Monday, May 9, 2016

March and April Book Reviews

I waited a long time to get this on my Kindle through the library Overdrive app! I have to say, I really enjoyed it, and it was totally worth the wait. Kate Morton writes long multi-generational stories with a mystery at the heart of each story. Her settings are a beautiful escape.  This was a book that pulled me in right away, and kept me reading and as happy as one could be during a bout of the stomach flu! If I had one critique, it would be that the story ended too tidily; however, I think being captivated for almost 600 pages makes up for it.
Recommended to me by my fellow English teaching buddy, this is a must read. A Lithuanian mother and children are pulled from their homes and sent to a Siberian work camp during the Stalin reign. The writing and the story are good. The content can be horrific, but only because it's reflecting the cruelty of the time period. You should read this book because if you're like me you can't count the number of books you've read about Hitler and the Nazis, but you don't know much about Stalin, eastern Europe and Russia during this time period. It's a fascinating part of history. Has anyone read any of Sepetys' other books?

I loved Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers, so when I learned about her new book, I had to read it.  It read a bit like a YA novel, because of the teenage love story. However, I loved the spirit and grit that resonated through this book, a mother who suddenly has to figure out how to be a mother, how to really fight for her kids and who has to navigate through her past and tread her way into an unknown future.  This book pulled me in right away, and though you're sure this book might end in tragedy, hope and love prevails.  I still loved Language of Flowers more, but this is a good one.

Have you seen the movie, Brooklyn?
Well, instead of an Irish girl navigating early 20th century New York City, The Boston Girl is about a Jewish girl navigating early 20th century Boston. Lots of heart, great setting, very character driven. (In other words, not a lot of plot!) But a good read.

Next on my read list was Go Set a Watchman. I was dreading reading it, because of all the controversy surrounding it, and I had heard a lot of people hating it... so, I needed some brain fluff to read so I could put off reading "Watchman" for awhile! Mistakenly Married  was written by a Nebraska author and a friend of a friend, plus it was "free" for me on Kindle Unlimited. It's in the "clean romance" genre. It's a predictable Chic-flic on paper; however, it was indulgent and enjoyable. The characters were very like-able, and their romance was sweet and cute and fun to see people from two very different worlds fall in love. There were some plot problems and things that just weren't realistic, but if you let that go and just enjoy the characters, it was a fun, quick read. She actually has a couple others in this "married" series... all on Kindle Unlimited.

Oh man, where to start. So much has already been said about this book, so I will keep it brief.

 I was worried about it tainting my love for To Kill a Mockingbird,
 but reading Go Set a Watchman has only added to it.
Yes, it made me think of Atticus' character in a new way,
and no it wasn't the way I wanted to remember him.
Harper Lee's characterization is spot on.
Jean Louise Finch as an adult, is perfectly in line with her character as a child.
The flashback "scenes" of Jean Louise's childhood were delightful and read like short stories within the novel.  Lee really shines is in telling the stories from Scout's perspective as a child. If the story is really true that Go Set a Watchman was a "first draft" of Mockingbird and her editor encouraged her to rewrite it from a childhood perspective, that was really terrific advice. Go Set a Watchman would never have received the acclaim that To Kill a Mockingbird did.

Friday, March 11, 2016

February Book Reviews

Here are my February Book Reviews!

I absolutely loved this novel. It was just a very fun, delightful read. The protagonist suffers from memory loss, and loses 10 years of her life. In many ways she gets to combine the best of her old self, with the best of her new self to move forward. It gave me a lot to think about as I pondered how parenthood has changed me in many ways, and I wondered what my "old pre-parenting self" would think of me now. Would she be surprised at how many dishes I do every day? YES! Would she be amazed at how quickly I lost my temper? Unfortunately, yes! Would she be surprised to find out about the hard things our family has endured and the strength of character it has built? Most likely. Would my old self be happy with who I have become?

(I got this book from the Sidney Public Library- and there is some swearing, and some "innuendo")

I wanted to love this book! With a title like, Daring Greatly, I was hoping to be inspired to be my best self, and to go forward to achieve my dreams. It just wasn't that kind of book.  I have listened to Brene Brown's Ted Talk, and liked what she had to say, and I respect her work and research. It had a few great take-aways,  but it wasn't life changing for me- at least at this moment in my life. 
(Read via Overdrive Library App)

I love, love, loved this book. The story centers around two dynamically different sisters during the French Resistance in World War II. It was an absolutely lovely, couldn't-put-it-down, beautifully crafted story.  It made me want to tie a scarf around my head, put on some red lipstick and engage in some anti-nazi subterfuge.

I have to mention two other books I have recently read that are also about the French Resistance and are fantastic reads:  All the Light We cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a beautiful novel told through the eyes of a blind girl.  

And there was Light by Jacques Lusseyran was the inspiration for the aformentioned novel. Lusseyran tells his own life story of going blind as a child, then becoming a key player in the underground French Resistance movements. It is truly one of the most beautiful, inspiring books I have ever read. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

I am ravenous in the mornings. Plus I'm a nursing mom, so that means I'm ravenous times two!
I eat heartily during my pregnancies (that may be an understatement!) and now that I'm nursing, I have an excuse to keep on living that dream. Anyway, I am a breakfast fanatic and I especially love a filling, healthy breakfast. I'm pretty much ready for another meal by 10am, so I have to make sure I eat a good breakfast or I can quickly turn into a crazy lady.

Have you tried steel cut oats? I think they are delicious. If you haven't tried them, here's a quick explanation of how they are made. Instead of smashing the oat (as in traditional rolled oats) the oat is sliced, keeping it more whole. The result is a more thick, hearty and healthier oatmeal. The only problem with them is they take a good 45 minutes to make on the stovetop, and that timing just hasn't been fitting my lifestyle lately.

So, I decided to try a new steel-cut oats recipe, and much to my surprise, my husband (who is just a teeny bit health-food adverse) even likes them!

For this recipe, you dump everything in the slow cooker the night before. It's a morning game changer. And boy do I ever need morning game-changers.

Here's what to do:

Spray your slow cooker!! (This is really important because it tends to stick around the edges. Or you could alway use a crockpot liner.) Throw all the ingredients in to your slow cooker and give it a stir. I set my crockpot to cook on low for 5 1/2 hours, but the original recipe said anywhere from 5-7 hours on low, depending on your slow cooker. Wake up to delicious hot oatmeal. Give it a stir, and scoop into bowls. I topped mine with sliced almonds and toasted pecans and a dollop of natural peanut butter. (I love oatmeal with peanut butter, it takes oatmeal to a whole new peanut-buttery-goodness level.)

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

1 cup steel cut oats
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups almond, coconut or regular milk
2 apples, cored, peeled and diced
1 T. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
(Recipe adapted from the

A note about the peeled and sliced apples, if you don't have an apple-peeler-corer slicer, you really should consider getting one! I didn't think I needed one, but then my mom gave me hers when I was going to make some applesauce. It is used almost daily at our house.
 The kids stick an apple on it, wind, wind, wind, and wa-laa! A beautiful apple "spring" appears-as they call it. An apple-corer-peeler-slicer really simplifies things for this recipe.

Go get your oats on!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January Book Reviews

Remember when I talked about how I wanted to read more? Well I set a goal on Goodreads to read 40 books this year. It's a little less than one a week, so I figured it was pretty do-able.

Here's what I've read in January.

Blackmoore was a really fun, light read. The setting was mysterious, and the characters were interesting. I liked it a little more than her first book, Edenbrooke.  Totally clean and "proper" romance.

I really liked The Orphan Train. It intertwines the story of a young immigrant girl in the late 1920's who is orphaned, with a modern girl in the foster system. I'm still thinking about these characters and their amazing stories.  It reminded me a bit of the Language of Flowers that I read a few years back. (Loved that book!) For those who want to know, there is some bad language, and a scene describing sexual abuse.

This was recommended to me by my friend Evelyn for a reading club. It's also in the "proper romance" genre, like Blackmoore.  I loved this book! It was really fun to read. Without giving anything away, it was so different from what I was expecting, and I loved the message. You really must read it!

This is probably the most fiction I've read consecutively for a while! I really enjoyed the escape. Here's my nonfiction:

After thinking so much about my own introversion or extroversion last week, I felt like I had to read this book. There were some interesting parts, such as the discussion of how our society shifted from a culture of character to a culture of personality, and Dale Carnegie's role in that shift.  The example of introverts finding it hard to fit into the extroverted worlds of Harvard Business School, or evangelical churches was also thought-provoking. It made me ponder how extremely extroverted my church (that I love being a member of) truly is. Members who are considered active in our church are ones who are willing to pray at the pulpit, teach lessons sometimes to large groups, and occasionally give talks to the whole congregation. We also are expected to visit teach or home teach several other members (which entails stopping by their homes to give friendship and spiritual encouragement). Anyway,  all of those examples make our church a wonderful place to worship, it just made me aware of how hard it would be to feel like you fit in, if you are a true introvert.  Overall, this book was worth reading, but I had no guilt over skipping and skimming through the things I didn't find interesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Remembering the Blizzard of 2010

My friends in Virginia are all posting about the snow from the blizzard they were hit with this past weekend. I keep feeling so jealous. And it's because I remember the good memories we had back in 2010 when we were hit with about the same amount of snow. Jackson was 5. Avery had just turned 2.

My father in law had just died that December. My mother in law, Kristi, was making hard life decisions, and was figuring out if she should move to Utah now that Alex was gone. The house we just had built on a cul-de-sac with a big yard was finished and we had just moved in. My mom bought the lot next door and was making plans to move to Virginia. (My dad had died the previous year.) There was so much in our life that was good, and so much that was sad! The week of the blizzard, we went over to mother-in-laws and planned to hunker down for the storm. Kirtis' brother, Alex was visiting and couldn't fly home because of the storm, so he joined us for the fun.
We had a nerf war at Kristi's house! We watched movies, played games, ate yummy food and the boys shoveled until their backs couldn't take it anymore.

Within a few months, Kristi had everything packed up and had moved to Utah. We will always remember that special week we had together with her!

 View out Kristi's back door.
 View out the front door. God bless America!
 Uncle Alex helping go through the storage room
 Going through stuff!

 Cute Jackson

I remember Jackson took this picture of Kristi. I think she looks so cute. Her eyes look so blue!

 The Nerf war!! I don't think Kristi ever thought that would happen at her house!
 My sweet 2 year old Avery! 
 Look at those baby cheeks. 
 Jackson... He looks so serious!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections on a winter day

This morning I was able to go for a run. My body is getting a little more in shape, and I was able to run for almost the whole time. It felt amazing.

I'm without my phone for a few days, so instead of listening to music or podcasts, I enjoyed the quiet, reflective time.  I was thinking about how a few years ago I wouldn't have gone running when it was 20 degrees outside and the roads were snowy and icy. Since living in Nebraska for a few winters, 20 degrees feels a little brisk, but nice! I used the snow treads for my running shoes that my mom bought me last winter while I was pregnant with Kate, and I loved hearing my feet crunch as I made contact with the ice which was covered in a layer of snow. The sun was sparkling on the snowy lawns.

Not only have I become more accustomed to the cold weather, but I've changed in other ways.
As I ran, I had thoughts such as: I have grown in the past few years. I have done some hard things. I have worked hard and loved hard. I am a more patient mother. I am more disciplined. I forgive myself. I am trying to love others with a more open heart.

I was thinking about who I have been, who I am, and who I want to be. None of this becoming has been easy. There have been plenty of hard days. But each day I keep getting up and trying. I make lots and lots and lots of mistakes. I get angry quicker than I should. I often lose my patience. I have many more lessons to learn. I have more I need to do and become. But it feels good to reflect every now and then and see that I'm growing, and that each step I take is bringing me a little closer to the person I want to become.  And that's what this journey of life is all about.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Week in Review

Some tidbits from this week

I was teaching Jackson a piano lesson where he went back and forth between octaves with his left hand. He said "mom, do you know how I know where to move my hands to? I just move them until I find the warm keys, then I know I'm in the right place! Ha ha! In all my years playing piano, I have never thought about that! We are getting back into practicing since the Christmas break. It's hard to stay super regular with it, but I won't give up. He's so smart and talented, I want him to keep going with it!

Jackson built the Vader and Ship he got for Christmas. We are loving Start Wars!
 These chuckers hang out in our neighborhood. They slept under Kirtis' truck, then stayed in our driveway all morning on Monday. Cute little guys.

Sweet Little Kate is 7 months old!!
 Love her sweet little faces! She is a very happy baby.

One project in January done: Finally recovered my chairs! (The old fabric, was stained, ripped and worn through!)
 We've been playing a lot of games this winter. Lucy and Avery were having fun being silly and playing Sequence for Kids.
 Lucy had her friend Nola over for a playdate. They had so much fun playing with playdo. These are their playdo monsters.