Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Garden Planning

I'm gearing up for spring here.  Yesterday it was so warm and wonderful outside that I actually did some weeding in the garden and even planted some Tom Thumb peas.  Yes, it's early; they are supposed to be planted about 4 weeks before our last frost date, and our last frost date is about 6 weeks away, but I wanted to try it.  Peas are supposed to be pretty hardy to cold, but they don't tolerate heat well, and you never know how fast it will heat up here.  The Tom Thumb peas I have in a pot in the playroom are doing quite well:

Peas are really such pretty plants, too.  

My seedlings in the playroom look great.  We have sprouts for cauliflower, red cabbage, broccoli (2 types), brussel sprouts, and a couple of onions.  In pots, radishes, arugula, peas, swiss chard, carrots (3 types), and strawberries have all sprouted.  The herbs in pots (rosemary & mint) are doing very well, and we have used them in cooking as needed.  Actually, my two thyme plants out front are still growing despite being buried under snow a few times.  I use them as needed, too.  I need to get a few more big pots, for more carrots and such.  We've had great luck with carrots in pots but not so much in our clay-packed ground.  I've been trying to figure out where all of these seedlings and all of the ones I haven't started yet will go.  I'm expanding the newest garden, and I plan on building a simple bean trellis soon.  I also want to weed out most if not all of the lemon balm and use that area for plants, but I'm avoiding it right now because it had some poison ivy in it last year, and until the leaves are on, I can't tell if there is any trying to come back or not.  Nathaniel pulled most if not all of it out last fall, but I can't be sure if there is any still there yet.  I certainly don't want to touch any dormant poison ivy; that's the kind I've had the most horrible reactions to in the past. 

Book Review - A Sweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan

A Sweet Misfortune: A Novel (Virtues and Vices of the Old West)
A Sweet Misfortune is a Western historical romance.  Main character Rachel is dancing in a saloon when cattle baron John literally drags her away and deposits her in his ranch house with his charming grandmother, Estelle.  This story deals with pride, forgiveness, faith and family.  Brendan evokes the romantic lore of the Old West consistently throughout this book.  Fans of western literature will enjoy finding saloons, cowboys, gold mining, and challenging weather included in the tale.  Rachel is spunky and likable, but I felt like her character was missing some depth.  John's transformation from relying solely on himself and his wealth to being outrageously generous was a bit fanciful.  I liked the change, of course, but everything seemed to tie up a bit too neatly.  I loved the grandmother, Estelle, and her place in the story was very welcome.  I also found secondary character Molly intriguing, but her role is a small one.  Overall, I found this a pleasant but predictable read.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This and That

The weather has warmed up quite a bit, so the kids enjoyed playing outside yesterday.  I took advantage of the nice weather and boiled some sap.

These are quart jars, so we got quite a bit on our first boiling day.  The syrup tastes amazing!  We hope to get more sap for another boiling day, but the weather needs to be freezing at night and warmer (40s/50s) during the day for the sap to run well.  So I guess we'll see.

This little man got a hair cut.  I tried to get a picture of him, but that proved to be very difficult.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review - Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four SeasonsI started reading this book earlier in the month.  I usually read quickly, and a mere 200 pages doesn't take long for me to consume, but this book was different.  I savored this book.  I lingered over the pages, rereading many.  I read passages aloud to my husband,  both to share with him but also just to hear the words aloud.  The author writes so lyrically, and her story is both deeply personal and universal.  She deftly combines the ordinary with the divine in a way that is both inspiring and profound.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

In structure, the book is set up in the four seasons, beginning with autumn.  That may seem like a strange place to begin the seasons, but it really is fitting, and not just because that was the season the author and her family moved into Maplehurst.  Each chapter is grounded in a month and a bible verse.  The sacred and the mundane weave together to form a tapestry, and the writer leaves the reader with a beautiful scene of heaven and earth.  If someone were to read all of the reviews I've written and pick only one book to read, this is the one.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Arrow of Light

Malachi has been working towards his arrow of light in cub scouts for the past year and a half.  He's been eagerly anticipating receiving one.  Now, he has officially earned his Arrow of Light:

Malachi and I decorated his award.  He picked where to put the badges, and I hot glued them into place.  He and Nathaniel then went to the Blue and Gold Banquet, where he received the plaque to go with it:

Here he is telling me that he's an Apache warrior.  I'm not sure how much he knows about actual Apache warriors.

So now he is a Boy Scout.  He has his first meeting tomorrow.  He has grown way too fast.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another Snow Day

These two looked really cute for church on Valentine's Day.  I'm sure my family will recognize Lydia's dress; it was mine.  Gyunay is wearing the newest shirt I made him, but with a black undershirt because Sunday was so cold.

Today, however, was much warmer.  We played outside for an hour this morning.

It was around 34 degrees, so it felt great, and the snow was very easy to work with.

The finished "snow creature".  This is by far the biggest snowman we've ever made.  Elijah did a lot of it himself, with help from me and Malachi.  Lydia supplied the stick arms, and Gyunay tried to pat extra snow around the bottom at the end.   He and Lydia had been too busy playing in the snow to actually try to help make the snowman, but they came over for the end.  Plus, I wanted all 4 in the picture!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine Chefs

My little chefs were happy to make a Valentine surprise while Nathaniel and Elijah were at a chess tourney.  I had pinned this recipe for brownie hearts with raspberry buttercream, and it seemed like a perfect dessert for Nathaniel and also one everyone would enjoy.
I taught them how to measure chocolate with my little scale, and how to melt it in a double boiler.  They did most of the work themselves.  Here is Lydia cutting out the brownies into hearts:
Making the raspberry buttercream was a hit as well.  Malachi declared it "as good" as his favorite lemon icing.

Note that he is wearing both of his chicken aprons.  Goofy boy.
Here they are icing the brownies:

The treats were a hit with everyone.  Luckily, Elijah has started eating soft foods, so he devoured some, too.  He got braces on Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Yesterday, Gyunay started preschool.  He didn't want to stop for a picture, so this is a lousy one of him wearing his backpack:
Here is a much better photo of him from today:

Anyway, he is in a class of 2-and-3-year-olds two days a week, and he loves it.  We are hoping that he can work on social skills and communicating with peers at preschool.

Also, the plants in the playroom are growing!  Here are the Tom Thumb peas I planted a while back:
And here are the white radishes Lydia and I planted about a week ago:

We are excited to watch all of the seeds we planted sprout, and we look forward to planting more soon.

Book Review - Risen by Angela Hunt

I just read Risen by Angela Hunt.  When I selected this book, I did not realize that it is a novel based on a movie.  I've never read a book based on a movie before, so this is a first for me.  (I usually refuse to watch movies based on books until after reading the book, just fyi.)  This book is the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus told from the viewpoints of a Roman soldier and an estranged Jewish woman.  First of all, the Roman Clavius was a good character to use for a viewpoint of the Resurrection.   He is a man who is used to seeing - and inflicting - death.  He has some understanding of Jewish ways, but they are really foreign to him.  He is an interesting character, and I enjoyed seeing things through his eyes.
Rachel is a Jewish widow.  She has been living outside the customs of her people for some time, but she feels a longing to return to God.  I felt that her situation was not very likely, in that neighbors in ancient cities not only lived very close to one another, but people also did not have modern attitudes of privacy, and I feel that her neighbors would have realized that she was a widow living alone long before this point.  That said, I enjoyed her character.  Her sense of longing was palpable.
Yeshua (Jesus) is portrayed as both loving and compelling, and many of his words from the Bible are given here, although not necessarily in the scriptural context.  The author plays with events from the Bible, having some happening out of order, or with different disciples/people present.  This novel does portray Jesus's teachings in an inspiring light, and I should note for readers that it was obvious to me that the author is Protestant.
Also, and this is a very minor point, but as someone who studied Roman mythology and history, I have to point out that some of the author's generalizations about Roman morality are a bit off.  For example, women who were adulterers could face punishment in this era, as Augustus's own daughter Julia was exiled.  Also, they did believe that their gods could send weather, disasters, etc.  (Neptune was known as the "Earthshaker" and thought to be the cause of earthquakes, for example.)  There were many substantial differences between Jewish and Roman culture, but I'm a stickler for little facts like this.  Sorry for being picky. :)
Overall, I enjoyed this novel.  The characters are compelling, and the end is not predictable.  There is plenty of action, and the devotion of the early believers shows through.

I received this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Culling and Tapping

Saturday was a very busy day around here.  First of all, Nathaniel and Malachi spent the morning at the Pinewood Derby while the rest of us worked around the house.  Then, after lunch, Nathaniel culled the 2 biggest roosters.  Yes, this is my daughter holding a chicken's heart:
She wants me to fry the hearts up for her.  Malachi claims he might try one, too.

Luckily, the Pampered Chef kitchen shears are tougher than the previous ones we've tried, and Nathaniel was able to get the chickens cut up quickly.  They are now "resting" in the fridge, and Elijah's already requesting chicken on the beach (a staple at Mexican restaurants - chicken with cheese sauce).  I think I can accommodate him.

Next up was tree tapping.  Gyunay was awake from nap by this point, and he enjoyed "helping" tap 5 maple trees.  We may get more taps and tap a couple more.

Then the kids had a great time chasing the chickens around.  You know, since they weren't traumatized enough already that we had taken (and killed) two of them.  :)

This cockerel is the one Lydia named "Cookies and Cream" as a chick.  He's super scared of everyone, so Malachi was proud that he was able to catch him on his own.  He may get to live longer than the rest, since he's very passive, and the kids are hoping that we will have a hen that gets broody.  We have 2 other cockerels that will eventually get eaten as well, but probably not before mid-March.  These cockerels are about a month younger than the 2 we just harvested. 

Oh, and it appears that our older pullet has started laying eggs.  We've been getting eggs nearly every day, including 2 in one day, so it isn't just the older hen.  (The old hen has gotten a stay of execution, though, since she is laying at least some.)  This pullet that is laying is about a month older than the others, so hopefully by mid-March we will have them all laying.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book Review - Always Watching by Lynette Eason

I just finished Lynette Eason's suspense novel, Always Watching.  It started with a high-intensity scene, and I expected that the tension would ease for a while, but it never did.  This book has plenty of suspense from start to finish.  I enjoyed the main character, Olivia, and I liked how Eason slowly let Olivia's guard down to reveal some personal information.  There were a few things that struck me as a bit far fetched, such as the fact that Elite Guardians bodyguard agency is originally staffed only by beautiful women, and many of the male characters in the book are described as exceptionally attractive, too.  Overall, though, these were minor things, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.  The building romance between Olivia and Wade was believable and welcome.  As for the stalker, I won't give anything away here.  I did partially - but not totally - figure it out before the end, but this doesn't detract from the story, at least for me.  I noticed that this is the start of a series, and there are plenty of characters for Eason to use in future books.  In the beginning, the characters' faith doesn't appear as a main theme, but as the novel progresses, Wade and his father in particular show how their faith is helping to carry them through the stress, and Olivia becomes interested in rekindling her faith.  I think those elements were worked into the story well.

This book has plenty of suspense and action, and I recommend it.  I was given a copy of this book by the publishers, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Chasing Chickens and Eating Smores

This weekend was beautiful, and we enjoyed a lot of time outside.

See the shear joy on his face?  Gyunay loves the chickens just like Lydia!

Unfortunately, Malachi was inside with a headache, so he's not in any of these pictures, but he did get his smores a bit later.

roasting hot dogs with Daddy

Hot dogs, carrots, and smores.  Hey, it's a sort-of balanced meal.  It was really lovely to be able to do this on a winter weekend.

Book Review - The Prophetess, by Jill Eileen Smith

Cover art

My latest book takes us back to the old testament and the story of Deborah, the prophetess and judge in ancient Israel.  I really loved this book.  It was hard to put down.  Deborah is an intriguing character in the Bible, but little detail about her life is given.  The author, Jill Eileen Smith, does a wonderful job of fleshing out a woman with an unusual position in the ancient world.  Smith gives Deborah and her husband Lappidoth three children: two sons and one headstrong daughter, Talya.  The family dynamics are believable and interesting, as Deborah struggles over her relationships with both her daughter and her husband.  Her role as prophetess and judge doesn't make her home life easier, which is a very realistic portrait, I think.

This story also heavily involves the Israelites' lead commander, Barak, and the Kenite family of weapons-maker Heber and his wife, Jael.  I enjoyed seeing the different viewpoints in this stressful, tumultuous period.  I also liked how the customs of the time period were worked into the story.  Although I knew, of course, that eventually God delivered the victory as Deborah had foretold, there was still plenty of suspense in the story because the reader didn't know how all of the characters' personal stories would play out.

I highly recommend this book.  Smith takes the reader deep into Biblical history, but the characters she creates are ones that the reader can connect with today.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.