A Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

**This post was originally published in 2009. Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealSummertiiiiimmmeee… and the livin’ is eeeaaasssyyyy…

Fish are jumpin’ … and the cotton is high…

And I don’t feel like cookin’….

Oh wait, that’s not part of the song. But it should be! Who wants to cook on a hot summer day? Not me! So I decided NOT to cook today, but I still felt like I should feed my family, so I compromised: Cold Plates!

An Easy No-Cook Summer Meal

This is one of those ideas that’s just so brilliant, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner! All one has to do is assemble a variety of cold, fresh foods, make it pretty and put it on the table. Presto, Change-o, Dinner! Simple as that.

I used some cold ham slices as the main portion of the meal and augmented them with some scoops of tuna salad. Then I added in some various fresh fruits and veggies, some cheese for my DH, and some pickles. A dollop of honey mustard served as a dipping sauce for the ham. Usually, bread of some sort is served with a cold plate, but I had none, so I offered crackers on the side.

The nice thing about these cold plates is that I could customize them to our different dietary needs. Here’s my plate with strawberries and unpeeled apples and apricots:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermeal
Here’s DH’s plate with cheese and peeled apples instead:

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealEven our Certain Little Someone had his own cold plate (not that he ate it all! He was mostly interested in the watermelon and sweet potato fries!):

Beat the Summer Heat with a Super Easy No-Cook Summer Meal Cold Plate #nocook #summermealSharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Tasty Tuesday

3 Health & Wellness Books Every Mom Should Read

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity!Health and Wellness Books Every Mom Should Read #chc #summerbookclub“Nurse” should be on every mom’s resume because it’s a large part of our mommy job, isn’t it? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the requisite degree behind the title, therefore we sometimes lack the necessary knowledge to fulfill our role.

But there’s no need to go to school and get an “RN” after your name – many, many books are out there that will help you nurse your children back to health when they’re sick, and better yet, keep them healthy all year long!

My favorite books about health and wellness focus on the nutritional aspect of things, because I believe that what we eat is key to our overall health and well-being. If you’d like to broaden your understanding of our food and where it comes from, I highly recommend the following books and authors:

1. Michael Pollan

Ok, so this is one author with many books, and not just one book. If I had to narrow it down, I’d pick “In Defense of Food: The Eater’s Manifesto“, wherein he introduces his mantra, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I always recommend Michael Pollan to people who have questions about food and nutrition, because he’s a journalist who is not afraid to dig down deep to the truth. He presents the evidence he finds, draws his conclusions, and invites you to draw yours. I find him to be the most balanced author on nutrition, without swinging to one extreme or another (for example, veganism vs Paleo).

2. The Maker’s Diet

This book was pivotal for me in terms of changing my approach to “healthy” food. I realized that at least half of what was in my refrigerator and pantry wasn’t even remotely healthy when I first read this book almost 10 years ago. While I don’t agree with all of the conclusions Jordan Rubin draws in The Maker’s Diet, I do believe his main points are all accurate and his diet is one everyone should consider adopting at one level or another.

3. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils

Anyone who wants to make use of essential oils in maintaining their family’s health will find this book invaluable. Kurt Schnaubelt, chemist and aromatherapist, is one of the leading experts on essential oils in America, and in The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, he clears up all the confusion surrounding oils with solid science and historical information.

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Sharing at Grounded & Surrounded

Fruit Punch Ice Pops

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatOh the dog days of summer! Great for lying in the shade on a sultry day and enjoying an ice pop and hoping it helps cool you down.

Just not those nasty ones that are full of food dyes, fake colors, nasty sugars, and other assorted ickyness. They’re so easy to make yourself that there’s no need to resort to such.

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatHonestly? Making an ice pop is simply a matter of freezing juice in a lickable format. So if you have popsicle molds and juice, you’re in business. Even if you don’t have popsicle molds, you can make do with cups and craft sticks. The juice is kind of essential, though, no getting out of that one.

I have these Zoku Mini Pop molds which I actually bought at Michaels’ with a 40% off coupon, but you can also get them from Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime. They’re the perfect size for little mouths and quick snacks!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreatThe Boyz created this recipe together as a Summer Camp at Home activity: they each chose 2 kinds of fruit and I determined the quantities. It turned out to taste exactly like fruit punch!

Fruit Punch Ice Pops #summercampathome #frozen #summertreat

Sharing at Grounded & Surrounded, Try a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday

3 Authors For You to Consider

3 Authors for the Christian Reader to Consider #chc #summerbookclub


For a long time, I didn’t read any fiction by mainstream (i.e., secular, non-Christian) authors because it seemed like every one I picked up was rife with profanity, gratuitous sex scenes, and and immorality. Per the wise instructions found in Philippians 4:8, I just don’t really feel a need to fill my mind with that junk; I therefore erred on the side of caution and just avoided secular authors altogether.

Gradually, though, I’ve come to discover a few authors who are not, as far as I know, Christian, and do not write for Christian publishers, but whose books are fairly clean and even more importantly, honor important Judeo-Christian values such as marriage, family, loyalty, and selflessness.

These are the authors I know and can recommend, although you will have to judge them for yourself. Also, I can’t vouch for every single book by these authors because I haven’t read every single one. And if you have any author recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them!

1. Patricia Veryan

If you enjoy Christian author Julie Klassen’s work, you will probably also enjoy Patricia Veryan.  Patricia Veryan specialized in novels set in the Georgian or Regency eras of English history. She was one of the forerunners of the popular Regency genre, following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Georgette Heyer (another author I can recommend). While the Regency genre is full of a lot of trite and pointless fluff, Veryan’s novels are anything but.

While Veryan’s books are first and foremost romance novels, they are also well-researched, historically accurate books filled with period details of the Jacobite Rebellions in early 18th century England. There is no profanity in her books, aside from the occasional “d–n”, and there are absolutely no sex scenes. There’s not even any implied pre-marital or extra-marital sex except in one book that I can think of (not my favorite of hers for that reason).

What I love most about Veryan’s novels is the central theme of honor. Whatever else you may say about the morality of Regency England, their code of honor was rigid and all men were expected to abide by it. As portrayed in Veryan’s novels, even young boys were trained diligently from a young age to abide by this stringent code, which regulated how the men treated each other and how they treated the women in their lives.

While their code of honor deviated from the one we find in Scripture, at its core, it insisted on a selfless life spent protecting one’s family – especially the women of the family – and one’s country. The men in Veryan’s stories are truly men of honor who live courageously and bravely in service to their country and their families.  Many of them exhibit the quality that Christ exhorts husbands to have in relation to their wives: a willingness to sacrifice even their life for the sake of their loved ones. It’s this old-fashioned chivalry that draws me back to Veryan’s novels again and again, while society around me  unravels daily in a quest to satisfy self.

Veryan has written quite a few novels, and it’s difficult to narrow them down to my absolute favorite, but if I had to pick one it would be “Love Alters Not. That’s my favorite because it’s side-splittingly hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny, plus the hero in the story is one of Veryan’s best and most honorable. It’s a good place to start with Veryan books!

Oh, one note of importance: for whatever reason, the publishers of these books decided to put racy bodice-ripper covers on all the paperback versions… don’t ask me why! Many Veryan fans have pondered over this discrepancy to no avail. Truly a case of not judging a book by its cover!

2. Nicholas Sparks

Fans of Karen Kingsbury will appreciate the homey, family-centered romances by Nicholas Sparks. And if you’ve seen the movies based on his books… don’t be put off by them! Hollywood twisted most of them into something very different from what Sparks actually wrote, so, as usual, the books are much better than the movies.

As with Veryan, there are a few “d–n”-s sprinkled throughout Sparks’ books, but no graphic sex scenes, although many of them do have “fadeouts”. In particular,  “A Walk to Remember” and “The Last Song”  are pretty squeaky clean.

What sets Sparks apart from other contemporary authors is his emphasis on family and committed relationships. Although he’s definitely a romance novelist (kind of sappy and often tear-inducing), he idealizes in his stories a committed kind of love that goes far beyond the infatuation and attraction that most love stories are made of. Many of his novels feature an elderly couple that has stood the test of time and weathered many storms together; any author that honors committed marriage relationships is automatically bumped up a few notches in my opinion!

My absolute favorite Sparks novel is the above-mentioned “A Walk to Remember” (Which, actually, is one movie that they actually got right! For the most part.): it’s sappy, and it’s so sad you’ll need to read it with a box of tissues close at hand, but it is so good!

3. Kate Morton

Kate Morton is a new author for me – I’ve only actually read one and a half books of hers, but so far, I like what I’ve read! I’ve browsed through tons of reviews of her books online and it seems like she is frequently listed as a “clean” author; so even though I can’t personally vouch for all her books, she comes well recommended to me.

Like Nicholas Sparks, you can expect an occasional “d–n”, but that’s about it. She implies “off-scene” intimate activity, but doesn’t describe it so there are no sex scenes.

Francine Rivers is probably the most comparable Christian author to Kate Morton, in terms of scope, historic elements, and touches of mystery. Jamie Langston Turner also comes to mind. Morton likes to tell the historic background story of contemporary people, switching back and forth from modern to historic scenes and casts. You have to pay close attention to the dates noted at the beginning of each chapter, or you might get lost, but I love how this approach portrays vividly the domino effect of consequences from choices made by one generation to the next. I also love how the people in Morton’s stories are very ordinary people, but they live(d) extraordinary lives: it makes you think about the fact that every single person we meet has a story to tell but we rarely stop to listen to their stories. (Job 8:8)

The House at Riverton is the first book of Morton’s that I read, and I was glued to it from beginning to end, trying to figure out the mystery that was hinted at throughout. If you’ve watched and enjoyed the Downton Abbey series, you’ll love the historic setting of this book, as its very similar in style and feel. I’m always fascinated by the rapidly changing times of the early twentieth century, and Morton captures them vividly. I’m currently reading The Forgotten Garden, which is set in Morton’s native Australia, and has a compelling plot about a girl who was abandoned and left to sail on her own halfway around the world. It grapples with the heady topic of a person’s sense of self – their identity – and how it is formed and shaped, and how it can be altered by changed circumstances.

Other Clean Authors You Might Like

Here are a few other places where you can find suggestions for clean authors:

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Bust Summer Boredom with Summer Camp at Home

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids

For the past two years, I’ve been teaching in a summer camp at the school where I am a preschool teacher. Since I taught in summer camp, my kids tagged along with me and benefited greatly from the structured environment and the regular academic review (plus lots of time outside and plenty of fun activities).

This year, however, I’m not teaching summer camp in any official capacity… but I don’t want my kids to get bored! Neither do I want them to forget EVERYthing they learned in school this past year, so I feel that they need to be regularly reviewing basic concepts. Summer camp is the easiest way to address both problems, but I can’t exactly afford to sign them up for any programs available in our area.

Enter Summer Camp at Home! Now mind you, despite the fact that I teach for a living and lesson planning is actually one of my favorite parts… well, summer is summer. Ain’t nobody got time for that planning stuff. So this is my fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, let-somebody-else-do-the-planning… and-the-cleanup… kind of summer camp.

Sound good to you? Yeah, thought so.

Here’s how we fill our time, have fun, and get in a little bit of education, too (while still leaving plenty of time to relax), without hardly any work on my part:Summer Camp at Home #summer #summercampathome

1.Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic

It’s so important to keep these basic concepts fresh in the mind throughout the summer, and it’s also super easy! It only takes about half an hour each day to do some simple worksheets, reading practice, and flash card review. I love to do creative, play-focused activities with my children and students, but in my opinion, these 3 subjects require plain old hard work (repetition and regular practice in applying the skills) in order to truly master them.

Try a few of these options:

  • Preschool and lower elementary grades can take advantage of the dollar store’s selection of basic workbooks. They’ll especially love the ones with Disney or other cartoon themes! My kids do a combination of phonics/spelling (depending on their level) and math workbooks every day, one page in each workbook. I’ve also picked up age-appropriate workbooks at their levels in thrift stores and at yard sales.
  • Free printables abound online! My K3-General Subjects Pinterest board has some great links on it; check out my othe
  • r Pinterest boards for more subject-specific printables.
  • Flash cards for many basic topics are also available at the dollar store: numbers, shapes, colors, letters, math facts, and more. You can use these flash cards to play lots of different games, as well.
  • Various websites offer customizable worksheets so your little summer students can focus on areas specific to their needs. Twisty Noodle is great for beginning writers, while the AtoZ Teachers website offers a handwriting worksheet generator for older writers. Math Fact Cafe is a great resource for creating math worksheets on any level. Starfall is one of the best online resources for teaching and developing reading skills.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids2. Science & History Field Trips

Do you have any nature centers in your area? Trails to hike? Public gardens, zoos, animal parks, farms you can visit? All of these qualify for science study, and give your kids great hands-on experiences without a lot of planning or prep on your part. Many of these types of places often have special programs for kids that are cheap or free and provide an even more educational experience. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks, most cities have children’s museums and science museums with lots of great hands-on exhibits (and a relief from the summer heat).

My county (Fairfax County in VA) has a special program for kids that rewards them for visiting 8 of their 12 parks and nature centers, and many national/state parks have similar programs. Check out what your local state and national park programs have to offer!

I also plan to take my kids to nearby farms to pick fruit that’s in season throughout the summer, which adds another element to their science (and health and nutrition) education.

In addition to a wealth of science opportunities, we also live surrounded by Civil War battlefields and other historic areas. We also live within driving distance of Colonial era historic sites, like Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown and the like. On top of that, we can head into DC or Baltimore, MD (Fort McHenry!) anytime we want for a field trip as good as any they’d encounter anywhere! For those of you who live in the Metropolitan DC area (or are planning a trip this way), check out Specialicious for local deals on various activities. Also try Certifikid, which is available in 10 different cities around the country, and offers discount deals on all kinds of family-friendly activities, including local historic sites and more. Dealize is a great resource to help you find local group deals wherever you live.

My plan is to take my kids on two field trips each week – one science based, the other history based. You can fit it into your schedule however it works best for you!

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids3. Exercise

We play outside a lot, too, which has tons of obvious benefits besides being just plain old fun. For hot days, sidewalk chalk and bubbles under the shade are the way to go, at least until evening comes and we can run around a bit in the cooler air.

We also invest in an annual pass to the water park just down the street from us – it’s a wonderful way to cool down and have fun throughout the summer, and adds a vacation feel to our busy summer.

If you live near a Bowl America, consider their Summer Blast Pass, which offers free bowling games to kids all summer long. All you have to pay for is shoe rental.

Otherwise, we opt out of sports programs in the summer, preferring to keep our schedule on the slower side. You might find, though, that your little summer campers benefit from more organized sports programs – swimming lessons, perhaps, or participating in fun runs.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids4. Arts & Crafts

If you’re not very artsy – see me raising my hand?- and/or you dislike cleaning up a mess made by little artisans – raising my hand again – then consider checking out local arts and crafts stores for their kids’ programs in the summer. Here are some that we’re going to try:

  • Michael’s has a kids’ art class program called Passport to Imagination with different themed activities each week. One class costs $5, 3 classes are only $12.  Joanns has a program called “Little Makers” with different classes in various arts and crafts. Most of them are geared towards children 8 and older, some are designed for younger children, ages 5 and up. Also, most of their classes cost, some $20 or more, some $10 or less. If you have AC Moore near you, they have “Summer Fun Wednesday” classes from 1-3pm each Wednesday.
  • Home Depot and Lowe’s also have free kids’ workshops throughout the year.
  • The Lego Store also has a monthly Mini Model workshop where each attendee can build and take home a mini model. You have to register for these right away, though, as they are quite popular!
  • If cooking is more your thing, and you have one near by, try Williams-Sonoma’s free Junior Chef classes.
  • Microsoft stores and Apple stores have kids’ programs (ages 8 and up) for the more technologically-minded.

Bust summer boredom with summer camp at home #summer #kids5. Fun & Relaxation

What’s summer without fun? I mean the kind of fun that doesn’t have any other purpose! I check out Facebook groups, local blogs and websites for links to free and cheap fun summer activities. Local libraries are also a great source of fun kids programs in the summer and all year long.

Here are some of the fun things we’ll be doing this summer:

  • Free/Cheap kids’ movies from several different local theaters. Regal Entertainment is one that offers $1 kids movies once or twice a week throughout the summer.
  • Downtime at home: we don’t have a lot of time during the school year to watch TV or play video games, so I let my kids have some free downtime during the summer to do those things.
  • Playdates: We’ve had a couple already and have scheduled a couple more. We are especially looking forward to spending more time with friends we don’t get to see as often during the school year.
  • We also hope to schedule a few day or weekend trips throughout the summer, just to relax and get away and “feel” like vacation.
  • And finally, when my husband and I go on a missions trip to … wait for it… Arkansas!… my in-laws will be watching The Boyz for a week, so they get a whole full week with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, & Cousins!

So how do you do summer at home? Do you continue school? Try to maintain structure to one extent or another, or just let the lazy summer days ride on by? 

Sharing at Mommy Monday

Copycat Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This post was originally published in June, 2009. Copycat Panera Apple Chicken SaladI haven’t blogged in a few days because we went up to Lancaster, PA to visit with some family and have a short mini-vacation. Vacations are always fun, but, especially when it’s such a short vacation, it’s sometimes hard to get back home and go back to the daily grind. So I decided to bring some of my vacation home with me.

I decided to bring home with me some yummy food I ate while on vacation. Of course, I couldn’t actually bring back the food itself, since it would have gotten quite yucky waiting to be put in my fridge (ew!) so I just brought back the ideaof the food I enjoyed so I could recreate it at home.The first dish I enjoyed was the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera. What I like about their chicken salad is that the apples are dried, not fresh.  Not your leathery, smushy kind of dried, but more like an apple chip dried. The combination of the sweet crunchy apple blended so perfectly with the other flavors in the salad, that it was super delicious!Unfortunately, the only dried apples I had on hand at home were the leathery, smushy variety which simply would not do for my purposes. So I set out to make myself some apple chips.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

First, I cored an apple and sliced off the ends. I could have peeled it as well, but I opted to leave the peel on for color. Besides, the peel was left on in the Panera salad, and since I was attempting to recreate my vacation, I had to follow it as closely as possible.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad
Then I sliced the apple into thin, even slices (unfortunately, some of them I sliced a little TOO thin) and soaked them in lemon water for a few minutes, to limit browning. This step is not necessary unless you want them to be as white as possible.

drying apple chips in ovenThen I lined a baking sheet with wax paper, greased the wax paper and laid the apple slices out in a single layer, with plenty of room between slices. I put this in my oven, on the lowest setting possible (which happens to be 200 on my cheap-o apartment oven) for about 45 minutes. It would have been better to use a lower setting for a longer period of time, but alas and alack, that was not possible for me!

And here are the apple chips, ready to be put into my Apple Chicken Salad.

 Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

Sharing at Mommy MondayTry a New Recipe Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday 

3 Christian Novels You’ll Want to Read

3 Christian Novels You'll Want to Read #chc #summerbookclub   Intelligent folk have long debated the merits and drawbacks of novels. I’ve already thrown my hat into that ring with my ode to reading, so I’ll just stick to this for now: a well-written novel can effectively reach you and teach you on a deeper level than any other kind of book could. When that book is written from a Christian worldview and remains true to Biblical truth, even more so. I’ve chosen for this blog post a few Christian novels that have spoken to me in such a way, books that challenged my thinking, brought me closer to Jesus Christ, and drew me deeper into God’s Word to understand His truth for myself. Not very many novels accomplish this, at least not at the level of the books I’ve chosen. The few books I will mention here are worth every minute of time, and every dime, you might invest in them. You will not feel in the least bit guilty when you’re finished with them!

1. Christy

I’ll start with a classic Christian novel, and really one of the earliest of its genre; it bridges the gap between an era when a large majority of novels were written from a Christian worldview because that’s just what the worldview was in general, and the era we live in now with a sharp divide between Christian and secular fiction. For many years in a row, I read Christy by Catherine Marshall over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday just to get my year off to a good start. I haven’t done that in some time, but this is one of a handful of books I do pick up and read again on occasion. Christy tells the inspiring story – based on a true story – of a young lady who answers the sudden call of God on her heart to go and love the unlovable. Her idealistic beginning is quickly tempered by reality, but her love for the people of God’s calling grew in its sincerity and intensity. So many scenes from the book run through my mind – the young girl who follows her around just begging for attention, the young man who lived in squalor and filth and the parents who saw no way out of that, the family driven by hate and fear that wanted her to stay away, and the young mother who passed away from a dreaded disease that ravished the community. There are parts of the book where I laugh out loud, and there are parts where I ugly cry with big fat sobs. And there are even parts that I underline and write down in my quote book, like this one:

What do you do when strength is called for and you have no strength? You evoke a power beyond your own and use stamina you didn’t know you had. You open your eyes in the morning grateful that you can see the sunlight of yet another day. You draw yourself to the edge of the bed and then put one foot in front of the other and keep going. ~Catherine Marshall

A beautiful love story is woven throughout the book, but it’s not the main focus of the story. And I can’t give away the ending because… well, you’ll just have to read it.

2. The Last Sin-Eater

The last …what? Yeah, I know… weird, right? It sounds more like a fantasy novel or something than a Christian novel, but that’s really what it’s called. And it really was a thing, back in the day among the hill people who emigrated to this country from Scotland. Most people are familiar with Francine River’s other more popular novel, Redeeming Love, but this one is my favorite of hers. The Last Sin-Eater starts out as if it’s just a story about a little girl who feels alone and lost, rejected by her family and her little world. But God sees her and sees the pain of her heart, and He uses her in a remarkable way to trigger change and healing in her, her family, and her entire community; in the end, the story is really about the deepest needs of our hearts and how they can only be met in the sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus Christ. This book has many elements that work together to create a mesmerizing, spell-binding tale of guilt and tragedy, and the healing redemptive power of forgiveness and love: mystery, drama, secrecy, heavy burdens, mysterious visitors, and love from surprising sources. In fact, I believe this book is an excellent evangelistic tool for book-loving friends because it tells the Gospel beautifully within its pages.

3. The Price of Privilege

This is a recent addition to my Top 3 List of Favorite Christian Novels EVER, since I discovered it just a few months ago. In fact, this is the book that spurned my renewed interest in and dedication to reading because it was just. that. good. It’s actually a huge novel that’s been split into 3 books for easier reading: Born of Persuasion, Mark of Distinction, and Price of Privilege. This serial book by Jessica Dotta is the most well-written contemporary novel I’ve ever read, period. It mimics the Gothic novel style of the early 1800’s, drawing the best out of that genre without succumbing to its maudlin sensationalism, balancing it with elements of Victorian style a la the Brontes and even a bit of Austen-like Regency. The intricacies of the plot line and the characters and the story they tell you are masterful. But the excellent writing technique is not the main reason I love this book. I’m going to be 100% honest and say the biggest reason I love this book is because I love the hero of the story, Lord Isaac Dalry. Seriously, you just need to read the book because of him. And honestly? I think the author intended for you to feel just that way because in my opinion Lord Isaac Dalry in this story is a type of Christ, illustrating Christ’s redemptive and sacrificial love for each one of us. After reading the entire series twice in a row, I decided that in addition to being a Gothic-Victorian-Regency novel, this book contains incredible symbolism worthy of C.S. Lewis. You can read my entire theory about this on my review at Goodreads. 

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Something From Nothing: Bread Crumbs from Stale Bread

Something from Nothing: bread crumbs from stale breadWait! Before you throw it away, think for a second. Can you use it for something else? Frugality is not only saving your money when purchasing, it is saving your money by getting everything out of what you have already purchased. I read somewhere that the frugal person’s motto was the same as the environmentalist’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If we all followed that motto, we’d save a lot of resources, in our homes and around the world.

For starters, what about that stale bread? Or those end slices no one wants to eat? Whatever you do, don’t throw them away!

Here are just a few ideas of what you can do with stale bread:

  • -bread pudding
  • -croutons
  • -stuffing
  • -french toast
  • -grilled/toasted sandwiches
  • -and my personal favorite, bread crumbs

How to Make Bread Crumbs

Whenever I have stale bread, or leftover chunks or pieces, I never throw them away. Instead, I use it to make bread crumbs. If I don’t have time at the moment, I bag them and put them in the freezer until I do. Some people keep a bag in their freezer for just such a purpose; every time they have some extra bread, they throw it in there and make a big batch of bread crumbs when they’ve collected enough.

Bread crumbs can be used for a variety of purposes, the main one being to bread meat such as chicken or fish before baking it. This adds flavor and texture. Bread crumbs are also used in meat loaf, or as a topping for a casserole or cooked vegetables. They also add nice crunch and a pretty touch sprinkled on thick soups, such as potato or chowders.

There are about as many different ways and methods of making bread crumbs as there are uses for them, but this is what I do:

Easy Bread Crumbs
Rip the bread into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until fine. Add spices to your liking (I like to use Italian spices such as oregano, basil, parsley, etc.), even grated parmesan cheese or garlic or onion powder, and pulse once or twice in the processor to blend it together. Spread in a fine layer on a cookie sheet and leave in a warm oven until very dry. I like to leave it in there for quite some time – half an hour or so – just to be sure all the moisture is gone so I can store it longer. Cool the bread crumbs and store in a tightly covered container (I reuse an applesauce jar for this purpose) in the cupboard. Alternatively, you can store it in a plastic bag in the freezer.

For meat loaf and some other uses, you may want soft bread crumbs. In this case, all you need to do is pulse the bread chunks in the food processor a couple times until you have coarse crumbs. Keep those crumbs in the freezer until your next meat loaf!

3 Books Every Christian Should Read

3 Books Every Christian Should Read #CHC #summerbookclubFirst of all, let’s make sure the obvious is indeed obvious to everyone: The Bible remains THE Book of utmost importance to every individual, but especially to Christians. It goes without saying that we need God’s Word in our daily lives in the same way we need food and water. No other book is essential to life, and no other book can take its place. Having said that, some authors have been blessed with the gift of teaching and exhorting fellow believers through the written word. By their lives and their testimonies, they help us to better understand the truth of God’s Word, and draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. A well-written Christian book  always leads us directly to God and His Word and His truth. My requirements when selecting these recommendations for you were that each book remain true to Scripture in philosophy and theology, in addition to being well-written and easy to read. Beyond all that, it had to be used of God in my own life as a catalyst for change; in other words, life-changing. These are the books God has used most profoundly in my life to teach me more about Him, His ways, and His word:

1. Grace for the Good Girl

The Christian life is really a journey of grace: it begins with grace, it is driven and led by grace, it is followed and surrounded by grace, and it is ultimately finished and fulfilled by grace. If each of us breathed in and breathed out the grace of God each day, all day, what a different place this world would be! I didn’t really contemplate the role of grace in my Christian walk (sad, I know!) until I read this book. God used the truth in this book to make me aware of His grace already at work in me, and to show me how much deeper in His grace He wanted me to go. Eyes opened, blinders dropped! It was a huge turning point for me on my journey of grace, and I’m so thankful I read Grace for the Good Girl (which, incidentally, is written by fellow blogger Emily Freeman).  If you, like me, were raised in a good Christian family with devoted Christian parents, and you know everything that you are SUPPOSED to be, but you feel like you never quite measure up (or, let’s be honest, you just feel like a complete and total failure) to those expectations… you need to read this book. It is a must.

2. With Christ in the School of Prayer

This is by far the most informative and practical book I have read about the discipline of prayer. A classic from the early 1900’s, the format of  With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray appeals to my teacher heart with its clear outline and systematic approach. In it, Murray walks us through all of Christ’s teaching on the topic of prayer, meditating and expounding  on each verse individually until a full and complete picture of the true prayer life emerges. He closes each chapter with a sample prayer, illustrating the teaching contained in that chapter.

Although it was written more than a hundred years ago, the language flows smoothly, and its very readable for today’s audience. Truly a timeless classic every Christian should read!

3. Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God

For this third and final recommendation, I was almost forced to flip a coin! In truth, the books I vacillated between were really two sides of a coin: one discussed the difficulties and merits of a sacrificial life devoted to Christ, and the other portrayed the life of a person who chose that path of sacrificial living. In the end, I went with the latter, because even though I read it probably 20 years ago, it made such an impression on me that I still recall the lessons I learned when reading it. (For the curious among you, the other book I debated selecting was Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.)

Oswald Chambers:Abandoned to God was one of my few high school reading assignments that I actually enjoyed (which is not to say that my reading assignments were that bad… only that my rebellious heart automatically resented reading anything I was forced to!). “Enjoyed” is really the wrong term – I was quite enthralled by this book and it impacted me for life. Oswald Chambers is, of course, the author of the famous devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest“, as well as several other lesser-known devotionals. He lived out the principles that he laid out in his famous devotional, which was actually taken from his sermons as a YMCA chaplain in Egypt during WWI. Chambers’ devotion to His Lord inspired me as a teenager to live my own life accordingly: even if you’re not a big fan of biographies (I’m not to be honest), I highly recommend this one!

And other suggested reading…

It occurred to me as I wrote this post that it was difficult for me to narrow my choices down to 3 specific books mostly because I have quite a few favorite Christian authors who all have multiple books I can recommend. I’ve been challenged and inspired by every book I’ve read from these authors:

Additionally, I highly recommend the following authors for theologically sound and well-written books on Christian subjects:

There are a lot more worthy authors, to be sure, but those are my personal recommendations.

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Tips for Shopping at the Farmers’ Market

Tips for Shopping at the Farmers' MarketOne of my favorite places is the farmer’s market, especially now that I live right down the street from the biggest farmers’ market I’ve ever seen. Now this might not fit into a frugal mindset, considering that farmer’s markets aren’t necessarily known to have low prices. But I love the farmer’s markets despite the higher prices for the following reasons:

1. The produce is local. Local produce is the freshest possible produce meaning it has the most possible nutrients. The longer produce sits around and the more that is done to preserve its life, the fewer nutrients it contains.

2. I’m helping out local farmers. I am not politically involved in this issue at all, but I do feel sad sometimes to see small family farms giving way to new construction. I also feel that over all, if our food supply was more local, it would be healthier. Quality control is easier on a small farm than on a huge corporation-type farm.

Besides, it is possible to find good deals at the farmer’s market, or at least comparable pricing. Here are some tricks to combine health and frugality at the farmer’s market:

1. Go later in the day. Farmers will begin to mark down produce that hasn’t sold – they don’t want to bring anything home. Of course, selection will not be as good.

2. Be willing to buy seconds. Some farmers offer produce that’s not quite perfect at a discounted price.

3. Shop around. Before I purchase anything, I walk through the entire market and scope it out. Usually, the farmers are offering essentially the same things so I find out who has the best price. I’ll buy cantaloupe from one farmer, apples from another, zucchini from another… you get the idea.

4. Compare apples to apples. Funny, huh? But seriously. Don’t compare the farmers’ market price to the sales price at your local grocery store, because those aren’t the same kind of apples. Compare farmers’ market prices to organic prices because they’re a lot closer to each other in terms of comparable quality. You’ll probably find that you come out better in the end when shopping at the farmers’ market.

5. Stick with cheaper produce items. If you’re tight on money, focus on what gives you the biggest bang for your buck: compare serving sizes to prices. A watermelon and a pint of berries might be the same price, but which gives you more servings? I also prefer to buy lettuce and squash (when they are in season, usually not simultaneously!)  to other types of produce that don’t go quite as far.

What are your tips for getting the most out of your farmers’ market?