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Literature is my Utopia. - Helen Keller

A place to contemplate books, life, and never ending peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The Season of The King

The Season of The King

Confession: my husband and I are recovering sports addicts. Or maybe I should say reformed sports junkies. Actually, I should probably say reforming sports junkies, because we haven’t been to church on Wimbledon Championship Sunday in, like, a decade, and tennis isn’t even our favorite sport. Anyway, we used to watch and follow many sports very closely in our dating and early married years. It was one of our common interests. It was probably one of the reasons I fell for my husband in the first place — he didn’t freak out when I made harmless but seemingly alarming to most guys comments like, “Wow, that’s a good ERA.” This is a rarity. To this day, guys cast wary glances at me when I make comments about flagrant fouls or false starts (maybe because all the comments I make are actually really boneheaded…but I try not to over analyze this). The point is my husband appreciated the sports enthusiast in me. We watched sports, we played sports, we talked sports. To be fair to us, we had a lot of other common interests, too, but sports were pretty major until about five or six years ago, when we realized we had a problem and we needed to do something about it.

Disclaimer: this is not my parents’ fault. It’s kind of amazing that I turned out to be a multi-sport fan, because I did not come from that kind of background. Picture a family who watches their favorite Southeastern Conference football team every Fall weekend, decked out in the school colors and occasionally some face paint, and then picture the opposite of that. You know what we watched on Sunday afternoons in winter? Figure skating. That is, my sister and I watched it while my parents took their Sunday afternoon siesta or read books. The only sport we ever watched as a family, besides the Olympics, was baseball. I have known what stuff like IP (innings pitched) stood for since I was eight, and this is kind of weird for a Southern girl. Boston girls are allowed to know this, but Southern girls are supposed to know (a) how to apply enough hairspray to withstand insane humidity, (b) how to make a mean breakfast casserole for tailgating at 12:00 football games, and (c) how to avoid talking politics. The ability to grow hydrangeas or bake real buttermilk biscuits is a nice bonus, but not required. (Before you start writing me a nasty letter, please pick your sense of humor back up—I’m [mostly] kidding).

So I’ve always liked baseball. My true love of sports goes kind of like how some people talk about religion. “I always grew up in church, but when I went to camp at age 14, I really made it my own.” I always liked baseball, but it was when I discovered college basketball that I truly fell in love with sports. It was all downhill from there. I even began to enjoy watching golf, a sport I had been known to ridicule. (Don’t knock it til you try it!). In fact, I considered it a huge plus that my third child was born last month on opening day of the British Open. I watched pretty much the full day of coverage while laboring with her. No one should watch a full opening day of a golf tournament except golf analysts. Nobody. I also draw the line at overly violent sports such as MMA, or overly un-sportish sports such as bowling or fly fishing. Oh, and sports in which new tricks are invented every two minutes (I’m looking at you, snowboarding).

So, there we were five years ago, getting sucked into every sport that came on TV, spending money on tickets to local events, going to brothers’ little league games, reading articles, playing Fantasy Football…it was all getting to be too much. That’s when we drew some lines. It started with the realization that our finances were hurting because of our sports addiction. We got rid of cable (Goodbye, Atlanta Braves…), we stopped spending outrageous amounts of money on tickets to basketball and football games, and we stuck to sports that were cheap or free, like tennis and frisbee. Then we began to draw lines when it came to time. We began the slow progress we have finally made to only picking one or two events to watch a weekend. And voila! We’re recovered sports addicts. That is, except from late August through December. Because, for better or worse, football is King in the South. Fall is basically like the holidays for a recovering alcoholic. How do we just pick one game to watch on a Saturday and Sunday? How? We’re still figuring this out, but here are our basic steps:

1. Make it a point to watch our favorite college team with friends or family. Then it doesn’t actually count, somehow, because it’s more like a party and less like watching a game. It’s all about quality time…

photo (21)2. Buy a membership to our local awesome park and make it a standing tradition to take a picnic dinner there every Sunday. Too bad if the best NFL game on is at 4:00 p.m. It turns out, we actually don’t care.

3. Focus on books! (you saw that one coming, didn’t you…). Fall is a great time to find some page turners to distract from Football and mold your brain back into a shape.

4. Ask the kids what they want to do.

5. Read an article about a third world country. Only do this if you really want to be challenged and disgusted by the excess that football both creates and embraces. You paid how much for that licensed Peyton Manning jersey? That could feed a family in Africa for a year.

6. Think ahead, and save up your TV time for March Madness.

In all seriousness, we still enjoy sports, and we’re okay with that. What we’re not okay with is looking back on our lives and realizing that our passions and resources were poured into something that is, ultimately, meaningless. We’re excited that college football starts today, and that’s fine! But if you’re the type like us who can reach Christmas before you realize your weekends were a blur of first downs and touchdowns you don’t even remember or care about,  maybe you can gain some perspective from our experience with toning down our fanaticism. I’m pretty sure our eighty-year-old selves will thank us.

August 28, 20141 commentRead More
Building Dams in The River of Life

Building Dams in The River of Life

How many times have we heard it: “You can’t slow down time.”

We know it’s true. We feel it when we look at the pictures of our children a year, two years, ten years ago. We feel it when we race the clock again to do this before the holidays or that before the arbitrary but very set in stone deadline. I feel it when my newborn outgrows her newborn clothes in just four weeks. I feel time rushing by so quickly these days.

Time is a river that keeps on flowing, and the only way to slow it down is build yourself a dam, picking up the rocks in the river and collecting them into a wall so that the weight of your moments becomes a life of substance.

photo (19)A weighty life can be a good thing.

Each moment I feel the weight of my baby in my arms and let it really sink into my memory, that is a rock I add to my memory dam. Each time I look up from the thousand tasks and look into the gray-blue beauty of Ella’s five-year-old eyes that won’t be the same when she’s six, that’s a rock in the wall. Those moments when I squeeze that hand my husband reaches out to hold mine with every single time we ride in the car together after nine years of marriage make up a boulder. When I trace the curve of a chubby cheek on a pillow as I stop by to check on three-year-old Isaac in the middle of the night, I claim that moment from a sleep-deprived season as a gift. When I stop sighing at the laundry and start fingering the toddler t-shirts and memorizing the pattern of the favorite dress, I make my life into something tangible to my mind.

Each moment truly realized by how it looks and feels and smells and sounds becomes a rock in the dam to keep the river from rushing too quickly.

When my family goes to the mountains, there is always a creek nearby, and there is always an hour when the kids who live inside the grown ups gather rocks and build a small dam in the creek. It’s just for fun, a test of man versus nature. The kids always win, but just for a little while. Even though they’re grown men and women now and know how one rock stacks on another, the next hour or the next day, the dam is gone and the creek rushes on. The creek makes short work of all our work to slow it down, but this fact remains: we made memories in making those walls of rocks in mountain creeks. We made crazy fun memories when we built sandcastles while the tide came in and made a game of saving them from the waves as long as we possibly could. The sand, the rocks, they wash away. That doesn’t diminish the memories.

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I know the dams I build will be just like that. I know that time will keep rushing on, even though I have stopped and picked up memory rocks, cradled them, and considered them and stacked them together. I know they’ll not stay there, that the weight of the minutes fully cherished won’t stop change. But when I gather my memories during my days, they become apart of something bigger. The joy and the pain and the sorrow and the giddy happiness will be there, living on in the timbre of life.

The memory of a three-year-old boy asleep in your arms as you carry him from the car will contain that feel of heavy arms and legs against your skin and warm breath on your neck. A lifetime of noticing and grabbing hold of the heft of the baby curled in your arms, and the softness of a quilt handmade from your grandmother, and the warmth of the sun that broke through the clouds at just the moment you needed it like a gift straight from God…these moments remembered and fingered make the whole of life into beauty realized. The beauty has been there and has been felt and seen. The stones have been held before they moved on down the river, and that makes all the difference.

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August 14, 20143 commentsRead More
I Need A Hero(ine)

I Need A Hero(ine)

As my daughters grow up, I remain concerned about what values I’m promoting amidst the fairy tale frenzy they live in. I love fairy tales as much as the next little girl at heart, but I have concerns about flooding our children’s minds with glittery dresses and happily ever afters that usually involve castles and servants. Real life has more grit to it, which is why it’s harder to expose our children to it. We don’t really want them to have to deal with real life just yet, and that’s understandable. But I want my little girls to value hard work, bravery, and honesty. I want them to see beyond beauty on the outside and care deeply about the inside of a person. So when we browse the shelves at the library or bookstore, it can be disheartening to see how the sparkly pink book bindings and the elegant gowns draw my five-year-old daughter in like a hummingbird to a red flower. Pink, sparkly books abound in the picture book genre (not so much for girls in the chapter book age, I’ve noticed), but there are some gems out there we’re slowly discovering. These books don’t feature princesses at all; just real life young girls who became heroines by bravely facing the hard tasks before them.

KeeKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie (On My Own History)p the Lights Burning Abbie is a book my mom read to us when we were little. I loved it then, and I still love reading it now.When Abbie’s father leaves the lighthouse in the hands of his daughter, he doesn’t know what a test she is facing. Abbie and her sisters prove their bravery as they care for the lights and each other. I get a lump in my throat on the last line every single time — not a “that’s so sad I can’t take it lump” but that kind of lump you get when you watch someone win an Olympic gold medal. The Reading Rainbow episode that goes with this book is also one of my favorites.


Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express (On My Own History)If I could have picked a story to star in when I was about eight years old, it would have been a story like Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express. Kate sees a problem, knows that people will die if she doesn’t do something about it, and does the hard work of stopping an engine full of people from plummeting into a river. Now that is some serious girl power. Did I mention the illustrations are riveting? And that Kate crawls across a train trestle over a raging river in the dark? I never did anything that brave, but it seems important that every girl aspire to heroic bravery at some point in their young lives.

Brave Irene (Sunburst Books)Brave Irene  by Kevin Stieg isn’t based on a true story as the other books in this post, but that’s alright with me. Irene doesn’t save lives like Abbie or Kate, but she does display the kind of character traits I would love to see in my daughters. When her mother, a dressmaker, becomes ill right at the moment when she needs to deliver a dress to the Duchess for the ball that night, Irene puts her mother to bed and delivers the dress herself, despite a raging snow storm. Irene is caring and compassionate and, obviously, brave. She is also not above getting discouraged on her journey–I appreciate that kind of honesty in a book about a wonder girl.

I wish I had more Picture Book Heroines to add to this list, but I’m still on this search. If you have any suggestions, chime in!

P.S. My kids are crazy about Mulan right now. Just this morning I had to explain to Ella that Mulan is not actually a princess, but she’s really cool and important; this conversation further confirmed that we have some work to do on the princess mindset. It’d be nice if Disney put out a movie about a lovely girl who lived happily ever after and washed dishes at the same time, but it looks like that lesson is all on me. Come on, Disney.

August 6, 20141 commentRead More
Violet Grace

Violet Grace

It’s been quiet on the blog lately, but not so quiet at our house.

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Violet Grace arrived on July 17th, a healthy 7 lbs. 11 oz. and 20.25 inches long. She shocked the world with her shock of dark hair, which makes me laugh because my sisters and I all had hair like that and my other babies had dark hair, too, though not as much. Apparently Violet’s lovely locks overshadow the memory of Isaac’s and Ella’s heads of hair.

Violet has lots of love from her family.

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How can anyone help but love these cheeks?

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So that’s what’s been going on around here lately. How’s your summer going?


July 29, 20142 commentsRead More
A Reading Worm Hole

A Reading Worm Hole

Claimer: There are a lot of links in this post, but none of them are affiliates. I’m linking to them for your convenience.

I’ve unintentionally fallen into a worm hole in my reading in the past few weeks. Apparently, it’s a  worm hole that leads directly into 1930s Britain. I don’t know why I enjoy this setting so much, because I’m pretty sure I’d hate to live in it. The food, the weather, the drafty homes, the Great Depression, it all sounds pretty bleak when looked at as a whole. But for whatever reason, judging by the books I’ve randomly selected over the past two weeks, I really enjoy books set in 1930s Britain.

The Young ClementinaThe worm hole opened with D. E. Stevenson’s book The Young Clementina. Stevenson is one of my new old favorites, as I’ve mentioned before. This one popped up on my Riffle book email last week for only $2.99. Clementina was just what I would have expected of Stevenson, though not much like the cover. I enjoyed it thoroughly. With the misunderstood love plot and the resigned spinster theme, it was actually kind of reminiscent of Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, one of my favorite books ever.

Diary Of A Provincial LadyThen Diary of A Provincial Lady finally came available through my library. E.M. Delafield is always on my list of recommendations on, but her work is hard to come by around here. Rachel over at Book Snob often mentions Delafield and I usually enjoy her recommendations, so I was excited to finally get my hands on this one. On the surface, it seemed kind of boring to read about the everyday housewife details of a British woman in the 1930s, but it was actually witty and sometimes hilarious. Think Bridget Jones’s Diary tones but on totally different subject matters. I thought it was amusing and fun to read. Today I downloaded a free copy of The Provincial Lady in Russia, so we’ll see if The Provincial Lady remains amusing or if one book by her is enough.

Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries, #1)Though the book I read next isn’t written in the 1930s, it is set in that time. Her Royal Spyness is about Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the throne, penniless, and skill-less. She decides to provide for herself by being an undercover house cleaner, but finds herself an undercover spy. Written by Rhys Bowen, it is a fast paced mystery with some pretty likable characters. I thought the plot was a bit too easy to figure out. I knew who had committed the crime by about 1/4 through the book. But it was still a good, light read, without any of the gory details I’m not too fond of in mystery novels. I could have done without all the “you’re still a virgin, what’s wrong with you?” talk included between Lady Georgie and her best friend, but I guess that’s par for the course in a modern novel. This is the first book in a long series. I may give one more a try, but I wouldn’t say that I’m hooked. I’m much more likely to go for something actually written in the 1930s, as I’ve mentioned before in a post about Downton Abbey Look Alikes.

The Daisy ChainNow, I’m climbing out (or falling further in?) the worm hole and reading The Daisy Chain, a book written in the 1850s that was very popular in its day but is neglected now in lists of classics. I hope I can get into it and write a review when I’m done, but the fact that the author apologizes for its length before the first chapter has me a little worried. =)



July 14, 20141 commentRead More
The Tenth of July

The Tenth of July

I’ve officially reached that point–the one where you’ve been pregnant for so long, you’re sure the baby is just not going to come out. It’s true, I’m not due for four more days. For some reason, I have had it in my head that July 10th would be a great day to have a baby. July 10th just has this nice ring to it. But it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. I don’t know why I feel much more in a hurry for this baby to be here than I was with my second child. I think I may have been wiser three years ago than I am now. In those days of waiting for Isaac, I was only two years removed from the newborn stage of mothering and I remembered how hard it was. I valued my sleep. I valued my time without having to constantly hold a fussy baby. Maybe because Isaac was such a happy baby or maybe because it’s been three years, but this time I can’t seem to keep the “I’m fine waiting patiently” perspective I had when Isaac was ten days late. I cherished the golden days of normalcy with my two-year-old daughter and simply enjoyed the waiting.

But this time, my ankles are swollen, my legs are jumpy with RLS all the time, my back hurts, and I don’t sleep much. This time, I’m just plain uncomfortable. This time, I so badly want to stop the maddening weight gain! Just end it! I want my husband to be able to take some time off work now. And I want to meet my little baby girl! But I can’t make it happen. My timing isn’t so much the thing here. (Why am I surprised?) I know God’s timing is perfect. I remember how great Isaac’s labor was compared to Ella’s, when I was induced on her due date because of a complication. I know I need to trust.

So today, I will do my best to enjoy the waiting. I will enjoy the MOPS play date I crossed off my mental list weeks ago. I will relish the twenty games of Uno I will inevitably play with a five-year-old who just learned how yesterday. I will cook dinner without a baby crying in the background. Hey, maybe I’ll even get around to buying a baby book for this baby. (Sorry, dear third child, it just slipped my mind…). Maybe I’ll finish the painting project I started two weeks ago. I’ll be thankful for the fact that I have time to clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets, vacuum the carpet. I will be thankful that I can hold Isaac and Ella in my arms with no distractions. Today, I will rest in the happy and hard moments of now, even as I excitedly hope for the joy of the new baby to come.

July 10, 20144 commentsRead More
Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio

Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio

Blackberry WinterA few nights ago I looked up from a book and said to my husband, “Remind me to never read sad books about children when I’m pregnant.” He looked at me in exasperation and said, “Gah! When is it ever a good time for you to read sad books about children?” That’s a fair question. But I chose to read Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio because I loved her writing and story telling style in The Violets of March. Somehow, I trusted Jio not to plunge me too deeply into the depths of despair. Yes, it was a mostly blind decision, but it turned out to be a good one in the end.

Here’s the synopsis of the book:

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I’m not a big fan of the back-and-forth between history and present day narrative. However, I think there are some writers who do a good job with it and Sarah Jio is one of them. The difference maker is Jio’s ability to make both times and all characters involved come to life. Each character in the two books I’ve read by her faces circumstances that are really, really, hard. Jio brings in the everyday tragedies of the human experience – miscarriages, losing a parent, unhappy marriages- the things that are always happening to someone, somewhere, into her writing and still manages to leave readers with a brightened outlook on life. I also appreciate how Jio can deal with some messy, true-to-life themes in her writing without feeling the need to drag readers through the muck of every detail. In other words, there is no hint of erotica or violence in her writing. That’s something I really appreciate.

When I finished Blackberry Winter, I wanted it to keep going. That odd friendship between a reader and book characters formed that only really good books can create. I’m eagerly awaiting Jio’s latest book, Goodnight June, to become available at my library. Until then, you might find me at the library in the J Fiction section, because apparently I’ve missed quite a few Jio novels in the last few years. Perfect for summer reading!

So whatchya’ reading this summer?

July 9, 20140 commentsRead More
Why Nesting Needs To Be About You

Why Nesting Needs To Be About You

I’m two weeks away from my due date, looking bigger than a house, and getting a lot of questions about my preparedness for our third baby’s arrival.

“Are you feeling ready?”

“Got the nursery all set?”

The answer is “yes” to both questions. We are really ready to meet our new little one, and there is a space in our house for her to sleep, eat, and be dressed. However, her nursery will never be on Pinterest. This is about as good as it’s going to get:

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The whole nesting thing has changed for me since my first child. It used to be about the baby, but now it’s all about me.

If you don’t know what nesting is, or you’re rolling your eyes, let me tell you, it’s a very real thing. It’s this strong feeling in a pregnant woman’s body and soul that if what-have-you does not get done, she will not be able to enjoy her baby’s birth or her first few days of life as a mother. It’s powerful force that can be used for good, and sometimes, for craziness.

With the first child, nesting is predictable. It’s all about the nursery. Even I, with zero interior decorating tendencies, had specific ideas about what I wanted my first baby’s room to look like. I went to every fabric store in town, looking for the perfect material so I could sew bumpers and quilts for my little bundle of joy. Do I usually sew things for my home? No. I have made curtains, and they have been mostly dreadful. But I was optimistic. However, I couldn’t settle on any of the fabric I was finding, even online (I was craaaazy), so I registered for a bedding set that was close to perfection from Babies R Us. From handmade with love to Babies R Us? Yes. But I am happy to report that I still love that bedding. And that I found the perfect paint color for the walls to go with the bedding. I’m sorry to report  I nearly had an internal melt down when my husband and I found a solid oak crib for sale for $30 and bought it instead of the white furniture I had set my heart on. I knew that crib was solid and would last forever (and it has) but it didn’t fit into my ideal nursery. Nesting is real, and it’s a bunch of weirdness.

But things change. When I was about to have our second child, we decided to downsize. The housing market wasn’t great, but we put our house up for sale anyway, knowing we were doing the right thing for our family. I was fully prepared to wait months for someone to buy our house. It took just a few weeks. So nesting for my second child didn’t look like it did with my first; it looked like a pile of boxes surrounding a pack-n-play with a cute blue blanket on it.

Now we’re on our third child, and what did I spend last week doing? Painting the trim and the walls in my own bedroom. What kind of selfish mother am I? Yes, maybe I’ve grown selfish in my nesting all of a sudden. Or maybe I’ve come to grips with the fact that nesting is all about the mother anyway. What all moms know, deep down inside, is nesting is really for us. We know our babies don’t care if their rooms are pink or blue or beige. We know they don’t know the difference between a blanket needle pointed by hand or machine monogrammed or from a pack of six bought at Target.  Our babies care about this: sleeping, eating, and feeling comfortable. What I didn’t realize is how much just providing those three requirements for my baby would take out of me. Sleeping sounds like the easy part, but my first child seemed to get the hiccups every single night. How do you get a baby to sleep with hiccups? And babies don’t need you to cook complex food, but they do need a lot of food all day and all night and if it isn’t just right, they can be in a world of hurt in their little tummies. “What did I eat today that is causing you so much pain?” was a question I agonized over for the first few months of my daughter’s life.

When you’re heading into the newborn phase of motherhood for the first time, you don’t realize how exhausting and emotionally draining it will be. Wonderful and joyful, yes, but also a very trying time. And that is why nesting needs to be about you. Because while our babies can’t even begin to know whether the Winnie the Pooh wall paper is from the classic Winnie the Pooh or the Disney Winnie the Pooh (this is such an important distinction), they can tell when our voices reach a new level of stress. They can sense the frazzled-ness of our arm motions as we try to hold the baby and stir the oatmeal and tell the five-year-old “No, I haven’t washed that dress, please just pick another one.  Please.” Your baby hears all that and doesn’t know what it means, but will probably cry a little harder. This is not scientific fact, just my experience. Babies are most comfortable when their mamas are comfortable. And mama’s comfort can get pretty low on the list. At some times in life, comfort translates into a spa day. For a new mom, comfort translates into a five-minute shower and three hours of uninterrupted sleep.

So when you’re about to have a baby, go ahead and enjoy the decorating of the nursery, if that’s what brings you comfort. Or, do what I did last week and stop ignoring the fact that your bedroom still only has primer on the wall and make it into a place where you feel relaxed and calm. Put away some meals in the freezer or pantry that will make life easier in three months. Hide a few new puzzles or books for the children you already have. Organize your laundry area so that your kind friend who offers to help will be able to find the detergent. Do not, I repeat, do not worry if there is nothing hanging on the walls of your baby’s room. But do consider buying extra sets of sheets for every family member’s bed, including your own, because laundry every day is not always going to be a given and middle of the night messes are. Give yourself lots of time to be way less than perfect, but also give yourself a chance to succeed in making your home a comfortable place for everyone, not just the new baby. It may seem a little counter intuitive, but I think our babies will thank us if we make nesting more about what will sustain us as moms as we care for our babies and our families. Whether what will sustain you in the newborn days is a beautiful nursery, a pot of flowers on the back porch, really clean baseboards and ceiling fans, a well stocked pantry, or a subscription to Netflix is entirely up to you.

More thoughts on having a third child here!

July 1, 20142 commentsRead More
What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

It’s June. It’s 100 degrees. You walk in from the sweltering parking lot to the coolness of your local grocery store. You were only in the car for three minutes, but your back is sweaty, your flip flops are like hot tin shingles on your feet, and you wish to plunge your entire self into a mountain river. You grab a cart, pull out your list, and suddenly stop. Because there, right in front of you, practically blocking the whole produce aisle, is a giant cardboard box brimming over with ripe, juicy watermelons. You think, “Mmmm, what could be better than watermelon today?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s $6.99 per watermelon, so you pick the biggest one you can find and heave-ho it into your cart. You take it home, get out your biggest knife, slice into it, and eat it. For three days. And then you still have half of it left. Your family will have nothing more to do with it. You even take it to a cookout; you and three other women bring watermelon to the cookout.

Let’s face it: watermelons are just too big. They are tempting and delicious and bring summer to our mouths, but they are huge. So what do you do with all that leftover watermelon? Here are my discoveries from the last two weeks.

First, put on some music. Then, chop up all that watermelon into chunks and get rid of the seeds. Next, find a good watermelon popsicle recipe. I used this recipe and it was delicious. I didn’t have the light corn syrup it called for, so I used honey instead. Also, I only used 2 Tablespoons of sugar instead of the six it called for, because good grief, people, it’s already sweet. My husband said he didn’t enjoy the slight honey flavor, but my son and I loved the taste. My daughter isn’t a big watermelon fan, so I just discounted her vote entirely. I think next time I’ll substitute lime juice for lemon juice just because I like the lime flavor better. Also, the recipe could do with more strawberries. But that’s my philosophy on life in general.

Next, you’ll probably still have some watermelon left over after you make your popsicles. Making sure it’s all de-seeded, throw it in the food processor or blender pulse it a few times. Then, pour your pureed watermelon into an ice cube tray or two. Cover them with plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer, and pull out as many as you need at a time to make fruit smoothies on those hot summer days when the thought of actual food is unbearable. (Note: make sure you add some yogurt to your smoothie, or you’ll be hungry within minutes of consuming it).

Finally, if you still have watermelon, dice it up even smaller than you did before and sprinkle it with a tiny bit of sugar. Put it in an airtight container and the next time you hear that guilty voice in your mind saying “You should really be buying plain Greek yogurt instead of that sweetened stuff,” you can say, “Yes, you’re right!” Then you can go home and mix your sweet watermelon and watermelon juice (thank you, tiny bit of sugar) into your yogurt and you actually enjoy that yogurt. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of Greek yogurt? But I know it’s extra good for me, so I put in smoothies and other stuff whenever I can bring myself to buy it at the store. Seriously, the watermelon helps.

There are also lots of recipes for Watermelon Gazpacho/Cold Soup out there. I am not very fond of foods that have no crunch or chew to them (exception: ice cream), so that watermelon food idea doesn’t appeal to me. But if you find a good recipe for it, let me know; I might be brave enough to try it!

So, now you can go to the grocery store and wrangle that watermelon into your shopping cart with the peace of mind that you will actually use the entire thing. Pick one up for me while you’re at it.

June 21, 20140 commentsRead More
The Daring Ladies of Lowell Review

The Daring Ladies of Lowell Review

I am a fan of Kate Alcott. I’m afraid I was predisposed to be a fan because of her last name…but I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that. Her first book, The Dressmaker, is one of the most enjoyable historical fiction novels I’ve read as an adult. As soon as I noticed Alcott had a new book out, I snatched it up.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell The Daring Ladies of Lowelltells the story of several factory girls in the 1830s. Alice Barrow, the main character, comes to Lowell, Massachusetts to make a new life for herself. She joins many girls who are part of this shiny, new industry. Reading about their boarding house camaraderie reminded me of Little Women. As Alice lives and works longer in Lowell, however, she becomes aware of the troubles rising between the mill owners, The Fiskes, and the workers. Not only that, but she becomes entangled with the Fiske family in a way she never would have expected.

I have to admit that Alcott’s strength is in her story telling and her characters. The writing in this book and some of the plot developments seems a little trite at times. This is especially true when it comes to the romantic parts…”he couldn’t help but notice her hair…” yes, that’s going to get an eye roll. But I enjoyed the story, and the fact that much of the plot is based on actual events in Lowell. I appreciate a writer who does her research.  And there were some glimpses of brilliance in Alcott’s wording at times -playing on words related to the textile industry, such as weaving and threads.  Once again, I appreciate how Alcott has put out another book without feeling the need to include any sex scenes. Can you call it a scene if it’s in a book? Well, you know what I mean.

Also, this book is a modern American counterpart to one of my favorite classics, North and South. Written by Elizabeth Gaskell, it centers on the industrial revolution in England and the strikes between workers and owners. There is romance, a strong heroine, tragedies…besides the writing styles being from different eras, North and South and The Daring Ladies of Lowell are like international twins.  I prefer Gaskell’s  genre (Victorian British Lit) to almost any other, but The Daring Ladies of Lowell is a great literature companion in the topic of industrial revolution. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.Put The Daring Ladies of Lowell on your TBR list if you like historical fiction and are in the mood for a light read.

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June 18, 20140 commentsRead More