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It’s the last day of February and so it is time to wrap up our Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. If you’ve read anything by, about, or related to Laura this month, please share it with us in the comments. You can share a link back to your book reviews, or if you’ve written a wrap-up post, you can link back to that (the latter might be preferable if you’ve written more than one review — the WordPress spam filter tends to send comments with more than one link to the spam folder. But I’ll try to keep a watch out for them.) If you don’t have a blog, just share in the comments what you read and your thoughts about it. We’d also love to hear if you’ve done any “Little House” related activities.

I like to have some sort of drawing to offer a prize concluding the challenge, and as I thought about it this year, I decided to offer one winner the choice of:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker

OR

Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

OR

A CD (hard copy or digital) of music based on songs from the Little House Books: Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder OR Arkansas Traveler: Music from Little House on the Prairie. (Thanks, Susan, for telling me about them!)

If none of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on this post by Friday telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through random.org. a week from today to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

For myself, this month I read (linked to my reviews):

By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

I also wrote Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder with some fun facts and favorite moments and quotes from her books.

I had planned to read the newly published Pioneer Girl, Laura’s first book that had never been published before now. But they quickly ran out of all they printed at first and had to print more, and so far I have not received it.

Thanks for participating! I hope you enjoyed your time “on the prairie” this month. It always leaves me with renewed admiration for our forebears and renewed thankfulness that I live in the times I do.

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF birds on a wire

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

I’m “late to the party” today – it has been a busy end to a busy week. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Mittu’s birthday was last week but between bad weather and work schedules, we couldn’t get together to celebrate til Sunday. I love birthdays – the special food and treats, cards and presents, getting everyone together, and letting that person know how special they are to the family.

2. A bit of rearranging, sorting, organizing. There is not time to do that on a full scale for a while, but I had some pockets of opportunities to rearrange a few things in a couple of cabinets and in the living room in a way I had been thinking about but hadn’t had time to do yet. It’s nice when you get an idea about how things might work better and then have an opportunity to try it out.

3. Face Time with Timothy in the snow. When Jason and Mittu took him out to play in the snow and build his first snowman, they let me tag along via Face Time on our phones. Timothy wasn’t much impressed at this point, but I think next year he’ll probably enjoy it more.

IMG_0018

4. An afternoon “off.” After getting the most necessary things done for the week, I gave myself a little time to relax and watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey.

5. Chocolate chip butterscotch brownies. I don’t bake many treats with just the three of us here, lest I be tempted to consume more than I should, but it was hard to have the wintry weather of the last couple of weeks and not do any baking. So today I made a half-recipe of these. Yum.

Speaking of the wintry weather – I could list melting snow as a bonus fave. :) Where I have lived, when we get snow it is usually gone in a day or two, and that’s how I like it. :) I don’t think I’ve ever been where snow has stuck around for a couple of weeks. I know, I know, that’s nothing compared to what some of you further north face, but snow is one reason I’m glad I live here and not there! :)

Happy Friday!

The Long WinterThe Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder starts out in the summer. The Ingalls family has lived in their little claim shanty through the spring, and Pa is cutting down hay. When Pa comes across a big muskrat house made bigger and thicker than he has ever seen, he takes that as a sign that this coming winter will be a particularly hard one. An early blizzard in October and an Indian’s prediction convinces Pa and other homesteaders that they need to move into town for the winter. Pa had built a building in town in the last book and rented it out. The claim shanty was too flimsy to stand up against a blizzard, and being in town would keep them close to supplies.

But then blizzards start coming one right after another with only a day or so in-between, some times only half a day. Supplies run out and the trains can’t get through. Almanzo comes up with a plan, but it is a dangerous long shot.

This book isn’t a fun read, but it is a good one mainly to see the ingenuity and character of the family in this crisis. But there are a few lighter moments. When the family moves to town, Laura and Carrie have to go to school: they’re frightened at first (though Laura tries not to show it), but eventually they make friends and enjoy their studies. There is still a lot of singing in the evenings, along with other ways of entertaining themselves.

There are also glimpses of the times and culture. When Laura wants to help hard-working Pa to get the hay in, Ma was reluctant. “She did not like to see women working in the fields. Only foreigners did that. Ma and her girls were Americans, above doing men’s work.” But Pa could use the help, so she agreed. I was amused that Ma thought girls “above doing men’s work,” when usually we see “women’s work” demeaned. (And there is a bit of that as well – Almanzo considers cooking women’s work, but since he and his brother are bachelors and have to eat, he pitches in. Maybe each gender thought they had the best of it, though they all were industrious and hard-working). I was interested to read Almanzo’s justification for lying about his age in order to stake a claim. The land agent evidently got that he was underage, yet winked at him and gave him the necessary papers. I did have to smile when he commented once that “Three o’clock winter mornings was the only time that he was not glad to be free and independent” when he had to rouse himself up to do something, when at home his father would do that. Ma’s sending ginger water out when Pa and Laura are working in the hot sun on the hay makes me wonder if the recipe is in the Little House cookbook – it sure sounds refreshing. I’ve mentioned before Ma’s not politically incorrect feelings towards Indians, one of her few flaws grown primarily from fear. It is mentioned in passing again here. Laura has an interesting conversation with Pa when she asks how the muskrats know about the coming  winter, and Pa replies that God tells them. Laura asks why God didn’t tell people, and that leads into free will, independence, the differences in the way God deals with animals and people (he could have said, but didn’t, that one way God did give clues to people was through observation of things like muskrat houses).

I like that Laura is honest about her feelings and faults. “Sewing made Laura feel like flying to pieces. She wanted to scream. The back of her neck ached and the thread twisted and knotted. She had to pick out almost as many stitches as she put in.” She and Mary quarrel some times and she flies off the handle sometimes, but family discipline is such that she does this less often than one might expect.

There are interesting comments about how progress can actually make us less able to cope than our forebears:

“We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”

“That’s so,” said Pa. “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves — they’re good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ‘em.”

When the train can’t get through, they reason, “We survived without trains before.” Thankfully both Pa and Ma come up with some old tricks to help along the way. But as dependent as I am on electricity modern appliances, and creature comforts, I agree that I would have a hard time surviving in that setting.

A lot of this book is about endurance, and that might not be fun reading for some, but it is important. I think for most of us, our endurance would have run out long before theirs did, and we see some cracks in their armor due to the strain of constant storms, being trapped inside, dwindling food, and monotonous tasks just to keep alive. One of the first times I read this book, it made me quite ashamed that I feel tired of winter and gloomy about the lack of warmth, sunlight, and color – and I have always lived in the southeast, where, though we do have freezing temperatures and bad winter weather, it’s not nearly as bad as what others have to face. As it happened, the several days that I was reading this story this time, we had some of our severest winter weather, and while reading this story reminded me that I have nothing to complain about, in some ways it oddly did add to that feeling of winter weariness. But there is always hope that spring will indeed come again.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Pound a Day DietI picked up The Pound a Day Diet by Rocco DiSpirito not so much for the pound a day part, but rather because I had seen Rocco as a chef on shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Weight Loss.” On one of them he mentioned that people often feel that when they want to lose weight, they can’t eat anything except grilled chicken and salads, and anyone would get tired of that after a while. That resonated with me, so I wanted to see what else he had to say and hopefully glean some ideas from him.

Part of his interest in lower calorie but tasty foods came from his own need to lose weight. When he became a chef and was working with great food all day, he packed on the pounds. When he decided to lose weight, he used his culinary skills to create recipes that were filling and flavorful yet lower in calories. Sometimes that involved substitutions for the higher-calorie counterparts; sometimes it involved using fresh foods and avoiding higher calorie ingredients. (You can see a before and after photo of him here.) He has created a whole series of books including some of these recipes and ideas.

In this book he advocates losing weight by consuming 850 calories on weekdays and 1200 on weekends in Phase 1. He gets away with the 850 calories by having a protein smoothie in the morning. He quoted a few studies saying that losing weight more quickly than the usually recommended pound or two a week is beneficial because the progress keeps one encouraged: when weight is coming off slowly, combined with the inevitable plateaus, people get discouraged and quit.

He advocates a Mediterranean diet, which involves a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fewer and leaner meats, and a lot of his general information about what kinds of foods to eat is common sense and similar to what you might read in other healthy eating plans (like eating carbs but choosing nutrient-dense, lower calorie versions rather than the calorie-dense lower nutrient versions). He also talks about benefits of exercise, different types, etc. Probably my favorite chapter was the next-to-last one, about healthier ways of cooking, ways to boost flavor without adding empty calories, the benefits of preparing one’s own food and buying locally (pointing out that food that has traveled 5,000 miles to get here is not going to be as nutritious as what you can get locally), etc.

The bulk of the book (some 140 pages) is recipes. In the reviews I saw of the book, several of them criticized his use of things like artificial sweeteners, powdered proteins, etc.  Though there is a lot of that kind of thing in the smoothies and desserts, most of the entrees and side dishes are just regular foods and spices. Though Rocco advocates preparing meals for yourself, he does include recommendations of ready-made foods that are close to the the recipes.

I marked several recipes I want to try and had wanted to do so before reviewing the book, but that didn’t happen. I was going to try the protein smoothie: I don’t have diabetes (my fasting blood sugar the last few times has been in the “slightly elevated, not enough to say diabetes, but enough that you need to make some adjustments” readings), but I do have a tendency to low blood sugar. If I just have cereal (even cream of wheat) and fruit in the mornings, within an hour or so I am dizzy and shaky and lightheaded and need  to eat something else. Over time I’ve figured out that I have to have something with protein for breakfast for it to last at all, so I wondered if a protein shake might help. As I started to look for the ingredients in the smoothies, I couldn’t find them locally. I did find them online, but as I added up all I would need, I decided that before investing in all that I should probably try a ready-made protein shake and see if I even liked it and if it worked. I liked it well enough, but it still had me just on the edge of feeling dizzy and shaky, even with eating fruit in addition to it. I don’t think I could use them every day – I’d miss the regular smells, tastes, and textures of breakfast foods – but they’d be ok for an occasional supplement. They did work well when I was recovering from oral surgery.

I like Rocco’s focus on foods and recipes because in so many of these weight-loss shows, the focus is on the workouts and the “drama,” with very little said or shown about food. Yet food is the major part of a diet, and if people can’t find a variety of things they like to eat, they’re not going to stick with any healthy eating plan long term. So I appreciate his efforts to provide not just healthy but also tasty alternatives. I’m still wary of 850 calories a day and foods that are made primarily of powdered ingredients (the high-protein chocolate breakfast shake has psyllium husk powder, fiber powder, protein powder, and egg-white powder besides the cocoa and monk fruit extract), but the general principles and a lot of the other recipes sound good. In fact, I received from my Christmas “wish list” his Now Eat This!: 150 of America’s Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories to glean some more ideas for pared-down favorites. You can check out some of his recipes here, and he has various YouTube videos as well.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

 What's On Your NightstandThe folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

It’s been a colder than usual February here, and you’d think that would have lent itself to cozy days curled up on the couch with a throw blanket and a book. There were a few moments like that, though not as many as I would have liked. Here’s what my reading situation is currently:

Since last time I have completed:

Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery for Carrie‘s L. M. M. Reading Challenge this month and her Reading to Know Classics Book Club, reviewed here. Not my favorite.

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 5th in her Little House series for my Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge this month, reviewed here.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst, reviewed here. Excellent!

A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher, reviewed here. Very good.

I Deserve a Donut (And Other Lies That Make You Eat) by Barb Raveling. Excellent, but I am waiting to review it together with the other Raveling book I am currently reading.

I’m currently reading:

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, also for the LIW Reading Challenge.

Taste For Truth: A 30 Day Weight Loss Bible Study by Barb Raveling, recommended by my friend Kim.

The Pound a Day Diet by Rocco DiSpirito. Almost done.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, audiobook. I’m about 1/3 of the way through. Progress!

Next up:

Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder has not come in yet and I have gotten a notice that it will be delayed even more, but I’m looking forward to it when it finally does arrive.

 Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher & Angela Yuan, recommended by Tim Challies.

To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner

Better to Be Broken by Rick Huntress

I also wrote about finding time to read, as I often get asked how I do. I invite you to check out that post and let me know if there are ways you find time to read that I hadn’t thought of.

Happy Reading!

PromiseKeptIn A Promise Kept by Robin Lee Hatcher, Allison Kavanagh moves into her aunt’s cabin in the woods of Idaho after a divorce that she did not want, prayed against, and was certain that God would prevent. In fact, she had been fairly sure that God had impressed upon her that He would heal her marriage. Tony was an alcoholic and his drinking had grown more out of control until it threatened the safety of their family, particularly their daughter. Allison had issued an ultimatum – and Tony had left. Now Allison’s not certain whether she knows how to ascertain His voice and leading at all, and she feels like a failure as a wife and a Christian.

Allison discovers a hope chest with photos, her aunt’s journals, and a wedding dress. She decides to pass the long winter nights by organizing the photos and reading the journals. A number of photos of her single aunt show her in close company with a handsome young man when they were both in their twenties. Did Aunt Emma have a beau that no one had known about?

As Allison settles into small town life and her “new normal,” she begins to heal emotionally and spiritually. Getting to know a new friend and getting back into church and her Bible help along those lines. Thanks largely to her daughter, she has several encounters with Tony and notices apparent changes in him, but after the numerous cycles they went through in their marriage, she is wary of trusting that the changes are permanent. And then when she least expects it, God shows her that His way and timing of keeping His promises may be different from hers, but He does keep them.

This story was largely based on author Robin Lee Hatcher’s own life. It’s not an exact replication, and there are differences between the circumstances and personalities of all involved. Oddly, some of the points of the story that some have criticized as “fairy-taleish” are the most true parts. I appreciated Robin’s note to readers at the end with a bit of a window into her own story, and I am thankful she and her husband were willing to share their story with others.

I wanted to read this book because I enjoy Robin’s books, especially her contemporary stories; because her stories are usually set in Idaho, and my husband is from ID; and because my own father was an alcoholic. My own parents’ story was closer to Emma’s than Allison’s or Robin’s; their marriage was not healed, but I am thankful God did heal my father of his alcoholism and save him, also in a time and way totally unexpected but shining forth with His grace. And I am thankful for the reminder Allison’s mother gave to her that while “God hated divorce, He did not hate the divorced. God loved her and wanted His best for her. Her life was not over. God still had a purpose and a plan for her. All she had to do was trust Him.”

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Laudable Linkage

It has been almost a month since I’ve shared links that I have found interesting for one reason for another, so I hope you’ll forgive a longer list this time, and I hope you find something of interest among them:

Twenty-One Grains of Wheat. A must-read about the 21 people killed by ISIS.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians. Ways any of us can minister to others.

How to Make the Most of Your Bible Study.

Intimacy or Familiarity. Sometimes it is good to read large portions of the Bible to get the overall view, sometimes it is good to hone in on a smaller passage for a longer time. Love the truth that Bible study doesn’t have to be either/or, but that we need both.

23 Things That Love Is.

What My 9-Year-Old Taught Me About Being Willing to Follow God Into Uncomfortable Places.

How to Spot Mean Girls at Church, and How Not To Be One.

When To Overlook a Fault. This is something I’ve struggled with – when to confront and when to overlook.

When Pain Enters, HT to Lisa. Setting aside the Calvinist/non-Calvinist arguments over which so many disagree, there are some good thoughts from one in pain about how God uses it.

Praying For Adult Children.

Spurgeon on Christians Who Rail Against the Times. HT to Challies. Of course we observe the times and interpret them in light of what the Bible has to say, but I do get frustrated with those Christians whose constant theme is harping about how bad the times are. Evidently there were those even in Spurgeon’s day. I love what he had to say: “What have you and I to do with the times, except to serve God in them?” “We must not be “Woe! Woe!” Christians. We must be “Grace! Grace!” Christians.”

Gentle Fiction: What It Is and Why I Write It. I had never heard the term “gentle fiction” before, but it perfectly describes the kinds of books I most like to read.

Forty Portraits in Forty Years, HT to Challies. One photographer took a photo of four sisters once a year over 40 years. Fascinating to see the progression.

Adding Beauty. Love this philosophy of decorating and making home “homey.”

Why Missionaries Hate Airports from my real-life friend and missionary, Lou Ann. I always love glimpses into aspects of missionary life that we might not have thought of or realized.

Dear Moms: It’s OK to Be Unremarkable. Nothing wrong with gleaning neat ideas from Pinterest, posting pictures on Facebook, or making 3-layer cakes, but the point is well-made that we don’t need to “compete” in all these areas.

Are You Too Sensitive?

Six Reasons Your Husband May Not Like Your Women’s Group.

Dear Mom…Worried About Your Daughter’s Reading Material?

Emotional Vertigo.

7 Principles of Sabbath Rest.

God Makes One Baby Boy “Different” To Save Hundreds of Others.

And in the “You think YOU’VE got snow” category, Kathie, one of my FFF friends in Prince Edward Isle, showed 16-foot snow banks in her area and shared this funny clip:

Too much snow for me!

Hope you have a great day!

 

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