Thursday, May 31, 2012

Off the Shelf - May

This is the beach edition of Off the Shelf. I spent more time reading this past month than usual, mostly because my other distractions were not available. I'll probably balance it out next month by reading nothing!

Children's Picture Books

Snowflake Bentley - Jacqueline B. Martin
Wonderful illustrations tell the story of an amazing man with the dream of sharing the Vermont snowflakes with the world.

The Good Garden - Katie Smith Milway
A great story about another culture,  good gardening techniques and how one man made a difference in a community.

Mittens - Clare Turlay Newberry
An old classic story - perfect since we acquired a kitten last week.

The Bear that Heard Crying - Natalie Kinsey-Warnack
The true story of Sarah Whitcher. We love Ted Rand's illustrations.

And we had to read some books about lighthouses after our vacation to Outer Banks...

Birdie's Lighthouse by Deborah Hopkinson
Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop
Both these books describe the life of a lighthouse keeper from the perspective of the light house keeper's daughter.

Beacons of Light Lighthouses - Gail Gibbons
Descriptions of lighthouses and the work they do.

Adult Books

Dangerous Minds - Lou Anne Johnson
A teacher of an inner city high school seeks to inspire her students to care about their education. Enjoyable book on the positive impact a person can have by showing love and encouragement. Not from a Christian perspective.

Still Alice - Lisa Genova
A novel that vividly shows the progress of Alzheimer from the perspective of the one who has it. Well written, beautiful story though heart rending. It brought back many memories of my Grandma who died several years ago. Though not from a Christian perspective, I'd recommend the book if you know someone with Alzheimers, especially early onset.
On the same subject, A Promise Kept by Robertson McQuilkin is a wonderful God honoring book on Alzheimers from the caregiver's perspective. Ed and I read it together before we were married and it was a wonderful example of a true commitment in marriage.

Shaking Hands with Mr. Parkinson - Gary Miller
Another book about a terrible disease, this time Parkinson's. The author shares his journey with the disease as well as introduces you to many others who have "shaken hands" with Parkinson's. This book shares the hope and courage that can be found by faith in Christ. I found Gary and his wife Marie's testimony inspiring though the subject is bleak.
If this book whets your appetite to learn more about Gary and Marie, read Awaiting the Dawn. A story of the terrifying night when Guatemalan terrorists took the life of Marie's first husband, John Troyer and wounded Gary.


Heart of Anger - Lou Priolo
Did I tell you that I found a lot of good books this month? This is a  practical, Biblical, toe-mashing how-to manual on defeating anger in your children. I've finished reading the book but it will be much longer until I assimilate all the information in this book. This book takes child training far beyond discipline into reaching the heart. Highly recommended.

Together, Growing Appetites for God - Carrie Ward
Have you wanted to teach your children the Word of God but don't feel well grounded in the Word yourself? Carrie had the same burden and decided to do something radical, read the Bible, from start to finish, with her four pre-school aged children. Carrie is very real and I didn't feel that she was a spiritual giant but just a normal mom with a vision. Short but inspiring book.

I would love to hear what you are reading! And maybe add a few more books to my "must read" list!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you follow the link to Amazon and make a purchase, a teeny tiny fraction will be given to me. Thanks! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Old Fashioned Shortcake

Regina's natural sugar article has inspired me to experiment more with my favorite recipes.

One of the recipes I use often this time of year is shortcake. The recipe we use is more of a biscuit/scone type shortcake. We eat it several times a week while strawberries are in season. With a handful of berries and some fresh milk, it is a refreshing breakfast, light lunch or dessert.

I have found that some recipes are easier than others to change to natural sugars, specifically honey which is usually my number one choice but sometimes changes the consistency. This recipe there was no noticeable difference.

Old Fashioned Shortcake

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 tsp salt
6 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup oil or butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mix flours, salt, and baking powder together. In another bowl mix honey, oil, eggs, and buttermilk.
Combine all together just until mixed. Pour into two greased round cake pans or one 9x13 pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Do not over mix any batter that contains baking powder or soda, such as biscuits, muffins, or pancakes. If there is a few dry floury spots in the dough, you have mixed enough.


Buttermilk - I make my own buttermilk by mixing a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar with a cup of milk. This is so simple and avoids the preservatives found in most purchased buttermilk. 

What is your favorite way to enjoy strawberries?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Hints for Strawberries That I Didn't Follow

I think I know why I've lacked enthusiasm for gardening this year.

Two years ago, we had a bad drought and the garden shriveled up.

Last year, our garden was left to fend for itself as we worked our house addition. The rabbits and ground hogs enjoyed feasting and weeds were given the upper hand.

It was hard for me to get excited about gardening this year. But now that we are starting to harvest from our garden, I'm reminded why I love a garden. Nothing beats eating vegetables freshly picked from the garden.

Strawberries are always one of my favorite things to grow. The investment of time is minimal for the return. Some years our patch has yielded over 75 quart of berries.

But this year's patch is discouraging. Can you tell by the photo two mistakes we made? (The hoops are holding up bird netting.)

1. Thin - During our drought two years ago, some of our strawberry plants died. The whole center of the patch has very few plants. Only the end of the patch is growing well. I should have thinned the plants out, moving them to the empty places, but I didn't. Now the patch is one solid mass of plants at the one end. It is very difficult to pick since there are no rows but worse, crowded plants hinder air flow. This spring has been very wet and rainy which encourages rot and mold.

Don't do as I did. For healthy strawberries, thin the plants to allow air circulation.

2. Weed - Not only were the plants too crowded, but we also allowed weeds to take over. You can't see the strawberry plants growing in the tall grass. There is no way to pull out the grass without pulling out plants so I'm attempting to pick berries amongst the grass. Of course, the competition isn't healthy for the plants and the weeds again hinder air circulation.

Don't do as I did. Keep your strawberry patch free of weeds.

After the berries are over, we plan to revamp this patch, moving plants to the empty places and vigorously working at weed control. If we can clean up the patch and mulch heavily, we should regain control of our patch.

But take a warning from us, and don't allow your patch to ever get this bad. A little maintenance last year would have saved us a headache this spring.

How does your garden grow?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review - Aaron's Civil War

Aaron's Civil War by Romaine Stouffer is a true story of a young man facing the turbulent times of the American Civil War. Like every youth, Aaron confronted the question of whether he will accept the things his parents have taught him or choose his own path.

I don't know in which category to place this book. If I say that Aaron's Civil War is non-fiction, you may write it off as a  boring history. If I say that it is historical fiction, you may think that it is a romanticized story set in a historical setting. This book is neither.

Aaron's choice to chase the adventure and glory of war were in contrast to his Mennonite upbringing which taught him that taking human life was wrong. Aaron thought that enlisting in the army would be a quick way to make money and become a hero, but the horrors of war quickly brought regrets. The book chronicles Aaron's inner turmoil to find peace with God.

The author thoroughly researched the time period and extensively footnoted the book. The farming practices in rural Pennsylvania in the 1800's and the battles in Virginia that Aaron participated in are described in detail. A few fictionalized characters are added to supply detail but the book is true to the known facts of Aaron's life and the times he lived.

If you enjoy Civil War history, if you enjoy a well written story, if you are a youth struggling with your own personal civil war - read Aaron's Civil War. It is available from Christian Light Publications.

I was given a review copy of Aaron's Civil War by the publisher but all opinions in this review are my own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Children + Beach = Fun

 If you take children to the beach, don't expect to spend your day on a beach towel. At least if your children are like ours.

Ed and I were never ones to vegetate on a vacation. Our first anniversary was spent canoe camping on a river in New Hampshire.

But maybe it is showing my age (turned another year older while at the beach last week) that my heart sank a little to hear the excited voices of my children at the crack of dawn each morning on vacation.

It isn't that I didn't want to see my children during vacation. Ed and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary this summer and we thought of all sorts of places that would be fun to visit as an anniversary trip. But we finally decided that we wanted to enjoy vacation with our children. (Not that I think there is anything wrong with spending time alone as a couple!)

But I have to admit, that I was hoping to sleep in once during a week's vacation. But that wasn't in our children's plans. They were up and running every morning before 7:00!

It is good that they crashed in the afternoon for naps because this mama could barely keep up with climbing sand dunes, chasing ghost crabs in the moonlight, and hiking up the tallest lighthouse on the east coast.

Our vacation destination was the little village of Waves on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks, NC. This is the same area we visited two years ago. I'm guessing that we would hate this area in the summer as we despise crowds, especially beach crowds, but May was perfect. Nearly empty beaches, weather warm enough to enjoy the water but not hot enough to be uncomfortable.


We did have several days of rain. We spent those days visiting some of the historical sites and nature trails in the area.

My brother and his family joined us for the week, to the delight of the children (and parents.)


Like two years ago, we brought food and cooked most of our own meals. We rented a lovely house and it was nice to slide a casserole in the oven and enjoy a home-cooked meal with little work. But the children's favorite meal was probably the hot dogs cooked over a fire on the beach!

On the way home, we spent the weekend with Ed's sister Jean and her family. We enjoyed another cookout and adventures with cousins. Several of you have asked how their family is doing. Thank you so much for your concern and prayers. It will soon be a year since the accident that took their husband and father. (I wrote about it here.) I don't have to tell you that it has been a difficult year. The Lord is faithful but do continue to remember them in prayer.

So that was our trip! Now I'm trying to find some sort of new routine in our lives since school is out and      our summer schedule has officially begun. Maybe regular blogging can become part of the routine again!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back Home

To those who have wondered where I have been...

here is a clue.

I could have posted from my husband's laptop, but being disconnected from the web was as refreshing as the sea breezes.

I would write more...

but this is the sight greeting me this morning.

Duties first.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chicken and Biscuits

Have some leftover cooked chicken?

This is one of my family's favorite chicken meals. The drop biscuits are so simple to make and gives a complete meal in one pan. For vegetable,s I have used peas, corn, carrots,  broccoli - or a mix of several vegetables.

Chicken and Biscuits

2 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
2 cups frozen vegetables (I usually double the veggies.)
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups water

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Place chicken and vegetables in 9x13 casserole dish.
Heat butter in skillet; add flour, salt, and pepper. Stir to blend.
Add water; stir and simmer a few minutes. Pour over chicken.

For biscuits:
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
Cut in butter until coarsely blended.
Combine egg and milk. Stir into flour mixture.
Spoon over chicken and vegetables.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Off the Shelf - April

Our favorite reads in April.

Picture Books

A Seed is Sleepy - Dianna Hutts Aston
Another favorite author of nature books for young children.

Everybody Cooks Rice - Norah Dooley
We've enjoyed all the books in this series sharing the joys of eating in different cultures. Prepare to want to try some of the recipes in the back of the book.

The Boy Who Drew Birds - Jacqueline Davies
Lovely picture book about John James Audubon. Another beautiful book for children that is less story but contains some of Audubon's own paintings is Into the Woods by Robert Burleigh
Chapter Books

Eric in the Land of Insects - Godfried Bomans
My children loved this story of a boy who shrunk the size of an insect and explores an ant colony, and earthworm tunnel and much more. 

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
It may tell you something about the hours spent in the van this month when I say that the next three books were all listened to in audio books downloaded from Books Should Be Free. An excellent way to listen to old classics.

Belgium Twins - Lucy Finch Perkins
I love Perkin's Twin books but they are hard to find. This one is based on a true story from World War 1 in Belgium.

 Heidi - Johanna Spyri
Who doesn't fall in love with the little Swiss girl and Alm Uncle?

Adult Books

Rumors of Water -L. L. Barkat
An short book combining thoughts on writing, inspiring creativity, and motherhood. I bought this one for a friend but had to inhale it before I wrapped it up!

Silent Tears - Jan Bratt
An American whose husband was sent to China for business volunteered in a Chinese orphanage and her life was changed. This book is based on her journals and rambles but I still enjoyed it. If it is possible to enjoy reading stories that break your heart.

Evidence Not Seen - Darlene Deibler Rose
What's with the sad books this month? Back when I was a teen (that makes me sound old!) I heard a recording of Darlene Deibler Rose's testimony of her imprisonment in a Japanese prison camp during World War 2. The story was gripping. I've never forgotten the miraculous ways God provided for Darlene. Once, as she waited for her execution in solitary confinement on death row, she prayed for a banana and God gave her 92 bananas, plus saved her life.

I always wanted to read Darlene's book some day and on a whim, ordered Evidence Not Seen from Amazon last month. By the time I finished reading of Darlene's experience as a pioneer missionary in the jungles of New Guinea, her arrest by the Japanese, the death of her husband, and the miraculous protection of God, the book was splashed with tears. Though Darlene saw terrors I don't want to imagine, the overall message of the book is one of hope. God's promise that He will never leave or forsake His children was true in Darlene's life repeatedly.

I could write pages to tell you about what I learned about answered prayer,  knowing the will of God, grief, and faith in an all-knowing God. But go have your own faith strengthened - read Evidence Not Seen yourself.

Have you ever read a book that impacted your life in a life changing way?

 And remember Tuesday is the last day for the discount on Simply Organized.

This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Modesty - Part 4

We have looked at what the Bible says about modesty and a little of the blessing of modest dress. Now I'll share a bit about the way a Mennonite woman dresses.

In a past post about Mennonites, I mentioned there is a wide variety of clothing standards among us Mennonites. Some Mennonites are indistinguishable in dress from the world around them. I'm not trying to judge them or anyone else. Each person must decide before God the clothing God wants them to wear.

But many Mennonite women are known for wearing a distinctively plain dress called a cape dress. Jane Martin shares some of her thoughts on the cape dress.
In the past several months, I opened a little store online to sell modest dresses for women and girls. I am both blessed and challenged by the women I meet, many of whom dress modestly and cover their heads. All of them feel alone in the journey. Often they are the only ladies in their community or family that have chosen to wear modest clothing.
There is many options for modest dress, but since I sell mostly cape-style dresses, I'm asked frequently “What is a cape dress?” A cape dress has a cape or piece of cloth worn over the top of the dress to conceal the figure. The cape is usually sewn to the dress at the neck and the waistline, providing a second layer over the bodice of the dress. One of my favorite things about a cape dress, is the ease for breastfeeding. An opening can be sewn under the cape, providing quick and discreet access.
Thanks, Jane, for your input.

Many of you know that I did not grow up in a Mennonite church. I was part of a Brethren church that, in many ways, was similar to the Mennonites. My mom taught me the importance of dressing modestly and femininely. I wore mostly dresses, skirts, and jumpers but not a distinctive cape-style dress.

When we married, my husband was part of a Mennonite church. Together we decided to make his church ours. One of the things this church asked was for all their female members to wear a cape dress. It is not that they considered every other kind of dress immodest. As a church, they had chosen the cape dress as a good application of the Biblical principles of modesty and separation from the world.

Since I was joining this church, I needed a new wardrobe. I can sympathize with anyone who radically changes their clothing standards. It is not fun to throw out favorite garments. I didn't always have a good attitude. There were days I dressed, stood before the mirror, and scowled at the reflection.

But time and God did a work on my heart. I now gladly wear a cape dress and have no desire to change to any other style. As Jane mentioned, the cape dress is very forgiving in all the changes of childbearing. I love that I no longer become frustrated while shopping for nice, modest clothing. Now I only need to visit a fabric shop, find a fabric I like, and sew a new dress. (Of course it helps that I like to sew!) I'm not bound by the fluctuating styles. My pattern can stay the same despite the changing fads. What some may see as bondage to rules has become a means of freedom to me.

As Jane mentioned, if you are one who is seeking to dress modestly, you are not alone. Please be encouraged; there are many women searching the Scripture to find direction on dress.
But I will caution you to beware of a trap I've fallen into: pride. How quickly I can go from seeking God's will on what to wear, to comparing myself with others and feeling superior because of my choices. God says that He hates a proud heart. All the fabric in the world can't cover a sinful heart. It is important to follow God's direction on modesty, but it is also important to cultivate a proper attitude of humility.

I would love to try to answer any questions you have on modesty. Again, I don't want this to be a debate. Each of us will answer to the Lord Himself on what we wear. May the Lord bless your journey as you walk with Him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why Modesty - Part 3

In the last post, Jane shared some Scriptures that give insight on modesty. Today, we will look at a few more Scriptures that may help us choose God-honoring clothing.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

We are to glorify God, not only by our spirits, but also by our bodies. We belong to the Lord. The decision of what to wear is not dependent on our own preference, but rather on what would be suitable for the temple of the Holy Spirit. What I wear needs to bring glory to God.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

This Scripture again states that our bodies belong to God. We should not be patterning our lives, or our wardrobes, after the world around us, but by what is acceptable to God.

Romans 14:12-13 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

We are reminded that we are accountable to God for our actions. It is not my duty to judge another person, but to make sure my actions are in no way a stumbling block or hindrance to another. 
Can a Christian man who wants to keep his eyes and mind pure be in my presence without being distracted by my poor choice of clothing?

1 Corinthians 7:3-4 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
As a married woman, not only is my body the temple of God, but it also belongs to my husband. I want to protect myself as a treasured gift for my husband. I don't want my body to be pawed over (even with just eyes) because it belongs to no one but him. 

Ask your husband what he would enjoy seeing you wear – then wear it often in a private display just for him. Relish the privilege of delighting your husband with what you have protected for him.
1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Some may say “God sees my heart; my heart is pure, so I can wear what I want.” While it is true that God looks at my heart, the people around me can only see my outward appearance. Does my clothing immediately indicate that I am a woman of God?

As women, we like to look attractive. But this desire becomes dangerous when we dress to attract attention to ourselves. Proverbs 1:10 tells of the harlot who dresses to attract men. Our actions, including our dress, will reveal the one we wish to glorify: ourselves or God. Maybe our modest clothing will be so different from what others are wearing that we will attract attention. Many times this gives opportunity to speak a word for the Lord.

I admit that there are times I wish I could blend in with the crowd. No one likes to stand out like a sore thumb, as if I am dressed in a strange sort of costume. But many times I have been blessed because of my modest dress and head covering. There is protection in clothing that is instantly recognized as different from the world's standard.

I could share many stories of specific times when my distinctive clothing was a blessing. I'll only share one experience. Recently, I traveled to Baltimore to visit an inmate in a large prison. The security guard asked my friend and me some questions about who we were. After sharing that we were Christians who were part of a Mennonite church, he asked if we could pray for the guards who worked in the prison. I don't know what need was on that guard’s heart that he desired prayer, but I was encouraged to know that he recognized us as women of prayer by our appearance.

Tomorrow I'll try to answer a few specific questions about Mennonite clothing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Modesty - Part 2

From Gina - Yesterday, I said we would look at what the Bible says about modesty. Jane Martin agreed to share a guest post on the topic today.

Jane is married to Steve and mother to four children. Jane has sewed since she was six years old and recently began selling modest dresses on ebay and etsy.

What is modesty?

Many women will have differing opinions on what it means to be modest. Is it a certain style of dress? Length of skirt? Color of fabric?

The dictionary defines modesty as “Not thinking too highly of one's self; humble; not calling attention to one's body; decency of actions or thoughts.”

Modesty is a heart condition, worn first on the inside and expressed on the outside. It is not a particular style of clothing. The plainest dress can be worn immodestly.

Our world is no longer typified by decency, humility, and refusal to call attention to one's body. God created us for His glory, not our own. Can we dress in a way that glorifies Him? What does the Bible say about modesty?

Genesis 3:7,21 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. … 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, before there were any other people in the world, God gave them clothing. And not just loin cloths, these garments were described as “coats.”

1 Timothy 2:9-10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

According to these instructions to the Christian church, a woman should dress with “shamefacedness and sobriety.” These words imply reverence toward God, bashfulness toward men, and self-control.

1 Peter 3:2-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

A Christian woman's true beauty is her character. Some of the most beautiful women that I have ever met have been neatly and modestly clothed. Their inward spirit shone with purity and humility that was reflected in their outward appearance.

Prov 31:21-22. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

By the example of the Proverbs 31 lady, we assume God does not expect us to dress in burlap sacks or drab colors. A balance can be found in lovely but modest clothing.

We will look at some more Scriptures that address our clothing in the next post.

In the meantime—How is the Lord leading you in modesty, both in character and dress? 


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