Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Reading Life

I love to read, but I have a quirky, sometimes contradicting reading life.

I despise twaddle, however, it does find its way onto my to-read list and I always feel unsatisfied.  I find myself delightfully stuck in time periods and places for long periods of time (WWII England).  I love to read cookbooks as well as other nonfiction books.  I do not read many popular novels, nor do I want to read anything mysterious, very depressing, or in the fantasy genre, although I will tolerate some fantasy.  (I loved My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand). I have adopted the notion that I do not have to finish a book if I do not like the book, liberating!  Although, I do finish books that I might not start out enjoying if I think they might have hope for a redeeming ending.  I try to read books that are online through my library or can be bought for a couple dollars with my Kindle.  I love paper books most, but the convenience of the Kindle wins!  Sometimes I find an author that I enjoy and then try to read everything that I can from that author. (Barbara Pym, Gene Stratton Porter, Georgette Heyer)

If I could change anything about my reading life... Sometimes I read 6 books and then find myself in a dry spell, as the TV beckons (The Crown, Victoria anyone?)  It would be nice to be more consistent, however, the dry spells do not last too long as I cannot resist adding books to my GoodReads Want-to-Read shelf, which taunts me!

I also find myself reading 4 or 5 books at one time.  This frustrates me about myself.  It takes me longer to read a book that way.  Thankfully the library has a 22-day check-out that I must obey, so I give those books priority. 

Three books that I have really enjoyed lately are The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, Cluney Brown by Margery Sharp, and The War That Saved My Life/The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. All delightful reads!

One book that  I hated was The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett.  The concept was good, I guess.  The author writes the book from 3 different timelines depending on how the characters would have turned out if they had made different choices.  The format was confusing, alternating between the storylines was difficult. I almost gave up at 40%.   And on top of it all, the story was depressing and did not end well.  Sigh.

My goal is to read 50 books again this year.  Finding 50 worthwhile books that fit my quirky tastes will be difficult, but I will have a lot of fun trying!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

January Gratitude Journal

For the last several years, I have been writing things that I am thankful for or things that bring me joy in my paper journal.  I have decided to write them here for the coming year.  This one is from January.  

  • Neighbor children spontaneously shoveling our snowy driveway, just because they are kind
  • Space heaters when our furnace went out for four days 
  • Sunshine on a bitterly cold day
  • Podcasts to listen to as I do my housework (What Should I Read Next) 
  • Spotify playlists to listen to as I do my housework 
  • Surviving -11 F despite frozen pipes and furnace quitting
  • Library trips on a cold day
  • Our old van starting during the cold snap (battery keeps on going!) 
  • Generous grandparents helping with college 
  • My 5th grade Sunday school girls make me smile
  • A 10-year-old crock pot keeps us fed on busy days
  • When an ice storm misses us
  • The furnace didn't catch fire when the switch burned out
  • Abundance of food
  • Youth group leaders, winter retreat
  • Amazon delivery when you don't feel like leaving home
  • Old friends enjoying fellowship 
  • 50 F days in January
  • A day to rest at home
  • Hot tea when you have the sniffles
  • Birdsong in the winter
  • Visits with your college student
  • Unexpected lunch with my dad
  • Emergency dental offices, temporary fillings, pain medicine (more about this in Feb.) 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ordinary Days of Winter

Well, that was fun.  The holidays whizzed by. (Why am I always saying or thinking that time is flying by me?) Sunday we took our oldest back to his college.  Tax season busy time has begun for my dear husband.  The home scholars are back to their studies.  And now the weather has turned towards the extra bitter.  And I am working on getting the home back to order. 

So, what is keeping me busy this week?  Glad you asked!  There is a birthday to plan for and celebrate this week, my husband's.  My dear aunt who just lost her husband last month is coming for a few days, too.  We are trying to figure out how to keep warm with an electric heat pump. (What crazy person installs a heat pump in northern climates?) I am attempting to Fly with Fly Lady again.  She always helps me get back on track and into a good routine.  I am reading a few good books. Maybe I will even get around to writing a review? 

I need to figure out if blogging is still a thing that I want to do.  I was never in it for attracting great hoards of followers.  I wanted to capture our lives so that I would not forget about the days I had my babies home.  I am not a content producer, meaning I don't write to inspire others.  And then there are so few blogs that I even read these days.  Maybe my paper daily journal is enough now?  I need to think about that.  I miss the early days of blogging where there was a sense of fellowship.  It would be nice if there were blogs for mothers of older homeschool children or college-aged.  Most blogs tend to be for younger mothers.  Sadly, Facebook's popularity seems to be the death of blogging for ordinary people. 

Until next time! 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

On the Eve of 2018

Everyone says it.  This year sure has gone by quickly!  Amazingly so!  2017 has been a struggle at times and full of blessings at others.  Thankfully we are ending on a good note.  My "babies" are all home and well.  We are enjoying our Christmas break.  What more can a mom want?  Well, she could want all her children seeking after the one true God, my most fervent prayer of 2017.  I am hopeful this prayer will be answered one day.  Until then, I am content knowing that nothing is impossible with God. 

As for me, I am getting ready to embrace another winter.  This one seems determined to be cold and snowy.  Yippee.  (Insert eye roll here.)  Tax season will soon be here and we will try our best to make the most of our limited family time until April 15th.  Winter makes things harder.  We always have to find ways to thrive and not just survive.  I will fight my desire to hibernate. Oh! how I wish it was possible! 

Next week is our last week of break.  It's time to think about a plan to thrive through winter.  Celebrating minor holidays always makes me happy.  Reading books is a must.  Tending my indoor garden will bring green to our frosty world.  I want to bake bread.  I plan to ride my new stationary bike.  I want to be outside more.  I want to do puzzles when the weather is dreary.  I can always spend time purging as well. 

Here we come 2018!  Be kind.  :)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Summer Lessons

With the passing of a season hopefully comes a time of reflection. This is my imperfect look back at some of the lessons that I learned this past summer. Big things happened this past summer.  We moved.  Our oldest moved out.  Fun things happened.  We rediscovered the joy of living near our tribe.  We learned that our entertainment needs are changing. We rediscovered the joy of movement.  We spent time as a church focused on worship. 

This move, our 10th or 11th in 23 years, was mostly uneventful.  Our house sold in days.  Closing was quick, without issues.  We were blessed to have funds to hire movers for the heavy lifting.  Once you have moved as many times as we have, you get good at it!  The hardest part was mostly related to the fact that we moved our son to his college at the same time which I will address next.  Since moving back to be near our church, work, family, and friends, our overall happiness has increased a great deal.  The lesson here is do not move away from the most important things in life, even for a good job! Also, I am wary of moving.  This was not what I had planned for my life, always moving. Yet, we will move again when we find the right house. 

Moving our firstborn son to his college was harder than I had expected.  I mean it really threw me!  We were not on the best of terms and I was frightened that he'd make good on his promise to never speak to me again.  That first week or two I felt as if my heart was broken beyond repair.  The loss of daily contact was so difficult.  I missed him, missed hearing about his days, knowing he was OK.  I really think I dipped into a short depression.  I am thankful for friends who prayed for and listened to me.  Not knowing what else to do, I kept treating my son as if he was the loving son I so wanted.  I sent him a couple care packages.  I did not text him but once a week to say hello, to which I usually got no response.  Then a few weeks ago he suddenly wanted to come for a visit!  His visit, while stressful for me, seemed to go well.  He came for another visit unscheduled!  We got to hear all about his new world.  He was happy!  Since then he has texted back when I text him, which is such a joy.  He has not kept his angry promise of never talking to me again.  I am so thankful!  He is coming home this Friday for 10 days.  I had imagined him staying on campus, not wanting to be here, it was a choice he could make.  Lesson learned?  Take these life challenges to the LORD way ahead of time and hold fast to Him.  He will provide comfort and peace!  (Update:  Wow!  The Lord heard my prayers and then some!  Our son was home and it was a good visit, very peaceful  AND best of all, he hugged me when we took him back to school.  Three weeks until winter break with fly by.)

One fun thing that we rediscovered when we moved was that we don't need cable.  We really knew that already, but I guess we just needed a reminder.   We had planned to migrate our cable package with us when we moved, but as it turns out, it was not available here, so we were all of a sudden free!  We ended up buying an antenna.  We already had a Roku.  We tried Sling for a while but figured out that once baseball season was over we really didn't watch it enough to keep it.  We subscribed to our PBS station and unlocked a bunch of good shows like A Chef's Life and The Great Brittish Baking Show.  We also have a Netflix and Hulu trial to see which one we want to keep. Both have their good and bad points.

Both my husband and I started to feel sick and tired of being sick and tired, so we have been trying to be more mindful of our eating and moving.  I guess we learned the value of self-care this summer.  We have a long way to go, but at least we have regained our motivation. We get up at 5:30 each weekday and do a head to toe stretching program.  In addition, we are making an effort to walk, play, and ride bikes several times a week.  We enjoyed a family round of disc golf over Thanksgiving at a nearby park.  Living by so many parks and trails is awesome!! 

Finally, our church spent three weeks recently focused on worship.  While I am not finished digesting this series, it has rekindled in me a desire to prepare my heart better for worship before Sunday morning rolls around.  Worship is a gift! 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Late Fall Menu Planning

When I sit down each week to menu plan, I like to look back over the past few weeks to visualize what we have had previously and strive for some diversity.  I tend to repeat favorites on a regular basis, although those favorites change over time.  Below is a look at my menus from October.  Note we had 2 birthdays, an anniversary and we were on vacation one week! We ate out a ton more than usual. During the warm weather season, we grill once a week.  Now it is time to start making soup once a week, if not more. We will also have baked potatoes more often. 

Sn 10/1  Grilled brats, chicken, or hamburgers (making extra for tomorrow's lunch and dinner)
M  10/2  Grilled chicken salad (used leftover grilled chicken)
T   10/3  Roasted chicken (chicken was on sale!) with potatoes, onions, carrots
W  10/4 Tacos
TH 10/5 Make your own flatbread pizzas, spinach salad
F  10/6   Chicken Tetrazinni, with zucchini noodles
S  10/7 Out with family

Sn  10/8  Out for our 23rd anniversary
M  10/9 Chicken enchilada casserole, salad
T  10/10 Italian Beef, salad, rolls 
W 10/11 Meatloaf, sweet potatoes, broccoli
TH  10/12 Baked Cod, Brussel sprouts, brown rice
F  10/13 Out for pizza with visiting family
S  10/14 Chicken Alfredo pasta, spinach salad

Sn  10/15 Out with family 
M 10/16 Chili with all the trimmings, salad
T 10/17 Grilled steak on big salads
W 10/18 Fish Tacos
TH 10/19 Out for my birthday
F  10/20 Pork tenderloin, roasted vegetables
S 10/21 Leftovers

Sn 10/22 Chicken and noodles, corn, green beans, biscuits
M 10/23 Oven fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, broccoli
T 10/24 Lemonthyme chicken thighs, fried okra, cornbread
W 10/25 Beef roast, carrots, brown rice
TH 10/26 Roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberries
F  10/27 Leftovers
S 10/28  Chili and all the trimmings (freeze leftovers), salad

Sn 10/29  Pizza for Trevor's birthday party
M 10/30  Tuna cakes, cauliflower with cheese 
T 10/31 Turkey and rice soup (from homemade stock)
W  11/1 Italian Slow Cooker Chicken, "smashed" potatoes, green beans
TH 11/2  Naan bread pizza
F 11/3 Zuppa Toscana, winter salad
S 11/4 Cheeseburgers, salad

Sn 11/5 Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
M 11/6 Baked Potato bar with leftover chili, salad
T  11/7 Meatloaf, sweet potatoes, salad

Other Cool Weather Favorites:
Chicken Pot Pie
Cheeseburger Soup
Burrito Bowls

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October Highlights

October is the best time of the year! My family celebrates an anniversary and two birthdays.  We take a fall break vacation up at Lake Michigan.   The weather is less humid but still warm.  It's just a fun month. 

This year, Jeff and I celebrated 23 years of marriage on the 8th.  We had a lovely meal at a favorite restaurant while our young ones were at youth group. 

The biggest stressor of October seemed to be a few of us going through various infections of which we are now all healed, thankfully.  Taking the PSAT on the 11th was also a bit of a stressor for the students at home.  Not only did they have to go the local public high school, but they had to be there at 8AM.  I was so proud of them. 

Grace had an NHS service day!   When you go to an online school, meeting in person at a nursing home is exciting.  They enjoyed interacting with the residents and fellow students. 

Jeff worked like crazy to meet the increased workload associated with the tax deadline the first half of the month. 

Then we got away for a few days around my birthday to my happy spot, Lake Michigan. 

Quickly we got home on Friday and then went to homecoming at our oldest's college to hear his marching band. 

And then the next day, we had a birthday party for me, a big birthday! My precious mom made this coconut cream pie for me. 

And finally, we celebrated another wonderful birthday this past Sunday. 

How can he be 16?