Tuesday, April 30, 2019

No.241: My Latest Reads // April

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#20. THE LOUDER SONG: LISTENING FOR HOPE IN THE MIDST OF LAMENT by Aubrey Sampson
My Rating: ★★★

Sometimes, it's only in looking back that we see clearly.  As I look back now, even in this horrible circumstance, I can see God's hand of love touching everything. (p.57)

Even though you suffer from this awful thing - no matter how truly terrible it may be - and even though you may not be able to surface for air right now, God has not changed.  Who you are to him has not changed.  He is utterly faithful, and you are utterly loved.  Not because you are healthy or strong or happy, or because you never get angry, or because you handle this thing you face with grace.  But simply and profoundly because you are the object of God's fixed delight and affection.  Even when you hit walls, even at your messiest, you are his beautiful one. (p.75)

This is how I'll finally arrive at that elusive place called acceptance - by watching for, noting, gathering instances of hope and joy in one hand, even while wrestling with my darkest hours in the other.  This truth rings loudly in my heart: Good and bad can exist at once.  It's okay to admit that both things are true.  My situation is hard and God has been good to me. (p.102)

I heard about The Louder Song, a book published in February, from Instagram and since I'm working through my own issues while walking alongside others in hard situations, I snatched it up.  This book comes from an Evangelical standpoint and while it's not a perfect fit for me theologically, I really liked it.

#21. HEARTLAND: A MEMOIR OF WORKING HARD AND BEING BROKE IN THE RICHEST COUNTRY ON EARTH by Sarah Smarsh
My Rating: ★★

Our bodies were born into hard labor.  To people who Grandma Betty would say "never had to lift a finger," that might sound like something to be pitied.  But there was a beautiful efficiency to it - form in constant physical function with little energy left over.  In some ways, I feel enriched rather than diminished for having lived it. (p.44)

Rating memoirs is hard because I hate judging another person's story.  That said, this one was just so-so for me.  My biggest beef was with the way Heartland is written: the writing is directed to her imaginary (unconceived) baby and it's a unique choice that I didn't really care for.  You'd be reading stories about her family or a handful of sociological facts and then she'd suddenly address "you" (meaning the unborn child), which was a little weird and definitely jarred the story as a whole.  2.5 stars, rounded up. (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#22. LIFE OF CHRIST by Fulton J. Sheen
My Rating: ★★★★★

He will not allow us to pick and choose among His words, discarding the hard ones, and accepting the ones that please our fancy.  We need a Christ Who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water. (p.21)

The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would draw down upon Himself their hatred, for evil can tolerate mediocrity, but not supreme goodness. (p.78)

As the physical Body of Christ had external wounds, bruises, and scars, and yet the inner structure was left untouched, so there seemed to be a foretelling that though His Mystical Body, the Church, would have its moral wounds and scars of scandals and disloyalties, nevertheless, not a bone of its body would ever be broken. (p.399)

Mankind is naturally disposed to believe that anything religious must be striking and powerful enough to overwhelm the imagination.  Yet this incident on the road to Emmaus revealed that the most powerful truths often appear in the commonplace and trivial incidents of life, such as meeting a fellow traveler on a road.  Christ veiled His Presence in the most ordinary roadway of life.  Knowledge of Him came as they walked with Him; and the knowledge was that of glory that came through defeat. (p.415)

This book.  I think I can confidently say that this is the best religious book that I have ever read.

#23. I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK: HOW ONE LETTER CHANGED TWO LIVES by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda
My Rating: ★★

The cascade of water was so vast and mighty, I thought, the angels were not only clapping - they were giving a standing and stomping ovation for a spectacle only God could have created. (p.345)

I Will Always Write Back was a quick read about two penpals (a middle-class girl from Pennsylvania and a boy from the slums of Zimbabwe) and how that relationship changed both of their lives.  The writing was quite simple for even a YA book and I enjoyed Martin's side of the story much more than Caitlin's, but overall, a heartwarming story.  Solid three stars.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#24. THE WIFE BETWEEN US by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
My Rating: ★★

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. 
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing. 

I can't remember exactly where I heard about The Wife Between Us, but I've been on the waiting list at the library for it since last fall.  Super quick read, but as thrillers go, this one was just okay.  2.5 stars, rounded up.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#25. OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout
My Rating: 

What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly . . . No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't chose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not know what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered. (p.270)

Olive Kitteridge, on paper, sounded like something I would typically love to read: short stories about a crotchety old woman who lives on the coast of Maine.  Unfortunately, it was a big flop for me.  I found it to be so incredibly depressing!  On the plus side, the writing is beautiful, which I assume is why it won a Pulitzer Prize.  After looking at the reviews, I think this is a book where you either love it or hate it, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#26. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie
My Rating: 

The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.

Murder on the Orient Express was my first Agatha Christie novel and it did not disappoint!  So so good.  Looking forward to reading more of her work soon.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

____________________

MY READING IN NUMBERS FOR 2019
Books Read: 26
Pages Read: 8,175
Fiction: 15  //  Non-Fiction: 11
Kindle Books: 5  //  Paper Books: 21
Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 428

Friday, April 26, 2019

No.240: Hello! Seven Things I Have to Tell You

 This post contains affiliate links.  Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

Hoping to get back in a blogging groove with some Quick Takes!  If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over for peach tea and cookies (I've been trying a few recipes that are refined sugar free!) so we could catch up.  In the meantime, here are seven things I have to tell you:

1 // A PUPPY IS A LOT OF WORK AND I'M TIRED.
Lucy is the biggest reason for my radio silence here.  Talk about learning on the fly!  I've never had a puppy before, so I've been Googling all.the.things...
  • how to collect a stool sample for the vet
  • how to redirect puppy biting
  • are frozen carrots good for puppies?
  • how to keep a house from smelling like dog
So much I don't know and so much to learn.  Good thing she's so cute and eager to please!  I'm still in a sleepy stupor most days (I have the 1:00 AM potty break shift and it's rough), but we're getting there.  I'll be singing all the praises when she hits 16 weeks and can (hopefully!) sleep through the night! 


2 // I THINK MY FORSYTHIA BUSH IS DEAD.
We had it moved last spring while the landscapers put in our brick flowerbeds and it must not have made the move well?  We had a ton of rain all summer so it can't be from lack of water...maybe I drowned it? hah!  Oh well, I'm going to prune it way back and see if I can salvage it for next year.

3 // WE HAVE A NEW "NEXT DOOR" NEIGHBOR AND SHE HAS A HORSE!
She's been fencing a pasture between our houses and we are so excited to be able to watch and visit her beautiful chestnut horse.  

4 // I TRIED A SHAMPOO BAR...
and I think I like it!  I bought this one from Shady Nook Bee Farms.  I'm still in the transition stage where you feel a little greasy while your scalp adjusts to a chemical-free shampoo, but my natural waves/curls are really thriving, so I think it's worth it.  In the meantime, I've been doing an extra apple cider vinegar rinse to help things along.  Hah, that sentence just makes me laugh.  I was the high school girl who doused herself in Bath & Body Works and Herbal Essence shampoo, so clearly, I don't even recognize myself at this point.


5 // I'M LOVING T25.
D and I just finished our eighth week of T25.  I've lost a few pounds and a few inches, but more importantly, I'm feeling really strong and improving every week.  I can finally keep up with the burpees!    

6 // I'M IN A READING SLUMP.
I gave up reading fiction for Lent and it was way more difficult than I imagined.  Honestly, it put me in a bit of a reading slump!   In order to get back into a groove, I'm participating in the #25in5 Reading Challenge which started yesterday.  I definitely don't think I'll complete all 25 hours, but here's my tentative book list anyway: Olive Kitteridge, Murder on the Orient Express, finally finishing An Everlasting Meal, and My Italian Bulldozer.  Wish me luck!   

7 // OUR HOMESCHOOLING YEAR IS ALMOST DONE.
I think I can, I think I can...  We have standardized testing next week and then we'll start wrapping things up.  I like to end in May so we can enjoy being outside before it becomes boiling hot.  And bonus: by August, we're all bored and ready to get back to the books!


Your turn!  How is your spring going?  What's new in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

No.239: 40 Days of Lenten Soups // Part Three


Easter is almost here and I'm so ready!  Below are the soups from the last two weeks of Lent and what we plan to eat on the last few days of Holy Week:

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Whenever a new baby is about to be born in our family, we always go out for a special dinner as a last hurrah to the current crew and to build anticipation for the arrival.  With the new puppy coming on Friday, we continued our tradition and went out for pizza!

Friday: Lucy arrives! Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

Saturday (Week 93): in the thick of new puppy craziness, Mark and I had frozen taquitos and the kids had hotdogs (so random)

Fifth Sunday of Lent: grilled chicken Caesar salads

Monday: leftovers


Wednesday: picked up burgers while in town for a vet appointment


Friday: we had a late snack of greek yogurt, granola and frozen blueberries and totally ruined our appetite for dinner

Saturday (Week 94): Beefy Tomato Soup

Palm Sunday: leftovers




Holy Thursday: leftovers


Holy Saturday (Week 95): White Chicken Chili

Easter!

Monday, April 8, 2019

No.238: A New Adventure

Introducing the newest member of the family...


LUCY

About her name: We couldn't get a ginger Labrador puppy without naming her after our favorite show, I Love Lucy!  I also love that her name means "light" - she has definitely already been a ray of sunshine for a lonely little boy around here.

We're taking it one day at a time and learning as we go.  Here's to a brand new adventure in puppy raising!   

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

No.237: 40 Days of Lenten Soups // Part Two


As we round the corner onto the Lenten home stretch, we're still (mostly) going strong on soup dinners.  So many lessons learned already!  On the days where we're just "not in the mood" for soup or we don't want to eat leftovers again or we just want to chew something (hah!), we're reminded how fortunate we are to have food to eat at all.  We're able to return to gratitude for our daily bread.  Who knew forty days of soup could expose and help sanctify our selfishness?     

Below are the soups we tried for the middle two weeks:

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Tomato Soup & grilled cheese sandwiches

Friday: Ditalini Spinach Soup
INGREDIENTS // 2T. olive oil, 1 cup each of onions, carrots and celery (all diced), 3 cloves minced garlic, 6 cups chicken broth, 15oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1.5 cups ditalini, 1/2tsp. thyme, 1/4tsp. oregano, 4 cups spinach, salt and pepper
DIRECTIONS // Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until soft.  Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute another 4 minutes or so.  Add broth, tomatoes, ditalini, thyme, and oregano.  Stir, then bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 11-13 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Stir in spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with a little Parmesan cheese on top.  (I also poured in a little half & half to make it creamier, but it's not necessary.)
Saturday (Week 91): leftovers

Third Sunday of Lent: pizza

Monday: Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana (thank you for recommendations, Nicole!)


Wednesday: Meatball Soup

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: after a busy day away from home, I hit a wall and just had take-and-bake cheese pizzas 

Saturday (Week 92): burgers on the grill with kettle chips

Fourth Sunday of Lent: White Chicken Lasagna Soup

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

No.236: TBR Tuesday // Let's Try This Again!

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Because I changed my Lenten plans at the last minute, March's TBR was a bust!  For the rest of Lent, I'll be reading mostly religious-themed books, but I'll add in one fiction to look forward to after Easter.  Here's what I've picked out to read in April:

Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen // I'm about halfway through Archbishop Sheen's Life of Christ and loving it.  The chapters are short enough to be manageable, but boy, do they pack a punch.  Can't wait to read to the end.  (Here's my Lenten reading plan if you're interested.)

The Louder Song by Aubrey Sampson // I stumbled on this book on Instagram and since it's a topic that I've been pondering quite a bit lately, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis // One of those books I've always wanted to read.

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hilter by Mark Riebling // I bought this book for my husband, but I'm grabbing it to read first!

My Life in France by Julia Child // My Life in France was on my TBR list last month and I did manage to read about 50 pages.  Love imagining Julia Child's voice coming through.

The Likeness by Tana French // After Easter, I can't wait to dive into this mystery!


Do you make a monthly TBR list?  What's on yours for April?

Monday, April 1, 2019

No.235: Intentions for the Beginning of April


We know spring is finally here when the little birds start improving the nest on our porch fan.  
Watching them never gets old!


INTENTIONS FOR THE BEGINNING OF APRIL

  • complete T25 Alpha Week 5 and Beta Week 1
  • puppy proof the first floor 
  • figure out a new routine with the dog
  • schedule an appointment with the vet
  • order standardized testing
  • figure out plans for the last few weeks of school
  • look for a white button-down shirt for J's First Communion in May
  • buy a butterfly habitat kit
  • begin a new sourdough starter
  • bake a new recipe that is refined sugar free
  • give the little ones haircuts

          PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

          If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
          • complete T25 Alpha Weeks 3 & 4
          • finish Easter baskets
          • get the big boys to the barber and buzz the little ones at home
          • give my split ends a trim (I still need to find a Youtube video, but it can't be that hard, can it?)
          • finish buying the last few things before our new puppy arrives
          • puppy proof the first floor (started, but need to do another sweep)
          • find a vet
          • go through the millions of recipe printouts and organize (part of 100LT #10)
          • organize the junk drawers
          • make a list of spring clothing needs for the kids
          • clean out and vacuum the car (oh man, was that overdue!)
          • paint S's room (100LT #69)
          • check out the Restore for a dresser and/or desk (we found a great desk for a steal!  now to paint it white...)
          • get estimates for resealing the driveway (we got a reasonable estimate and they were able to reseal it the very next day!)
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