Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Karen Andreola's new book, Mother Culture


I cannot recall the last time I asked an author if I could review their book when it was ready but that is exactly what happened with Mother Culture.  As soon as Karen said the book was almost finished, I messaged her and asked to review it when it was published.  Thankfully, she said yes.

Karen's book, A Charlotte Mason Companion was one of my go-to homeschooling books.  One that I kept in a stack nearby to reread often.  As soon as I started reading Mother Culture, I knew this was the same kind of book.  It a book that people can enjoy reading all the way through and then come back to favorite sections for inspiration.

If you have read Karen's previous books, you will have heard her use the term Mother Culture before.  On her website, she describes it as:

Mother Culture® is the skillful art of how a mother looks after the ways of her household. With a “thinking love” she creates a culture in the home all her own.

A mother does a lot of taking care, so she needs to take care of herself too. As a mother is feeding and cultivating the souls of her children, she is nourishing her own soul with ideas, while taking a little time for her own play and creativity. Nourished and refreshed, she keeps growing closer to God and into the Christian woman God is designing her to be.

I always think of Karen as a Christian homeschooling version of Tasha Tudor.  Her writing provides good information for the 21st century mom (or 20th century as it was when I was homeschooling) mixed with the genteelness of a 19th century teacher.

While critics might find her ideas a little old fashioned, that was exactly what drew back to them so often.  I gained not only knowledge but rest as I read her words.

Some of the sections of Mother Culture are:
  • Homemaking is a Divine Opportunity
  • A Walk Will Do You Good
  • Be Brave Five Minutes Longer
  • True Courtesy
  • Free to Imagine
  • Pleasant Words
  • How to Safeguard the Love of Learning
  • Where is the Older Woman in the Lord
  • Safe in My Garden
  • ... and many more

Unlike A Charlotte Mason Companion, I think this book can be appreciated by women who do not homeschool officially.  For we all educate children at home, even if they are sent to public schools!

While I have your attention, I also recommend the two lovely books of fiction Karen has written which incorporate the Charlotte Mason philosophy.  I will give links to those below but they are Lessons at Blackberry Inn: Adventures in the Gentle Art of Learning and Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning.

I highly recommend this and all of Karen Andreola's books!

Mentioned in this Review
Mother Culture is only available right now on Karen's website.  It can be ordered directly from her (which is always a good thing for the author) but I will add it to the Amazon widget when it is available on Amazon.  Her website is... here.

The other books mentioned are available on her website and at Amazon (those links are below).

A Charlotte Mason Companion... here.

Lessons at Blackberry Inn... here. (Fiction)

Pocketful of Pinecones... here. (Fiction)

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - You are what you read

"You will be the same person in five years as you are today
except for the people you meet and the books you read."
Charlie Tremendous Jones
 
When the discussion of reading books with children used to come up, a saying I heard quite often was "it doesn't matter what they are reading as long as they read".  I was then and continue to be appalled by that statement.

Reading junk, bad social theories, bad theology, and pornography will no more make a healthy child (and adult) than eating McDonald's three meals a day will bring about a healthy body... and I do crave an occasional Big Mac!

When I was growing up, there were no boundaries to my reading and I did read just about everything I could find.  Some of which stayed with me in beautiful ways while others I wish I could wash my brain of their images.  I know personally it matters what we read.

I will be forever thankful for friendships made in the early years of my faith, those people who recommended those authors who would lay a strong foundation for my faith.  The pastor of the Presbyterian church I attended at the time had become influenced by Francis Schaeffer, so much so that he was at L'Abri on my wedding day and my marriage was performed by our Associate Pastor.

I can't say I understood all of what Schaeffer wrote, my brain doesn't work the same way so I have to read pages two or three times before I "get it".  However, I bonded immediately with Edith Schaeffer's writings, as did many (if not most) Evangelical women at the time.

I would be a different person if the books by the Schaeffers had not been recommended to me as a young Christian.  Thankfully, there were excellent books by Christian women (in addition to Edith) whose writings help mold and shape me as a wife, mother, and homemaker.  Women such as Elisabeth Elliot,  Anne Ortlund and Emily Barnes.  Later I came to enjoy the books by Elizabeth George (the Christian writer, not the novelist by the same name).

One thing I always have to remember is that these books were read by choice in a decade many women were turning to books by Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer.  I chose to read the books I did because of who recommended them to me.  These were the women I wanted to become like, the women who read Elisabeth and Edith and Anne and Emily.

Did I only read Christian books?  Of course, not.  While I decided long ago not to read defiling books, one does not have to be a Christian to teach how to live in Beauty.  I don't think Alexandra Stoddard comes even close to being an Evangelical Christian (her non-decorating writings lean toward New Age thinking) but she had a great influence on the way I decorate my home.

Tasha Tudor wrote about being reincarnated and wanted to return to a past century when she died... but that didn't stop me from gleaning the good stuff she wrote about Beauty and the courage to be yourself.

Julia Child doesn't seem to have any faith at all from what I have read in her books but she taught me to be brave in the kitchen.  Not to worry about making a mistake and if I did... just to call it something else.

For you see, as we become discerning in our reading, we know who are our spiritual advisers in books and those authors we want to read for non-spiritual enjoyment.

What about fiction books?  My preference these days goes to the more genteel and lovely stories of Elizabeth Goudge, D. E. Stevenson, Miss Read, Jan Karon, etc.  Which is amusing because my television viewing habits lean toward murder mysteries.  Hmmmm... one should have a balance in their life?

With all of us, really good literature helps form the person we become.  Whether we are children or adults.  But remember... we need to give grace to other parents who allow books that we didn't. 

I have a lot of friends whose family loved the Harry Potter books but we didn't read them.  That was fine.  My son and I watched Dragon Ball Z together when he was a child, which would cause some friends to shake their heads in wonder.

God knows what is best for each individual family and not being infinite ourselves... we don't.  What my family deemed appropriate may be different than a friend's choice as long as neither are what I would call defiling.  Let's just say you will find no books starting with "Fifty Shades..." in my library.

However, one of my favorite novels is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.  Embedded in the story is her philosophy but if you know what it is, you can ignore that and appreciate her writing that is (I think) more relevant today than when it was written... as she warns against becoming too dependent on the modern world and technology.  Remembering this was written long before the Internet!

Is there a type of book I will never read?  Well, personally I don't read books with a lot of bad language or shall we say... lewd behavior?  I also do not read books these days by atheists disguised as Bible teachers and those making an attempt to draw me away from the faith. 

Not that I am concerned they could... for they can't!... but I once had a friend who attended a liberal Presbyterian seminary tell me he wished he hadn't read some of those books for he had to filter them out on his way back to the reality of faith.  I'm too old for such nonsense these days.

Which brings me back to children... I am a firm believer in filtering all books kids read as young children through my standards, up until their teenage years.  I still wouldn't have defiling books in the house but I prefer teenagers be challenged in areas when they live at home and can ask questions.

I gave books to my daughter (who was not homeschooled) and then provided a full course in worldview to my son (who was homeschooled), knowing full well that if they were going to a University they would need to be prepared. 

I know this is a rather rambling Sunday post.  I told a friend that I was having a hard time getting the words to land just right in my brain.  So my friends... this is where my thoughts led me.  Hopefully they make sense.

Some of  the books and authors mentioned or eluded to in this blog post are:
Atlas Shrugged... here.  (Read with discernment.)
Edith Schaeffer... here and here (her most famous books among many).
Anne Ortlund... here (her most famous book among many).
Emilie Barnes... here (her most famous book among many).
Elisabeth Elliot... here (a good introduction among many).
Alexandra Stoddard... here and here (I especially love her decorating books).
How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay... here (one of the books given to my daughter before college).
Starting Points... here (used with my son's homeschooling).

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

Image:  Kim Sung Book Shop

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - New and successful attempts at planning


If you have followed my writings here at CTB&Me more than five minutes, you will know that the subtitle could be "living life a little at a time".  That is how I have learned to accomplish more than I thought I could given intense fatigue.  It is remarkable what a work rest work rest (etc.) schedule can do.

However, what was missing was an overall look at what was being accomplished.  A birds eye view of my days so to speak.  I think that started when I decided to switch from a larger planner to a smaller one, thinking I didn't really need a large planner, anymore.  I only needed to write down appointments. I was wrong.

Long ago, in my former life, I wondered why I accomplished so much in my job but didn't at home.  I realized it was because at work, I used a planner as my brain and at home only a wall calendar to keep track of appointments and special days.  Since then, I've kept a planner but obviously one too small for daily activities didn't work.

So when it came time to purchase a 2019 planner, I went back to the larger size.  Now, well into February, I have realized how much I missed using the planner as a place not only for the writing of appointments but to write down the important items on my To Do list.

It helps to actually SEE what has been accomplished in a week.  One thing I learned to do when we were homeschooling was not only to write what I planned to do... but to reverse engineer what I actually DID that day on the planner.  I'm doing that with this one, too.

For instance, on Friday I had a couple items written that needed to be accomplished and they could be checked off when completed.  But I had a little more energy than usual and the roads were actually clear (for a change this winter) so I took the two boxes and one bag of items needing to go to Goodwill and dropped them off to finally get them out of the Study.

The boxes contained extra jars from when I finished cleaning and decluttering those shelves in the garage.  Somehow I had accumulated a lot more glass jars than I could use in this lifetime.  Off they went for people who could use them, along with a few books to pass along to charity.

I also stopped by Aldi since it was nearby and checked to see what meat was on sale.  I'm trying to restock the deep freeze and sure enough, I was able to buy one whole chicken for 99 cents a pound and one family size package of chicken thighs for 88 cents a pound.

When I arrived home, the whole chicken went into the deep freeze and the family size package of chicken thighs were divided into two with half staying in the refrigerator to use quickly and the other half heading for the deep freeze.

None of this was planned but it all was written down on "Friday" after the fact.  If you don't do this, you will forget what was actually accomplished that you didn't plan each day.  Like I said, I learned to do this when we were homeschooling because so much of learning happened that was not planned. 

My planner obviously tells me when there is a doctor's appointment or an important birthday.  But I also have written down when I need to do a blog post (of course) or a book review.  I also learned a new tip from a favorite blogger, who learned it from a friend... to write down what day she waters her plants.

Her friend told her about the concept of "Thirsty Thursday", that is how she remembers once a week to water her plants.  I have been writing Thirsty Thursday on the appropriate day now... for the plants and to check Florentine's water canister.  (There are a couple plants I need to check over the weekends that may need more water in winter.)

I did this last Thursday and Florentine's water canister was almost empty.  Obviously she does not complain about it loudly and with gusto as much as she does when there is no kibble.  However, she usually does the same thing Victoria used to do if she thinks her water needs changed, she sits next to it and stares at it, then stares at me until I notice.  So funny!  But I digress...

All this to say that writing things down on the Planner again is not only helping me remember things to do but also to remember how much I did.  Sometimes I think we are hard on ourselves and think because not much of the big stuff is getting accomplished, nothing is getting accomplished.  Not so!

We all know our high energy times of the day (mine is a couple hours after I wake up to early afternoon) that we can schedule what needs to be accomplished.  After that is all grace.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
This is the planner I use but I bought it on sale... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Wiersbe NKJV Study Bible, a review


I was really excited to peruse and review this Bible because Warren Wiersbe is a favorite Bible teacher.  I particularly enjoyed his "BE" series of studies.  You may have listened to him on the radio series, Back to the Bible, too.

This is a true study Bible with thousands of line-by-line notes at the bottom of pages, an Introduction to each Book of the Bible, a "Be Transformed" section under that Introduction, a good Concordance, an Index of Preaching Outlines, maps, etc.

I usually don't include the publishers notes but I think in this case, they will cover anything I forgot.

 Features include:
  • Thousands of verse-by-verse notes by Dr. Wiersbe
  • Hundreds of Catalyst notes which more deeply reveal important biblical themes and character issues to motivate transformation by the Holy Spirit through the Word
  • Book introductions featuring Dr. Wiersbe’s historical background, themes, and practical lessons for each book of the Bible
  • “Be transformed” section in each book introduction specifically pointing to the life-changing impact of that particular part of Scripture
  • Thousands of cross references, showing the connections throughout the Bible
  • Concordance with key words for deeper word study
  • Full-color maps
  • Clear and readable 10.5-point NKJV Comfort Print®
I was sent the black Leathersoft edition but it is available in many styles, including hardback.  The font is the ComfortPrint font, which is large enough for anyone except those requiring extra large fonts.

I highly recommend this study Bible for anyone who appreciates Wiersbe's teaching.  This Bible was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

-Further info for the black Leathersoft edition... here.
-Further info for the hardback edition... here.
Other covers can be found by scrolling down on the pages.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Reflections

Faith given back to us after a night of doubt is a stronger thing,
and far more valuable to us than faith that has never been tested.
Elizabeth Goudge

These past few weeks, while the real world revolves on its' axis... I have been enjoying a visit to the England of long ago.  It was especially delightful to re-read The Heart of the Family when I wasn't feeling well for it reminded me that one does not have to be strong or young or rich to bring their influence to the people around them.

I love how, in Sebastian's weakness and tragedy, he developed a calm faith others can draw from in the story.  There are people he comes to love whose gift to him is the reality of Christ and his new found hope and peace return to them in moments they need it most.  I think that is what followers of Christ are to be to each other...

We know from our first meeting with Sebastian that he is physically weak and soon come to realize he is in the last months of his life.  I understand his depression and his feelings of inadequacy.  For anyone whose body is no longer strong has moments of frustration, if not depression.

However, in this story, as Sebastian's body grows weaker, his positive influence on those around him deepens.  The Eliot family will always be better for having Sebastian as part of their inner circle.

I also love how the solid rock of the family, while many believe it to be Grandmother, is often the "homely, humble, disheveled, Anglican priest" uncle.  He thinks of himself as failing in his role, unable due to physical limitations from WWI injuries to do what I would call "great things".  The reader knows that it is in his day in and day out sufferings that he became the rock of faith he is to many.

I'm embarrassed to say that as an American Baby Boomer, I assumed it was those people who accomplished great things that most influenced the world.  Now I know that real life is lived in small places... in families and friendships and houses and neighborhoods... where God places our sphere of influence for Him

I have found that it is in the quite conversations throughout the years that we can bring our faith and values to others.  Most often when our children were growing up, it was those times when we were driving to and from a class or an errand, when hiking a trail or drying dishes, when we were answering a question while folding clothes or stirring soup... the day to day living of people around us... that wisdom was passed on to the next generation.

I think if I knew then what I know now, how fast the years fly by and how little time we have with those around us, I would have put more thought into that which I wanted to pass on to others.  But God doesn't want us to live life in a rear view mirror.  He knows it is in the day-to-day actions taken and precept by precept conversations that we pass on what we have learned.

I think of conversations with my mother, friends, and other people who came in and out of my life throughout the years.  A few of the people who had a significant influence on my faith were those I knew only a short time, as if God (and I believe He did) ordained the crossing of our paths for that purpose.  Their words helping to mold and shape me as much or more than any sermon.

For listening to good teaching, excellent books, and especially reading the Bible help to lay a foundation of Truth in each of us. But isn't it true that most Truth... and definitely increased faith... are burned into us through the heat of adversity?  When we meet those who have gone through trials and have come out with a deeper love of God and His people... they provide a walking, talking testimony. 

We have a decision to make as we walk along our journey.  Either we will allow God to mold us and shape us as He wants, to be the finished product we are intended to become... to leave a legacy of faith and courage to our family and friends.  Or... we will choose to kick and scream and complain our way to Heaven.  We will retain our salvation but our legacy will not be what we hoped. 

God is not going to judge me next to the accomplishments of Billy Graham for He did not call me to preach the Gospel to millions of people.  Instead he will ask what I did with the gifts and talents that were unique to my journey.  That should give us all hope...

Image:  Family Circle by Lee Stroncek

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - February baking and Valentine's Day


Thank you for the comments and suggestions two weeks ago.  I always learn something new! 

By February, I'm ready for winter to be over, especially one like this winter which has been very cold and had too many days when the roads were ice covered.  I'm beginning to notice photos on Instagram from the deep south that are looking like SPRING.  It will eventually make its' way here but it takes awhile.

In the past, February was a month in which I did a lot of baking.  I don't bake as much these days but February tempts me back to the mixer and oven.  Today I'm going to bake a cake (although this time I'm using a favorite cake mix) and I will freeze one layer of the cake for another time.

I've noticed how cakes in Great Britain were usually one layer unless they were for a very festive occasion that needed to serve a lot of people.  So a few years ago, with a need to monitor sugar intake and be more frugal... I started freezing one of the layers for later when I made a two layer cake.  I make my own buttercream icing so it is quite easy to make half the amount as usual.

I learned from nutrition classes when we lived in Detroit that it is a false assumption diabetics cannot eat any sugar (now we have to monitor all carbs).  That comes from the days it used to be called "sugar diabetes" (my uncle also had adult onset juvenile diabetes and that is what it was called then).  Instead, my nutritionist taught me to enjoy a small piece of pie or cake at times and always with protein.  That way people better manage cravings.  So my one layer cake fits that direction nicely.

I was thinking last week that Valentine's Day is coming up and it was a holiday where I enjoyed making something special when I had children at home.  I tried to manage expectations when both of my kids were growing up. They didn't expect (and neither did I), an expensive piece of jewelry each year to celebrate.

My expectations of the holiday came from my parents.  Each Valentine's Day, my mother bought me a small heart shaped box of candy, the kind that had a tiny doll or some item like silk flowers on the top of the package. I came to associate Valentine's Day with chocolates.  Although to be honest, I could probably make a case for chocolate any day of the year.

While I did purchase chocolates once in awhile, I enjoyed making some of my own items for both Valentine's Day and Easter.  I thought I'd a few of these and other dessert recipes with you.  Some recipes can be tweaked for Christmas, too.

Raspberry Truffle Brownies... here.
These are the perfect brownies for a special occasion.  They look difficult to make but they are not as long as you follow directions and people rave about them.  (Photo shown above.)


Rachel Ray's Fudge... here.
This is a delicious and easy fudge from her old 30 Minute Cooking show.  I make it for Christmas gifts but it is perfect for other holidays.

Creamy Cheese Dessert Parfait... here.
I've made these for holidays before.  The recipe is simply the cheesecake filling of my Cherry Cheesecake Pie made into a parfait quickly and easily.

Beverly Nye's Candies
Homemade Mounds bars... here.
This recipe has other options on this page.

Homemade Mints... here.
Perfect for holidays, baby showers, wedding showers, etc.

Homemade Peanut Butter Easter Eggs... here.
I have made these at other times than Easter by rolling into balls instead of an egg form.

Photo:  From Country Woman Magazine where I originally found the recipe.