Monday, March 31

Distortion by Terri Blackstock

Distortion is not a new plotline by any stretch: husband is murdered, and in the aftermath his devoted wife and children discover the horrible secret life he had been leading and find their own lives in danger. The story follows both the mysteries those left behind face as they try to unravel the nightmare in a race against the clock to keep from being murdered themselves, and the human elements of betrayal and forgiveness. 

It has been about a decade since I last read a Terri Blackstock novel, but I was pleased to find that her writing style has remained consistent. Quick, easy-to-read chapters, with engaging and realistic characters. I very much enjoyed the fast pace of the book, and found all of the characters easy to like but also fairly realistic. The main character’s faith was tested and, although there were Bible verses and prayers, they too remained in the realm of practical reality and never strayed into the “perfect Christian” or too-many-miraculous-answers-in-the-nick-of-time territory. This was a great, pleasant read and something that is likely to please a wide variety of readers.

Saturday, March 29

Shepherd's Pie & Pot Roast

There hasn't been a lot of time for recipe experimentation around here, but I tried and loved two new recipes last month that I wanted to share:

Pub Style Shepherd's Pie from Tide and Thyme


Stout Pot Roast from The Beeroness

Both of these were amazing, and I highly recommend them!

Sunday, March 9

Happy Wives Club (book review)

Fed up with negative attitudes towards marriage in the media and popular culture, and portrayals of “desperate”, cheating, or otherwise miserable wives as the norm, Fawn Weaver set out both to prove that happy, lasting marriages are far more common than we’re led to believe and to help couples capture the basic secrets to building a strong marriage themselves. 

I loved this book! As a happily married woman myself, I frequently share the author’s frustration over the pervasive attitude that married people are miserable or cheating (and if they aren’t now, they will be soon). It was deeply refreshing to hear the stories of incredibly diverse and very successful couples, and I felt like positive energy and encouragement just radiated out of these pages – a rare find! The “secrets” the author finds along the way are not rocket science, that’s part of the point. Building a good marriage isn’t complicated, it just requires choosing to hold to (and live out) core principles every day. Weaver does an excellent job of illustrating how those same principles play out across very different personalities and marriages, and makes them very accessible to readers. 

PS - Check out the Happy Wives Club website for more good content and regular encouragement!

Friday, February 21

Book Reviews: Vanished & Missing Microbes

There hasn't been a lot of time to read lately, but I did recently finish two fantastic books that I wanted to pass along:

Vanished the Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II
This book hooks you from the first page and never lets go as it spins out the beautifully interwoven stories of the crew of a B-24 bomber lost near the islands of Palau during WW II's Pacific Campaign, their families, and the men who search and scour obscure records and the island's aquamarine channels to find them and bring the fallen men home.

The author perfectly balances the backstories and history with chronicling the search as it develops, flounders, and ultimately comes into its own. The book was driven by mysteries that capture the imagination, and the descriptive details brought every diverse environment to life - from the sandy paradise beaches to the cramped, cold interior of the B-24. There are times when the families' stories will make you want to weep, and other parts where you want to cheer with the searchers for their successes.

This was one of the best WWII books I have read, and I highly recommend it.

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues

Scientist and author Martin Blaser illuminates the hidden costs of the modern world's obsession with antibiotics.

Blaser explores the long term consequences of heavy antibiotic use on individuals and society, and draws clear (and disturbing) links between overuse of antibiotics and modern plagues including diabetes, obesity, IBS/ulcerative colitis, asthma, and escalating food allergies. Using decades of sound scientific research and examples from both modern life and the history of medicine, he offers a slightly frightening but completely realistic picture of where we are headed as a planet if we don't change our ways. The book outlines key problems, offers viable (but not easy) solutions, and calls on all of us as a society to make better choices while we still can. The book was a little on the dry side, but clearly written by a man passionate about his subject and it provides significant food for thought. An excellent read, and one we all do well to pay attention to!

Thursday, February 20

Helpful (If Unofficial) National Holidays

Doctor and River :)Did you know that last Tuesday was Clean Out Your Computer Day? I can't remember why I know that, but I meant to post a helpful reminder ahead of time. (Clearly that didn't happen. Sorry.) Anyway, if you could use a boost of mid-winter productivity and clarity, consider carving out a little time to clean out your computer. Get rid of old files, make some new folders to make things easier to find, and do a defragmentation to help things run extra smoothly this year.

On a slightly odder note, today is National Handcuff Day. Not sure why we have a national holiday for that, but I thought I'd make the most of it by posting some helpful handcuff related links for your reference:

How to Escape From Zip Ties - Excellent post (with video) by the guys at ITS Tactical. Chances are if you're ever involved in a home invasion or car jacking, you're more likely to be bound with zip ties than handcuffs these days, so check out these excellent tips on how to free yourself.

Make Your Own Paracord Survival Bracelet - Not technically related to handcuffs, but also an excellent thing to have in sticky, dangerous situations. 7 feet of 550 paracord with a billion uses (including sawing through rope if you happen to find yourself facing some of that) in a neat little package. (Can also be affixed to jacket zippers, backpacks, etc. for easy carrying if you're not into bracelets.) For the MacGyver type, you can also buy one premade with a tungsten carbide wire saw in it!

Finally, I can't help but finish with these photos of the Doctor, River, and Amy. After all, who doesn't enjoy starting their day with a little emotional trauma caused by British television?   :)

Wednesday, February 19

Not All Messages Are For You

As I tried to write a response to today’s post on (in)courage and the two posts on her.menutics it was based on, I found my thoughts spiraling along two parallel but inextricably intertwined realities. Hopefully, this post will do them both justice. 
Mary DeMuth is a courageous woman. She has shared her stories of abuse and the decades-long struggles it has caused in her life and her marriage, as well as the tremendous grace she and her husband have found in walking through those challenges.

Her posts “The Sexy Wife I Can’tBe” and “I'm Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife” have garnered hundreds, maybe thousands of comments from people who needed to hear her message, and I applaud her for that. Some of her points are completely valid, and a valuable counterpoint to the alternative views she rebuffs. What is frustrating about her writing, however, is that in her efforts to speak truth to one community, she is dismissing and denying truths that are extremely relevant to a different audience. 

The sad truth is that (both within and outside the Church) there are many women for whom the issues of abuse that Mrs. DeMuth faces do not apply who are creating homes and marriage beds for their husbands that are little more than desiccated wastelands. Men get married, start a family, and work hard to provide only to find that they have become last on their wife’s list of priorities, consistently getting the dregs of her time, energy, and attention. Though not an excuse for infidelity, it is deeply damaging. There is a legitimate need to call women in such situations to pay attention and understand what their choices are causing. Just because a message is not for one person does not mean it is invalid.

The more important reality illuminated by the conversations Mrs. DeMuth’s writing have prompted is that we –as a culture and a Church – are failing to teach women how to be good wives. More specifically, and perhaps more importantly, women are not being not taught the importance (let alone the mechanics!) of being a good wife to one’s own husband.

There are a few core elements that form the foundation of every strong marriage – trust, respect, But there are some extreme variations in what those things look like in practical application.
communication, commitment.

Women don’t need badgering or heaps of unrealistic, inapplicable, or overwhelming expectations about how they should look, act, or run their homes based on societal trends or other people’s struggles. We need exactly what the Bible told us thousands of years ago that we would need: older, wiser women in the faith teaching (and mentoring) us in the principles of sacrificial love and the sanctity – and beauty – of marriage.  (Titus 2:4, anyone?)

When you genuinely apply these core principles, you don’t need to attend seminars on how to be a “sexy wife” because you understand that what makes a wife beautiful and a blessing to her husband is different in every marriage. You learn to tune in to what your husband needs and gracefully excuse yourself from the chaos of messages bouncing around the outside world that don’t apply to you.
It is a process that will take a lifetime, and certainly there will be bumps and storms along the way. But I think, too, that there would be less heartache and fewer tears if worried a bit less about other people’s expectations and focused a little more on the small handful that actually matter – God’s, and our husband’s.

Sunday, February 2

Helpful Kitchen Charts

I am an unabashed foodie. Yet despite an awesome Mom who always made sure I knew my way around the kitchen, two years of cooking lab in college, and nine years of cooking proper meals for myself and my husband, I still regularly find reminders of just how much I don't know when it comes to food and cooking.

So today, I thought I'd share four of the best resources I've encountered recently that have helped me refine and inform my cooking in ways I hadn't ever learned before:

How to Choose the Right Onion
(sorry for the Pinterest link - I couldn't find the graphic on the original site to link to)

Kitchen Conversions

Vegetable Roasting Guide
(Roasting is my new favorite way to cook veggies of all varieties, and this super-helpful chart tells you everything you need to know about how to do it well!)

Baking Pan Conversions
This is a must-have resource for anyone who's ever tried to halve or double a batter-based recipe (cake, brownies, etc) or tried one of those awesome-but-weird recipes that sounds amazing but is only gauged for some random pan size no real person actually owns and realized that they had no idea how to appropriately accommodate  the situation with pans you already own!