Thursday, August 30, 2018

Bookmarks: Picture Books on Famous Books and Authors

I shared a list of picture books on famous authors a few years ago.

Since then I found many more books that tell of the authors who created books. I love that publishers are giving us a huge selection of gorgeous biographies. From beginning readers, to beloved folk tales, to literature for adults, this list of books will acquaint your students with some of the most loved books and authors in the English language. 

Note: Some of these authors were not God-fearing people and made poor moral choices that you might want to discuss with your children.

This post contains affiliate links.

by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
From World War One comes the story a young Canadian vet, an abandoned bear cub, and a chain of events that would impact children's literature for generations.


by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Qin Leng
Warm watercolors make me want to step inside Jane Austen's home and curl up with a book beside her in her father's library. Learn about Austen's life and books and be inspired that even ordinary life can result in extraordinary results.

by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Peter collected words which grew into Roget's Thesaurus, one of the most widely used reference books. Learn his story through this fascinating biography in which the collage-type illustrations nearly steal the show.

by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Ever wonder how the crazy character of the Cat in the Hat became loved by children? Learn the story of the man known as Dr. Seuss. You may also enjoy Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra with its crazy illustrations.

by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema, illustrated by Kiane Stanley
Shakespeare gave us new words and new ways of describing life. In this biography we learn about the experiences and people who impacted Shakespeare's life and helped him become one of the most famous authors in the English language.

written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness
Irving gave us Rip Van Winkle, but he did so much more in his life. A boldly painted picture book of a famous American by a skilled author/illustrator.

by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
If you were a child in 1726, you wouldn't have many books written for you. But John Newbery changed children's publishing and his name still lives on in book awards today.

by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
When Elwyn was sick in bed, a small mouse became his friend. This simple picture book tells the story of the beloved author of Charlotte's Web. 

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White
written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Slightly older children (and adults) will enjoy the excellent biography of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet with its incredible illustrations. I'm not sure whether to call it a biography or a picture book, but Sweet excels at both. I read this one aloud and we all loved it.


by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Bold paintings and lyrical verse tell the story of Keats and his simple picture book that changed American publishing for children.

Most of us have some kind of nature guide on our shelf. This is the true story of how two brothers from Yorkshire became the first to photograph all the bird nests and eggs of England in their natural habitat.



Learn the story behind the story of Curious George's escape by bicycle from German-occupied Paris. Collage-type illustrations combine with lilting prose to share the Reys' story.

Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi 
written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness
Harness’ historical picture books are always a joy with her combination of vivid watercolors and well-written information. This one tells of the Mississippi River and how Mark Twain’s life intertwined with its waters.

Just looking through this list makes me want to go to the library and read these books again. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Good's Online Store Review and Coupon

Good's Store Logo

If you are a Mennonite within a few hours of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, you've likely been to Good's Store. I remember going to Good's with my mom on one of our rare shopping trips to Lancaster. Ed and I even did a Lancaster shopping trip a few years ago which included a stop at Good's, of course.

For sixty years, Good's Store has been a trusted store to purchase shoes, clothing, fabric, kitchen supplies, and more. I love their stainless steel bread pans and for years I used a pair of gardening gloves that I bought there. 

Ed and I are not among those who shop for fun. Our idea of a great shopping experience is to get online, find what we want, place the order, and wait for the package to show up at our door. Amazon and Walmart have spoiled us for fast, convenient shopping right from home.

Recently Good's Store started an online store. I was offered a gift certificate to try out the Good's online store and write about my experience for Home Joys.

So one day on my many visits to the hospital with Ed, I pulled up Good's on my laptop and started browsing their products. They don't have everything online that they stock at the store, but I could choose canning supplies, children's clothing, a fresh journal, or a new playground ball. They have a large sewing section with lot of Tropical Breeze fabric.

The website was easy to maneuver. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by Amazon's huge selection. I liked that I didn't have to search through dozens of options just to find a pair of socks. I've been pleased with the quality of products that I've gotten in the past at Goods so felt like I could make choices more easily.

Checkout was quick and easy and an email arrived later that same day to say they were processing my order. Three days later the order arrived on my porch in perfect condition. I would definitely order from Good's online store again.

Some brands such as Carhartt, Carolina Boots, and others do not allow them to advertise their discount prices. But if you place an item in your cart and go to the checkout, it will show the discounted prices. Sometimes the discounts were as much as 25% off.

Good's is offering a coupon code to Home Joys readers. If you place an order between now and October 31, 2018, use the code READERHOMEJOY10 for 10% off all regular priced items. This coupon has a one-time use per customer and is good only at the website and not at the brick-and-mortar store.

Disclaimer: Good's Store contacted me and offered a gift certificate in exchange for my honest review. All opinions in this post are my own.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Turning Whining to Worship

Most summers, I attend a retreat for pastor's wives and other ministries. This year I had no idea what my summer would hold, but I guessed that I might need some encouragement by August. Last week, since Ed was feeling so well through his radiation treatments, I dared to hope that I'd be able to attend the retreat.

Last Sunday evening, our family went to the park. Our little girls were enjoying the slides, and the boys were playing catch with Ed. We had only been at the park a few minutes when our oldest daughter wiped out while riding a rip-stick. As she fell, she caught herself with her right hand. I took one look at her arm and knew we were headed to the emergency room. X-rays confirmed that her arm was fractured just above her wrist. They put a splint on her arm and gave us an appointment to visit a orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday.

I did a lot of whining that night. Why another health emergency? Why now? Wasn't there a limit to the number of trips to the ER I could handle in one year?

On Monday morning I was in a mad scramble to get a lot of work done in preparation for a week of unknowns. I had a tremendous stack of laundry and a bushel of tomatoes on the porch. And the phone kept on ringing.

One call was from an older minister's wife. She had read my post on searching for joy and called to share what she has learned through her own challenging experiences. She has learned to focus on the attributes of God and worship despite circumstances. Worship had not been my focus that Monday morning, but her phone call pulled my mind off of my grumbling. And my sister came and helped me finish the work.

At the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday, we heard words I didn't want to hear. Surgery. Pins. Plates. He was particularly concerned about the possible ligament damage to her wrist. Since their hand surgeon was on vacation, he wanted us to visit a specialist at Hershey.

I couldn't believe it. For years we had not had anything worse than an occasional cold. Our children had no cavities, stitches, or broken bones. Now I was going to Hershey the second time in less than a year? I didn't think I could sit in yet another surgery waiting room. And since Ed had radiation every day in the opposite direction, he could not be with us.

The earliest appointment I could get for a consultation was on Thursday. I didn't know when surgery would be scheduled, but I assumed I would not be able to make it to my retreat on Friday. My daughter felt bad that I'd have to miss the retreat because of her.


On Thursday Ed set the GPS and I headed to Hershey with my daughter and her friend. At least several trips there in the past year made me less apprehensive about driving there myself. And we were surprised with news better than we imagined possible. The doctor did not think surgery or pins were necessary. Instead of just a consultation, they decided to set her arm. It took several attempts, a couple doctors, a good deal of pain despite numbing shots and IVs, but our daughter was very brave and had a huge smile when we walked out with a perfectly set arm.

The next morning I was at the ladies' retreat feeling like I was given a huge gift-wrapped present. As I soaked in the peaceful atmosphere, relished the delicious food, and delighted in conversations, I felt like I had been given a miracle.

The theme of the retreat was Isaiah 45:3.

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.

Jenny Miller was the main speaker for the retreat. If you have read her book Life Is a Gift, you know that she has been given treasures and hidden riches in her dark places. Jenny shared her own story of God's grace and what she has learned about worshiping God. Jenny and the other speakers, plus the women who talked, hugged, and prayed with me, poured out God's blessing into my life.

The truths shared about God were not new. I have even written about these truths. (Such as here or here).  But on weeks like last week, I'm not so good at living out truth. God knew that I needed to spend time hearing Bible-saturated women share their life stories of grace and worship.


Today we are celebrating Ed's last radiation treatment. We took some veggies and zinnias from our garden to his nurses. Ed is still feeling very well though he is shedding hair like a puppy. (His description.) I say that his receding hairline makes him look forty. He has been going to work after his treatments each day. For the next week he'll probably be more tired, but it is so nice to have this part of his treatment over.

I'm typing this at the clinic. Our home internet has been down for a week so if you've emailed me recently you have probably not had a quick response. I'm trying to swing by McDonalds a couple times a week to take care of critical emails, but don't worry if you don't hear from me promptly.

We don't know much about the future - but on this earth it is likely to contain much more sorrow. I'm grateful for the reminder that God gives treasures and riches even in those dark places.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jesus, Lead Thou On

Ed is halfway through his radiation treatments and feeling well. The affects of radiation are cumulative so it is possible that he'll feel worse the week after the treatments, but we are thankful that he can feel good and continue to work.

Recently I was introduced to this old hymn and have enjoyed singing these prayerful words. I especially enjoyed this hymn after reading a biography of Zinzendorf and the incredible missionary work that he was part of in the 1700's.

Jesus, Lead Thou On
by Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Translated by Jane Borthwick

Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand
To our fatherland.

If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let not faithless fears o'ertake us;
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
For through many a woe
To our home we go.

When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief;
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won.
Heavenly Leader, still direct us,
Still support, control, protect us,
Till we safely stand
In our fatherland.

Here is a recording of the tune if you want to sing along. (You may need to click over to the blog to view it.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Buckeye Bars - And How They Got Their Name


These bars are not a keto friendly recipe. But they are delicious. Since my friend Stephanie shared the recipe with us several years ago, they have become my daughter's specialty. She often bakes them to take to picnics, and we are often asked to share the recipe.

A note on the name - especially for those who don't live near Ohio.

Buckeye candy is a peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. I often make them at Christmas. These bars are reminiscent of the candy but much simpler to make. Buckeye candy reminds me of the Hershey Reeses candy so maybe a better name would be Reeses Bars.

Buckeye candy gets its name because it resembles the buckeye nut. This nut, which grows on a tree, was given its name "buckeye" by the Native Americans because the nut resembles the eye of a buck (male deer). The buckeye tree is the state tree of the state of Ohio and Ohio has been given the nickname "Buckeye State."

So from a deer, to a nut, to a candy, to a brownie - you finally get Buckeye Bars. If you live near Ohio, this makes total sense.

For the rest of you, just call them Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

Buckeye Bars

Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup softened butter
2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat butter, oil, and sugar together. Beat in eggs and buttermilk. Add cocoa, baking soda, flour, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Cool.

Middle Layer:

2 cups 10x (confectionery) sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter

Mix sugar, butter, and peanut butter well and spread over cooled brownies.

Top Layer:

1 cup chocolate chips
6 T. butter

Melt chips and butter together in saucepan on stove over low heat. Spread over peanut butter layer. Cool. Cut into bars.

We like these best when they are refrigerated, but it is not necessary to store in the fridge if you wish.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Grasp the Opportunity to Live Well

A glimpse into the last few weeks.


Two weeks ago, Ed spent a Saturday morning tilling up the green beans and planting a fall cover crop on that part of the garden. I've wanted to try planting field radishes as a cover crop for several years and finally did it this year.

The soil was dry and dusty since it had been weeks since we had rain. But that afternoon it rained, and over the next few days we had about five inches of rain. The field radishes popped up by the end of the week. I'm loving the green grass again, but the weeds are taking the opportunity to go crazy. With rain every day or two, we are beginning to think we are living in a monsoon.


Last week my family came over on one of the few non-rainy evenings and helped us cut and split firewood.


With many hands helping, a lot of wood was stacked in a short time. 

We are so thankful for all the support we have. Ed asked if some of our friends could help drive him the two hours to his radiation appointments each day these next three weeks, so I would not have to drive him every day. Ed had far more offers than he had days of the week. I've had offers for babysitting and friends have dropped off meals. I wish there was a way I could share our support with others who have to walk alone.


On Tuesday, we took the children with us to Ed's doctor appointment so we could have a family outing. The children and I hung out at the clinic playroom until Ed was finished.


We went down to Annapolis that Ed and I had enjoyed so much on our anniversary trip a few weeks ago. 

At the Navy Museum, Ed took a nap on a bench, but otherwise, he felt great all day. Family times are precious.

I hate cancer. It feels like a robber who has stolen our comfortable life and is trying to take our future. 

But in the last year we have been given the opportunity to make the most of every moment. Never have I sucked so much joy out of every day. Never have I clung to the little joys of normal life. 

But you don't have to wait for cancer. 

Grasp the opportunity you have today to live well.

Hug a child.
Let go of a grudge.
Prepare to meet God.
Pick a flower.
Forgive.
Give a compliment.
Watch a sunrise or sunset.
Enjoy the moment without making to-do lists.
Write a thank-you note.
Count your blessings.
Say "I love you" more often.

We don't like to think of death, but if looking honestly at our own mortality allows us to live well, it is worth it. 
Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Keto Mocha Mousse


Ed continues the ketogenic diet - a high fat, low carb diet. The diet has not halted the growth of his tumor, as we had hoped, but since Ed is feeling well, he has chosen to continue the diet. Especially as he starts radiation today, we hope that the anti-inflammation aspect of the diet will help him feel well during treatment.

After a year on the diet it feels normal to cook special food for Ed. I'm always on the lookout for simple, delicious recipes. Keto food can be tasty so if I'm not licking the spatula when I fix a recipe, then it isn't good enough.

A friend gave me this recipe, and I've made it frequently this summer. Super easy and definitely passes the yummy test.

I split the recipe into two servings with 2 net carbs each. If you are not worried about carbs, you could change the sweetener to sugar or honey but, you would have to adjust the amounts.

Keto Mocha Mousse

1/4 tsp instant coffee
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/16 tsp pure stevia powder (or sweetened to your taste preference)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Beat until cream forms stiff peaks. Serve.

Variation: Omit the coffee and the cocoa powder and stir in pureed red raspberries after beating cream.

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