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? 

Top 3 Classics Everyone Should Read

Note: This post contains links to books available at great prices on ThriftBooks and Amazon. Thanks for supporting Authentic Simplicity!3 classics everyone should read #chc #summerbookclub

Because previous generations were considerably more verbose and eloquent than our own, classic literature can sometimes be difficult to slog through. Besides which, some of you can probably recall tortured hours spent forcing yourselves through required reading for high school American and British literature classes, and the resulting horror left by the trauma is enough to cause you to swear off classics forever.

How do you feel about classics? Do you love delving into books that have stood the test of time, or do you prefer more contemporary reads? I’m somewhere in the middle: I love a good classic that I can sink my teeth into, but I also love reading contemporary novels, particularly ones by (select) Christian authors.

As a child, I was introduced to great children’s literature authors such as Frances Hodgson Burnett, Louisa May Alcott (Jack and Jill was my favorite novel as a child), Beverly Cleary, Mary Mapes Dodge (Ahhh, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates!), EB White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many more.  As a young teenager, aside from my school reading assignments, the first real “adult” classic book I read, I remember quite well: It was an abridged version of Les Miserables, and I was transfixed! I read a few American authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton (Age of Innocence I read first, after watching the movie, which is excellent), but quickly found that my favorites were all Brits: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Thomas Hardy, to name a few.

Narrowing down my list of favorite classics to just 3 is pretty much an impossible task! There are SO many wonderful books out there waiting for a brand-new audience. Decisions, decisions! In the end, I’ve decided to offer you 3 obvious favorites that you’ve probably already read, and then 3 less popular (but just as wonderful) companion suggestions to go with my favorites. And I might not be able to constrain myself to just 3. Ahem.

1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables
Victor Hugo

This one’s a no-brainer for me, personally. It was my first “adult” classic, as I said, and it remains my favorite. I’ve read it multiple times, memorized the musical, and even though I don’t read French (don’t speak it, either!), I own an antique copy of Les Miserables in its original language. Yeah, I’m a little obsessed. And why not? Les Miserables is a classic for excellent reasons: it’s an eternal tale of good vs. evil, but even beyond that, it’s a tale of justice vs. mercy. It’s an epic illustration of the spiritual truth that righteousness and mercy are not exclusive… and that God can redeem even the hardest heart and the most horrible situation, IF we let Him. Key word being IF. The main character, Jean Valjean, demonstrates vividly how God can shape and mold a life that exudes both righteousness and mercy, and use that life to touch other lives in beautiful ways.

In my very humble opinion, no life is complete without having read Les Miserables. At least twice. (Although, I do give you permission to skip the chapter about sewers. I promise you, there’s nothing in that chapter that will benefit your life ever. I forced myself to read it so I could say I read the *entire* book… but I totally wish I had that hour of my life back. Just trust me.)

…and also Hernani, by Victor Hugo

Works of Victor Hugo, The: One Volume Edition: Poems, Novels, Stories of Crime, Dramas & Essays
Victor Hugo

And once you’ve read Les Mis (as all fans affectionately call it), try one of Victor Hugo’s plays on for size. It’s considerably shorter than his massive epic novel, and filled with brilliant sparkling dialogue. It’s kind of like the French version of Shakespeare, only it’s set in Spain: it’s swashbuckling and ever-so-dramatic and really just a lot of fun. In short, nothing like Les Mis. Like I said, read Les Mis first because that’s more important, but then read Hernani. Good stuff.

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre (Puffin Classics)
Charlotte Bronte

Again, everybody knows this one; it’s another no-brainer. In fact, you probably already read it for your high school literature class. If you somehow escaped reading it during the course of your life thus far, remedy the situation immediately and go read Jane Eyre right now. Your life will not be complete until you do, as everyone who has read it understands perfectly. Because, seriously. Mr. Rochester. That’s all we have to say!

But to pursue the issue further, I’ll also say this: Jane Eyre is a classic story because in the end, it’s about how a good girl finally gets what she deserves. It takes her a long time, and she has to go through more than any person should ever have to, but she manages to maneuver all that life throws her and still keep her integrity intact. Good girls win in the end!

…but even more importantly, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (The World’s Classics)
Anne Brontë

But since you’ve probably already read Jane Eyre and you know all that, you need to read a lesser-known but probably better-written (at least according to some folks, me included) book written by Charlotte’s sister Anne. I might be partial to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall just because I share the author’s name, but honestly, the book is amazing. Again, it’s about a good girl who does her best to live with integrity in the face of terrible odds, including a worse-than-no-good husband who lives only for himself. She treats him far better than he deserves, and exemplifies true Christ-like love in the face of his terrible treatment of her. And, in return, eventually she is rewarded her measure of happiness. It’s a beautiful but tragic story, heart-rending and convicting. It’s my favorite Bronte book. 

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen

I’m a serious Jane Austen fan. I’m an Austen completist, meaning I’ve read every single thing she wrote, except for maybe all her letters, just so I can say I’ve read everything she ever wrote. Chances are, you’ve also read Pride and Prejudice, which is her most popular novel, and for good reason. Aside from the fact that the writing just flows, making it an easy read, Pride and Prejudice is so incredibly popular because of its characters; they’re flawed and full of foibles, but ever so lovable, likable… and totally relatable. You see echoes of Jane, Lizzy, Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bingley, and Charlotte in the people you know and love in real life. Probably you don’t see a lot of Mr. Darcy in your real life acquaintances, but that’s because he’s one in a million.

So, yeah, maybe the real reason we all love Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Darcy. Upon further reflection… Yes. Definitely. 

…and then Mr. Knightley, I mean, Emma

Emma (Modern Library Classics)
Jane Austen

But Mr. Darcy is not Jane Austen’s only swoon-worthy hero. I have a little bit of a crush (OK a big one) on Mr. Knightley, too. If you’re not aware of him, you’ll find him in the pages of Emma, Austen’s 3rd most popular novel (Sense and Sensibility is in between those two, but it’s not my favorite). He’s just such a good guy, without the stuffiness of Mr. Darcy, and he loves Emma so tenderly. Being something of a busy-body and a would-be matchmaker, while at the same time not wholly self-aware, she can be kind of difficult to manage, let alone love. But Mr. Knightley brings out the best in her, which is the way every romantic relationship should work.

So right after you read Pride and Prejudice (if you haven’t already), read Emma next. You’ll love it, I promise.

4. BONUS: Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics)
Leo Tolstoy

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of Russian classics, even though I lived in Russia for a few years. This is admittedly a failing on my part, because Russian literature is generally highly regarded by the folks who know about this kind of stuff, but … I just can’t.

With a select few notable exceptions, the main one being Anna Karenina. It contains all the elements that hinder me from enjoying Russian literature in general (it’s huge, it has a very large cast of characters that can be difficult to keep track of, it’s rather pessimistic in its realistic approach to life, it has a tragic ending, and it can be dry reading at times), but even so, it manages to be one of my favorites. It takes you on the journey of a young woman who loses her moral compass and begins to make choices based on what pleases her, and you clearly see the effects of those choices on everyone around her, and eventually, the toll they take on her personally. It’s sad and it ends in a horrific tragedy, but the fact is there’s no way a story like that can ever end happily, whether in real life or in a book.

But Anna Karenina is much more than a cautionary tale: there’s romance, there are characters both deep and shallow, there’s an intriguing glimpse into historic Russian society, and an even more intriguing glimpse into the famous Russian soul.

…and then there are the short stories

If you’re not quite up to the challenge of Anna Karenina (no judgment here!), you must try some of Tolstoy’s short stories. In particular, I recommend What Men Live By, How Much Land Does a Man Need?, and Where Love Is, There God Is Also.

5. Oops. One More.

Rilla of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables, No. 8)
Montgomery, L.M.

This one’s for the girls in your family. Or for your inner girl. It’s innocent enough to suit a young lady, but insightful enough to appeal to a grown woman. The book I have in mind is also a culmination of books and, although it stands on its own, is really meant to be enjoyed upon the background of its predecessors.

The book I’m speaking of is Rilla of Ingleside. I’m sure you are very familiar already with the classic book Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Many people don’t realize that an entire series of books follows Anne of Green Gables, chronicling her life after her girlhood years with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert: her years at college, her teaching career, her romances and eventual marriage, and her children.

The final book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside, comes full circle and details the coming of age years of Anne’s own daughter Rilla (short for Marilla). I’ve never read another book that so accurately describes the thoughts and emotions of a young girl slowly growing into a young lady. I read it when I was around the same age as the girl in the story, and I identified so much with many of her inner wonderings and struggles. However, Rilla’s story is set against the turbulent backdrop of the first World War, and as such, Rilla encounters situations that force her to grow up much faster than the average girl of my generation. It’s a beautiful story and I love it almost as much as I love the original book in the series.

OK. I’m really done now. Those are my top 3 (er… 4… or 5…. or more!) favorite classics that I think everyone should read regardless of their preferred genre.

What books would you add to my list?

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. 

Where to Buy Books {For Cheap!}

Where to Buy Books for a great price. #chc #summerbookclubI’m so glad I don’t live back in the day (really, not so long ago, only a couple generations removed from our time) when books were a luxury, only affordable for the well-to-do. I’m grateful when I realize that I can read a new book every day if I wanted to, unlike women of the past who read and re-read the same book because it was the only one they could access.

In fact, such a situation seems so far removed from me that it’s hard to fathom, and yet I know such a time existed in reality (and still does in many parts of the world). There is no reason the average American cannot educate themselves today, given the ready – and cheap – access we have to books of all kinds.

Even so, the price of books can be daunting, especially if your budget is tight and you’re looking at hot-off-the-press options. If you, like me, can’t afford to shell out $15-20 for each new book that hits the market, read on to find my tips for affording your reading habit.

1. Adjust your expectations.

Ultimately, you won’t be able to read every bestseller that comes on the market if you’re on a tight budget. If your budget looks like mine, you won’t even be able to read the latest books from your favorite authors as soon as they come on the scene.

But you can still read… and read a lot! While there’s certainly a plethora of junk books that aren’t worth your time, you can find plenty of worthy reads that don’t demand top dollar. Just adjust your expectations and maybe your tastes; be willing to read offerings like last year’s bestseller, classic novels from 100 years ago or more, great reads from more obscure authors, and other less expensive options. 

If you really want to read the latest novel, get hooked into your local public library system. More than likely, there will be waiting lists for the most popular books, but libraries generally order many copies so you can get your hands on the book pretty quickly, all things considered.

2. Go digital.

Yes, I know, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands, and honestly, there are some types of books I really hate reading on a device (cookbooks, for example, or reference books of any kind). But because of the lower overhead costs, digital books are considerably cheaper than their hard-copy alternatives, so I almost always choose the digital option, especially when it comes to fiction and classics.

And you don’t have to buy a fancy Kindle to read eBooks, either. The Amazon Kindle app is free and works on almost every device, including smart phones and computers. also has a free reader app.

3. Follow digital deal listings.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the Free & Cheap listings on Amazon Kindle, so I prefer to follow a few different services that notify me of book deals that might interest me. Here are a few services you might consider:

  • BookBub sends you daily emails with the top one or two book deals in categories you select. This has been my favorite service because it really does send me only eBooks that are likely to interest me. I’ve read some really great books for $2 or less using this service.
  • highlights book deals specifically for women, many of them Christian. You can sign up to receive regular email updates so you don’t ever miss a great deal.
  • Spirit-Filled Kindle features Christian books. What I like about this site is that they don’t just post any and all Christian books available; they only post ones they have read or their readers recommend.
  • If you’re on Goodreads or Facebook, search for groups that discuss and share genres you like to read. If the group is active, chances are they frequently share deals they come across that other group members might like. There are even groups that exist solely for the purpose of sharing great book deals.

4. Buy used books.

Books, like cars, lose their value quickly. (Unless, like cars, they’re antique. Then they start getting expensive again.) And, like cars, the sage advice remains: Always buy used. I don’t even know the last time I actually bought a brand-new book. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only brand-new books I own are ones that were given to me for birthdays and Christmas. Other than that, I only buy used.

My favorite places to buy used books are:

  • Thrift Stores: Talk about ridiculously low prices! Thrift stores receive TONS of books and so are typically quite desirous of keeping a steady rate of turnover going, henceforth they often price their paperbacks at $0.25-0.50 (or less) and hardbacks at around $1. You’ll have to dig for a good book, but trust me. You’ll be happy you did.
  • Library Sales: Most libraries have an ongoing sale of used books, even if it’s only a shelf in the corner of the library entrance. They are also typically quite inexpensive, usually around $2 for most books (more for specialty books). Most libraries also typically offer an annual book sale where they have boxes and boxes and boxes of books available for pretty cheap (depending on the library system and the organization that puts on the sale). These sales are particularly a good place to find children’s books.
  • Garage/Yard Sales: Sometimes people try to charge too much for their used books ($5 for a hardcover cookbook? Really?), but you can also find some really good deals. Depending on your tastes in books, it might be difficult to find someone with books you actually want to read, but once you do… it will make you very happy.
  • Used Book Stores: Used book stores are often pricier than the other options I’ve listed, but they also often have a store credit program, which makes them more affordable. Typically, it works this way: you bring in used books (perhaps ones you’ve bought for $0.50 at the thrift store) that they purchase from you by giving you store credit and you use that store credit to buy books that you really want to read. The trick is to bring them books that they know they will sell: best-selling novels from 10 years ago probably aren’t going to interest them much.
  • Once again, there are Facebook groups in various genres where members can post books they want to sell. You can post your own books that you no longer want, or buy them from other readers at a discounted price.
  • I recently discovered this site and it has become my number one favorite place to buy used books. If you buy $10 or more in books (most books are priced around $3.59, so that’s approximately 3 books), shipping is free. Plus, any book with a “Deal” tag on it qualifies for their package deals: 2 books for $7, 3 books for $10, 4 books for $12, additional books $3 each. I always try ThriftBooks first if the book I want is not available in a digital copy, or is one that I’d prefer to have in hard copy. I also always compare the price of a digital book to the price at ThriftBooks; and if it’s just as good a deal, I’ll go ahead and get the actual hard-copy one. All the books I’ve purchased here have been in excellent condition and I’ve been very pleased with the speed of shipping (not as fast as Amazon, but hey, who is?!).

 5. Borrow from friends and family.

So my oldest sister has a reading habit that she can afford to indulge. And since we have some overlapping tastes in reading, I’m pretty much guaranteed to find something of interest when I browse through her stacks (and yes, she has stacks upon stacks) of books. I’ve also borrowed and traded books (even on Kindle) with other friends and family – it’s a great way to read a book that interests you but you’re not necessarily planning on adding to your library. And hey, if you decide you do want to add it to your library, you can certainly purchase it for yourself later on.

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. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

Make Time to Read

Make Time to Read #chc #summerbookclubThere was a time not so very long ago (actually, it’s pretty recent history), when I believed that reading was a luxury enjoyed by those who had more time on their hands than I did. My sisters and friends would talk about this book or that book and I’d think, “Man, I wish I had time to read!” Not that I never read – that would have been sad indeed – but I didn’t read very much. I either read in stolen moments here and there (like in the only room in the house where a person has a little privacy if you know what I mean), or I’d binge-read late into the night and regret it the next day.

Then one day, I happened to read a really really really really REALLY good book (more on that book in another week or two), and suddenly my love of reading came rushing back to me and I remembered what I was missing. From that point on, me and my Kindle (and Thrift Books and library sales and my own neglected bookshelf) have been inseparable and I’ve been reading several books a week (have to make up for lost time, you know).

So if you’re in the place where I was not so very long ago, I have good news for you: yes, my friend, you DO have time to read. You just have to make the time!

If it helps you, this is how I made time for reading in my life.

1. I realized its importance.

Reading became a priority when, about a week or two after I started reading regularly again, I was amazed to find that my spirit was more settled than it had been in a long time, my relationship with my husband was better than ever, and I was enjoying myself immensely. It had been a really long time since I had felt so relaxed and at peace, and I’m pretty sure that reading played a large part in that. When talking about it with my husband, he agreed that he could see a difference in me when I spent more time reading, and he encouraged me to continue.

From that point, I consciously made an effort to read more, and I gave myself permission to do so. It’s not a chore for me – I love reading! – so it’s not like I have to force myself, but I do have to overcome that mommy guilt if I ever feel like I’m neglecting other tasks for the sake of reading. Acknowledging the importance of reading in my own spiritual and emotional well-being went a long way in assuaging that persistent mommy guilt. 

2. I deleted Facebook from my phone.

Back when I kept telling myself I didn’t have time to read, I had Facebook (and Candy Crush) on my phone. Guess what I was doing every time there was a lull in conversation or I was waiting in line somewhere? Yep! Facebooking or crushing candy. After a while, Candy Crush became boring so it wasn’t as much of a temptation… but there’s ALWAYS something new on Facebook and I could get lost on there for hours!

One day, for reasons that had nothing to do with the current topic of conversation, I decided to delete Facebook from my phone and save it for whenever I was actually on the computer. In terms of time management, it’s the best thing I’ve done in a really long time. I should have done it ages ago! Suddenly, all the time I used to spend on Facebook (it must have been hours) was now freed up for other, more worthier pursuits… like reading. Make time to read. Bring your books with you. #CHC #summerbookclub

3. I keep my current book with me wherever I go.

As a child, this is how I managed to read copious amounts of books in short amounts of time: I always ALWAYS had a book in my hand. Nowadays with smart phones, tablets, and Kindles, it’s super easy to always have a book at your fingertips. I even have a medium-sized purse that fits almost all paperbacks, so I take real books with me everywhere I go, too. That way, if I’m waiting around somewhere for somebody or something (which happens surprisingly a lot), I whip out my book (or smart phone or tablet) and start reading away.

4. I read whenever I can.

I’m learning my limits on this: for example, when The Boyz are crazy in the backseat of the van, I can’t read. (I hope it goes without saying that in this scenario I’m the passenger, not the driver!) I have to engage with them or they will start doing things that make my eyeballs pop out of my head and wonder if they’re really human and if it’s possible they actually came from my body. Either that or I will start screaming. So I’ve learned that while riding in the van is a great time to read, it’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not a good idea of The Boyz are in a mood. 

I also have a strict rule for myself about not reading when eating out or at the dinner table. Mostly because I want to teach my boys not to always have their nose buried in an electronic device when spending time together, and it’s my job to set the example for that.

Otherwise, I squeeze my reading into available moments like these:

  • in the bathroom (the perennial favorite of busy moms everywhere)
  • in the bathroom (not only when I’m taking care of business but when I’m doing my hair or getting dressed or slathering myself with oils, I have a book propped up so I can read it while I’m busy)
  • riding in a car or other transportation (except for when The Boyz are crazy or we’re having good conversation)
  • waiting in a hair salon, doctor’s office, at school, etc.
  • in the evening before I go to bed
  • when I’m cooking (I prop the book up and read it whenever I’m standing still long enough. This is also a good opportunity to take advantage of audio books.)
  • watching TV (I try to stick to watching it during commercials because it drives my husband crazy when I try to read AND watch a TV show at the same time. I kind of see his logic. But sometimes a book is just that good, you know?)
  • at nap time (I’m a preschool teacher. Yay! for nap time!)

DSC07223-B5. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks.

I’ve discovered that audiobooks really aren’t my thing, but sometimes it’s the only way to get reading in. The problem is that if  it’s a book no one else in my family is interested in (which is probably 99.9% of what I read) then I have to wear earphones which makes me very inaccessible to the needy people in the house (which is all of them). Plus when my mind is not actively engaged in the reading process, my mind tends to wander and daydream and collect dust bunnies and I end up missing half the story. Consequently, I’ve discovered that the only time audiobooks really work for me is when I’m in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes.

You, however, might find that audiobooks are the perfect solution for you!

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. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

Why You Should Read {And Not Feel Guilty About It}

Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

As a child, I was the textbook image of what people are thinking when they use the phrase “avid reader”. I have a horrible sense of direction – can’t find my way out of a paper bag, and no kidding! – because from the time I could sound out words, I brought a book with me everywhere I went, especially in the car. I can remember pleasant days spent in my room lying in all sorts of crazy positions on my bed, reading, reading, reading, and laughing out loud hilariously at Beezus, Henry, and other characters in Beverly Cleary’s stories. I was always in the middle of reading one book or another, and always had a book close at hand (or in my hand!).

This trend continued throughout my elementary years and on into high school, where I read a steady diet of mostly classic novels, with a few biographies and Christian fiction novels thrown in for good measure. In my late teens, I lived in Moscow, Russia, and I used the hours and hours of riding on the public transit system to read, read, and read some more.

Fast forward to the time when I started working full-time… and then got married and had my own house to keep… and then children came on the scene. With the exception of the time I spent breast-feeding my little ones (hey, that’s some great reading time, there!), I found that I rarely had time to indulge in my favorite pastime. Or, at any rate, I felt so pressured by all my responsibilities that seemed more important that I rarely took the time.

Now? I still work full-time, I’m still married, I still have a home to keep, and I still have 2 young children, but I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading. I’ve also discovered that the benefits of reading go far beyond mere pleasure and I no longer feel guilty when I make the time to read. In fact, I’ve learned that it’s a priority for me, right up there with keeping the house clean and getting dressed in the morning. With the modern convenience of Kindle (and a larger purse where I can stuff a paperback if necessary), I always have a book handy to read in stolen moments. 

My challenge to you is this: no matter your season in life, make time to read. I look back regretfully on those intervening years where I consciously made the decision not to read and to focus on other things that demanded my attention, and wish I had taken the time to read.

Why do I think you should take time to read? Personally, I feel like the benefits of reading a good book go far above and beyond the mere pleasure it brings to passing time.  I would go so far as to say that aside from spending time with your Heavenly Father and your earthly family and friends, reading books is the best thing you can do for your mind and your spirit. Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

1. Reading relaxes the mind.

And this is a good thing! As women (many of us wives and mothers), we have a constantly running mental list of things to do and things to worry about. That constant track resounding in your head serves a good purpose (otherwise, how would anything ever get done?!) but it gets tiresome. It depresses, it weighs you down, it stresses you out, and it leaves you in a cranky, irritable state that no one enjoys – not even you!

I’m not saying you need to eliminate this mental process from your life – like I said, it serves a worthy purpose – but you absolutely do need a break from it. A break from your never-ending responsibilities gives you a chance to re-charge and attack those responsibilities with renewed vigor when you return to them. Life is a beautiful rhythm of work and rest, and you need to develop the habit of resting your brain and relaxing the internal pressure that you place on yourself.

 Reading provides a wonderful way to temporarily silence this running mental track that exhausts you physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Not all books are suitable for this purpose – books about dieting, housecleaning, or child-rearing, while valuable for other reasons, will probably have the opposite effect! In my family, we call books that provide a mental escape “brain candy”, i.e., damaging if you make it a steady mental diet, but pleasurable and not harmful on occasion. Brain candy books are kind of short and fluffy – just a light story without any real depth that gives you a mental break and a chance to recoup your thoughts for dealing with real life and its real troubles. 

But brain candy isn’t the only type of reading that relaxes your mind – anything that directs your thoughts away from their usual well-run course of dishes to do, bathrooms to clean, homework to supervise, menus to plan, will serve the purpose admirably. I like to intersperse brain candy with other selections that have benefits beyond relaxation.

2. Reading informs the mind.

Now this is a given, and it doesn’t only apply to non-fiction. Even a well-written piece of fiction can inform you about a time and place that is otherwise foreign to you. I’ve learned about Philadelphia Quakers during the American Revolution, the earliest settlers in the “wild west” (prior to the Louisiana Purchase) and all that they faced, turn-of-the-century immigrants and the struggles they endured, the life of a Caribbean pirate in the 1800′s, silk farmers in India, Jews in the time of Christ, medieval lords and peasants, and many more, all from novels. A well-researched novel (sometimes a novel makes me so curious about a time period or a place that I research it to see if the book was really accurate) can teach you more about history and foreign cultures than any course you could take at school.

Books such as these can make you aware of situations – political, religious and social – that you never even thought about, and can help inform your views about them. A really good book explores various aspects of the topic at hand so you can have a good understanding of the issue and come to reasonable conclusions about it. Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

3. Reading develops empathy.

A well-written book can also delve into the mind of a person in a very different situation in life from your own, and give you glimpses into the heart of another person. However fictional that person might be, you can gain understanding about the driving forces in their life that lead them to make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise understand. Right now, I’m reading a fictional book about a woman who escapes an abusive husband. It’s a situation I have no personal knowledge of, and reading a book about it doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but it does help me understand what that kind of life is like for the women who have to go through it.

Reading doesn’t replace actual experience when it comes to real-life issues like this, but it does help create empathy within you for others who deal with struggles you will never face. In my opinion, that is one of the most powerful gifts that reading can give – to take the chance to walk in another person’s shoes for a while, if only in your imagination.

4. Reading challenges you.

Depending on the type of book, the challenge can be physical, spiritual, or emotional. Non-fiction books can challenge you in your work, your child-rearing, your scheduling, your relationships, your diet and nutrition… anything, really! There’s a book on every subject, so you can certainly find one that will challenge you to be your best in every area of your life.

Even fiction can challenge you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Well, good fiction can. This is where you need more than brain candy! My most favorite books are the ones that challenge either the way I think, the way I feel, or the way I relate to God and my fellow man. These books are the ones I will re-read.

God calls us to do everything in our life heartily – our very best – for His honor and glory. A good book will challenge you to do just that! Why You Should Read - it's not a guilty pleasure

5. Reading connects you to greater minds.

The wonderful thing about God’s creation of humankind is that each one of us has our own working brain, and the thoughts within our mind are privy only to ourselves and to God unless we choose to share them with others. Each one of us thinks in a different way from everyone else, and we all benefit from the glimpses of perspective we receive when other people share their thoughts either verbally or via the written word.

The wonderful thing about the invention of books is that we have access to the great minds of previous generations. Because of the written word and its preservation through the ages, we can learn about those who have gone before us and all that they learned and experienced. In this way, each generation is able to build on the knowledge of previous generations… and if we heeded what they were telling us, we could  avoid a lot of heartache and evil.

I tend to think of the greatest minds in historical terms, because I feel that the test of time is the greatest of all tests in determine the quality of one’s thoughts, but books can connect you to today’s great thinkers and communicators as well.

6. Reading sharpens the mind.

There’s a caveat here: if you just read, mindlessly accepting everything that passes your eye, there will be no mind-sharpening. Or precious little, at any rate. The sharpening of the mind occurs when you read actively, engaging your mind (this is why brain candy needs to be kept to a minimum, or you’ll have brain softening instead!) to discern whether what you’re reading is true or not. 

To read actively, you must ask yourself while you’re reading if what is being said is true or not. Weigh your own knowledge, understanding, and experience against what the book is conveying to you, and decide if you agree or not. What makes the author draw the conclusions he or she draws? What leads a character in a story to make the decision they make? Is God glorified in what is being read? Or is evil lifted up?

This applies to fiction and non-fiction, by the way. Anything that goes into your mind needs to pass a filter that weighs the truth of what is attempting to be absorbed. This can be an exhausting practice but it is essential to get the most out of what you read. And when you read critically in this way, it will sharpen your mind, even as it relaxes you and brings balance to your busy life.

So, busy mom (or college student, or full-time working woman), make some time in your schedule to read! Don’t think of it as a guilty pleasure, think of it as a necessity for your life. Nourishing your mind is just as important as nourishing your body, so do yourself a favor and make time for it.

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. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cakeI always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cakeRecipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour