Archives for category: Books


Here is a round-up of what I’ve read in recent weeks. I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature link-up.  Enjoy!

simplicity parenting

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. with Lisa M. Ross

“Simplification establishes an unspoken emphasis on relationship.” p.110

I loved this book. It laid out clearly many of the beliefs I hold about parenting in regards to how we organize our life. The chapter that moved me to action was “Environment.” It gave me the OK that I needed to get rid of some obnoxious and useless toys that we’d accumulated as well as some books that were unnecessary. I have more thoughts about simplifying further so that Nathan’s environment can be rich and healthy not cluttered and distracting. The chapter I identified with was “Rhythm.” We already parent that way and it works amazingly well. Payne gave me a word, though, for how we help Nathan understand our daily rhythm – transparency. We make sure life stays as predictable as possible and in the areas that are unpredictable we make sure the schedule is transparent and that he always gets a heads up about what will be coming up. The chapter that prompted the most discussion between Jason and I was “Filtering Out the Adult World.” Most of that chapter was not news to us. We are not likely to over expose Nathan to things he’s not equipped to handle. But his comparison to children and bridges that ice before the road is worth reading the book for – so good and true (p.191). We mostly discussed the little section about husbands taking on roles in the home that are theirs primarily so that the child knows to go to them about that issue and the wife gets a full break. This is something we are working on intentionally but we have room to grow and I thought his wisdom helped us better understand “why” this is necessary and not just that it “is” necessary.  I would recommend that all parents, no matter the age of their children, grandparents, and people who work with children read this book. It’s excellent.

whole brain child

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.

This book gives parents powerful tools to help their children integrate the various parts of their brain so they can develop “mindsight” – the combination of insight and empathy that gives the ability to see their own mind and the minds of others. The goal is a healthy happy child who is able to connect with others. This book is easy to read and is full of practical methods to help children of all ages integrate their right and left brain and upstairs and downstairs brain, their implicit and explicit memories and their emotions and thoughts.

queen lucia

Queen Lucia, by E.F. Benson

This is a hilarious book filled with the antics of small town divas competing to be the leader of social life. The plot was so funny that when I told my husband some of it he laughed and we all know how un-funny it is to be told the plot of a funny book.

my stroke of insight

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientists Personal Journey, By Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D

Jill Bolte Taylor was a neuroanatomist at Harvard when she woke up one morning and suffered a stroke. Because of her training she can offer a unique inside perspective of what happens in the brain when the cells are dying. As the mother of a stroke survivor I found this compelling, but I think anyone would find her story to be fascinating. It gives me so much respect for my son, our brains, and the healing process.

I’ve spoken with people who say they no longer use cookbooks because they can get everything they need on the internet. I guess it’s true that many recipes are now available online, and I definitely get my fair share of ideas from blogs or, however, I have not given up on cookbooks yet. In fact, I’m buying them with greater frequency than ever before. I find that cookbooks still have something over online recipes – namely they are curated and organized by a cook with a reputation to keep because they now have a book that needs to be sold. I find this makes cookbooks invaluable.  I do count cookbooks I’ve read in my list of books each year because I usually read them cover to cover. I have the classic Joy of Cooking and a few that are highly specialized. But here is a roundup of my favorite cookbooks and what dishes I make from them.



Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. This is my new go-to cookbook. The premise is that every family can swing family dinners and this book is full of doable, absolutely delicious family dinners. Here are some of the meals we have loved:

  • Black Bean Burritos
  • Royal Salmon with Yogurt-Mustard-Dill Sauce
  • Backpocket Tacos
  • Fish Cakes
  • Yogurt-marinated Grilled Chicken – seriously the best grilled chicken ever!!!
  • Roasted Veggies and Polenta
  • Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin
  • Apricot-Mustard Baked Chicken
  • Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks



Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. This book is full of the just-this-side-of-normal recipes I tend to love. It’s vegetarian without yelling it from the rooftops which conveniently makes vegetarian seem that much more doable. We have loved so many of these recipes for their complex flavors but simple preparation. Here’s our favorites:

  • Weeknight Curry – we all adore this curry and it’s endlessly versatile
  • White Beans & Cabbage
  • Summer Linguine
  • Chickpea Wraps
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Cauliflower Soup



The Whole Foods Market CookbookThis was my go-to cookbook for a couple years until Dinner: A Love Story came on the scene and I still use it a lot. The downside to these recipes is that they tend to be ingredient-heavy. The upside is that it’s very easy to substitute in what you have or make adjustments if you don’t want to hunt down that particular vegetable you would only buy for this one dish. There are also helpful lists of how long to cook various grains and beans and things. These are dishes we make from this book:

  • Havana Black Beans
  • Cilantro Lime Rice
  • Quinoa Tabouleh
  • White Bean and Kale Gratin with English Farmhouse Cheddar
  • Smoky Maple Baked Beans
  • Cubano-Style Pork Loin
  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade
  • Mardi Gras Jicama Slaw
  • Chicken Breast Piccata Florentine
  • Chicken Toscana with White Beans

Do you use cookbooks? Or have you switched to only online recipes? Do you have favorite cookbooks you use over and over? If so, make sure to share in the comments so I can check it out!

I straight up forgot to post yesterday which fits right in with this week. Funnily enough, I was going to post about “good enough” parenting. You know the kind – the parenting you get by with on days when “excellent” is not in the cards. Mine involves kindness and TV. It’s been a “good enough” kind of week. Oh well. Maybe another day.

Today I thought I’d post about my favorite type of fiction and give some suggestions.

20th century literature

A few years ago I noticed a trend in the type of novels I actually could read all the way through. It wasn’t the subject matter or the country (for the most part) or the gender of the author or the style of the book. You know what the common denominator was? They were all published in the early 20th century, and by early I mean the first half, but especially the teens to thirties. Truthfully, most of the books were by Brits too, but there are some notable exceptions. It became a strong enough trend that I now know to look for books published back then that may not have survived to become part of the literature canon, but are certainly gems and just the sort of books I will love. They are books with a proper mix of bite and romance – less effusive than their romantic forebears and not so cynical as the mid-century novels.

So without further ado, here’s a round-up of some favorite Early 20th Century Novelists.

  1. L.M. Montgomery, the beloved author of Anne of Green Gables. Maud, as she was known in real life, is my favorite author of all time. My favorite book is actually not Annebut Emily of New Moon (and sequels) although the Anne books are definite favorites too. The reason I love Emily so much is that, well, she is me. I am her. When I read that book the first time it was like reading an autobiography of my spirit even though the facts of our lives were so different. I have read pretty much all of Maud’s fiction and they are all well worth your time.
  2. Elizabeth Von Arnim, a pseudonym for Mary Annette Beauchamp the Gräfin (Countess) von Arnim-Schlagenthin and other names and titles. The first book of hers that I read was The Enchanted April which I read because I adored the movie. I’ve also read The Pastor’s Wife and Love and thoroughly enjoyed both.  One I have not read for some inexplicable reason is Elizabeth’s German Garden which I’ve longed to read ever since reading that L.M. Montgomery enjoyed it.
  3. John Galsworthy, who was also a playwright, wrote The Forsyte Saga. I loved the miniseries so decided to check out the books. As is often true, they were even better than the movie. Of course I still re-watch the series over and over too. The Forsyte Saga is actually three novels and two short stories. There are several sequels and I looked for copies for years. I finally found some in Lahaina, Maui on my honeymoon and don’t you know I bought them then and there.
  4. E. M. Delafield is the clever pen name for a woman whose real maiden name was de la Pasture. Her novels are hilarious. Seriously, seriously funny.  The first is Diary of a Provincial Lady and continues with various iterations. I’ve read the first sequel as well, The Provincial Lady in LondonThe novels are written journal style and her stream of consciousness about being a wife and mother is priceless and transcends time and place.
  5. Barbara Pym’s novels are probably the latest to be included in this list, but I think they fit. I’ve read a lot of her novels and thoroughly enjoyed each of them. My favorites are probably Excellent Women and Some Tame GazelleShe manages to look deep into the mundane details of daily spinster life and finds richness and humor there.
  6. Ernest Hemingway is sort of a duh. But I really do like his novels. They bite more than most of these, but they’re bracing like a stiff sea breeze. I thought A Farewell to Arms was a heartbreakingly lovely work of art.
  7. Grace Livingston Hill is the last and it’s hilarious to bump her up against Ernest Hemingway. Her books are formulaic and cliche, but I really do love them despite all that. She gets preachy about all sorts of things and sometimes I read over stuff, but I love the descriptions of life in that time period. I read a certain section of A Daily Rate whenever I need to get some serious housecleaning motivation. Funny, but true.

So there you go, the eclectic list that somehow makes me happy.

Do you find yourself gravitating to diverse books? Is there a thread tying them together? Do you like Early 20th Century Novels too? 

The best book you’ve never heard of about being a woman is Stepping Heavenward. 

Stepping Heavenward

I first read Stepping Heavenward as a teenage girl. I found comfort in the heroine’s petulant moods and innate desire to be the good girl she wanted to be.

I read Stepping Heavenward again as a young woman and recognized myself in her awkward proceeding and receding down the passageway into adulthood.

I read it again as a young married woman and her woes in early marriage resonated with me.

In short, this is one of the most “re-readable” books I’ve read. In fact last year I re-read a few pages again when I found a copy (that I had gifted) on a friend’s bookshelf while I was spending a few days at her home.

While the book is fiction, it is based on the life of the author Elisabeth Prentiss who lived from 1818 – 1878. Stepping Heavenward was published in 1869 and is the most well-known of her books. It is written in a diary format and is at once amusing, charming, wise, and so very real. In fact, it is also one of the most modern old novels I’ve read. The truths are timeless and you will find yourself reaching for it again and again to read about the season of life you are currently in. It’s a great gift for teenage girls or young women, but it’s an even better gift for yourself.

You can purchase a paperback or read it free through Gutenberg Press.

This post is part of a link-up for The Best Book You’ve Never Heard of… hosted by The Modern Mrs. Darcy

Almost all of my birthday presents this year were books. People apparently know me well. I’m excited to read each of them and they each represent different aspects of my reading interests. So without delaying anymore, here are the new books in my collection.

Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letter of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. My friend Kimberly bought me this in January and saved it all this time hoping she wouldn’t hear of me buying it for myself. I am obsessed with all things royalty. I know more than anyone you know about the British (and related) royal families going back for centuries. In fact I want to get my PhD in history and study how the royal family relationships led to World War I. Are you bored yet? I’m not. I love it! And I’m excited to read these letters!!

birthday books

The Jane Austen Handbook. Sigh. My sister and I share a keen interest in all things Jane. I even threw her a Jane Austen theme dinner party for her birthday this year. I had not seen this book yet. It reminds me of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens knew which I’ve had for years, except it’s all geared to Jane’s world. The first page I opened to, at random, detailed a lady’s typical schedule. It allotted 1 hour in the afternoon to either playing with her child or reading a book. Oh my.

A History of Food in 100 Recipes. I assume my mother heard about this on NPR. She has been a long-time listener which means I’ve been a long-time listener and now we frequently hear interviews and discuss them. While not a typical cookbook, it certainly has some yummy looking recipes. And I’m sure it’s full of the intriguing bits of information I love to store in my brain.

Honorable mention:

For Jason’s birthday he received Cronkite’s War which is the letters between Walter Cronkite and his wife from World War II. I assume I will be reading that one as well as I cannot keep away from anything related to WWII.

Have you bought or received any new books lately? Do tell!

Book stackI’m sure I’m not the only one with a “stack”. You know, the books you’re in the middle of that are scattered throughout your house and up on top of your bedside table. I have it on good authority that most readers have this stack. Some are ashamed of it, but not I. I love seeing a big stack of books. I love reading more than book at a time. I love my stack!

Currently I have several books going. Not all will make it to my finished list (I’m also a shameless book-quitter) so I thought I’d list them out here along with my initial thoughts.

First, I’m reading Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson. My verdict? Hilarious. It falls well within my favorite genre of fiction: Early 20th century british. I kept laughing about it and finally made my husband listen to my re-telling of a main plot point. He laughed. That’s a really good sign that it is truly funny because re-tellings rarely are.

Next up, CataloocheeI’ve barely started this one. I saw it on the shelf in a bookstore in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and wanted to buy it then and there. I exercised discipline and checked the library before we came home and reserved it. It’s not my typical read, but it’s set in a part of the park so there’s a chance I’ll like it. One of the reviews I read said it was more a character study than a narrative. They meant that negatively, but I took it as a good sign I’d enjoy it.

I’m slowly making my way through The Brain That Changes Itself. It’s not boring, but it’s also not night-reading which is what I have the most time for these days. I like reading the stories about brain plasticity. When your child has brain damage these types of stories can be so encouraging. I don’t know if I’ll finish this one, or just skim it, or skim it enough I consider it finished. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on Blood Sisters for months now. It came as a random gift from a friend who is an Indie Bookseller in Seattle. She knows my taste and had a free copy of this book and mailed it to me. I enjoyed it, but haven’t had as much time for biographies in my brain space as I did last year. I plan to pick it back up and finish it for this years 52.

Another one I’ve been reading for a long time is Middlemarch. I’m enjoying it a lot so I’m not sure why I keep putting it down to read other things. I expected it to take awhile, but not this long. My reading has been a bit ADD this year and I’m not in a position to change that right now.

And finally, Our Southern Highlanders has been sitting around. It’s interesting, but not gripping. While on vacation we watched Ken Burns’ National Parks and this author was mentioned a lot. He also kept popping up on the signs and in booklets throughout the park. I found this old copy of his book at the Library. I may or may not finish it.

New to the stack as of yesterday:

The Whole-Brain Child and Simplicity Parenting. I’ve heard great things about both so I’ll post more when I’ve gotten a chance to dig in.


I linked up my Early Summer Reading post with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature Link up. Hop on over there to see some other great book reviews!

I’m dedicating a whole post to one book because I liked it that much.

The Snow Child

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey was an unlikely choice for me. I don’t often read modern fiction. I’m not against it, I just don’t often find modern fiction suits my taste and interests. But there are always exceptions and this one is a shining example.

I found The Snow Child by looking at the list of Pulitzer Prize winners, an award I respect and used to inform my purchasing as a librarian. It had been several months since I last browsed the list and I hadn’t seen this year’s picks.

The Snow Child was a runner up for the Fiction Prize and when I read their synopsis I was hooked.

 “an enchanting novel about an older homesteading couple who long for a child amid the harsh wilderness of Alaska and a feral girl who emerges from the woods to bring them hope.”

Yes, please.

It’s probably not surprising that I would be drawn to a book about a childless couple finding hope through a child.

And my instinct was correct.

The way Ivey explores the relationship between the couple and the child was so delicate. It makes me wonder what her experience with foster care and adoption is.

The best word for what happens is that the older couple “woo” the girl, slowly building mutual trust and a relationship. It’s so true to how parenting a child from a hard background is in real life. I think anyone with experience in building a relationship with a child they love who has a broken background apart from their own will enjoy this story.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the novel constantly teeters on the edge of fantasy and reality right up to the end.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book.

I also have the winner, The Orphan Master’s Son on hold at the Library. When I get to read it I’ll post my thoughts.


Here’s a glance at what I’ve been reading lately. I started to crave Wendell Berry as I approached the warm months. These books quenched my thirst.

A Place on EarthA Place on Earth. Wendell Berry was new to me last year thanks to Sarah Clarkson’s inclusion of Hannah Coulter on a list of her favorite works of fiction. I fell in love hard and fast and read Hannah twice, once to myself and once aloud to my husband. Then I went on to read Jayber Crow, The Memories of Old Jack, and The Adventures of Andy Catlett. Berry’s writing satisfies my love of rich characters, a sense of place, and incisive looks into the human spirit.

Nathan CoulterNathan Coulter. I didn’t like this one as much as I have the others, although I enjoyed reading more about Nathan’s story. It has a whiff of the dark and negative themes that seemed so popular in the mid-century novels.

Everybody Was So YoungEverybody Was So Young. I cringe at the word “favorite” because I don’t like making judgment calls about what’s better or this and that, but biography is probably my favorite genre of writing. This biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy is fascinating and illuminating, sad and strangely beautiful.