Beautiful Day

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Top Twelve Books of 2012

As 2012 closes out, I enjoy looking over the list of books I have read this year.  I am happy to be keeping my average of at least 40 books in a year.  Mind you, this does not include the MANY picture books I read to my children, but is a compilation of personal reads mixed with chapter books or read-alouds with my children.

Here are my favorite 12 of 2012 (not in any ranking order...that would be just a little too hard, but I do honestly have a few that stand out here).  This is probably more of a chronological list of when they were finished.
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches

1.  "Loving the Little Years" by Rachel Jankovic---a humorous and insightful little book to inspire me in the love and care of my littles.  Will certainly go on my re-read list.

Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life
2.  "Keeping House" by Margaret Kim Peterson---I really loved this book for its theological underpinnings about something that might seem so mundane to us homekeepers.  It gave me fresh vision on home duties at a time where I felt bogged down in the everyday, and less-than-inspired.  I promptly finished this book and handed it to my teen daughters, who also enjoyed lessons in the "whys" of what we do.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates
 3.  "Hans Brinker of the Silver Skates" by Mary Mapes Dodge---This one is one of my treasures from my grandmother's book shelf. I've had it on the "to-read" list for quite some time.  We read this aloud in mid-winter, which was perfect with the Holland setting and talk of (ice) skating.  We enjoyed this classic literature piece, which was a heartwarming story.

Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys

4.  "Raising Real Men" by Hal and Melanie Young---I reviewed this book here.  Definitely a must-read if you have boys.  My favorite practical book on raising boys!

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years5.  "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance" by Heidi St. John---I also reviewed this one.  Loved her humorous and very real writing style on a topic that is of great necessity to home-educating mothers.  I also read her "Guide to Daylight" on time management, which is also excellent (and hence, I squeeze in another favorite book without actually listing it!)

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

6.  "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey"---a fun biographical read to encounter in my month of British "library-books-on-hold-that-all-arrived-at-the-same-time."  A fascinating read, which I discussed a bit more here.

The Hiding Place Publisher: Bantam Books 7.  "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom---our Bible Bee studies this year served as a catalyst to also get us back into missionary biographies and stories of great heroes of the faith.  Since this had also been a book I wanted to read aloud for some time, this was the year.  We appreciated it deeply for all of the reasons that make it a great in Christian history.  It was brought to life all the more because we actually had opportunity to visit the Ten Boom museum in Holland when my now-big- girls were small.  One of our favorite picture memories of that trip was a photo of them standing in that hiding place.  Powerful and stirring.

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
8.  "Almost Amish" by Nancy Sleeth---I checked this book out from the library and it was a stirring read for me.  Though I do not subscribe to romanticizing the Amish or their way of life, I did appreciate some of the lessons this woman gleaned from their lifestyle that can be very thought-provoking.  Mostly this book had me thinking about community and simple living.  I really liked hearing how this woman and her family mades some drastic changes in their lifestyle and how they were benefiting from it.  I thought long and hard about this book and it's one that had staying power with me.

A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything
9.  "A Woman's Wisdom" by Lydia Brownback---This book came by high recommendation of a very trusted friend and fellow-reader.  In fact, a few of my top 12 books did.  When it comes to this genre of books in particular, I usually know that if she has high recommendations I am going to feel the same way.  And I was right!  I had some of Brownback's books "marked" for a someday read, but when I saw this one, I jumped at the giveaway (and won!).  I'm so glad I did.  This is a certain re-read.  This book is greatly convicting and was very needful for me, personally.  I add my highest recommendation to this one!

Homestead Blessings Cookbook

10.  "The Homestead Blessings Cookbook"---by the West Ladies.  Well, it is a cookbook.  Which means it isn't necessarily a reading book, though there are several vignettes to read in it.  But I like this little gem for me and my homestead-loving daughters.  It's been fun to try a whole lot of these recipes.  We still want an outdoor kitchen someday.

The Thunder: A Novel on John Knox
11. "The Thunder" by Douglas Bond---We have read many books aloud by Douglas Bond.  I think the Mr. Pipes books are our favorites.  The "Crown and Covenant" series are interesting and we do need to know about the sacrifices and difficult circumstances our Scottish ancestors lived through for the cause of Christ, but the graphic descriptions are often hard for my feminine side to stomach (so I sometimes edit while reading aloud).  While "The Thunder" certainly does not sugar-coat anything, it was a bit less graphic and I just appreciated the whole story about one of our heroes of the faith, John Knox.  My older children constantly asked for me to read another chapter.

The Fruitful Wife: Cultivating a Love Only God Can Produce

12.  "The Fruitful Wife" by Hayley DiMarco---Oh.  my.  What can I possibly say about this book, except that it should be read by every Christian wife who is serious about growing in the fruit of the spirit (which should be all of us).  I liked DiMarco's honest reflections (and I said "ouch" just a few too many times because I have a feeling her personality is a bit like mine)--they add credibility to her writing without detracting from her message and focusing too much on her self.  This book is hard-hitting, yet encouraging and I will be revisiting this book again in the near future.

Now I'm off to start pondering my reads for 2013!  Looking forward to more biographies, more read-alouds (the best time of every day), a couple of classics, more stirring reads, some fun reads, and how it all will (hopefully) grow and change me and the ones I love!  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows (without corn syrup!)

Truth be told...I am not a big marshmallow fan.  I do like to roast them over a good campfire and melt them into a s'more.  But in general, I don't like how sweet they are.  My children, however, love them.  Every time we go to the store and pass by that aisle, they ask.
"Please, can we get marshmallows for......(fruit salad, hot chocolate...anything?)?"
Mama:  "Noooooo," (as she picks up the bag and reads the label to her self just one more time just to prove she knows why she is saying no), "we don't need them."  (And quietly she says something about how much "junk" is in the ingredient list and wonders what these really are anyway...her health-conscious girls nodding in agreement, but sighing still over not having any in said fruit salad or hot chocolate).
Well, if you are thinking that I never eat anything unhealthy, you would be wrong.  But I am very mindful, particularly about artificial ingredients and colorings, and my motto is, "If you can make it yourself, you ought to."  (Most of the time, anyway).  And marshmallows....well, their ingredient list always makes me squirm.
Last year, we tried making our own for the first time.  They were peppermint ones and were definitely tasty.  But they made a large batch, and we got tired of the candy-cane flavor in everything.  So this year, we wanted to do it again.  I put it in the schedule of fun things to do during Advent.

Then I got out the recipes to prepare.  And made a discovery we didn't like...there was corn syrup in the recipe!  This would not do.  So, after some more research we found a recipe without corn syrup, but it still needed tweaking.  We improvised and created our own tasty results.  There's no way of getting around the sugar.  But at least we can make the sugar as natural as possible and without all of the artificial flavors and colors.   It's really very easy to do!  Ready to try it yourself?

Get out your ingredients.  There aren't too many.  We like this sugar (we buy it from Costco).

Here you can somewhat see how fluffy it looks when it has doubled in volume.  When we first poured in the syrup, we thought for sure our marshmallows were going to be light brown because our sugar is not bleached white and contains its natural coloring.  To our surprise, they turned out white and look like regular marshmallows!  And all without the use of blue food coloring.  Why do they do all that stuff to packaged food?
You could also dust them or roll them in toasted coconut.  You may want to dust
them with extra powdered sugar (or coconut) on the sides so that they do not stick to each other in storage.
And since we had our first snow yesterday (Hurray!), we got to try them out in our hot chocolate or eggnog lattes.  I think they were the perfect touch.  Even for one who doesn't normally go for marshmallows.  I think this will become a regular staple in the house for those occasional touches to fruit salad, hot drinks in the winter, and maybe even the candy cane fudge the girls are wanting to make for Christmas.

****My apologies that the recipe is hard to read.  I am experimenting with some things and always learning ( I have a LOT to learn!).  I hope to try to fix that very soon.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Extra-Special First Sunday of Advent

If you are a Christian, you are already aware that today marks the first Sunday of Advent.  It is perhaps our favorite time of the year.  So what makes this one "extra-special?" 

Today marks the anniversary of the day my Tender Warrior proposed to me, 22 years ago.  What is more, it was a Sunday.  And it was the first Sunday of Advent then too.  Young college students that we were and starting to talk about a future life together, we had heard a stirring message about celebrating Advent in the home on the week prior.    That first Sunday of Advent was full of surprises, but I will never forget starting this tradition on that night as we sat looking out over Lake Washington, candle and book in hand.

We did not have any photos of the glorious event.  Back then, I think our lame cameras wouldn't have handled it--the candle lighting the darkness.  Beautiful, but hard to capture on a Kodak Disc or whatever other camera we might have had.  We didn't have any staged friends, hiding in the bushes, to capture photographs like some of our friends do now.  Here, however, is a photo of my Tender Warrior and I a couple of years ago.  We wanted to find the spot and the special bench and show it to our children.  So this was the 20th anniversary picture, I suppose you could say.

This morning, I heard this song on Pandora.  (I love the instrumentals available on Pandora!)  It was mixed in among many beautiful and stirring hymns.  Sometimes Pandora strikes me a little funny in that I wonder how it chooses certain songs when they don't seem to fit the rest of the genre.  However, this song was played.  And I believe the Lord knew it was one I needed for this day and this time.  We have had a bit of a health trial in our home lately, which is why I have been more absent than usual from the blogosphere.  It has demanded just about every ounce of extra energy, time and devotion I could have.  Sometimes it threatens to defeat me. 

So, hearing this....just what I needed. 

I devote this song to my Tender Warrior today.  Thank you for choosing a life with me and for the years of Advent celebrations we have shared together from the very beginning of our marriage and as our family has grown.  May this bless you today as you are working your "warrior" job.  I am so grateful that every year when this day comes, it is marked with an extra special beauty.

Soli Deo Gloria! 


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