My Latest Round of Book Reviews

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Tokyo Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

I have a student in my Language Arts class who wants to learn Japanese, and I thought of her as soon as I saw this coloring book on the Blogging for Books site. Today, I handed her this beautiful, bright pink coloring book with gold foil illustrations on the front, and I watched her face light up with a huge smile. Win! I wanted to do something nice for this student because she stands out for me with her curiosity when it comes to learning. I took Japanese classes in high school many years ago; with my basic knowledge, I could recognize some of the Japanese Hiragana, and the Kanji had translations written in English. I thought the fashion illustrations were skillfully drawn and visually interesting. I was pretty tempted to color in the book myself, but it was so much fun to give it away to a teenage girl who will really enjoy it. This book was sent to me in return for my honest review.

New York Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

This one is similar to the Tokyo Street Style coloring book, of course. It is just as beautiful, and the illustrations have a lot of charm. I thought the Tokyo coloring book was just a bit more interesting because it also had Japanese writing in it, and the fashions were more diverse.

Gobi: A Little Dog with a Big Heart by Dion Leonard

This children’s story book has a ton of charm, and the writing easily holds a child’s attention. There’s something about a dog making friends with a marathon runner and going on a race together that really appeals to a child. The true story appeals to me as an adult too, especially because I am a dog lover. When I finished reading the book, my son said, “That was cool!” Now I am intrigued to read the full-length book.

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365 Devotions for Living Joyfully by Victoria York

This little devotional looks cheerful, with its yellow, whimsical cover. Inside, the book contains solid devotions for living joyfully. I have read a couple Christian books and devotionals about joy that have had a sad tone (yes, it is possible to live joyfully through sad times; that is a true part of the Christian life), but it is refreshing to read a devotional about living joyfully that really does seem to be upbeat. My One Word Resolution for 2017 was joy, so I was drawn to this devotional.

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The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I thought this book was really cute and gave me some ideas that I will apply in my own home. I have not read the original book that this manga was based upon, but you would have to be living under a rock to not already know about the concept of “sparking joy” that Kondo has popularized. I liked how the visual element of the manga made her folding methods really easy to understand. I plan on going through my clothes and books in the way that she describes and eventually tackling everything else in the order that she recommends. I already tend to be somewhat minimalist about what I’m willing to bring into my home; I don’t need every new gadget. My home is already joyful and functional, but her method can help me hone those areas even more. Some of her ideas sound a little silly, but I might try them anyway (no promises, lol). In the manga, the chaos of the poor main character is pretty exaggerated, and the story line is funny in its obvious direction; the character will start dating her handsome neighbor (who already knows how to be tidy) as soon as the poor gal figures out the magic of tidying up, of course.

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Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker

The direction Hatmaker is taking with this book is not as strong as the message she had in For the Love or Seven. I had high hopes for Of Mess and Moxie because I had read and enjoyed her last book (plus I had seen her current book featured in Redbook), but this collection of essays did not resonate with me. The title sounded intriguing, but I felt like the essays were not really cohesive, and the recipes seemed random (including variations on a couple recipes I have already seen in another Christian essay collection). Honestly, I will still try the recipes anyway, and I bet they will be good. I read two books this summer that had a pretty big spiritual impact for me (Start with Amen and He Calls You Beautiful), so my bar was set pretty high for Christian writing. I feel like a lot of the ideas that Hatmaker addressed have already been covered very well by Christian writers in recent years. I did think her “how to” sections were hilarious; for me, that was the best part of the book. Humor is definitely her strong suit.

Kondo’s book and the adult coloring books were sent to me by Blogging for Books, and Hatmaker’s book, Gobi, and the devotional were sent by Book Look Bloggers. I received all of these books in return for my honest review.

 

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The Search for Archaeological Evidence of the Exodus

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I did not even realize the biblical account of Exodus was under skepticism by archaeologists and historians until recently. When I read a Jewish author’s sentiments that the biblical account of Moses may not be historically accurate, my first thought was that it seems very flippant for someone of faith to so easily dismiss a foundational part of the Bible. Around that same time, I got an email about an opportunity to review a documentary film called Patterns of Evidence: the Exodus on my blog. It is interesting how God’s timing works that way. I just finished watching the documentary tonight, and I think it is quite affirming for those of us who have faith and want to see how the archaeological evidence lines up with it. After all, the Exodus is a foundational story for people of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney’s 12-year investigation of archaeological and historical findings in Egypt and Israel reveals a powerful pattern of evidence that connects with the biblical account of Exodus. The evidence has been largely unrecognized because it exists in an earlier period of history than where most scholars are looking. Yet, the historical information in the Bible itself points to the Exodus happening in a historical period that is centuries earlier than the standard view today.

Mahoney combines a vivid retelling of the biblical story with interviews of top authorities from both sides of the debate in an investigation spanning the ancient and modern worlds. His bold new approach identifies six primary steps of the Exodus account before looking for evidence matching these steps wherever it exists in Egypt‘s history. The results could fundamentally transform the way the world views history and the Bible. Significant connections are given for the story of Joseph (the ancestor in Genesis who came to Egypt after his brothers sold him into slavery), the plagues mentioned in the Bible, the holding of Jewish people as slaves, and the Battle of Jericho that happened after the Israelites left Egypt.

If you are curious about the archaeological and historical connections, which are fascinating for a person of faith, email me at mamamuseme@gmail.com and let me know you would like a copy of the DVD. I will give away a copy, courtesy of FlyBy Promotions.

 

 

Five Reasons for Gratitude

I’m sitting on my swing with my laptop and pretty French coffee cup, looking at the trees and listening to the birds sing. Life is so far from perfect, but I do know that I am very blessed today. Some of my favorite memories from this summer have been going to Dutch Wonderland, a day trip to the ocean, and an afternoon at the lake. As I’m reflecting this Friday morning, here are five reasons for gratitude.

  1. Being called a “daughter” of Christ. I grew up in church but never heard the phrasing “daughter of Christ” consistently until this summer. It has shown up over and over in my life, like God is trying to tell me, “yes, I mean YOU.” I have struggled with a feeling of belonging for awhile. I grew up in a little country community where everyone knew everyone; people knew me, my parents, and sometimes even stories about my great-great grandparents. Then the housing boom happened. Now I rarely know people when I go places. Some of the roads are semi-scary to drive on because they were never meant to have this kind of population on them, and there is a drug epidemic in a place that used to feel like Mayberry. On top of that, these past ten years have brought changes (and a lot of hurt, to be honest) from some people that I thought would be constants in my life. When I married my husband, he already owned a house in an area where people enjoy a lifestyle, complete with the golf course, that I have trouble connecting with, and I have never really bought into (or lets be honest, ever had the money for) that way of living. I love nature that we can see from the backyard and the beautiful family we have built inside of the house though. Add the job losses that both my husband and I went through during the down economic times, and it is easy to see where things that I had “counted on” and things that I thought brought me worth were very, very temporary. I also found that I disagreed with many Christians around me during the presidential election. Yet, God calls me his daughter. That is a constant. That is unchanging. That is a beautiful thing. Strangely enough, God really started to call this idea to my attention when I decided to sponsor an orphan in another country. Really, he kept telling me he wanted me to do it in his still, quiet voice and was specific about the little girl’s name. After I said “yes” to him for something that he was asking me so clearly to do, He started pointing out how I am a daughter, not an orphan in his eyes too.
  2. The ancestor who looked so much like me that it’s uncanny.  Margret Dunham (1858-1924)Around the time that I was embracing the phrase of being a “daughter of Christ” this summer, I saw this picture of an ancestor for the first time. I did a double and triple-take because she looked so much like me. I showed the picture to my husband just to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating, and he said it looks like me dressed up in old fashioned clothes. I could see my own eye shape, eyebrows, mouth, hair — my face — in this woman named Margret who was a child during the Civil War. How’s that for connection?
  3. Finding beauty in the Song of Songs. Also called the Song of Solomon, this book of the Bible was forbidden by the ancients for anyone under 30, according to He Calls You Beautiful by Dee Brestin (p.28). Fortunately, I am past that mark (wink). In the past, I had heard of the Song as a tribute to marriage and the sensuality of that bond, but Brestin’s book illuminates the Song as so much more than that. I opened my Bible and read the entire Song aloud before I started reading Brestin’s book, and what I was first struck by was the sheer beauty of the words. Being a person who loves the written and spoken word, I was in awe. This is beautiful, I thought. I highly encourage you to read Song of Songs aloud if you never have and then pick up a book like He Calls You Beautiful to help bring its message into focus. Brestin writes of the many similarities between the couple in the Song in relation to Christ and his church. The man in the Song is a Shepherd-King, and he pursues, waits, goes away, and returns to his beloved. The Song is not an allegory, where everything is literally a parallel symbol of something else, but it is full of allusions. Brestin writes: “I believe the primary focus of the Song, as with every other book in the Bible, is the relationship between God and his people. But whether you see the primary focus as a husband and wife or as Jesus and His bride, I know you will be blessed by seeing both” (p.28). I received a copy of the book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review, and I highly recommend it. I plan on reading it more than once.

    I believe you will be greatly refreshed to see that you are more cherished than you dared to dream. The Song will help press that truth into your heart, for it is one thing to be told that God rejoices over us as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, but it is quite another to see it. — Dee Brestin

    4. Learning my Happiness Style. I took the Happiness Style Quiz on Jennifer Dukes Lee’s site and learned that I am primarily a thinker, closely followed by being an experiencer. This makes a lot of sense to me because, for me, my “happy place” truly is reading books and thinking about life. Yet, I am also the person who gets lost in the beauty of a sunset, who really likes to experience art, music, travel, nature, and the taste of homemade Amish rootbeer on a summer day. The experiencer looks for happiness in moments rather than in a store. I feel like I have been “explained.” Other happiness styles include the relater, the giver, and the doer. I read The Happiness Dare for some more explanation of each style. I think this gives me an interesting, new way to look at myself and the people around me.

    5. The little surprise. I am getting ready to set up my classroom and start another year in the wonderful, wacky world of Language Arts, and I have had one thing on my mind: a little coffee brewer. I could picture myself making coffee and brewing hot tea during my planning period. I could literally taste the hot tea. I don’t really like sharing a communal Keurig because you never know if it’s being descaled and cleaned as well as you’d hope (maybe I’m the only one who thinks about that stuff…). I thought about buying a little one-cup brewer for my room. I thought about it a lot. Then I went to an Alzheimer’s fundraiser concert, and I won the exact brewer I was thinking about in a drawing. Yay for that!

Hope you are having a great month. If you have any thoughts, email me at mamamuseme@gmail.com. Please continue to pray for my healing after a leg surgery that did not go as smoothly as I had hoped earlier this summer. If you have made it this far on this long blog post, I really, really appreciate you!

xoxo Teresa

Linking up with High Five for Friday and Tell His Story.

 

Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country: A Great Day Trip from Washington, D.C. or a Fun-Filled Stop for Your East Coast Vacation

I have vivid memories of visiting Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country when I was a little girl. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of introducing my son to the theme park for the first time.

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It’s a short day trip from the Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia area, and it’s well worth the drive if you have little ones around ages 3 to 10. Opened in the 1960s, the park still has a really neat mix of vintage attractions along with its modern rides. Dutch Wonderland is a “kingdom for kids,” starting with its huge castle-shaped entrance and its cast of characters that roam the park, and continuing with its rides that will make kids feel like a prince or princess for a day.

 

This park really is amazing for younger kids who aren’t quite big enough to ride at regular amusement park. At 38 inches tall, my four-year-old son could ride almost all of the rides (he needed to be accompanied by an adult sometimes). Honestly, I wasn’t sure what he would think because he was still a little afraid of the car ride at Chuck E Cheese a couple months ago. I didn’t need to worry at all, though, because he dove right into the fun and wasn’t afraid of any of the rides – including ones that went fast or high.

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This was my favorite ride.

Let me bring you along with us for the day. We entered the park about a half-hour after it opened and went straight for the little hand-cranked riding trains. Since it was still early, the line was short enough that my son got on different trains and went around four times without having to wait. He had been on hand-cranked trains at Strasburg Railroad before, so he felt comfortable with those already. From there, we went on the monster trucks several times, the frog ride that takes kids up in the air and bounces them around a little a few times, and the monorail (which my son called “the air train”) to get a view of the entire kingdom.

 

He “milked” the cow that squirts water out of its udder, which I remember doing as a girl, and then he drove the remote controlled cars a bunch of times. The RC cars do take tokens, so have a few extra dollars with you if your child is into that.  At that point, we were hot and hungry, so we checked out the food options. The buffet was air conditioned, which is a plus, but it was also pretty pricey, so we decided on Nathan’s Hotdogs, just to the right hand side once you’re inside the park, instead. We thought the hotdogs, fries, and lemonade were yummy and reasonably priced for amusement park food. Usually, we do eat healthier than that, but hey, it is fun to splurge sometimes. For families that have food concerns, there are healthier choices too.

 

Just past the Nathan’s Stand was a face-painting area, and my son wanted to look like Marshall the Fire Dog. Ta-da! He was so proud to look like Marshall. After that, he rode the merry-go-round a bunch of times. Then we hopped on my favorite ride of the day that made us fly around like Super Man. For a kid’s ride, I thought it went pretty high and fast. It was awesome. Carson wanted to ride it again, but I told him mommy would lose my lunch if we did it again (lol).  Around that time, a princess and a wizard stopped to chat with Carson, which was a good distraction.

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From there, we went to the big slide, little construction diggers, a roller coaster, the vintage Turnpike Cars (such a cool attraction), and a boat ride that paralleled the Turnpike cars. It was late afternoon at that point, so my husband and I sat on a shady bench and watched Carson bike around a track many, many times.

20170722_171446We stopped to take a photo at the giant pretzel, which I feel like my family did when I was young too. My son rode the whip ride a bunch of times, and then we saw the Badland Bears show, which I also am pretty sure my family watched when I was a girl. The automated bear band sings country and bluegrass songs like “Country Roads” and “Grandma’s Featherbed.”

Next up was the airplane ride, the space shuttles, and the water park. Daddy bought Carson the plastic toy boat that he had been obsessing about so that he could play with it on the water tables. Carson got splashed in the face, and his cute Marshall face paint ended up looking more like he was a zombie who had been doing some greasy mechanical work under a car by the time he was done playing. Fortunately, my son could not see his own face. It was about a half hour before the park was going to close, so we walked back toward the entrance and ended the day by buying a couple of photo keychains to keep the memories with us.

It might sound cheesy, but I really will cherish all of the smiles and laughs from that day. Even with a couple of rides closed for roller coaster construction, there was plenty to keep us busy for nine hours. We collapsed into our vehicle, and both Carson and my husband were asleep within minutes of being on the highway toward home.

Dutch Wonderland generously gave our family free admission to the park, and we spent our own money once we were inside the park. To help you budget if you decide to go, meals, face-painting, driving the RC cars, drinks, a toy boat for the water park, sunglasses, and souvenir keychains added up to about $70 for us. You can use the discount code MamaMuseMeSBlog16 to save a few dollars on admission if you order tickets online. Thank you, Dutch Wonderland, for a wonderful family experience.

 

 

 

 

All Aboard for Fun: A Christmas in July Train Ride and a Train Book for Toddlers

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First of all, how cool is the flip-flop tree?! I went on a Christmas in July Train Ride with my little guy last week, and it was so much fun for my little man who is train-obsessed. He had some in-depth discussions with Santa about his Thomas Train Table and how daddy had glued down the tracks with wood glue. Hawaiian music played over the speakers; we sang Christmas carols, and we even got to get off the train and stand on the turntable while it moved. This is the kind of stuff dreams are made of for a little boy.

The train ride coincided with a review that I’m doing for a new book called Night Night, Train. My son gives the book five stars, his highest possible rating. I recommend it as well for the beautiful pictures and pacing that holds the attention of a young boy. My little guy has asked me to read him this book many times ever since it came in the mail. Book Look Bloggers sent me this book in return for my honest review. I give it high praise because it has held my son’s attention longer than any other book that I have reviewed on my blog, obviously because it has trains, but also because it is written and illustrated in a way that really appeals to children. This book is great for bed time, but I end up reading it as soon as he wakes up sometimes (lol).

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Book Description

Choo! Choo! All aboard the train to Sleepytown! After a fun-filled day, it’s time to snuggle in, and dream the night away.

Join adorable puppies in pajamas as they say “night, night” to the train, to their mommy and daddy, and to God. Your little ones will rest their sleepy heads knowing that the God who made them loves them and keeps them safe all night long.

Amy Parker’s children’s books have sold more than a million copies, including two Christian Retailing’s Best award-winning books and the bestselling A Night Night Prayer. She lives outside Nashville with her husband and two children.

Hope you are having a great summer! Mine has been *much more* rough than expected because of my leg surgery. I am getting around very well, but I had an allergic reaction during the procedure that is making this whole healing process slow. I still plan on going “full steam ahead” (yes, Thomas Train reference) as much as possible because this is summer, and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. Plus, my travel feature on Dutch Wonderland is coming up soon. I have a discount code (MamaMuseMeSBlog16) if you plan on going there this summer. If you’re on the East Coast, it could make a great day trip for your family.

♥ Teresa

Start with Amen

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So be it.

That’s amen.

When you start a prayer with amen — so be it — you are saying that God is in control, and you’re agreeing with him that he will do what is best before the prayer even starts. That is not an easy posture, to admit that you’re not in control, but it is a beautiful form of worship. It shows trust that God has your ultimate good in mind, even if his will is not the easiest path to take. Honestly, it might not be the easy path — but he is up to something eternally good, even when we cannot seem to see it this side of heaven.

Amen “was the congregational response of affirmation or agreement in both Hebrew and Greek gatherings” in the Bible, the “expression of praise to the Lord,” and “the confirmation of a blessing,” according to Start with Amen by Beth Guckenberger (p. 189).

♥ Amen

When someone embraces this word and uses it with the solemnity it deserves, there is a sense of settle that follows. I accept. I affirm. I praise. I bless. It testifies in two syllables to the conviction that God’s way is best. We might not always understand his ways, and certainly we might not always like them, but we can always be confident of them.  (Start with Amen p.189)

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Lamentations 3:21

In Start with Amen, Beth Guckenberger quotes a staggering statistic that out of 2 billion children in the world today, 1 billion have been abused — assaulted physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually. As an educator, I think about my own students when I hear this, and my heart breaks. I think about children in other countries who are orphans. My heart is stirred: what more can I do to share God’s love with those who have not felt it? Guckenberger also writes about the “orphan spirit” that shows up in believers, those who think they can somehow earn his love through works and those who lack spiritual confidence. In the book’s prologue, she writes:

As for me? I am to live and love like a daughter [of God], talk like a daughter. I am to invite and extend myself and risk . . . I am to root myself in his identity and not gorge myself on counterfeit affections. I am then to testify every chance I get: freedom is found in forfeiting my own way. Amen.

As I was reading this book, God spoke to me specifically and deeply. As I asked questions of Him, He answered and let me know that His presence was there. Acts 2:26 showed up twice in my day and felt significant both times. I saw the verse in A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer (a neat book, I might add) and then again in Start with Amen. God seemed to be telling me to pay attention to it.

Acts 2:26 (The Message)

I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.

I had a surgery on my leg over a week ago, and I am having some type of very bad post-surgery allergic reaction that the doctor has never seen before. It looks like I have burns and welts all over my leg. I am praying, and I know others are praying for me too. I feel like I am in a land of unknowns right now, and obviously it is not an easy thing to go through. I wanted to be outside with my son, enjoying this beautiful time of the year instead of in a place full of unknowns. I know I am not in control of this situation, but I am trusting that God will take care of me (amen♥). I started reading Start with Amen the day after my surgery. It is challenging me and comforting me at the same time.

xoxo Teresa

*I received Start with Amen from Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review. I found the photo at the top of my post here (not an affiliate link).

Travel, Tunes, and Reads

I’m going to be collaborating with Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania for a travel feature on my blog later this summer, so I’m excited for that. If you’re going there, here is a link for a discount especially for my blog readers. The promo code is MamaMuseMeSBlog16.

For a short list of what I’m loving so far this summer, it would have to be the new Mandisa “Out of the Dark” album that leaves me in such a joyful mood, really neat looking temporary tattoos from tattly.com that I plan on wearing all summer, and my new Keen hiking shoes that are working out great on the trails.

I just finished reading The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, and I thought it was a great fictional peek at Washington, D.C. I took a little day trip to the Spy Museum in D.C. and bought the book not long after that. My family is going full throttle at summer already, with an outdoor concert and a beautiful day at the lake already checked off the bucket list.

Hope your summer is off to a fun start too! If you’re curious about the Mandisa album, you can listen to most of it on YouTube right now.

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I am checking out Positive Discipline: Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Gfroerer, sent to me by Blogging for Books in return for my honest review. It has tips for modeling kind and firm leadership in the classroom, keeping students intrinsically motivated (very important), improving self-regulation, and more. I have heard most of this in my education classes and trainings, but it’s good to have a refresher.

♥Teresa

A great review — and a not-so-great one

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Let’s start with the great review. The Story Cure is what I was looking for to help me get out of a creative rut in my fiction writing. By rut, I mean procrastination and feeling like I have nothing to write about (a.k.a., not even starting). Dinty W. Moore begins his book by explaining what a story should have — basis in something that we care about as a human race or a way of dealing with something that many of us fear. In his riff on theme, which can become heavy-handed in some books, he suggests the “magnetic river” that everything flows back to and keeps the story going. I’m going to need to do a little thinking about the big topic that I want to address in a story. It drives me nuts that I have writing talent and imagination that I am not using to its fullest because — what if no one appreciates it? What if I can’t sell it, and I’ve wasted my time? What if? Seriously, I need to be a little more like L.M. Montgomery’s Emily character and write simply because my soul feels like it has to write. I do not have a community of writers to draw upon for inspiration where I live, so that is a challenge. I went to a writers’ group that was advertised one time, and it ended up being just me and a dirty old man who wrote a lot about breasts and commented on mine as well. I did not go back to that group. I didn’t even ride the library elevator back downstairs with him, honestly. Anyway, thank you, Dinty W. Moore, for sharing knowledge that is practical and easy to apply to the craft of writing.

240_360_book-2207-coverNow, moving on to the not-so-great review. Let me say, I do not enjoy giving bad reviews. I am not one of the angry internet people who enjoy criticizing writers’ work just for the heck of it. I am sure the author is a great dad, and his book is relevant to his own experience, as well as the experience of many other dads. Yet, I really did not like You Know You’re A Dad. I felt like the humor was very cliched and fell flat most of the time. As a woman, it is not super fun to read that one of the ways a man knows he is a dad is that he wonders if his pregnant wife’s body will ever return to normal. Har, har. I know it’s meant to be funny, but as the female audience who would probably be buying the book for her husband, I found the pregnant body jokes irritating. Also, a lot of the little quips involved sports — watching sports, reading Sports Illustrated while the wife reads parenting books, etc. — and my husband always tells me that it drives him nuts when some pastors constantly use sports metaphors in church. He is not a sports guy, and he feels like the sports talk is shoved down his throat everywhere he goes when he’s in a group. He likes classic cars and movies. I know this book has an audience, and some couples will think it’s cute or funny, but I don’t think it reaches a more modern couple. My husband is really proud to be a dad. I think he could have came up with some better examples, both funny and serious, of how he knew when he was a dad than what this book offered. I am disappointed because I wanted to give him this book for Father’s Day. It just wasn’t an enjoyable read for me. I didn’t see how my own husband would connect with it.

The Story Cure was sent to me by Blogging for Books, and You Know You’re A Dad was sent to me by Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review.

A Heapin’ Helpin’ of Hygge: My Month of May in Food and Books

The little Danish hygge trend? I got on board with it this month too. I cooked a recipe for Boller i Karry — a.k.a. meatballs in a curry sauce — from The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wikihyggeng. What intrigued me about the recipe is that the meatballs are simmered in broth so that they are really moist instead of being baked. In the past, my meatballs tended to be more dry on one side or even fall apart. This recipe really was perfect. My husband raved about it. You can Google Boller i Karry if you’re curious. The recipe is going to become a regular part of our family meals, but I will probably cut back on the heavy cream to make it a little healthier. I know the hygge trend might sound a little cheesy and obvious on social media, but I think it’s because hygge is something that cannot be fully translated; it is something that is felt. The book did give me some good ideas for cozy practices to incorporate into my family’s life.

Books, Books, Books: 

athome-smI finished reading At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider. She mentioned my blog post on her podcast site, which I really appreciated. The book definitely captured my imagination and allowed me to vicariously experience family travel around the world. I pictured what it would be like to walk down the sidewalk in Hong Kong or snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef with my guys. I will probably re-read this book every once in a while because there is something about armchair travel that is just so enjoyable, especially when the writing is so vivid and insightful.

 

51wyozuq5ol-_aa300_The book that really surprised me in a good way this month was An Outlaw and a Lady: A Memoir of Music, Life with Waylon, and the Faith that Brought Me Home by Jessi Colter. The writing in this book is vivid and lyrical, which makes sense for the voice of a singer-songwriter. I grew up on country music; my heroes were Crystal Gayle (I wanted to grow my hair as long as hers) and Ricky Skaggs (I got out a wooden spoon for a microphone and had “concerts” along with him). Nothing gets me like a record of Kenny Rodgers or Buck Owens. I used to listen to Country Gold on the radio every Saturday night, and in my college years I kept a good rotation of Johnny Cash, Merle, and Waylon in my CD player, along with Britney Spears, Christina, and Eminem. I got to see Merle, who was part of the “outlaw country” movement twice in concert, which was amazing. Anyway, all of this preface is to say that any background story that I can get about the classic country singers — especially told in such a beautiful format as this book — is something I will give two thumbs up to any day. I remember hearing Jessi Colter’s song “I’m Not Lisa” on the radio, and I knew she was married to Waylon, but I never knew her story of faith. I was really drawn in as she told her story, starting with her mother, a Pentecostal faith healer, and her father, the mining race car driver. Colter writes of how she drifted from faith and then returned to it to sustain her. This book was provided by Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review.

773507I finally finished the third book of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series. I did a slow trudge on this one because I could tell by the foreshadowing that Emily was going to get engaged to Dean, and I kept wanting to tell her don’t-do-it! On one hand, Dean could offer Emily good conversation and access to travel that she did not have before, but on the other hand, he lied and told her that her writing was not good because he thought she loved her writing more than she loved him (she did). Unfortunately, she believed that her writing was not good and stopped creating completely. The Emily series is about the making of a writer, so having a season when Emily does not write is almost like having the life stolen from the book. Fortunately, Emily does eventually find her way, with the help of her family; a family member submits her book to a publisher, and Emily finally achieves the “Alpine Path” that she has been dreaming about, just as she finds out that her best friend is engaged to Teddy, the man that she has truly loved since she was young. It drove me nuts how passive Emily was about expressing her love for Teddy after his wedding to Ilse fell apart (because Ilse really loved their other childhood friend). I thought she would tell Teddy how she felt since she realized they both loved each other and had only misinterpreted each other’s actions. Emily’s passivity frustrated me, but I was glad that she ended up getting the happy ending that she deserved after a lot of uncertainty. Mostly, I wondered, what if LM Montgomery had allowed the Emily character to go to New York after all? Certainly the story would have been more fun to read, but it might not have achieved the message that Montgomery was trying to communicate about how home and sense of place shapes a writer. Here are my posts about the first two books: Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs.

9780804189842After reading Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home in the World, the next logical move seemed like picking up another armchair travel book. My book of choice was The New York Times: Footsteps, a curated collection of the New York Times travel column, “Footsteps,” exploring iconic authors’ relationships to landmarks and cities around the world. I was especially curious to read the excerpt about the “dangerous, dirty and seductive” streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante’s famous Neapolitan novels, because I think Ferrante is the best novelist of our times (seriously, My Brilliant Friend is a skillful weaving of character, setting, and plot). Place is such an influence for writers; take L.M. Montgomery as a prime example. I like to find out “the story behind the story,” and this collection delivers something that a fan of literature like myself can savor. This book was provided by Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.

Have a fantastic month! Hope you get the chance to open a good book and cook something that makes you feel cozy too. If you’ve read any of these books, I would love to talk about them with you in the comments.

xoxo Teresa

Marriage Encounter Weekend

ME

My husband and I have had a lot happen in our lives over the past several years: the birth of our son, the death of my husband’s father, a new career for me, some hard times and good times. We have both been busy with the day-to-day demands of life, so we decided to take a weekend to focus solely on each other. To do that, we drove six hours to a Marriage Encounter Weekend at Virginia Beach in April. Overall, it was wonderful. The weekend is for people who want to strengthen their marriages; my husband and I are already happy in our marriage, but we liked the idea of taking our marriage from good to great.

The weekend consisted of listening to three couples talk about their ups and downs as they responded to various prompts. The couples had been through some very tough things in their lives that Larry and I were thankful we had never experienced, and they were very up front about what they had gone through. After each session, the spouses attending the conference were given a prompt to write about separately in their notebooks, and then the couples came together in their hotel room to read what each other wrote and talk about it. After some time, we would get a call on the room phone to come back down for the next session.

What I liked the most was hearing Larry say the things that I do that he appreciates (that I didn’t even realize he noticed, and that I don’t even think much about, like saying “hey dear!” when he walks in the door each evening). We both told each other what initially drew us to each other; it brought back lots of memories. I thought a lot about how we have changed and grown positively as a couple. We both get along really well, but we don’t necessarily tell each other those things we’re thinking all the time.

Spending time together, writing each other love letters, and the romance were the best parts of the weekend. We renewed our vows to each other at a beautiful candlelight ceremony. The hardest part of the conference was that sharing so many thoughts over the course of a weekend begins to feel draining sometimes — even when you have positive things to say.

The workshop started on a Friday evening, went from early on Saturday morning to late Saturday evening, and then right back at it from early Sunday morning to late that afternoon. By about 11 a.m. on Sunday, we both started to feel really cooped up and ready to get out of the hotel. We knew the beach was so close, and we were inside a hotel. We wanted some fresh air. We ended up leaving a couple of hours early because we had pretty much reached our limit of being inside, knowing that we would go to work the next morning.

We felt kind of bad about leaving early because we did not want to disappoint the workshop leaders; we wanted them to know we were really thankful for everything they had shared. I feel like that weekend was the best thing that could have possibly happened for us — or could happen for any married couple who wants to really dig into what it takes to emotionally support one another. There are different types of Marriage Encounter Weekends, but the one we went to was excellent — no role playing, no group sharing or general cheesiness. The weekend did have a spiritual component, but I think people of various denominations (we are independent) and those who are not Christians still could have felt comfortable.

I highly recommend Marriage Encounter!

Teresa