Saturday, March 31, 2012

Off the Shelf - March

March was a busy month, but even with having one day a week banned from reading, we found some books to enjoy.

Picture Books
The warm weather this month had us eager to read about the gardening - and various other topics

How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry
The illustrations in this book made me eager for gardening season. There was actually a lot of good garden info in this book about Groundhog's gardening adventure.

When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy by Valorie Fisher
My children were dreaming about what they would grow in their garden if this book was reality!

Trashy Town by Andrea Zinnerman
Only boys could adore a book about a garbage collector!

The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynne Cherry
Fascinating story of a mangrove tree and the life it protects.

 A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston
Beautiful paintings and amazing information on butterflies.

Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies
Combining a fun story about the history of the first US census with the importance of honesty.

Read Aloud Chapter Books
The list of books we finished this month looks long but some of these we have been working on since Christmas. We usually have several books that we are reading at the same time. Books read before naptime, for school, before bed with Ed, or audio books in the van. It may sound confusing to be reading through several books at the same time, but I figure it is good memory practice.

A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood
The drawings and descriptions of pioneer life made this book a favorite. It was one I found the children pouring over in between reading sessions.

Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli
I wasn't sure whether to place this book under picture books or chapter books. It has pictures, it is short enough to read in one sitting, but it is longer than most picture books. We are trying to collect all this author's books and this story about an Amish boy and a barn fire did not disappoint.

Coals of Fire by Elizabeth Hershberger Bauman
This book was a refreshing change from all our history reading of kingdoms fighting to overcome other kingdoms. Each chapter is the true story of someone who returned good for evil under very difficult circumstances.

The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel by Thornton W. Burgess
Burgess books are always entertaining and this one is no exception.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
We listened to this recording in the van and I was surprised how much we parents also enjoyed the story.

Adult Books

Legacy of a Pack Rat by Ruth Bell Graham
The short stories and free verse in this book was perfect to pick up for a few pages of encouragement at the end of a busy day.

The Baronet's Song by George MacDonald
A little unrealistic perhaps, but an entertaining tale from a great writer.

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer
Reading about the temperaments was a new topic to me. Interesting.

A Symphony in Sand by Calvin Miller
A lovely thought provoking retelling of the Christmas story.

As always, I won't say I agreed with everything in each of these books. There is no perfect book except the Bible. This post contains affiliate links. 

What are you reading?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Sacrifice - I dislike the word. It requires giving up something I'd rather keep.

But can sacrifice be necessary, even liberating?

Last fall I wrote about an epiphany - "I can't do it all."

It should be obvious. I have limited time; I have vivid imagination. There is no possible way my hands can find the time to do all the projects my mind dreams up.

But still I try. And become frustrated. If only I can try harder, become more efficient, I think I could find time for everything I want to do.

When will I admit that I can't?

This winter, I read a post by Amy that I haven't been able to forget. She said that every time we make a goal, something needs to be sacrificed. We can't add anything to our already full schedule without losing time for something else.

Sometimes, I make a deliberate sacrifice (I'm going to stay up late and sacrifice sleep to finish this project.) Other times I make sacrifices by default, and it is my relationships that suffer.

As Amy said,  "Setting sacrifices on purpose is significantly better than setting them by default."

I don't want to live life reacting to whatever whim strikes my fancy or whatever voice shouts the loudest. I want to deliberately choose what is the best use of my time in serving the Lord, my family and the others God has placed in my life. 

Several weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing reading books. As you know, I love to read. I've often said that reading is like breathing to me. I can't not read. 

But as busy women, striving to use our time wisely and to read only the best books, my friend challenged me to spend one day a week reading nothing but the Bible. 

So for the month of March, I took on the challenge. For one day a week, I read nothing but the best book of all. An exception was made for school and books I read aloud to my children. If I deemed it necessary, I could check my email once during the day. 

But no other reading. No books. No mail. No blogs. Not even writing, which for me is so much a part of reading.

I found out the depth of my reading addiction. I quickly learned that on Monday evening, I should clear off my reading material from the bedside table and sofa, because on Tuesday (the day of the reading challenge) I could pick up a book in a spare moment and start to read before I even gave it thought. When the computer screen stayed blank all day long, I found out how often I sit down "just to check email" and was startled to find the next day, that I had not missed anything urgent by missing one day online. 

A surprising result of the "discipline of denial" was the motivation to stop procrastinating. Somehow, knowing I was going offline for a day propelled me to send an email, place an order, write a note, that I had put off for weeks.

It was coincidence that placed this reading challenge over Lent. I've always had a negative attitude about Lent. Christ asks his followers to take up their cross and follow Him every day of the year, not a only a few weeks before Easter. But this project this month has been helpful to me to step back and deliberately consider my use of time. 

In the past months, I've been online far less. I expect that continue. I miss reading some of your blogs, but "I can't do it all." 

Sacrificing the good to choose the best. Reading is only one aspect of a  lifetime pursuit to spend my few days, hours, and minutes on this earth serving the Lord.

What about you?

Monday, March 26, 2012

My New Sewing Room

The last few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time sewing new summer dresses for my daughters in my new sewing room.

"Sewing room" is an exaggerated description. "Sewing corner" would be more adequate. But for years, my sewing machine has been in my sons' room. Not only was it inconveniently located,  but I couldn't sew during nap time. I love having a new space, however small, just for sewing.

Last year when we added onto our house, we began using our new entrance as the main entrance into our house. The front door entrance was not used frequently and I wondered if the space could find a better use. With two electric outlets already there, a sewing corner was the perfect solution.


My ironing board fit along the wall between doorways.


A small typing table (discarded from my grandparents) just fit in the space behind the door beside the coat closet. Ed talks of sometime buying some stock cabinets and putting in some built in cabinets, but this is working well now.

I cleared the bottom shelf of the coat closet to hold my pattern boxes, sewing basket, sleeve ironing board, and containers with other sewing supplies. The closet is perfect for holding the hanging laundry awaiting the iron. When the ironing board is not in use, it also fits inside the closet.

I love the sunshine that streams into this east facing corner. When ironing, I can open the door. When sewing, I have to shut the door but light still comes in the side light.

Best of all, this corner is only steps from my kitchen. I find myself more willing to sew a few seams while waiting for a pot to boil since I'm not at the other end of the house. Because it is small and open to the rest of the house, I'm encouraged to keep the area tidy, which in turn, inspires me to sew more often.

I'm not sharing these photos to persuade you to turn your front entry into a sewing room. I want to encourage you to use your house in a way that makes sense for you and your family - even if you use a space for a completely different purpose than designed.

Have you found a creative use for unused space in your home?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Honey Wheat Sourdough Bagels

Another sourdough recipe...I know some of you are groaning. Blame it on OCD that compels me to share every sourdough recipe that is in my stack of favorites. I'm almost finished. I promise.

Bagels are the perfect place to showcase the flavor of sourdough. This recipe uses an overnight rise in the refrigerator which makes it seem like not a lot of work. The recipe is adapted from Nancy Silverton. I use all whole wheat flour but you may use white if your prefer. When using whole wheat flour, I like to add a little vital gluten but they turn out well without it.

Honey Wheat Sourdough Bagels

1/2 cup milk
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup active sourdough starter
5 cups whole wheat flour (or white)
2-3 T vital gluten (optional)
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp salt

Day One:
Mix all ingredients on medium speed for 5 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl and allow to rest of 3 hours.

Divide dough into 15 pieces. Shape into bagel shapes and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight.

Day Two:
Remove bagels from the refrigerator and allow to warm up for about 20 minutes. Bagels are ready when they will float in water.

In a pan, boil several inches of water and 1 T of baking soda. Gently drop in bagels. Boil for about 20 seconds on each side.

Carefully remove bagels from water and place on parchment covered baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels are boiled. The bagels will not raise much in the oven and can be placed closely together on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Bake bagels at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Slather on some cream cheese and homemade strawberry jam. Bagels freeze well if you have extras.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review - Ionica


I enjoy finding books for my children about children from other parts of the world. Ionica by Marie Yoder is a story of an orphan in Romania. We enjoyed learning a few Romanian words while reading the story of Ionica's journey to a new home where he learned about God for the first time. While parts of the story are a little sad, my children loved the book. Their favorite part was Ionica's adventures with his new puppy.

The short chapters in Ionica would make it a good book for a beginning reader. Nearly every page is illustrated with line drawings.

A similar sized book from the same publisher that we also enjoyed is Sunshine Through the Storm. It is a true story about God's protection through a tornado.

Christian Light Publications gave me a free copy of Ionica to review but all opinions are my own.


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