Friday, April 30, 2010

What's On My Nighstand - May

5 Minutes for Books
This post comes at a very interesting time, considering what's been on my mind the last few days. I am late in posting what I'll be reading next month but I wanted to post it anyways.

Lara, over at The Lazy Organizer, has been posting some interesting thoughts lately about choosing the best of the best. I'm still thinking and discussing with hubby what "best" means for me/us, if we always have to choose the best, and how to define "best."

I'm sure these discussions will eventually affect my reading and entertainment choices. In the mean time, I am giving myself permission to not finish anything I deem not worthwhile. There are millions of books available to read and I can't read them all. I have to be choosy!

Here's what I'm aiming to finish in May -


  • Two Lives - Vikram Seth. This book is for my South Asian Author Challenge and my first Chunkster. It's a really long book, I think the longest I will have ever tackled.

I have other books as well but these are the ones I plan to read first. I promised myself that if I don't like any of them, I am allowed to return them to the library unread. When I start something, I feel obligated to finish. I am allowed to return books to the library unread. I am allowed to return books to the library unread...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

360° Life - Book Review

My first book review for WaterBrook Multnomah is 360° Life, written by the late Billy Joe Daugherty. When I saw that this book was available for review, I jumped on it. The author's name was familiar but I couldn't place who he was. From the back of the book - "360° Life explores how ordinary people, regardless of their challenges, can experience life-altering change through simple faith."

I was slightly confused about why this book was subtitled "Ten Ways You Can Live More Richly, Deeply, Fully." There were 13 chapters and I felt the "ten ways" weren't practical ideas but rather thoughts to ponder.

Unfortunately, I struggled through the first few chapters. The book's intended audience is definitely those new to the Christian faith or who are interested in exploring Christianity. As I was baptized at 11 years of age, I felt like the book couldn't offer much to me personally.

Last weekend, I almost had a panic attack at the thought of not being "good enough" for God. It's not that I don't believe God loves me, because I know He does. I struggle with having always believed (until just recently) that perfection is required when Christ returns for His people, that if we are not perfect at Christ's second coming, we won't be admitted into heaven.

Thankfully I picked up this book and read the chapter titled "What God Thinks of You." The author made a list of a few texts:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." (Jeremiah 1:5a).

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

"... being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

"For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10b).

And several other texts. This chapter and these Scripture verses pulled me out of an anxiety attack and reminded me how much God really does love me. That alone made this book a worthwhile read for me personally.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Regular posting

I really want to return to regular posting, at least 3 posts each week. I have things to write about and I've been thinking about a number of issues (homeschooling, health, homemaking, leisure time, etc). My husband has been having a very busy and stressful week at work and that somehow rubs off on me. When he's harried and rushed, I stress. I wish I could be a peaceful island in the midst of his busy storm but I become stressed as well. Hence, no posting this week.

In lieu of a deep post, I am leaving this quote. It has spoken to me and continues to challenge me to bigger and better things. May I always continue to learn and strive toward betterment!

"Conviction is worthless until it converts itself into conduct."
~Thomas Carlisle

Friday, April 23, 2010

A bit of progress...

I made some progress on my grandparents' quilt.

First I laid out all the squares I had cut yesterday. I must have looked really funny, kneeling on the floor and moving fabric around. After a bit of shuffling, I was satisfied with how the squares would look.

Then I sewed the top two squares together and the bottom two squares together. Unfortunately, my back started hurting toward the end, so I wasn't able to sew all four squares together. Oh well! I ironed all my seams and then put everything away.

Hubby will be working almost all day on Sunday so I will probably finish sewing the squares together that afternoon. Then I'll start cutting fabric to start the next step!

I like most of the fabric I chose for this project. I bought two fat quarter sets so I wasn't able to pick out each print individually. But I still think the color combinations will look really warm when the quilt is complete. As much as I like this quilt so far, I can't wait to start my next when I actually get to keep it!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who knew I had so much?

Why is it that my house always gets messier before it gets clean? In the book I just finished reading, The Rewards to Simplicity, Mrs. Pierce recommends cleaning out closets before tackling the rest of your house. At first, this seemed backwards, as no one but myself and hubby ever see the closets. Once I finished reading the chapter, her advice made total sense. When you clean out the closets, you have room to store and put away the stuff around your house that should be in your closet.

With that objective in mind, I started cleaning out the closet in our master bedroom. I should have taken a picture first. We had stuff piled up on the two shelves so that they couldn't be utilized. Two long racks were stuffed full of clothes. I had stacked two boxes on the floor and one on the shelf that was full of winter clothes and clothing that didn't fit at the time I packed the box. Too bad I forgot where my winter clothes were packed and went through this winter with only half of my sweaters.

I discovered that our cats picked a big hole in the carpeting to the rear of the closet and one of them had peed on a jacket that had fallen on the floor (that explained the cat pee smell that we couldn't pin down). That will teach me to not pick up my clothes. The cats are no longer allowed in the closet.

I pulled out all the clothes that fit in one of these categories:
1 - They don't fit and I don't like them anyway.
2 - I don't like them.
3 - They don't fit my standards of modesty (my skirts have gotten longer and I rarely wear pants).

The clothes on the right side of the chair are those that I'm keeping. Most are winter clothes and need to be packed (and remembered) for next winter. I'm also keeping the clothes draped across the back of the chair as they finally fit again. Yay! The huge stack on the floor is getting donated to charity, all in great condition.

I'm not sure what to do with the jeans... there are five pairs sitting on the chair right now, most too small but in good condition. Even when I reach my ideal weight, I won't wear them. I've been collecting jeans for awhile to make a denim quilt but I kind of feel like I should donate the pairs that can still be worn. I'm not sure what I'll do with them.

I have a lot of clothes and I only wear a small portion of them. Is this where the 80/20 rule comes into play, only wearing 20% of my clothes 80% of the time? In my need/desire to simplify, I'm cleaning out the closets. I can't wait until I can actually find the piece of clothing I am looking for!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pursuing creativity

What a wonderful day! I was productive and even took some time to be creative!

The original Scrabble tile bag is quickly wearing out. Instead of taping up the seams, I decided to sew a new bag.

I used a fat quarter I had on hand. All I did was measure the size of our old Scrabble bag, cut the fat quarter down to size, and sewed it together. I think it took half an hour, from the cutting to ironing to pinning to sewing. I'm happy with how it turned out!

On Sunday morning, my mother came over for a few hours. We started working on Hazel's mystery quilt. It took awhile for us to get into a groove as I'm super cautious with cutting and this is my mom's first quilt. We spent way too much time trying to figure out which fabric was for binding vs. blocks. It might have been a good idea to label everything when we picked it out in December!

We finished 10 days of instructions and sewed together the first section of the first block. I am really eager to see how everything looks once it is put together. As this is a mystery quilt, I have no idea what the finished project will look like. Here is the first part of the first block:

I can't wait to get back together with my mom so that we can continue our quilt!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Rewards of Simplicity - Book Review

The Rewards of Simplicity took me a long time to read. That's not to say it wasn't a good book. I just had a hard time reading more than a few pages at a time. Because it took so long to read and I wasn't sure how to summarize the book in it's entirety, I took a few notes for each chapter. The book was co-written by a husband and wife. The first half, written by Mrs. Pierce, discusses a practical approach to simplicity. The second half of the book, written by Mr. Pierce, addressed the spiritual approach.

Chapter 1 - Faith, Focus, and Function
The three keys to simplicity are faith, focus, and function. We start by having faith in God. Then we develop focus, which is "the ability to narrow our vision and concentrate on the moment instead of all the peripheral concerns that strive for our attention" (pg. 22). I really liked this quote that tied faith, focus, and function together: "If faith is the starting place for a simplified life, and focus aligns our hearts and minds to God's purposes, then function is the evidence of simplicity in the believer's life" (pg. 25).

Chapter 2 - Understanding Simplicity
What it means to be simple.
The difference between being gifted and skilled and how to develop both.
Having a simplification mindset.

Chapter 3 - Fasting for Simplification
Issues a challenge to take a fast from the media - television, movies, video games, and the internet. Intead, use the time for something else such as Bible study, taking a walk, or playing games with the family.

Chapter 4 - Simplicity and the Law of Love
Discusses dealing with other people, relationships.

Chapter 5 - Simplicity, Sabbath and Refreshing
Walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Importance of the Sabbath.
This was my favorite chapter. The authors are not Adventist, but I've never heard a non-Adventist explain the Sabbath in such a way. I struggle with what it means to keep the Sabbath, to rest with God. This chapter made it very plain. Hubby and I are going to reread it together and discuss what it means for us as individuals and as a family.

Chapter 6 - Money, Possessions, Simplicity
A warning about being aware of our attitude about money (Matthew 6:19-21, 31-33).

Chapter 7 - Practicing Simplicity
Some practical ideas for moving toward simplicity.

Chapter 8 - Simplicity or Anxiety?
Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:4-9).

Chapter 9 - A Moment for Change
The author's (Chuck Pierce) experience with needing to let go of his anxiety.
A look at the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).
Steps to break down anxiety.

Chapter 10 - Stress Can Work for You
Look at Jesus' example of how to live life (Matthew 6:22-34).
"Jesus came and walked through much conflict, but it did not entangle Him. He maintained complete emotional stability and balance before the Father. He proved to us that we could alleviate anxiety" (pg. 148).

Chapter 11 - Faith: The Right Framework
The antidote to anxiety is faith (Isaiah 26:3).
"For me, simplifying my life meant simplifying my thinking so that I could live free from anxiety and learn to walk in the Spirit" (pg. 175).

Chapter 12 - Simplicity Can Be a Reality
Tips for keeping things simple while moving through daily life.

The last paragraph sums up the entire book: "Simplification is not about making life easier. It is about clearing away the cobwebs that obscure our vision. It is about choosing that "good part" and discarding the rest. It is about being free from the distractions that keep us from truly knowing and fellowshipping with our families, our friends and our God" (pg. 194).

I didn't agree with all of the doctrine in this book, but I wholeheartedly agreed with the theology. Pam Pierce has a way of talking about God that makes Him seem more real and part of everyday life. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters she wrote.

Thanks to Bethany House for providing this book to review.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One quilt complete and ready to start the next!

I finally finished my first quilt!! Now I can take it to church on Sabbath and drop it off. I procrastinated way too long on finishing it but I am happy to say that it is finally complete.

This quilt was a huge learning experience. I've never sewn my own clothes or worked on a quilt. I barely know how to crochet. The only handiwork I've completed is cross-stitching. This was very different. Putting the blocks together was the easy part. Getting all the blocks to line up on the quilt and have the dimensions come out correctly was difficult. Tying the whole thing together wasn't hard, but sewing around the border and sewing the quilt shut was a huge challenge. For some reason, my blocks shifted while working on the border and everything tilts down to the left.

I am a perfectionist (to a fault) and it's hard to see so many mistakes. However, the ladies at church told me I was doing a wonderful job for my first attempt. The next one will be better!

The photo above shows the fabrics my mom and I chose for Hazel's mystery quilt. We start on Sunday. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These Days

I am finally getting back into a schedule, though it all revolves around my hubby's work schedule. Sometimes he is home and sometimes he's at client sites all day long.

My mornings consist of exercise, Bible study, breakfast, and cleaning. I try to have all the cleaning done by noon. This gets me into the habit of abiding by the time of use plan that goes into effect May 1 with our electric company. They charge more for electricity usage from 11 to 7 on weekdays over the summer so I try to do my housework, baking, etc. on the off-peak hours. It's one way I can keep the electric bill lower.

In the afternoons, I study Japanese for about an hour, read, quilt, and work on other projects around the house. I have a list of projects about a mile long that I want to tackle but I'm trying to concentrate on only one thing at a time. Last week and this week was devoted to finishing up my quilt for the church. I put in my last stitches this afternoon and will be dropping the quilt off on Sabbath. I think tomorrow I'll take pictures and post them here in remembrance of my first quilting efforts.

The rest of this week I will spend my project time prepping for a quilting session with my mom. We're getting together early Sunday morning to start working on Hazel's mystery quilt. We are dreadfully behind but hope to really dig in on Sunday and complete as much as possible so we're not lagging so far behind. I have to wash all the fabric and iron everything before sundown on Friday. After that, the only time I'll be working on that quilt is when my mom and I get together for a quilting session. This will be my second quilt and her first.

My brother, his wife, and his daughter are coming to stay with us for five days in May. I'm hoping to have all of my deep cleaning complete for the living areas of our house. I also have to clean up the spare bedroom so that they have a place to stay. We have a mattress on the floor in that room and tons of boxes filled with who knows what. I wish we could afford to buy a second bed so we had a proper spare room, but we can only provide a mattress, home-cooked food, and our company. Ah, the joys of being broke. :)

It looks like my hubby is about finished with his work assignment so I am going to go cook up my black bean burgers. The recipe looks really good and I'm hoping it will turn out tasty!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup. I browsed several recipe sites and found a recipe I could adapt to our dietary needs (vegan, low sodium, low fat). 

1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
16 oz fresh salsa
64 oz vegetable broth
2 cans black beans
2 cups corn
1 avocado, diced
Fresh cilantro
Blue corn chips, broken up

1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in a bit of juice from the salsa.
2. In a large pot, add cooked onion, garlic, and bell pepper mixture. Add salsa, vegetable broth, black beans, and corn.
3. Bring soup to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and simmer for one hour.
4. Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with avocado, cilantro, and blue corn chips.

This soup stored well overnight.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beguiled - Book Review

When I discovered that Bethany House sometimes sends out books for review, I was ecstatic. I love to read and am not able to pick up too many new titles from the library. However, I received Beguiled in the mail and then was swamped. I am remiss in posting a review within a timely manner.

I was really excited to read this book, coauthored by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand, because I have read almost every single book that Gist has written. Though known for her historical fiction books, Gist tackles a contemporary fiction book with Beguiled.

The storyline was intriguing. Rylee, a dog walker for many wealthy families in Charleston, is suspected in a series of "Robin Hood" break-ins. Enter Logan, a reporter covering the story. Is Rylee involved in the break-ins? Can Logan figure out who the thief is before someone gets hurt? Can Rylee overcome her distrust of men and begin a relationship?

I can't really say much about the ending because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is interested in reading this book. But I was completely caught off guard for how the break-ins wrapped up. In most books when I am normally predicting each event as it unfolds, this is a nice change of pace.

My only complaint with the book is that it seemed lacking in the Christian aspect of Christian Fiction. There were a couple casual thoughts about God and one "conversion" scene. But it didn't seem that any of the characters were interested in God being a daily part of their lives. There are too many "Sunday Christians" and it seemed these characters were falling into that habit.

Overall, it was a pleasant read. If you've read any of Gist's historical fiction, this is a slightly different feel but it still includes her signature character development. I'm looking forward to her next book!

Thanks to Bethany House for a copy of this book!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

For various reasons, I have been feeling an urgent need to deep clean our apartment. The weather is beautiful, which brings memories and promptings of spring cleaning. I've been sick off and on for over a month so I've fallen even farther behind in my cleaning. I've been reading articles from Ladies Against Feminism which are awakening even greater desires to be a better homemaker. Last but not least, I saw a post somewhere issuing a challenge to eliminate clutter.

In between bouts of sickness, I've been tackling the kitchen. So far, I have sorted through every single cupboard and pulled out all utensils, dishes, food, etc. that we do not use. All of the extra dishes were dumped into a big box and I will be storing it in our spare bedroom for three months. At the end of three months, if I haven't needed anything from the box, I'm selling it all on craigslist. There is enough in that box to qualify as a good kitchen starter set. I don't know why we have so much extra stuff.

Here's what I've thrown out so far (this does not include the storage box items):

Old rice
Bag old powdered sugar
Couple muffin tin liners
4 expired bottles of spices
2 icky ice cube trays
2 measuring cups
2 cat toys
Dried up superglue
Expired cat ear mite medication
2 tea lights
3 cat medication syringes
5 lids with no containers
Old spatula
2 chipped Pyrex dishes
Dried up package ArmorAll cleaning wipes
Feather duster
Really old bottle of apple cider vinegar

Whew. Feels good to have all of that junk out of my kitchen.

I've also wiped out all the cupboards and drawers, organized all food and dishes, scoured behind and under the fridge, and cleaned the floor and one wall of our trash room (tiny little room with one shelf and room for the trash can and broom). I still have to mop the floor, finish the walls in the trash room, clean the oven, scour the inside of the fridge, and have hubby wipe down the ceiling. For some reason, there are food splatters on the ceiling above the stove. How is that possible?

It feels really good to be spring cleaning. It's a lot of work and it's taking days because I'm doing such a thorough and perfectionist job of it (besides being sick). When I'm done with the kitchen, I'll be tackling the living room and then the bathroom. Fun stuff!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The death and resurrection of Christ

Seeing as how today is Easter, I spent some time this morning reading in all four gospels about the death and resurrection of Christ.

Even though some of the details differ from one account to another, the basic story and sentiment is the same.

Jesus goes through a terrible trial in Gethsemane.
Judas leads a crowd to arrest Jesus.
Peter denies Jesus.
Jesus goes through several cross-examinations.
He is led to Golgotha.
Jesus dies on the cross.
He is placed in a new tomb.
When the disciples and several women visit the tomb on the first day of the week, Jesus has risen!
Jesus appears to various people and explains His death and resurrection.

Why are there so many accounts of the same events? I believe it's because each disciple had a different vantage point and wanted to record their own individual account. This is why some of the details are different but the overarching events are the same.

What does this mean for us today? I think John summed it up well.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;

but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name

John 20:30-31 (NKJV).

We are given evidence that Jesus is the Christ. That He is the Son of God. And that we can believe in Him and receive eternal life.

Paul also gives us a wonderful promise in Romans.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,

knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord

Romans 6:4-11 (NKJV).

Praise the Lord!