Saturday, July 17, 2021

Book Review: Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings

I knew I was in trouble when I read the introduction to Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings. Shari Zook says, "This is not a book about self-care. This is a book about receiving the care that surrounds you."

I don't do well in accepting help. (That might be an understatement.) I remember one morning many years ago when my children were all babies, and I woke up with a painfully stiff neck. I was barely able to get out of bed, but I hobbled through the motions of caring for my family. Ed looked at me before he left for work and said, "Are you going to call your mom and ask for help or do I have to?" By this time, he knew how stubborn I was about asking for help.

In the last four years, I've been forced to accept help. I've opened checks that paid for our medical bills, served casseroles made by other hands, and watched others cut firewood, do home repairs, and care for Ed. I'm incapable of providing for my children alone, and I know it. I'm grateful for all the ways others have held up our family.

But I'm still slow to admit my emotional needs, and if you ask me how I'm doing, my default will be "I'm fine." Last year  I read a book that made me realize how deeply my identity was founded on feeling capable, efficient, and productive. I'm most comfortable giving and serving. I don't want to look needy and helpless and am willing to fake to the point of deception to hide my needs. 

For months I had Colossians 4:19 hanging in my kitchen. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I've seen God meet my needs, and I'm grateful for the abundance of His riches. But what if I'm missing part of the glory by shutting myself from the people of God? 

So that is the background in which I opened up Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings by Shari Zook and read of her desperation when being capable and efficient didn't work anymore. She faced challenges in parenting, ministry, and marriage and watched God reach out to her through other people.

Shari writes beautifully and has the ability to laugh at herself. But she doesn't shy away from looking straight at the reader and asking the hard questions. She tells of her discovery of her own failures and losses and practical ways to reach out for the grace of Jesus through the ministry of others.

If you live locally, I'd love to say that you can borrow my copy of Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings, but I think I need to reread it first. One of my friends asked if I was interested in reading through it slowly, maybe two chapters a week, and discussing the end-of-the-chapter questions together. That kind of vulnerability scares me silly, but Shari has modeled it and showed us how beautiful honesty can be. 

If you want your own copy of Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings - and you do if you are a mom of a challenging child, or are a foster mom, or have faced depression, or avoid asking for help until you are dying, or are a pastor's wife (and that pastor disappoints you), or want to find a mentor. You can find your own copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or the publisher Herald Press. You can also get a sample of Shari's writings at her blog Confessions of a Woman Learning to Live.

Shari gave me a copy of her book as a friend, but didn't require a review in return. All opinions in this review are my own.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Rosemary Yogurt Flatbread

 


I get in a rut with food, especially what I serve guests. If you have ate a meal at our house this summer, you likely were served flatbread wraps. 

My brother spent a couple years in the middle east and acquired a love of naan. A friend gave us this recipe for flatbread that is similar to naan, but simpler to make. The actually cooking takes time, but it isn't difficult. Especially if you don't worry about making your flatbread perfectly round.

I prefer them small, easier to handle and eat. We like to load them with veggies such as lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and avocado. Add some cheese and grilled chicken and drizzle with a yogurt sauce. The possibilities are endless and usually depend upon what I have on hand, but the result is always a satisfying meal.

Rosemary Yogurt Flatbread

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk

1 Tablespoon instant yeast

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

1 long stem of rosemary (strip off leaves and chop)

4 cups flour

Mix all ingredients except flour together. Add flour until makes a soft dough. Knead for five minutes. Divided into 12-15 balls and cover with a damp cloth. Rest for 15 minutes. Preheat skillet to medium-high heat. Roll out each ball of dough and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.







Yogurt Sauce

1 cup of plain Greek yogurt

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/8 tsp cumin

1 T lemon juice

Mix all ingredients. Drizzle over flatbread wraps. Store in refrigerator.


What are you eating on these hot summer days?

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Sisters' July Reading Challenge

 Looking forward to another month of great reading!


This post contains affiliate links.

1. Read a magazine from start to finish.

If you don't subscribe to a magazine, pick one up at the store on a topic that interests you.


2. Read a book with a color in the title.

For example: The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

    Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang


3. Read a book of essays.

For example, authors such as Dorcas Smucker and Elizabeth Elliot have compiled books of essays. Or books with a collection of essays from various authors such as The Living of These Days.


4. Read a book or listen to an audio book in a vehicle.


5. Read beside water (ocean, lake, river, pool, creek, or lawn sprinkler).


I can't wait to hear what you enjoy reading in July.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Sisters' June Reading Challenge


This June was one of the busiest months I have had in a long time. The month was rewarding with inspiring conversations and fulfilling experiences but didn't allow much reading time. So I purposely picked short books to fulfill the challenges this month. I left Charity read the long books.

I have many unread books on my shelves. I've been purposely choosing books off my shelves to fulfill these challenges. So fun to actually finish books that have long been on my TBR.

This post contains affiliate links.


 1. Read a book with a title that includes something from nature (plants, weather, flowers, etc).

Charity - Jayber Crow by Wendel Berry

I've been waiting to read this book because I heard that Berry is an author that you need time to read. They were right. Jayber Crow is the fictional life story of a man born in Kentucky in the early 1900s. The book is beautifully written and incredibly woven together and left me overwhelmed with delight and thoughtfulness.

Gina - The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

I knew this fairy tale was about a magic mirror that distorts the beautiful into ugly and have long wanted to read it. But I was a bit disappointed to find that the interesting premise that begins the book turns into a basic journey tale. where love melts hardened hearts. I'm glad to have finally read it, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.

2. Read a book about animals (fiction or nonfiction).

Charity - Beowulf by an unknown author

This book has been sitting on my TBR and making me feel overwhelmed every time I opened it. The poem was most likely written in the eighth century and considered one of the foundational texts of English literature. I opted to enjoy it as an audio book and found the free verse style and old English a delight to listen to, though I struggled to follow the story line. Beowulf is a story of the battle between a great prince and a monster (or dragon). Maybe I'll read it next and understand it better.

Gina - Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Years ago I borrowed this book from the library. Our neighbor boy saw it at my house and told me it was a very sad book and I returned it unread. Sounder is short, with a suitable reading level for a child, but I'm glad I waited until now to read it. The simple spare language somehow manages to load on the emotion of a young black boy who loses both his father and his dog. Maybe it is a hard read because I know it is based on a true story and similar accounts took place throughout southern United States.



3. Read a book of history or historical fiction (fiction or nonfiction). 

Charity - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In 1951, cancer cells were taken from the body of an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks. Those cells would become the world famous HeLa cells, that have grown and multiplied into billions more. Skloot seeks to gives the world a human behind the cells, telling of Henrietta's life and the life of her children and family. Not only do you get a glimpse of science labs during the 1900s but also into the personal lives of lower class African Americans and the medical treatment available to them. This is not a boring true story. Skloot masterfully places you in another place and time and makes you feel like you know the people she is writing about.

Gina - A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh

This book was set in England in the 1600s during the Black Plague. At first I had a hard time getting into the writing style, but then I realized that the author was trying to stay true to the time period. She managed to write a book that felt authentic and by the end I couldn't put it down. I felt immersed in the religious conflict and the horrifying pandemic of the time. 


4. Read by a campfire.

Charity - Unless you let me call a candle a mini campfire, I failed this challenge. Campfires are something I do with people. So this month I sat around a campfire with those I love and enjoyed a candle-lit book reading by myself on the porch. Both were lovely!

Gina - I love people and activity, but sometimes I crave quiet. In the middle of this busy month, I was given several hours alone on a quiet mountain farm where I could hear no human noise. I lit a campfire and soaked in the stillness. Delightful.


5. Enjoy a book-themed garden party.

Charity - My oldest niece and I have an obsession with a particular book series. She had some friends who also share our obsession. So we did the most logical thing! We held a Mitford party complete with food from the Mitford cookbook. We enjoyed an evening of exceptional food and hysterical laughing. Since we can never meet Father Tim, Cynthia, and Dooley (and all our other favorite people) in person, we read about them to each other. If only Jan Karon could know how much we appreciate her. Now I'm dreaming up a new themed book party. Who should be next? Jane Austen or Charles Dickens? (Most of the photos on this post were from this Mitford party.) 


Gina - My two youngest girls play so well together that I sometimes regret how little time I spend with them. I rarely even read aloud to them, compared to the hours I read to their older siblings. Right now they both are enjoying the Little House books. So I purposed to have a Mary and Laura tea with them. They wore their sunbonnets and aprons, and we sat in the shade reading Little House in the Prairie and sipping ice tea.




I'd love to hear what reading looked like at your house in June.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Classic Strawberry Jam with Apple Pectin and Stevia

 


When I shared the above photo on social media, I was asked, "Why apples in  your strawberry jam?" I had nearly forgotten that this wasn't normal.

My memory of my mom making strawberry jam when I was a girl is going to the grocery store for pectin (Sure Gel) and finding that other jam makers in the community had stripped the shelf bare. Sometimes we'd go to several grocery stores before finding enough pectin. 

I always enjoy learning new techniques, especially if they mean less reliance on purchased products, so when I saw a recipe in Cooks Country magazine that used an apple for pectin, I decided to try it. I loved the result and have used this recipe every year since then.

There are disadvantages of using an apple for pectin. Some of the modern kinds of pectin require less sugar and no cooking which makes jam making faster. A cooked jam does take longer and the flavor is a little different than the non-cooked type of jam. 

But if you'd like to try making jam the way your great-grandmother may have made it, here is the recipe I use. 



Classic Strawberry Jam with Apple Pectin

3 lb strawberries
3 cups of sugar (or alternative sweetener)
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and shredded (about 1 1/4 cup)
2 T lemon juice

Cap, wash, and crush strawberries. I use an immersion blender. Add all other ingredients. Boil until thick. I found this took about 15 minutes of a rolling boil. Cool. Freeze.


Jam is notorious for boiling over if you walk away. This pan wasn't very full, but the jam foamed up and over the pot. You don't need to constantly stir it, just keep an eye on it and stir occasionally.



The jam will thicken as it cools so it can be hard to know when it has cooked long enough. To test when the jam is thick enough, I keep a small glass plate in the freezer. When I think the jam has cooked long enough, I place a teaspoon of jam on the plate and return it to the freezer for two minutes. I then drag a finger through the cooled jam to text its thickness. You can see here the difference that a few additional minutes of cooking did for the jam. When it is finished it will be a dark red and there will be no sign of the grated apple.

I have also used this recipe for red raspberry jam. I assume it could be used for other fruits.

I've read that Granny Smith apples have more pectin than some other apple varieties, but one year I used Ginger Gold apples in my raspberry jam and it turned out great.

I usually substitute stevia for some (or most) of the sugar. One teaspoon of pure stevia is equal in sweetness to one cup of sugar. I've done as little as 1/2 cup of sugar and replaced rest of the sugar with stevia and my family never knew the difference.


I freeze the jam and find that it keeps its color and texture perfectly even after several years. 

I'd love to hear if you have experimented with apple pectin or stevia in jam making.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Sisters' June Reading Challenge

Looking forward to another great book month in June. Feel free to join us for one or all five of these challenges - or make up your own challenge for June.

This post contains affiliate links.


1. Read a book with a title that includes something from nature (plants, weather, flowers, etc).

For example: 

Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery

Sing Down the Moon by Scott O'Dell

Some Wildflower in My Heart by Jamie Langston Turner 


2. Read a book about animals (fiction or nonfiction).

For example: 

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Charlotte’sWeb by E.B. White

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand


3. Read a book of history or historical fiction (fiction or nonfiction). 

Examples:

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Cabin in Trouble Creek by JeanVan Leeuwen


4. Read by a campfire.

With the long hours of daylight in June, you can sit by a campfire and still have light to read.


5. Enjoy a book-themed garden party.

This can be as simple as sipping iced tea while chatting about books with a friend. Or serving honey bread to your children while reading Pooh. You can get fancy with an Austen- or Mitford-themed party.

 Many children's books mention food: The Little House in the Prairie, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Bread and Jam for Frances. Keep this simple, or make it elaborate, but the idea of this challenge is to be inspired by a book to go outside and share food with a friend or two.

Whether you choose to do these challenges or not, I hope you enjoy learning and growing through the written page in June.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Sisters' May Reading Challenge


Did you enjoy reading in May? We did!

This post contains affilant links.

1. Read a book of letters (fiction or nonfiction).

Charity - The Letters of E.B. White

I knew this author only from his children's books, but through this compiliation of letters, that span his life, I glimpsed into the real person behind the most beloved pig. I didn't complete this book, but enjoyed it in little moments, especially before bed. White's humor and life experiences are a blast to tage along with.

Gina - Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

I've read lots of historical fiction set during World War 2, but I didn't realize until I read this book how little I knew about World War 1. Thousands of letters traveled between English troops stationed in France and their family and friends back home. This book uses fictional letters to share stories of hope and grief. The plot isn't gripping, and it was hard to feel attached to characters known only through their short letters, but I enjoyed this glimpse into another era.


2. Read a book set in a country you've never visited (fiction or nonfiction).

Charity - Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

Goudge is one of my favorite authors, and this book was another emotional roller coaster. Most of the book is set in either the Channel Islands or New Zealand. The main characters are two sisters and their childhood friend, William. The book follows their entire lives and their battles with each other and love. As I read this book, I was reminded of surrender and how our will has the ability to destroy our lives. I loved how this novel was entertaining but also personally challenging.

Gina - I read a travel memior from Austrailia and discovered that I knew almost nothing about this huge fascinating country. While I learned an immense amount from the book, I'm not going to mention the book by name because of its off-color humor. 

3. Read a book that your mother or mentor enjoys.

Our mom has great book tastes, and I always like to check out what she is reading when I visit her house. 

(Fun fact: There are more years between Charity and me than my mom and me. My mom was twenty when I was born, and forty-three when Charity was born - which means that Charity and I are twenty-three years apart. So glad that books have bridged the years between us. We have seven siblings in between us.)

Charity - The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria has shattered my view of home and family. Along with her husband and children, the author challenges you to make your home a place of refuge for your neighbors, no matter what their background or current life. As believers, we have something wonderful to offer, the Gospel. How will we use our house key? Hospitatlity took on a whole new meaning after reading this book.

Gina - Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman

I've read a lot of parenting books, but none like this. Furman took me on a journey through the Old Testamen to see God's plan for humandkind, then shows how Jesus fulfills God's plan as prophet, priest and king. How does that relate to motherhood? Furman says "mother" is a verb and challenges all women, whether biological mothers or not, have been called to help others find new life in Christ. I'll be rereading this book.

4. Read in your backyard, on your porch, or on your fire escape.

Charity - One very exhausting Tuesday I arrived home from work with only one goal in mind. Rest. And when I rest, I read. I spent two delightful hours in my backyard with a hammock and an entire bag of books, journals, and pens. I read, listened to the chatter of my neice and nephews, and traveled to New Zealand (aka Green Dolphin Street). Moments like those got me through the crazy weeks this month.

Gina - When I sit on the hammock or the porch to read, it rarely lasts five minutes before I'm interrupted. But that doesn't keep me from continuing to try. At this point in my life, I find most of my reading time at night, but maybe since it is warmer and the sun is up earlier, I should try reading on the hammock before breakfast. 

5. Ask someone at church what they are reading.

Charity -Books are quickly a conversation between the youth girls at church. Recently we have been reading a book together and enjoying lots of conversations about it. But I also love chatting about books with random people at our little church library.

Gina - One Monday in early May, a friend from church texted to tell me she had finished reading a particular book and would love to discuss it with me. Since it happened that my oldest three children were away that morning and we weren't having a typical school day, I invited my friend to come over. I was thrilled when she agreed. It was such fun to set aside the Monday projects and enjoy some unexpected book (and life) conversation. 

I'd love to hear what you read in May. 

Look for the Sisters' June Reading Challenge tomorrow!

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