Currently | May 2020


Currently...

Making...chocolate chip cookies.  I have a grain mill on my counter, and I usually try to grind fresh flour when I make baked goods - it's healthier because you get more of the nutrients from the grain that way, and I actually like the texture of the freshly ground grain in our muffins or whatever. But I finally realized that I have to give up on using the home-ground flour in our chocolate chip cookies.  It was just not working.  I reverted back to good old store flour when I baked yesterday, and the cookies were magnificent.  Yes, that is a very big word for a cookie, but I stand by it.

Learning...more about America.  That sounds like a loaded answer, but what I'm actually referring to is Hillsdale's free online courses, and if you've never checked them out, you should!  I'm doing the course called "The Great American Story: A Land Of Hope", and it's cool to get such a condensed overview of our history.  They have all kinds of courses though, including ones on the Supreme Court, economics (timely right now), the Constitution (also timely), the World Wars, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Winston Churchill, and a bunch of different ones on literature.  I'm really enjoying the one I'm taking.

Dabbling in...gardening.  My lavender and basil have still not really sprouted, but Derek got a greenhouse set up on our porch, and he is growing vegetables!  I'm very excited to see how they do in the greenhouse.  Where we live, a greenhouse is pretty much required for any serious growing.  Maybe it will help cure my black thumb.

(In the greenhouse.)

Missing...the library.  Our state has been gradually opening up, and I'm getting more and more irritated that the library is dragging its feet.  I understand they don't want to open the building yet, but I see no problem in allowing people to pick up holds curbside.  They won't even allow us to return books yet, and I've got about a hundred picture books sitting in bags on the floor, just waiting.  How hard can it be to wipe down the returns or let them sit in a room to isolate for a day or two?  Other county libraries have been partially open for weeks and they make it work.

Reading...about ten books at once.  With the library still closed, I've been scrounging my shelves and the Kindle books on Amazon for my next read.  I have a terrible habit of reading a chapter or two of any book that looks interesting until one sticks, hence why I have so many going at once all the time. I'm currently working through Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (it's really fascinating), The Two Towers (it's a re-read, I've been reading a chapter each night), Unknown Valor by Martha McCullum (just started this one), and The Underground History Of American Education by John Taylor Gatto (also fascinating, and perhaps a little terrifying).  I'm going to start The Lake House this month though!  I mean it this time.

(Burning my Mother's Day candles.)

Loving...the way my kiddos have been handling this whole thing.  I know our routine didn't change as much as others', but we still haven't been able to go to a lot of the places we would normally go either. But they've mostly rolled with the punches and they've been finding all kinds of things to do around the house; they play elaborate, imaginative games with their stuffed animals or cars.  They cheer when we announce a movie night, dive into reading books they wouldn't normally pick up, and are particularly sweet little lights in my life right now.  Have there been alot more household messes to clean up?  Yes.  Has there been occasionally disappointment when I have to tell them that we are, yet again, staying home?  Yes.  But overall, they've handled it all very well.

Bummed about...the homeschool conference being cancelled.  They held out as long as possible, and maybe I should have seen it coming with all the other things being cancelled, but I thought there might be a chance since it wasn't scheduled until later in June.  I think it's unfortunate they had to cancel it with so many people considering homeschooling more seriously as a result of this pandemic.  I'm seriously considering hosting a miniature homeschool conference in my house with my friends instead.  We are almost to the phase that allows more than ten people to gather, so it would be legal and everything.  We could watch a session or two from an online conference together, bring curriculum to allow others to look through it and get ideas, and make it a potluck!  I'm mulling it over.

(Gwen took this picture of me at sunset the other day.)

Excited about...our last day of school!  We are officially on summer break this week, and Wyatt in particular is excited about it.  The kids have been asking me to buy a kiddie pool, though it's not quite warm enough for one yet.  I think this summer in particular it will be important that I plan some fun things for us to do together, since our usual go-to's (zoo, parks, library programs) are in flux.  I want them to have fun and feel as little as possible of the lingering effects of this shutdown craziness.  Summer is NOT cancelled.  I refuse to let it be.

How is the summer looking for you right now?  Any plans to still make it fun?




Recent Reads - Spring 2020



A while back, I decided to take a step back from Goodreads.  For a long time I enjoyed recording the books I was reading on that platform, but in the last year it's become the source of more stress than it's worth. People get nasty on there if you are critical of a book they like!  You would think readers would be a little more understanding that not everyone is going to like the same books, but not so much.

I also don't think Goodreads is a great medium for theological/political/sociological discussions, and there is a lot of that happening as well, many times in a not-so-nice way.  I've also become unsure if I really want a database of all the books I've ever read on the internet.  Do I really want all the tech giants and government having instant access to that information?  Based on how things have been going in this country for the last couple months, I think no.

Bottom line: it's just been adding too much drama to my life.  Instead of recording what I'm reading publicly on Goodreads, I've been keeping a private record of the books I'm reading in my bullet journal.  But I know alot of my blog buddies are also readers, so I wanted to share some of what I'm reading with you all too!  Here are some of the books I've been reading in the first part of this year, along with brief thoughts.



(Some affiliate links below, just to help bolster my book funds!)



I picked up this book because everyone says King is such a wonderful writer, but I'm not into horror.  This is one of his few non-horror books, so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.  The story is about a man who stumbles across a unique way to travel back in time and tries to stop the Kennedy assassination.  I'll say this, King does know how to drive a book forward!  Once I was into this book, I could hardly put it down. However, would I recommend it?  Probably not.  Way more sexual content than I expected, which I skipped past as much as possible, but still - ugh.  Some graphic violence is described, which was disturbing.  I was not satisfied with the ending.  It could have been great if it wasn't for those things.



I already did a full review of this book here.  This book is a historical defense of Reformation doctrines and their existence before the Reformation.  If you're a Protestant whose ever wondered where the Gospel was before the Reformation, this is your book!  Short and sweet, and interesting.



This was a present from my longtime penpal Felicia!  I started this book on Christmas, and got sucked right in!  A bunch of funny Christmas short stories, with lovable, relatable characters.  I laughed out loud reading this, and might have teared up a couple times too.  I bought two more Vinyl Cafe books after reading this one, I loved it so much.  Highly recommend!



Only $2.50 on Kindle!

It's quite possible I read this as a teenager, but I didn't remember it so I read it again.  Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, and if you've never read one of her books, you should.  In this one, a bunch of people are mysteriously summoned to an island, and one by one they start dying off.  From the author's foreword, you know they are all going to be murdered, but the question is, how?  Definitely one of Christie's more disturbing stories, but I couldn't help but appreciate how she pulled off a murder mystery where every character is murdered. If you don't know Agatha Christie already, I wouldn't start with this one though.  I like her Hercule Poirot books best.


This is actually a middle-grade graphic novel (ie. comic book), but it looked fun so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's the story of two girls - quite, shy Emmie, and popular, outgoing Katie.  Everything always works out for Katie, and not so much for Emmie.  One day an embarrassing note gets delivered to Emmie's crush, and everything comes to a head.  Interesting twist at the end!  I thought it was really cute.  I feel like there might have been one reference to a sex-ed class (?), so maybe parents just be aware of that, but nothing explicit.


I'm a big Ken Ham fan, and this book was written with his brother.  It has advice for parents interspersed with some biographical/memoir type content about the Ham family and how Ken Ham started his young-earth creation ministry.  I really enjoyed it!  Alot of the same info as some of his other books, but I liked having more of a biographical look at the Ham family.



Only $3 on Kindle!

So, I powered through this book on audio because I was trying to win a free gift card as part of a promotion on Audible - and I should have got the prize, but Audible decided I didn't qualify.  I tried calling customer service, but they refused to help me.  I was incensed and quit my Audible membership - they basically tricked me into staying a member for two more months to get a gift card I "didn't qualify" for! Even though I did.  So I have bad memories associated with this, ha!  But that aside, I did enjoy this audiobook.  Ember Falls is book two in the Green Ember series, which is a middle-grade fantasy story with noble, warring rabbits.  I'm enjoying the story, but find that alot of it is told in conversations, and I am not quite sure I like how that translates to audio.  This second book was a little slow-moving to me, but I still want to finish the series, until the "Green Ember rises, or the end of the world!" (I might have got that phrase a little wrong, but it's impressive I remember it at all considering I listened to it three months ago.  It stuck.)



Really interesting book about parring down your schedule and learning to say no to things that are not the best use of your time.  I read this after reading Digital Minimalism and Reclaiming Conversation late last year, and it was a nice way to round out all those ideas about trimming distractions from your life.  I'd recommend it if you frequently find yourself overwhelmed with tasks that are not the best use of your time and that you didn't really want to do in the first place.  This book will be a good shot in the arm.



I picked up this book after Andrew Pudewa mentioned that it had interesting points about how to evaluate children's literature to determine if the underlying messages are ones that you want your kids' reading.  This book really made me think, and it did indeed have alot of great tips for choosing books for your kids that are in line with good character values.  The discussion on dragons in children's literature was especially interesting. It's written from a Catholic perspective, so I didn't agree with all the theology in it.  But I did appreciate how it made me think deeper about the kinds of books I want my kids' reading, and I'll probably return to it for ideas in the future.



This was a thriller I listened to on audio when I needed a distraction.  It's a story about a girl who disappeared, and years later her mother is still trying to figure out what happened to her - things start to come together when she starts dating again.  I didn't love this one.  I listened to the end just because I wanted to finish it, but there was definitely some sexual content (thank goodness for the button to skip ahead 30 seconds).  I also hated the ending.  Not that I was expecting a happy ending exactly, but it was bittersweet in a disturbing way, and left me with kind of a yucky feeling.  I kind of wish I had quit this one.  Maybe I'll just stick with Mary Higgins Clark books when I want a thriller in the future.  More modern thrillers rarely work out for me.


I started this book last year, and just finally finished it this spring.  Tripp gives advice in this book to all Christians on how to counsel and encourage others in a biblical way, by asking good questions and pointing others to scripture.  It's solidly grounded in the Gospel, and the advice later in the book was really thought-provoking and helpful to me in some of my relationships.  This is a book I'll probably be reading again, because I need reminders.  If you want some help on learning how to encourage others in the Lord, this book is for you!


East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

Only $1.50 on Kindle!

I've got probably an eighth of this book left, it's been taking up a large portion of my reading time for the last two months, but I think it will be worth it! The story is a generational story about two sets of brothers with a Cain-and-Abal type relationship.  I'm very invested in the characters, and I'm going to be kind of sad when I can't read about their lives anymore.  One content note: there are "houses of ill repute" involved, so some sexual references in the plot line, but nothing too explicit.



That's where my reading life stands as of Spring 2020!  

I've decided to change my strategy for how I'm picking books for the rest of this year.  When I was trying to write my post about my favorite books from 2019 (back in January), I found myself really unsatisfied with the group of books I had to choose from.  Then I looked over my last couple reading years and realized I haven't loved very many of the books I've been reading for a while now.  I decided to try to read more books that I like this year, and less books that end up being duds.  I may write about my strategy in another post, but I'm pretty satisfied with the books I've read so far in 2020.  There are alot of good ones on this list!  

Here's to hoping 2020 will be a great reading year, where my "Favorite Books Of 2020" post will be difficult to write because I have so many I love, as opposed to so few!

What has been your favorite book of the year so far?

Cold Coffee And Sunshine



My coffee is cold in the cup next to me as I sit down on my couch today, laptop perched on my knees.  I haven't sat down just to write in a while!  My fingers actually feel stiff and slow in typing.  I'm asked often how I make time for my blog with the kids and everything, and the truth is that Derek usually gives me an evening or a whole afternoon at the library, and I knock out a few posts at a time.  I obviously haven't been able to do that for a while.  Even now, when our state has been slowly reopening for a couple weeks, our libraries are still closed.

But today, Derek and a friend are outside, building a treehouse for the kids.  The weather has been just lovely for a few weeks now, which feels like another bit of God's grace to us amidst all this turmoil in the world.  We may not be able to go to the park, but the mountains are unseasonably warm, and hot pine needles smell like summer.  I can hear the kids shouting as they play on the driveway.  And I'm sitting here, with my cold cup of coffee that I'll probably re-heat again in a minute, and a wilted little wildflower on the armrest of the couch, presented proudly to me by my golden-haired four year old a little while ago.  The darn woodpecker is attacking the side of the house again, and the hummingbird feeder is swinging outside the window.  It's a nice Saturday morning, and I decided today was the day to catch up the ole blog.  I should make this happen more often.

(Hi!)

Speaking of the treehouse, the kids are so excited for it.  It's really more of a playhouse than a treehouse, a little shed on a raised deck, with an even higher balcony-porch that wraps around a tree in our yard.  Derek wanted to make something sturdy and enduring, something they can enjoy now and when they are teenagers.  I think it's going to turn out great!  We are also toying with the idea of making a teepee further down the hill, but we can't quite figure out where to get or how to make a full-size teepee covering.

Other house projects-in-progress involve a lot of plants.  Derek decided to try to grow our own flowers for our outdoor pots this summer, and he's been baby-ing little flower sprouts for a few weeks now.  The flowers we chose don't seem to be happy, and we aren't quite sure why.  The vegetable plants he got from a coworker, on the other hand, are thriving.  He ordered a greenhouse, and I consented to have it set up in corner of our back deck.  Our deck is a little funny, with a long, semi-narrow strip right off the back of the house, which takes one step down to a wider area where we have our table set up.  So the greenhouse will be on the upper section of the deck, next to the house.  I was hesitant to let the greenhouse live there, because I want the deck to feel clean, but I think it'll be alright. I'm planning on hanging some flower baskets on either side to make it look...fancier?  More lush?  I'm also a little concerned about the draining, but Derek says all the plants will be in trays.  The greenhouse may move to the side of the house if our plants outgrow it.  It's a pretty small greenhouse.  We are gardening newbies (though Derek has a greener thumb than me), so any tips are appreciated!

I've been trying to grow herbs in our kitchen windowsill as well, and the basil and chamomile is thriving, but the lavender and rosemary have yet to sprout.  Did I get dead seeds?  Do they just need longer to germinate? Or did I drown them?  I don't know.  I'm disappointed that the two herbs I wanted the most seem to be rebelling against me, but I'll give them a little more time.

Derek is still working from home, from the closet-office, and he probably will be for a while.  Our governor is encouraging those who can work from home to do it, and I can't say we completely mind.  Working from home cuts out two hours of commuting time for Derek, which means more time for movie nights and house projects.

Homeschooling exclusively at home, on the other hand, is getting wearisome.  We are itching to go on a field trip, or a library trip, or a park trip, or something.  Over the weeks when we were required to stay home, and there was nowhere to go anyway, I did lessons with the kids on the weekends to knock out a few extra days of our school year.  So we are on track to finish our required number of days by the end of this week!  I would love to do a field trip to celebrate the last day of school, but I'm pretty sure most of those type of places will still be closed.  Maybe a "field trip" to Barnes and Noble for some books to read over the summer, perhaps?  I just saw that our local Barnes And Noble is open, and I'm extra excited about it.

Speaking of books for the kids to read, Gwen is reading pretty solidly now, so I went ahead and ordered some of the original American Girl books on Ebay.  I was aiming to gather the Felicity and Addy series, and just happened to also get the Josefina series in the process.  Probably my three favorites of the original American Girls, so that worked out!  Did any of you read American Girl books as a kid?  Which were your favorites?  I never did get one of the dolls.

As our state and county has started opening, we've enjoyed visits with my sister and parents last week.  It is so good to see family, and especially to be around people who feel similarly about this whole crazy mess the world has gotten itself into.  As I've been following the virus news and shutdowns the last few weeks, I've been reminded of the fact that an economic depression is going to have horrible ripple effects in so many less fortunate countries too.  I read in an article that the number of people in the world who face starvation is expected to double this year as a result of the economic shutdowns around the world.  Double.  That just breaks my heart. What have we done to ourselves? Opinions run the gamut about this whole situation, and I am trying not to get into mine here, but it can't be denied that some of our actions in response to the virus have been much more devastating than many expected.

(On a related note, my friend Bethany - another childhood penpal! - is trying to sell bows to help with relief in the middle East during this coronavirus crisis.  She's sold out for now, but it's a cool thing she's doing, and you might consider following if you are interested.)

Anyway, to try to get back to a happier topic before I close this out, I'm still working through East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.  It's a long book, okay?  I'm most of the way through it though, and I still have no idea where it's going. How's all this going to end?  I'll probably go curl up with it on the porch as soon as I'm done typing this.  When I finish that book, I'm going full-steam ahead on The Lake House by Kate Morton.  I also started Unknown Valor by Martha MacCallum.  The cover caught my eye, and I kept seeing it everywhere, so I grabbed it at Sam's Club last week.  I'm already getting sucked into it, so that's my current nonfiction read!  What have you all been reading?  I have a full post on what I've read so far this year in the works for later this week!

I'm typing this on Saturday, you'll probably be reading this on Monday, which means Mother's Day was yesterday.  Our plan is to drop by Derek's mom's house in the morning, and then I think Derek has a picnic lunch planned for me and the kids.  They went Mother's Day shopping for me this week, and the kids are so cute, telling me not to look in their closets so I don't see the presents they got me.  Then I'm hoping to see my mom for dinner.  It should be a lovely day, and the first Mother's Day in a while when we'll get to see both our moms on the same day.

I'm feeling especially blessed by my mom this year, as I've seen her here and there during the shutdown, and she's dropped off little notes for the kids, and I've made more of an effort to talk to her on the phone regularly.  I've never been good at making those phone calls, I've never been much of a phone-talker.  But I'm starting to change my tune.  It's undeniably better to hear someone's voice and have a real conversation than to poke out characters for a text bubble.  And I've especially missed getting to see Derek's mom - we've sent letters to her, and Derek continues to talk to her regularly, but I hate that we had to miss seeing her on Easter.  I have a really wonderful mother-in-law, and it's not lost on me what a blessing that really is.  It'll be good to see her face.

The sunshine on the porch is calling my name, so I think I'll go grab that book now.

How have you all been?  What have you been up to?  Any restrictions lifting in your states yet?  Or for international friends, how are things going in your country right now?


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