed to the planet.  To redeem us back to our Creator. 

God came to die a mortal death.  No wonder some people can't believe it is true.

So what has helped me trust Him through the years?  Simply, I have learned to live with an Eternal perspective.  God doesn't promise us Heaven on Earth.  He says we will have many trials and that there will be suffering in this world but that He will bring us out of them.  

I came to this perspective in my 20s due to a sermon I heard from an old time Pentecostal preacher.   He was huffing and puffing and his face turned red and he shouted and ran from one side of the pulpit to the other.  But what he preached changed my life.  I am not overstating that one bit... it was one of the most important Truths I have learned.

God made us for Eternity.  We are just passing through, sojourners and pilgrims in a foreign land. When we ask Christ to save us from our sins and redeem us back to a relationship with the Father, He could take us Home then but instead... He leaves us here to be a part of His glorious work.  To share His Story with others by telling them our story.

He never promises us in His Word that we will figure Him out... and I think the Word shows us over and over that the only way we get through this life He allows us is to trust.  Trust Him.  Trust His Word.  Trust His character.

I was reading a favorite section of Scripture last night, the Letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation.  No, really.  I love that section of His Word.  For it is clear on what God likes and what He... does not.  It is also quite clear that we are called to be overcomers and if that be true, it is evident there is something to overcome... life.

I don't know about you but I would not want to worship a God that I can figure out.  I kinda' like the idea of God being Eternal Infinite Beyond Understanding... with a love for us that knows no boundaries.  We cannot put God in a box.  

Talk to Him about your hurts and your anger and your disappointments.  He can take it. Let grief run its' course for we must grieve to heal.  Then brush yourself off, take a deep breath... and run the rest of the course He has for you.  Not alone.  Never alone.  That is why we can overcome.  He is beside us and in us and waiting at the finish line!
Image: Son of God, the movie

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Lessons Learned from the WWII Shortages

When I began writing for an Emergency Preparedness website in the 1990s, there wasn't a lot of information about "stocking up" as there is today.  It consisted mostly of Mormon and Survivalist websites, neither had great information in that decade.

So that is when I learned that the best pantry information could be best found in articles about homesteading, gardening, and even the history books.  I especially liked the articles about what European housewives learned during WWII.  I tried to locate my notes but like most of them from that decade, they were tossed when downsizing to a smaller file cabinet.

However, I do remember the most important information about those items which became impossible to obtain and the affect they had on people... for these items became a priority for my small pantry!

The food item that surprised me as having the most detrimental affect on their health when they could not get it was... fat!  Yes, that is hard for us to believe in a society that has low fat cooking books galore.  It turns out without fat in your diet, you can become very ill and even die... and people did.

There were many reasons fat was no longer available and when it was available it was rationed.  First, the lard many people had been using was now being shipped to the military to be used as grease for guns and machines.  Butter was almost impossible to get and when you could it was rationed. Many of the oils used were no longer available either because they could not be transported or the country of origin was occupied by the Germans.

People who went through the Depression and WWII learned how to do without and tweak recipes whenever it was possible.  I make crazy cake today because my family likes it, not because I have a shortage of ingredients.  But that recipe came out of the Greatest Generation.

You may remember your mother or grandmother having a tin on the stove which held their bacon drippings?  I can't recall my mother ever not having such tin on the stove.  I still save bacon drippings today but I don't cook bacon often so I have a small container in the refrigerator.

I use it especially for cooking foods that benefit from bacon flavor like potatoes, eggs, sauteed greens, etc.  No one would ever have thought of throwing out bacon fat who lived through the Depression or  WWII.

I do remember my mother also skimming off chicken fat when it was chilled and using it to fry with.  There is a name for it... schmaltz.  There are old fashioned and homestead recipes that call for it as an ingredient.  I would prefer using a grass fed organic chicken, which I can't possibly afford.  For their fat is more like what our mothers and grandmother skimmed off to use later.

However,  at both the grocery stores I shop the most, I can get the "second best" option which are chickens labeled to not have a lot of the stuff other chicken farms use to raise poultry. Their brands of whole chickens are just slightly more expensive and are what I most often use for soup.  I can get soup and a couple other meals from the chicken.

Speaking of old fashioned fats, remember when we were told never ever to use lard?  Well, now research is showing that the purest lard of old could be easily assimilated by the body.  I have read that the lard sold in most grocery stores is not pure like lard of the past.  However, the pure form is available.  I'd ask the local health food store or the organic farmer at the Farmer's Market if they know where to find a source.  (Remember when coconut oil was considered a dreadful oil for our health and now it is a health food?)

Other food items difficult to purchase in parts of Europe during WWII were items that had to be brought in from other countries like coffee, tea, sugar, rice, cocoa, citrus fruits, etc.

So why must I even think of these shortages.  There are no war drums beating inside my country.  Well, I don't know if it is still true but at one time I read the average food item in our kitchen has traveled 1,500 miles.  Yikes.  It wouldn't require war to break out these days, anything affecting transportation could cause at least temporary shortages... weather, terrorism, a zombie Apocalypse. 

Anything we can do... just a little extra here and there to set aside for the "what if" scenarios of life... they are like giving our future self and our future families (even if the future is next month with a job loss) a gift.  When we went through both of our long term unemployment years, there was no warning at all that a major layoff was coming. 

As Kristi said a couple weeks ago in Comments, people often survived in a real war situation by coming together and helping each other. It doesn't take money to build community.  Build your own community if family doesn't live nearby even if it is only a couple of good friends.  

I couldn't find my WWII notes but I did find this article that I had read before about the siege of Sarajevo.  I know nothing about this website but the list is the same I have read elsewhere... here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Talk - How I Choose What I Read

There is a twin bookcase on the other side of the little TV and bookcases in almost every room!

I read a lot of books.  So how do I choose what to read and what to... not read?   Over the years I've developed a pretty good discernment of what a book will be like but even then a few really bad books have slipped through.  You cannot judge a book by its' cover or who writes a forward!  Trust me.  Been there.

But overall my reading filter has been a good one.  I have developed a mental list of authors I like very much.  Whether fiction or nonfiction, I know if I purchase that book or bring it home from the library I will most likely enjoy the book.

I also have a handful of trusted bookish friends that I trust implicitly.  We have the same book filters.  I also peruse the Amazon reviews of the book.  Sometimes I read one because of of the reviews.  There are times I know a book will be good because of who hates it.  ;)

So what do I do when I'm thinking of reading a book outside my usual safety zone?  Well, I divide them into two categories... different or defiling.

A book by someone who is different than I am stretches my thinking and can often help me look at a subject from a different perspective.  For instance, Madeleine L'Engle is that kind of writer.  Our theology is not exactly the same but we agree on the essentials of the faith. 

I follow a few blogs where the writers tend to be on the edge of New Age because they write on important subjects for which we overlap. There are many nonfiction writers especially that I read because their subject matter is important to me but they are not people of faith.  I'm not there for spiritual advice.

Having said that... there are authors who I absolutely will not read because we differ so much on the essentials of the faith.  Which is pretty much what we find in the Apostles Creed.  I don't care if someone does church different than me as I've attended a few different denominations.  I shared with a long time blog friend recently that I could debate myself on the timing of the Lord's return!

Since I am reading for spiritual advice, there are basics like salvation through Jesus, the Trinity, the return of Christ (we may differ on the timing), etc., that are so essential that if a writer has left that street and deliberately turned down an alley, I cannot trust anything they write.

A book I find defiling is one that makes me feel downright filthy when reading it.  Like I need a shower in my brain.  Sometimes I realize a book is defiling from the first chapter and other times it may take awhile to realize where the author is leading me but even if I want to know how it ends, if it is really unsettling then I set it aside.

I don't read smutty books or books filled with dreadful language.  Now, there may be a curse word here or there because the main character of the book meet up with someone that has salty language.  But it is brief and in character.  If I remember correctly, such a thing happened in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

These days it is easy to find defiling in modern novels but the most upset I've ever been over a book was being hit in the face with it in a nonfiction book.  That one being Julie and Julia.  I shut the book after the first few chapters and took it immediately back to the library.  The writer was (for me personally) absolutely vile and if her language was any indication of her character, then I didn't want to get to know her any further.  I certainly didn't need her words to get stuck in my brain.

I only watched the movie after a couple friends I trust said I'd like it, for I love Julia Child.  I found it interesting that toward the end of the movie, when she finds out Julia didn't care for the her blog, she wondered if it was because she used the F-Bomb so much. I don't know, Julia was very world wise and not a person of faith.  However, she was of a generation when it was considered appalling when women swore like the proverbial sailors. 

Defiling is different with so many people.  When I was in my early 20s, I read Harlequin novels.  At that time there was nothing really smutty about them.  But I came to feel the Lord didn't want me to read that kind of romance novel so I stopped completely. 

I didn't read much fiction in my 20s and 30s, most of my reading was nonfiction.  So I came to be thankful He led me away from romance novels to those fiction books which are a lot more edifying and have blessed me through the years.

Which brings me to another important (perhaps the most important Truth).  We must exercise Grace when others have different boundaries than our own.

I will write next (book reviews may come before it) about how I chose books for my kids to read... and not.  But I will say here that there is perhaps no other area where bookish Christians become adamant about what people should and should not do.

For instance, we did not do the whole Harry Potter thing.  You would think if any Christians read the book, this Fantasy and Science Fiction loving family would read the series.  But I just felt this nudge in the spirit that it was not for us.  Not until Christopher was older.

Now, I have a lot of good friends, whom I respect greatly, that read and loved Harry PotterWhat I found through the years is that God knows each of us so personally, He sometimes leads us away from something He says yes to for others.  Oh, not truly defiling stuff but those gray areas we find ourselves.  There is no 2nd Hezekiah chapter and verse that says "Thou shall not read Harry Potter but you can read The Lord of the Rings".

Know your own boundaries and stick with them even if people scoff at you (I could tell you stories) but at the same time... show grace.  Only God knows our hearts and that inner most part of our minds that stores information throughout our life.  If it goes against His Book, I'd find something else to read.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Dad and the Ditch Lilies

The country road I most often take to the highway has been laden with memories this past week.  I cannot drive this way without smiling and shedding a few tears.  For the day lilies are growing wild by the hundreds... as they do each year around Father's Day.  Just as they did in my childhood.  Which is why each Father's Day I honor my father with this blog post.

I don't have a lot of clear memories of my father since he passed away suddenly when I was only ten years old. However, one memory that I have shared with my husband and children is the clearest of all...that of Dad and the ditch lilies.

We lived in an old farmhouse when I was a small child. It had only enough land for a hand full of animals, some chickens, and a huge garden. It sat across from a grain elevator, at the corner where two gravel roads met. We had a few neighbors, mostly other smallish houses, what we would call "hobby farms" these days. Between us and the various towns in different directions, there were some "real farms" where one would find acres and acres of tall stalks of corn or soybeans growing each summer.

Train tracks separated our house and the tall grain elevator. To this day, I love the sound of the train whistles in the distance. You don't hear them much around here anymore. I remember taking walks with my dad along those roads when the evening had cooled enough to make the gravel more comfortable...for they can get quite hot for little feet. Dad was around 6'3" tall and I was but a little girl when we lived on this gravel road. So it probably is understandable that my memories of both him and day lilies are that they were both huge!

We didn't call them day lilies in our neck of the woods...they were always known as ditch lilies, for they grew wild in the ditches each summer. That's why I was thinking of him this week. It wasn't the gorgeous yellow day lilies growing along our backyard fence, nor the orange lilies next to the house, both planted by previous owners. It wasn't the lilac colored day lilies my husband planted this year. No, it was the old fashioned deep orange day lilies growing in the ditches on the roads I travel most of the time...the roads that take me "to the country". The same kind of lilies that sent us out for a walk in the evening...on gravel roads.

My dad was not an educated man as such. He only finished 8th grade, a practice very common to men of that and previous generations. Back then, many boys had to leave their formal schooling at that age to begin working. However, he knew a lot about the important things of life like flowers, and building things, stopping on trips to take pictures of animals in the field and whatever else grabbed his attention, hunting, fishing, and how to love daughters. People who knew him used to talk about his kindness.

I've been told many times that he cried when I was born because he had wanted a little girl so badly. Since this was a second marriage for both (he being divorced many years and my mother a widow with seven children when they married), and mom was well into her 40s, my siblings thought their mother had died giving birth only to find out he was crying because they had a little girl!

I only had him around for ten years but I learned a lot from him. Not so much in formal learning but the kind that is absorbed by small children, those lessons we pick up when the older folks don't know children are looking and listening. I've been called a kind person, that's definitely from Dad. I love flowers, gardens, creeks, and small creatures of the woods...definitely from Dad...although I prefer to admire the small creatures from a distance rather than having them for dinner. :)

I never had a chance to say goodbye but I've prayed for years that in the hours Dad knew he was dying, he remembered the Gospel and made peace with his Creator. How I would love to know that the tall, gentle man with the hands calloused from "building things" would be there waiting for his girl. I'm certain God will let there be plenty of ditch lilies in Heaven.

Image:  Google

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Two Summer Projects

This summer is proving to be very hot and dry in our area.  Once again there was rain all around us this week but we received very little compared to the rest of the state.  Which meant a lot of time is spent watering the porch and deck flowers as well as the garden.

When we had a brief cool down (relatively speaking), I worked on my first indoor project of the summer.  I cleaned out the deep freeze, got rid of mostly bread items that had been in it far too long, and placed gallon containers that held our filtered water on the bottom of the freezer.  That will help it not have to work as hard in the heat of the garage.

My freezer is pathetically empty at the moment.  The funds I normally use to keep it at least half filled were relegated to the garden projects.  But they absolutely had to be done in a timely manner.  This week my husband purchased the soil we needed for a lawn project and the half ton of pea gravel we needed for the rows between the raised beds in the garden.

Which meant I had the ever so important job of helping him back the dump truck he had rented from the garden center... first next to a tree (to dump the soil) and then to just the right spot on our driveway (to dump the pea gravel).  Without getting hit.  I must admit to having overdone the STOP! a few times but he tends to be a little hard of hearing.

The garden project will be done for now once the pea gravel has been spread on the garden rows.  We may finally expand it out and build at least a couple more raised beds this fall.  Our garden isn't very big and we would love to grow more of our food. But even if we can't expand this year, the essential project of the rebuild and update is almost finished.  Happy dance!  The landscaping projects will continue through the summer.  We are taking our land back from the forest.

I do hope to begin stocking the freezer with meat, butter, frozen veggies, etc. again.  But I'm soon going to restock it with main dishes ready to pop in the oven and desserts to have ready when needed.  I was inspired by this post from Annabel of The Bluebirds are Nesting.

The good thing about a project like cleaning out the freezer is that it goes a long way to organizing the pantry eventually... and it cost nothing but time!

My next summer project will cost some Amazon credit.  I'm purchasing a few more Mountain House dinners to have available for grab and go bags.  They have never been a priority since we live in a rural area but after seeing some news events where people have had to leave home even from rural areas, I decided I needed to update the two bags I prepared a couple years ago.

The nice thing about the Mountain House pouches is that they are light, portable, and have an expiration date (unopened) of around 2026 - 2028.  I realize the pouches are made for backpackers but they are perfect for grab and go bags (don't forget to take water!)... and should we never need to grab and go they can be used for a tasty meal here at home.  They would supplement items like energy bars, dried fruit, etc. that do not need cooking.

The other backpacking type of food product I have purchased that has high reviews is from Harmony House.  It was purchased to put back for an emergency to provide a source of vegetables.  It only has a shelf life of two years before you need to use it but for around $50.00, you can tuck away five star rated dehydrated vegetables, lentils, and beans that are all packed in a small box.  I was amazed how much food was in that box, each in its' own Ziploc style pouch.

It is also available in the form of premixed soups and a slightly more expensive box that has a larger variety of food.  For the price, it would be easy for most people to begin using the various veggies in one box at the end of a year and replacing it with another to "put back".  I will start using the box I have when cooler weather comes around again for soups.  These are high quality dehydrated non-GMO and Kosher veggies.

The Mountain House pouches listed are "cooked" with boiling water added and the pouch sealed for indicated time.  The Harmony House products are placed in a pot with water and simmered for indicated time.  The reviews of each item have ways people have cooked them.  I have to admit, I need to purchase a few Mountain High pouches because I used what I already bought on nights I was at home alone and too tired to cook.  It is a good way to see what you like... or so I told myself.

As well as using Amazon credit for some Mountain House pouches, I will be putting fresh batteries in the flashlights in the bags and updating anything else that needs attention.  Then they can go back in the closet where they are easy to... grab and go.

If anyone saw the last episode of NCIS this season, the child from Israel who was rescued came with her grab and go bag.  That is very realistic.  I have read that Israeli citizens are recommended to have a grab and go bag should they need to go to a bomb shelter and that most do have one for each person.  It isn't a bad idea for the rest of us even we probably will hunker down.  One never knows.

Further information for some Mountain House products (some links take you to larger amounts but you only need click on the "Pouch" size):
Beef Stew... here.
Biscuits and Gravy... here.
Chicken Fried Rice... here.
Pasta Primavera... here.
Mac and Cheese... here.

Further information for Harmony House products:
Basic Backpackers Kit (what I bought, individual dried veggies, lentils, beans, Non GMO)... here.
Backpackeres Prepared Soup Kit... here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Talk

Just popping in to share my June reading before the month ends.  I made a decision last month that my summer reading needed to be very light.  So I am reading a couple new books and rereading old favorites this month.

84 Charing Cross Road is a book I first read long ago and didn't realize until later it was nonfiction!  If you haven't read it... and if you love books, why not?... it contains the correspondence between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel from the bookstore located at 84, Charing Cross Road in London.

Throughout the years, Helene also became friends with Frank's wife and staff of the bookstore through letters.  The book was made into a play in England, a play in America, and a movie (which I enjoyed watching a couple of times).  The writing is so witty that like I said... I didn't know they were real letters until years after reading the book for the first time!

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is "kind of" the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road.  It follows the author as she finally makes her dream trip to England.  Instead of letters, the text is in the form of her diaries while on her trip.

It is a must read for anyone who loved the original book.  I don't want to say too much about it for by doing so, I'd give away the end to the first book.  Both of these books are small enough to slip into a purse or beach bag and both are fairly quick reads.

The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my very favorite novels.  It is also written in the form of letters but one soon forgets the format and just enjoys the story.  It begins soon after WWII has ended and through correspondence it takes us back to the war and what happened on Gurnsey.

Since reading this book, I watched a travel show on PBS where the Channel Islands were featured (I can't recall which show it was).  While this book is fiction, it does truthfully tell the story of Gurnsey in that war.

This book is perfect summer reading, especially if you are a fan of stories that take place in England circa WWII.

Th Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford is... magical.  I already had the trilogy in hardback when I heard about the illustrated edition.  I think it is out of print but there are many inexpensive copies available.  The one I have now is a library edition in fairly good condition.

The book contains an abridged edition of the original but don't let that stop you.  The illustrations and artwork make this a beautiful way of reading the book.  I usually prefer books that are not abridged but with these illustrated versions, they add so much to the story that I'll forgive them.

If you have not read the books the TV shows are based on, they are true nonfiction (I know that is somewhat redundant) memoirs written by Flora Thompson.   I have read comments and reviews by people who were very disappointed when they started the books and they were not exactly like the TV show scripts.

However, if you begin reading the memoir knowing the show is based on it, then I think you will enjoy it very much.  It gives us a view of England that has now past.  A much beloved England to the writer... and if you read it in this illustrated version, you feel you are walking among the wildflowers as you read.

Kitchen Gypsy and Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams have already been discussed here.

I will be writing a Book Talk about how I choose what to read.  Soon.

84, Charing Street Road info... here.
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street info... here.
The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Pie Society info... here.
The Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford info... here.

*Most links to are Associate Links.  I thank you.

Photo:  My own from Instagram

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Give Your Child the World, a review

The subtitle of this book is Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time.  Which describes what makes this book very special.  Jamie Martin is married to a man from England and along with her birth son, adopted a child from Liberia and a child from India. 

Her husband is the CEO of Love146, an organization whose goal is to abolish childhood slavery, so one can say the family knows a thing or two about the cultures and countries of the world.

I appreciated how this book is set up, first by telling the author's story so we are drawn in to her world.  Second, there is a section on everyday ways our own families can learn about other cultures.  The rest of the book gives us hundreds of books divided by geography as well as age group, fiction and nonfiction books that will help each of us understand other parts of the world.

Our children are growing up with a global perspective.  This book is exactly what every parent needs to take to the library with advice written by one who comes from a Christian viewpoint who has a God given love for other people.  I wish I had this book when we were homeschooling.  Highly recommended.

The forward to the book is by Tsh Oxenreider and the author blogs at

This book was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information about this book can be found... here.*

*Most links to are Associate links.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Don't Give Up

I stood for awhile, looking at the bare space in the raised bed.  Wondering if I should or I shouldn't.  What the heck, let's go for it.  So I planted lettuce seeds.  That was it, the garden was now planted.  A few days ago.  Before the heat wave.

This year we had to rebuild at least two of the raised beds that were now rotting and posing a hazard to the gardener. They had served their purpose for seven years but it was time.  Another raised bed had to be moved.  I came down with a cold.  Life happened. 

In this mix there was preparation for my family visiting (a nice thing) and hubby was earning a little extra helping a friend get a house ready to sell.  All of which meant the garden could not be planted until this past week.  The flat of veggies waiting for planting had been kept alive a few weeks by constant watering.  The rainbow chard and herbs were planted into containers on the deck.  Which I actually like.  A lot.

However, last weekend this time I was telling my husband that I wasn't going to plant this year.  It was too late.  Why bother.  I was giving up.  He told me the raised beds were almost ready so I may as well plant what I'd purchased.  So I did.  Then I decided to plant the seeds I already had and see what happens.  So zucchini, two kinds of green beans, parsley, nasturtiums, and yes... lettuce... were placed in the soil the day before we reached 90 degrees.

Sometimes you have to take what you are given and work with it.  I am constantly learning lessons from the garden and the landscaping.  Like the fact that the forest will take back every bit of land you don't constantly wrestle from it.  That the curse of Genesis shows up in the attempt to grow things and keep order in nature more than any place else.  Except perhaps human relationships.

Sometimes I get so weary.  I'm tired of the fallen-ness of this world.  I want to stop the world and get off.  I long for Eden and and a world without thorns and thistles and weeds and the need for five shots a day to keep me alive.

There is a Truth to be found in the chaos, though.  One that I have seen over and over in sixty plus years of living on this planet circling the sun.  It is this... if you still have breath in you then God is not finished with your story.  You must not give up.

The Bible tells us God knows the day we are born and the day we leave this world.  If we are alive, we have a purpose.  Within the limitations He allows, we have a purpose.  Our work on earth is not complete.  He isn't asking us to do anything perfectly and He absolutely knows our  boundaries... although he tends to nudge us out of our comfort zone from time to time.

Last winter I was thinking of giving up blogging but as I prayed about it, I knew He was telling me to write without concern of the extras that can go with having a blog.  I don't jump through hoops.  I don't go after a book deal.  I just... write.  I currently am keeping the same old header and the same font and the same background.  Easy.

The only updates I've done to the blog were to change the Pages line under the header and add the extra Amazon widget on the sidebar that is a direct link to purchase Amazon gift cards.  That was easy and done as a service to those who had gone through the original widget to purchase them.  I can handle that.

We are told, "If you can't do anything well then don't do it at all".  A very wise teacher of my perfectionist daughter advised me to teach her that it is far better to do something badly and perhaps even fail than to not do it at all.  A lesson I'm learning every day.

I am learning to plant gardens a month late.  To keep the pretty dishes even if they are only used once a year.  To polish the silver service and make it sparkle for my own enjoyment.  To read new cookbooks when I'm too tired to cook.  To enjoy the beauty I've assembled on the front porch and the deck even if I don't sit outside in the summer heat. 

To have ready what I need to make art for those rare days when time and energy come together. To stop by the Farmer's Market on a limited budget and buy only one loaf of sourdough bread and wild strawberries.  To understand it is not all or nothing.

If one thinks they are too old or too tired or too poor or it is too late to do what is before them... it is worth not giving up and to at least give it a chance to succeed.  If I didn't plant the garden then there would have been no chance of it growing at all.  Sometimes we have to take that step of faith and just do something, especially those things He is nudging us to do.

You are here, you are breathing, you have life no matter what the limitations you are dealing with.  So that means your journey is not yet complete.  Do not give up.  Plant that seed.

Image:  Under the Sunflowers by Robert Duncan