Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My Favorite Books of 2018


I wasn't sure what my "Favorites" list would look like for 2018 since there were a couple of months I couldn't read from my right eye due to a serious eye infection that occurred the week prior to July 4th. 

I'm very thankful that my retinal specialist worked to save the sight in my eye, opening his office on the 4th of July just to give me my last set of antibiotic injections.  I couldn't see at all from that eye for awhile and even now over seven months later, I still cannot see clearly out of it.  Especially when reading.

Since reading was a struggle for so long, I didn't read many books of fiction last year but I did start reviewing again.  Just not as many books as before.  When I looked through my book journal, I was relieved to find a good amount of favorites read last year.  Not as many as usual... but enough.

These are given in about the order they were read, most were paperback or hardback editions but a couple were Kindle (I came to appreciate my Kindle very much since the font could be enlarged easily).

Favorite Books of 2018

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
I had been curious about this book and when it went on a Kindle sale for $1.99, I snapped it up.  This is a fun little book, especially when you can only read a chapter or two at a time.  This is considered the "definitive" book on hygge.
Info... here


When the English Fall by David Williams
If the last book was light, this is just the opposite.  I heard about this book after reading an article about it (or in another book?) and the premise peaked my curiosity.  What happens if there is an EMP event from the perspective of the Amish, who do not depend on power but are deeply affected by the consequences.

I found this fascinating, it is just a little gritty as one would expect from a novel about society falling apart... but not in a CSI way.  However, if you are at all interested in prepping for huge emergencies, then you will read through this as quickly as possible.  This is a first novel for the author so it can be just a little choppy at times but he is forgiven.
Info... here.

The Rock, The Road, and The Rabbi by Kathy Lee Gifford
I accepted this book to review because it sounded fascinating.  This is the true story of Kathy and Frank (a couple of years before his death) going to Israel to be part of a tour led by a Bible teacher/pastor who was known for helping Christians understand the Word from a Jewish Perspective.  It was a life changing trip.

The co-author is a Messianic Rabbi who offers additional insights into the teaching.  This was a faith building read and a fascinating glimpse into the Hebraic roots of the Bible, even the New Testament.  The stories will keep you reading!
Info... here. (This link is to the paperback version, due out in March.  Hardback copies are available third party and pretty cheap at the moment.)


A Light So Lovely by Sarah Arthur
I heard about this book before it was offered for review and I knew instantly I wanted to read it.  I love so much of Madeleine L'Engle's writing but like many fellow Christians, I was confused as to her theology.  Sometimes it seemed very conservative and at other times, quite liberal.

In this biography, the author not only writes about Madeleine's life but why her theology seems to differ at times.  It's a very interesting read and it helped me understand her more than I did.  It is also an honest look at L'Engle for like everyone, she had her faults that caused friends and family to both cringe and laugh about them... and fans like me to overlook her flaws.
Info... here.

Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson
I was on the blogger launch team for Book Girl and even then, my daughter had a copy before me.  Sarah gave her a preview copy when they had coffee together in Oxford last Spring.  So even before reading it, I had heard from Stephanie how good it was.  She had saved it to read on the long flight home.

When I finally read it, I absolutely loved it.  The title comes from Sarah being raised as a girl who loved books and is partly that story (which is why she called it Book Girl).  However, it is also a "book about books" that true readers will come back to over and over.  Sarah's writing is always lovely.
Info... here.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
If I had to pick a number one favorite book for last year, this would be it.  Although a novel about the friendship and marriage of C. S. Lewis and his wife Joy, it is based on the writings of both individuals.

The book opens with Joy's abusive first marriage and her conversion to Christianity.  We also learn of her success as a poet long before meeting Lewis.  In this story, we come to understand why she was living alone in London for awhile, how she came to meet Lewis and the other Inklings in person, and the events that led up to their marriage.

Honestly, once I got a few chapters into this novel, it was hard to put down.  Even though I knew some of the story.  Fans of Lewis and the Inklings will find this a necessary read (and it is already my most recommended book in years).
Info... here.

Fletchers End by D. E. Stevenson
I had been searching for an inexpensive copy of this hard-to-find sequel to Bel Lamington for years and was thrilled to find one last year.  Bel and her former boss are now married and house hunting when they find a charming "fixer upper" house within an easy commute to London. This is the story of their settling into married life and a story of house love.  The kind of stories I enjoy very much.

I do have some good news for those with a Kindle.  I was pleasantly shocked to find out both Bel Lamington and Fletchers End have recently become available at very reasonable prices for the Kindle.  Individual links are given below but on the Amazon widget on the sidebar (at the moment), is a link to a Kindle version that contains both books.
Info on Bel Lamington for the Kindle... here.
Info on Fletchers End for the Kindle... here.
NOTE:  If you scroll through the "also bought" section, you will find a lot more Stevenson books which have been recently added for the Kindle.  Some titles have been available for awhile but it looks like they have added a lot more.


Overcomer by David Jeremiah
Pastor Jeremiah is one of my very favorite people to listen to on television.  This book is about putting on the whole armor of God, especially for the turbulent times we live in today.

As usual, he makes deep theological meaning very easy to read and understand.  I passed the book on to my husband to read as soon as I finished it.  There are options for a full study guide and DVD for people who want to use this in a group setting but I have just read the book.
Info... here.

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon
If there was a section titled "Most Unlikely Book on My Favorites List", it would be this one.  I rarely (as in I can't remember the last time I did) read books by celebrities.

However, I had heard about this book and when I was in Barnes & Noble one day, I looked through it and I admit... loved what I saw.  For this book is a combination cookbook/lifestyle book/ personal story and a love letter to southern women.

My mother was from Kentucky, between Louisville and Lexington, and while so close to the northern states... it is definitely southern.  I saw my mom in many of the stories Reese tells about her upbringing and what it was like growing up in Nashville.

So when Amazon had both a Christmas discount and a $5.00 off "code", it made the price of the book inexpensive.  I used credit to purchase it as a Christmas gift to myself.  It has been such an enjoyable read and the recipes are very good.  If you live in the southern part of the States or if you just like books about recipes and hospitality... you will enjoy it.

Unlike other books by celebrities I have read (yes, even cookbooks that had smut in them!), I didn't find anything offensive in Whiskey in a Teacup but I haven't read every page. However, Reese is very  much the "Southern lady"... even if she now lives in LA.  So this book had to go on my Favorites list.
Info... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.
Image:  Time For Reading by Judy Gibson

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Lots of pantry related stuff going on!


We are in the midst of our second weekend of snowstorms.  Our local weather guy warned us that nature has a way of balancing itself and after long stretch of above normal temperatures, the snow and cold have settled in. 

This storm is different than we had last week because of the high winds which will be developing.  They will bring blizzard like conditions and power outages we didn't have last week.  So I did some preparations last night and I will continue this morning before the winds pick up.

We had an unexpected power outage from a windstorm last fall and I realized then we were totally unprepared.  We did have a battery operated radio and some candles but otherwise, we were (literally) left in the dark.

That was our first fairly long time without power and along with that came surprises, such as how boring it is when one sits around at dark with just candles.  Now, I expect larger families would be less likely to be bored since there are people to talk to but here it is just the two of us and since we are together almost 24/7... said that already!

I remembered at the time that I had a couple episodes of a cooking show and an episode of Vera downloaded to the Amazon Fire tablet and they honestly were like a special Christmas gift to myself.  It was enjoyable to watch them by the light of the candle.  I also appreciated my Kindle Paperwhite that has its' own light and many downloaded books.

My only wish was that I had some hot beverage to sip and as human nature tends to be... what we cannot have at all we can start craving.  Honestly, I felt like I HAD TO HAVE a cup of hot coffee or tea.

So what does that have to do with my preparedness this time?  Well, along with getting out the battery operated radio, the flash lights, candles (regular and battery operated), etc., I took the time to download TV programs and a movie to the Amazon Fire (my kids gave me for my birthday when my iPad died).

Very soon, I will pour hot water into one thermos (not boiling water, I did that once and  had to get another thermos) and coffee in another.  I already have food on hand that does not need to be cooked.

This is to be a short lived storm so preparations didn't have to be for days, just the weekend.  I have enough stored water for short term use.  Should this have been a possible long term event without power... and the well does not run without electricity... I would have done more water preparation.

I don't know if we will lose power here but there are parts of the County that have already.  Even if we don't, it doesn't take long to put everything away and the coffee will be enjoyed, the hot water used, and the downloaded media will be played.  If not this weekend, then soon.

As for my other pantry preps, I finally finished cleaning and organizing two of the three sets of shelves that are my responsibility in the garage.  The third is the set of shelves on which Christmas and other holiday boxes are kept and they were organized long ago.  They had very little mouse infestation being all Rubbermaid style containers.  They just had to have the lids washed.

This has been a very long effort when done a little at a time.  I couldn't do very much until the woman who cleaned the siding on our porch was hired to give the shelves a washing with bleach water.  It didn't cost much and protected my health from the mouse droppings.  She didn't even wear a mask! 

Once that was done, I could begin the process of cleaning what we didn't have to throw away.  That has taken a year since I wanted to clean the things that were on my shelves to decide what still needed to be tossed.  The set of shelves where I keep things like my Crock-pot and salad spinner along with extra canned goods was finished a couple months ago.

I wanted to get all of this completed before the frigid winter temperatures set in, which are to start this weekend.  It took a lot of work and rest and work and rest (not to mention ignoring other household chores so this could be finished) but it was accomplished.  From now on, only tweaking and the usual upkeep will be needed.

I'm still amazed what can be accomplished a little at a time.  Before developing a chronic illness, I was a big project person.  I mean... really big household projects.  They were scheduled for one or more consecutive days.  It took awhile to have my eyes opened to how much these big projects... broken down into teeny tiny projects... can still be accomplished.

Each time I work in the garage, I am reminded how quickly it seems this mouse infestation happened.  We learned so much in the process.  Now if we see even small signs of mice, we get out the mouse traps.  Living in the country, we were used to having one or two mice in the garage so we "lived and let live"... no more.

I think the lesson we most learned was to never keep food that would attract mice in unopened containers.  That was what really drew them in.  I am convinced they go out and tell all the other field mice where they can find food for the easy taking.

Now I am off for a second cup of coffee and to enjoy a lemon scone.  I made them this morning to keep as a reward for when I get the final weather preps made and the blog post written.  :)

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Vera (thank you for the recommendations, it has become my favorite BBC mystery program), info on the Season One DVD... here

All seasons (except for Season 9) and individual episodes are also available on Amazon Video.  I love how Vera portrays an average looking rather disheveled older woman who is a brilliant police inspector. 

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.
Image:  American Homestead Winter

(Please forgive any typos.  The sight in my right eye is still fuzzy enough that I don't always see clearly.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Morning and Evening Prayer Book, a review


This book is a wonderful resource for daily devotions.  It has both a morning and evening prayer for each day (thus the title) and the editors (Jeanie and David P. Gushee) have brought together prayers from ages past through modern times.

I perused many pages to get an idea about the various kinds of prayers and in the process, could feel the peace of the Lord overflowing my cluttered thoughts. The reader can include this book as part of their daily devotions or specific prayers can be read in times of turmoil. 

If you carry a Kindle with you, or perhaps have the Kindle app, the Kindle version of this book would be an excellent resource for devotionals on the go.  I could see reading the prayers just to quiet my spirit in the midst of a busy day, even if I don't use it for daily devotions.

I wouldn't be fearful of reading an Eastern Orthodox prayer if one is a Baptist or a Catholic prayer if one is a Presbyterian.   Nor should a Catholic think a prayer by a Protestant would contain heresy to their theology.  Instead, the editors have chosen prayers from each part of the worldwide Church which, I believe, are Christ centered.  I loved this book!

A Morning and Evening Prayerbook was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My "Word" For 2019


I don't make New Year's Resolutions but for many years now, I have asked God for a "word" for the next year.  Something that would be my Due North in my pondering and in what He wanted me to concentrate on for the year.  It has always come by Christmas and usually by Thanksgiving.  However, this year I thought I didn't have a word.  Nothing came to mind!

Until... I was watching a women's conference speaker on television during my blog break and she gave the subject of her teaching that day.  At which time, I realized that God had been nudging me toward the subject for months, even though I hadn't considered it as an "official" word from Him.

I messaged my daughter and asked her what she thought of the word and she agreed it was a good one.  So the "word" He gave me for 2019 is... discern.

Discern: 1. to see, recognize, or understand something that is not clear: 2. to be able to see, recognize, understand, or decide something.

The need for discernment is not new, it was probably one of the earliest teachings I received as a new Christian. I have long prayed for my own discernment to be sharp as well as for my family to have that gift of discernment.  For instance, the ability to discern whom to trust and not trust through the years.  So that need has been around since the Garden... and those residents apparently ignored it.  Which is unfortunately easy to do.

However, what is new is the increased amount of deception in the world today.  It seems I am constantly asking God to clarify what is the truth in a situation and what is... not real Truth.  For even the Church is accepting as Truth ways of living that the world in general was appalled by a generation ago.

My need to discern what is Truth goes beyond what the world is saying.  I have learned that I need to discern when watching all TV news, all articles, and even following what long time trusted conservative and Christian outlets are now writing and saying. The enemy is weaving deceit in every part of society, including those I could once trust.

For instance, I had a favorite news source online where I would find good articles and commentary from a conservative worldview.  But something began to happen early last year when the host of the program began to include commentary that I believed was not only a non-truth but close to heretical in the teaching.

I had to doubt that person's ability to discern any kind of news if he could be so far off in his current commentaries. I was not alone in my alarm as others began to notice his "commentaries" that were becoming increasingly anti-semitic. I had already stopped listening to him very often but I made the decision to remove his website and another from my Bookmarks.

Now, there are media sources which I know are saying things that I do not believe are true.  I don't even bother giving them any of my time.  Their worldview (the filter in which they decide what is Truth) is almost always one that has no respect for Biblical Truth.  It doesn't take a gift of discernment to know where they stand on issues of faith.

I need to constantly reset my plumb line toward True North.  It tends to wobble once in awhile.  Oh, not the big stuff.  I am fairly secure in my standing firm in the doctrines of the faith... the virgin birth of Christ, the Resurrection, the return of Christ (although I do not consider discussion on when He returns to be something to divide Christian friends).

The enemy of our souls knows us too well to try to slip in a big deception if we have walked with Christ for decades and had good teaching.  No... quite often it is the small stuff that brings about a crack in our foundation that can turn into a chasm.  In much the same way a little flirting doesn't seem to hurt but that is the way most adultery situations begin.

I have begun in the last year or two to become even more choosy over what books I accept to review.  For I was finding more books that were being written, especially from bloggers who became well known authors, that included these fault lines of doctrine.

I'm not talking about becoming legalistic here for anyone who knows me well also knows my feelings towards legalism.  I would rather spend time with a person of completely different political leanings than a legalistic Christian for I saw the resulting damage legalism did in my own family before I was born.  I want to remain faithful to God's Word but I do not want to tear down another individual to do so.

No, the discernment I need is the understanding of what God's Word is saying. I need to discern when is the correct time to say something, when I should pray instead of speak, and to ask God to love the unloveable through me.... even especially politicians.  

I have to admit that I so often find the day having passed by in a flash and I still haven't opened my Bible.  So daily Bible reading is becoming a higher priority for that is the plum line!  I'm also going to read more biographies of men and women who have walked steadfastly before God in the past and adding them to my current reading.  I want to know how they remained faithful.

I'm just beginning to really ponder the "word" for all of its' implications in this new year. It is one that comes with many layers of meaning.  I think we all can be certain of one thing... we all will require more discernment as the year continues... and God's wisdom.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - I'm back!


I only took slightly less than a couple of weeks off and it is still kind of difficult to get back in the swing of things.  Honestly, I can easily understand how blog friends who took an extended time off of writing ended up not returning at all.  Blogging, like most things we do, is a habit!

The one thing that keeps me coming back... well, two if I were to add blog friends... is that God keeps giving me ideas to write about.  That was the deal I made with Him, you know (as if the Almighty would handshake a deal), that I would write as long as He gave me something to write about.  So far in these past years since that ummm... deal, He has kept up His end of the bargain.

I have been pretty much offline these past two weeks.  Just posting on Instagram once or twice before today and reading a few favorite blogs (without commenting).  The first week I was finishing Christmas clean up and doing some more decluttering.  I also watched some Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel before they ended and watched a few Christmas DVDs of my own.

The second week went by in such a blur that I can hardly remember what I did.  I can't tell you how many times in the past two weeks that I have mentioned to a friend "this day flew by!".  Doesn't it seem like Winter days (for those of us North of the equator) seem shorter because of the sun going down so early?

Now, I must admit that I'm not ready to give up Winter.  Especially if I don't have to drive on slick roads.  It gives introverts permission to curl up on the sofa with a book, a throw, a hot beverage, and a family member with fur (Florentine is the cuddliest cat we have ever been owned by).

I purchased two Christmas gifts for myself at Barnes & Noble about the time I took the blog break, The Cozy Issue of Bella Grace and the Merry and Delicious issue of Where Women Cook.  If you have read either of these magazines, you will know that they are pricey but are really like softcover books... with gorgeous photos and no advertisements.  B&N had originally sold out of that special issue of Bella Grace but when I stopped by on my way to my retinal specialist appointment, they had restocked!  Yay! 

Both magazines have been sitting in the basket by the sofa, picked up and read quite often when I have had a short break or just needed a mental vacation.  I highly recommend these special issues of both magazines when you can find them.  Both are probably not on newsstands now but I expect they are still available at their respective websites.

I have been reading a couple books to be reviewed (including the new book by Karen Andreola!) and I am just starting a re-read of Goudge's Elliot trilogy.  As I write, The Bird in the Tree sits at the side of the keyboard, waiting for the morning's work to be accomplished. 

The dishes have been washed except for a soaking saucepan, which was used to make oatmeal for breakfast.  I have a loaf of bread rising and almost ready to pop in the oven.  I love the new bread machine (and the friend whose gift it was to me).  She has been hearing for years about how I want to make bread dough in my mixer but I don't have the energy to do so, anymore.  (Most people with an autoimmune disease will understand the fatigue challenges.)

As with my old machine, I only use the dough cycle and then finish the bread in the oven.  I'm sure there will be a day that I actually bake bread in the bread machine... but not too soon.  The warmth of the oven feels good on this cold and snowy January day.  The bread will be served with leftover ham and bean soup.

I will be back tomorrow to share my "word" for the new year.  I hadn't planned on having a "word" this year but it seemed God had other plans (as usual).  Then next Sunday, I hope to have put together my favorite books of 2018.  Due to the significant eye infection and slow recovery, it is an easier list to pick from this year.

See you tomorrow.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge... here.  It is the first book of my very favorite Goudge trilogy!  I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  I thank everyone who has taken the time to enter your Amazon shopping through a link or the widget!!!


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - From sparkle to hygge


Christmas 2018 is packed away on garage shelves, ready to be brought out again next year.  Although, I expect if you follow a more liturgical calendar, you are still in the midst of Christmas celebrations.  I usually decorate soon after Thanksgiving, so they have been displayed in all their sparkly glory for about a month.

I must admit that it happens the same way every year.  I get the house decorated and I wonder how I could ever live without all that sparkle.  I still love everything on Christmas Day but then comes December 26th and I am ready to get back to normal.  Every. Single. Year.

I suppose like so many things in this finite world, we can only handle so much sparkle until we step into Eternity. In this world, it has a beginning and an end. Christmas is such a gift, a peek into that time when Heaven touched the Earth and a promise of that day when the sparkle will never end.

Don't get me wrong.  Just because I packed the sparkle doesn't mean I give into the darkness of winter.  There are numerous lamps and candles in the house.  Where Florentine can reach the candles... they are battery operated.  My favorite shop that sells primitive decorating items sells very lifelike candles that run for a long time on AA batteries.

I tend to leave the Holidays and enter into the season of... hygge. Pronounced who-ga, which I still find hard to comprehend.  But it is true. Obviously, unlike my husband and children, there is no Scandinavian DNA in my genetics (my husband's grandfather and grandmother immigrated from Norway).

I watched a PBS show recently about hygge where they interviewed the man who wrote the original book, Meik Wiking, as well as citizens of Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.  I thought it interesting that Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, said that even after reading about hygge, most people do not understand that it is not something you can buy... it is about warmth, candle light, and relationships.

I understand that my own desire for a cozy winter home is not exactly the same as true hygge.  I enjoy reading the books and taking from them what is possible given where I live, circumstances, etc.  We all can do something, even if few can do everything... especially if we do not live in Denmark.

As long as I can remember, the cold weather months have featured homemade soups quite often for our main meal of the day.  I make more casseroles in cold weather, too.  I never got around to cooking for two, instead there are planned leftovers or I freeze part of what is prepared.

I don't have the energy to make bread from scratch these days (and I admit to being jealous of Paul Hollywood's kneading skills!) but thanks to a dear friend, I can now make bread in a bread machine again.   The aroma of bread baking... now that to me is a form of hygge.  This week I plan to use the dough cycle and make my favorite cinnamon rolls.

Just as the fine citizens of Scandinavia, I must have a nice selection of hot beverages in the winter months.  Whether coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or apple cider... nothing to me says comfort like sipping a hot drink or a cold day.

I adore candlelight dinners and stored away are many memories of restaurant meals with friends and family as well as meals in my own home. But that doesn't happen as often these days so instead... candlelight teatime or snacking are enjoyed.  Something is far better than nothing and it makes even the simplest of food something special.

In a lot of ways, I practiced hygge before I even heard about it for I don't remember not having a couple throws available near the sofa and love seat, stacks of books and magazines, and usually a cat or two nearby.  I think we introverts have long known a thing or two about cozy.  ;)

So once the Christmas sparkle is packed away at your house, don't forget it can still be cozy.  Even if, for my friends on the other side of the equator, that means lemonade and a swim in the pool!

I'm taking a break from blogging until January 12th, except for a possible book review.  I always need this time of rest and reflection... and finally writing thank you notes. May you have a very blessed new year!

Mentioned in this Blog Post
My favorite bread machine/cinnamon roll recipe... here.
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Image:  From Christmas a few years ago.