Everyday Life, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

Cooking and Coronavirus

Hey readers! What are you up to these in these strange days? As a homeschooling parent, this new normal didn’t seem all that different to me at first. Now, after weeks of no events or family/friends or even parks, plus never being able to find bread in the supermarket, it’s getting real! But we are healthy and happy at home, and remembering that this is temporary, even if it already feels like it’s gone on too long. And it’s spring, so hurrah!

Oddly enough, just when I should be posting the most about books that you finally have time to read, what I’ve been reading is…cookbooks. Womp, womp. If you know me at all, this may surprise you because meal prep is not my fave. As different types of people go, I’m the type who does not think about what they’ll eat for dinner when they wake up in the morning. That is why I need cookbooks so desperately– to get me thinking about what food to buy and what to do with it. Like it or not, food preparation is a big part of life with a family of six who eats three meals a day at home, even in the best of times! So here are some cookbook reviews for you. (Psst: I always check out cookbooks from the library before I purchase them!)

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes – I adore this cookbook. I haven’t bough it yet, but when I borrowed it and made some recipes over the holidays, I felt as legit as Mary Berry. Of course, you can’t really make these breads in five minutes–can you do anything in the kitchen in five minutes?– but you can make a big batch of basic types of dough in say, twenty-thirty minutes. The idea is to have dough in the fridge, ready to go, and then at baking time, you pull off a chunk of dough for a specific recipe and have that bread ready pretty quickly. I did two of the recipes and can’t wait to do more! Swedish Tea Ring, anyone? Putting this one on my birthday list in June may look a little strange based on the “holiday” title…but I’m doing it. Five stars, even if it does have “5 minutes” in the title. [I take issue with any cookbook with “minutes” in the title. 30 minute meals? A myth. Every dinner takes me an hour. From the minute I turn the light on in the kitchen to dinner on the table, it’s always an hour, even when it’s just leftovers. I can’t explain it. I guess I could blame the four kids interrupting…]

Magnolia Table – This is the cookbook I wish had been out when I was a newlywed. I didn’t know how to make so many home-cooked favorites that my husband enjoyed, and the Joy of Cooking and Southern Living cookbooks I got for wedding presents assumed I already knew a lot. This cookbook has pictures and instructions on even certain brands to buy, and everything I’ve made has turned out beautifully. If you’re assuming it’s all fried chicken and biscuits, there are more than just Southern cooking recipes included, as Joanna Gaines has Korean, Tex-Mex, and other influences in her culinary tastes. Still, you’re not going to stay svelte eating out of this book for long (how does she do it??). The dessert section is enormous. But once a week or so, an entree or treat out of this collection will thrill your family (and yourself). After getting this cookbook from the library, I bought it as fast as you can say “fluffy pancakes,” and I’m using it several times a week. Five stars from me and everyone else in my household.

Healthyish – I checked this one out from the library in the fall and then put it on my Christmas list and lucky me, got it! It includes a lot of recipes that only require a few ingredients, similar to Real Simple Magazine recipes. I like that the recipes are doable and nourishing, without swinging all the way into “eat this, not that” rules. My only downside is my family hasn’t loved the recipes I’ve made out of it as much as I have. Four stars.

Smoothie Project – We eat a lot of smoothies here, but also get in ruts with the combinations and flavors, and that’s why this book has been so great. I appreciate that there are ideas for healthy but optional add-ins (ex: collagen). The best thing about it is my ten-year-old grabbed this off the library stack and ran with it. She made “Nice Cream” and marked a bunch of other recipes to copy for her recipe book. Lesson learned: kids can make smoothie recipes. Game changer! Four stars.

A Homemade Life – Part cookbook, part memoir, and very reminiscent in style to Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine. However, I give Bread and Wine 5 stars and this one 2. The writing is descriptive and nostalgic, but these recipes are pretty hard, require ingredients I don’t have on hand, and the memoir selections were not really my cup of tea, either. Sadly, I liked the theme of the book better than the actual book itself. One star.

The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook – I love reading this cookbook and the recipes look great…but I haven’t tried anything out of it yet. Some of the ingredients are unfamiliar to me (tamari?) and I don’t have things on hand like coconut sugar or tahini. But really, I think I can make good use of it if I take the plunge and buy a few of the staples Laura Lea uses in this book to make familiar recipes in a healthier form. It would be great for anyone trying to go gluten free without completely changing the kind of meals you usually enjoy. No stars yet.

In addition to these new cookbooks, my go-to’s remain The Whole30 Cookbook because it is delicious, the Damn Delicious website (she has a cookbook out now that I need to check out, too!), and Moe’s To Go. Wait, what? I meant Mom’s recipe cards, not Moe’s To Go! Did I say Moe’s? I did not mean Moe’s…or Marco’s…

See you soon for an update on novels and children’s literature! Follow me on Goodreads for real time updates and book reviews. Happy reading and cooking and whatever else you do to stay sane in a crazy world!

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Brave Learner Is Your Summer Reading Assignment

Breaking from the normal book reviews today to post about my new favorite book on homeschooling. If you’re not into this topic, check out our favorite kids books or some summer reading updates from the past and come back soon for more new book reviews soon!

Whew, it’s June! We made it through May! Time to eat watermelon and sleep in at least once and get in some swimming and maybe pick some berries and all the summer things! But wait…what curriculum are using next year? Did you sign up for a co-op yet? Have you picked out a planner?

This is the homeschooling parent’s state of mind! If you’re like me, you would love to just breathe for a bit (like, maybe a year), to rest and recover from a busy and sometimes/totally draining school year. Yes, homeschooling children gives us so many benefits and rewards, but no one says it’s easy. We desperately need a break at certain points of the year, depending on what kind of homeschooling schedule you choose for your family. I just finished my fifth year of homeschooling, and even though it might have been our best year yet, I still feel this way! Before I urge you to do anything else, I can’t encourage you enough to take that break! Throw the books in a box for a full week and don’t think about them! It will do you all good. Spend a day doing something fun, taking a hike or playing at the beach, and don’t even consider counting it as a school day! (this is an act of will for some of us, haha).

But then, after that break, we have to dive back in, don’t we? It’s a good idea to use some of the time off from regular school to get ready for what’s next. Most of us look at new curriculum, maybe gather ideas for unit studies, pick out the perfect planner, or what have you. But first! I’m boldly giving you an assignment to do first this summer, before you look at curriculum and sign up for anything: read The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart.

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Why should you? Prepare for a gushing.

I loved this book so much. It presents learning philosophies from a very different angle than anything I’ve seen. It doesn’t just focus on the mind, or the schoolwork, but on your complete lifestyle and approach towards learning of all kinds. It’s such a wholesome and healthy approach! Enchanted, interest-driven learning is the big idea of this book, but don’t let that scare you. Bogart heavily focuses on practical, day-to-day wisdom for a family, as well. She is a rare person who can be the most sensible, down-to-earth voice about being a homeschool parent while at the same time introducing and completely convincing her readers that the best way to learn is from a place of enchantment and fun. It sounds impossible, but I’m telling you, this book is both insanely practical and inspiring. And in case you’re wondering or even worrying, Bogart is neither promoting nor demoting the “unschooling” philosophy. The ideas she presents can breathe life into pretty much any homeschooling approach (aside from a highly legalistic one, but who wants to claim that?).

Since I loved every page, summing it up is proving extremely difficult, but I’ll share a few of my favorite parts with you in hopes that you’ll go grab a copy, too!

~Many of her ideas come with specific suggestions on how “stage the home” for fun and interesting learning. The “stage the home” sections in chapter 4, “How To Harness the Four Forces of Enchantment” are especially helpful. And the chapter titled “House Schooling” might have been my favorite—all about evaluating what you have and embracing it + changing your mindset to see at is what you need.

~The “Continents of Learning” exercise changed my view of how learning can stay fun and still encompass the necessary branches of traditional schooling (page 24).

~The idea of keeping a monthly narrative—writing a paragraph or two on what each child learned/embraced/was challenged by/was involved in— as part of homeschool record keeping revolutionized my attitude. I went from a “have we done enough? I feel like we aren’t doing enough!” crisis to a “wow, we have done so much and come so far!” mindset.

~This saying in the chapter titled “Liberation from School”: “classical education in the fall, unit studies in winter, and unschooling in spring.” Also, I needed to have the idea put into clear words that you can ditch the books when inspiration strikes for great fun combined with excellent learning, but in the day-to-day, but most of us also need those school books to keep us going when inspiration is lacking.

~Throughout the book are clear and varying examples on how the writer used her own children’s likes and interests to develop both personal character and a thirst for knowledge that inspired me to embrace the things my children like instead of what I think they should like.

The Brave Learner has helped me embrace the freedom of homeschooling, without shirking the weight of educating my children. After reading it the first time through in the month of March, I’m more excited than ever to head into a new school year (after a fully restful and wonderful summer–fingers crossed!). I plan to read it again this month and do more of the exercises I didn’t have time for during the school year, while using it to help guide my planning for the 2019-20 school year.

Seriously, The Brave Learner is the perfect combination of practical and inspirational. It’s the most successful homeschool book I’ve ever read when it comes to walking the fine lines between the tensions of philosophies of education, along with Teaching From Rest. There is wisdom on every page, and even a chapter on homeschooling through hard times.

I hope you have a happy and restful summer, whatever you end up doing, and if you pick up The Brave Learner, come back and tell me what you learned so we can keep on learning together!

Other Homeschooling Posts on Miathereader.com:

A Day In The Life of Our Homeschool

My One Answer for How to Homeschool with Littles

Us, making it over the finish line of 4th grade, 2nd grade, K4, and Toddler-In-It-All, celebrating the end of our school year at Pelican’s Snow Balls

Claimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Julie Bogart or Amazon or any of the other links included in this blog post. No proceeds of any sales come to me.

Everyday Life

What’s Saving My Life, Winter 2019

We’re halfway through Winter! (Spring, please come early). Bloggers around the web are gathering to ask the question “What’s saving your life right now?” What we really mean is what are the little things making winter bearable and even enjoyable? I’m joining in the fun to share what small things are making this season a good one, even to this Summer Lover. To join the fun, click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy.

The winter woods outside my window.

In my previous What’s Saving My life posts (here and here), the items on my lists were various odds and ends I’d discovered, like my Blendtec or Grapefruit face wash. This time, many of the items on my list have been recommended to me by friends, so I guess I should say above all these things, friendship is saving my life this winter. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, as Nacho Libre would say.

Things Saving My Life – Winter 2019

Vitamin D – Why have I waited so long to take Vitamin D? I feel so much brighter than I usually do in January, in body and in spirits. And my whole family got terrible colds to start January off and I didn’t. Hmm. It’s only $15 for a year’s supply, so it sure seems like it’s worth a shot! (Shout out to Sara for telling me to get this!)

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Elizabeth Goudge + D.E. Stevenson + Elizabeth Cadell + Rumer Godden – I’ve fallen so deeply into novels written in the mid-20th century this winter. There is a strength of character and theme in the books from this time period that I can’t get enough of. I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden before last November, and I could say “Where have you been all my life?” but I’m too thrilled to find new-to-me writers so profound, beautiful, and readable. I’ve tried several times to pull myself out of my antique reading habits by picking up new releases, but it’s been futile. New releases feel hyperactive compared to the calm security I find in these four authors. I’m firmly entrenched in the mid-20th century for now (with the exception of two upcoming bookclub picks! Maybe they’ll save me from the spiral back in time…).

Kindle Unlimited – Amazon is running a deal for three months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99. I love it so much. It’s partly to blame for my vintage book vortex, as they have a bunch of D.E. Stevenson books. It’s been a very cozy winter in my reading world, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. They have new releases as well, and the deal is still available if you go here. I’ve set myself a reminder to cancel it after 3 months because I can’t justify spending $10 a month when I have access to such great libraries (and I’m in and out of them multiple times a week), but if you aren’t a big library user and you are a big reader, Kindle Unlimited could be your new best friend.

The Whole30 Cookbook, The Whole30, and Food Freedom ForeverYou’ve heard me talk about The Whole30 before. I love it because it truly sets me back on a good path of eating healthfully and mindfully. After

December, who doesn’t need that? (I’m blaming you, four thousand cookies, chocolates, and cakes everywhere I go). This is our 4th Whole30, and while I love it, I can’t keep Whole30-ing all the time. I’m so glad I read Melissa Hartwig Urban’s book Food Freedom Forever. It explains how to make good decisions going forward without guilt about “what’s worth it” for you based on the information you gather in reset diets like The Whole30. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the recipes included in The Whole30 and The Whole30 Cookbook. Whole30 recipes you find online are hit or miss, but these recipes are winners. [Sidenote – Food Freedom Forever is currently free in Kindle Unlimited membership.]

Hoopla – I cancelled Netflix just in time to avoid the Marie Kondo craze. Not really, I had my own tidying frenzy  in 2016. The only regret I have about life without Netflix is how my treadmill life has suffered. It’s difficult to enjoy treadmill workouts without something to watch. Enter, Hoopla! It’s a digital media service through the local library that offers many, many movies, TV shows, audio books, and music albums. There is a limit on how many things you can check out per month (but if you have more than one library card in your family…well, you can check out a good bit. Currently re-watching Season 1 of The Great British Baking Show on the treadmill because it’s the pleasantest thing on TV ever. Also, you can’t raid the pantry while you’re on the treadmill, so it’s the only safe time to watch it. And yes, Hoopla does have a Roku app and can be connected through Chromecast, as well.

Sunday Riley – Talking about skincare can get a little tricky these days, but I hope we can all agree that no one skincare line is right for everyone. Without wanting to rile anyone’s feathers (see what I did there), I have to say that I’m very glad my sister told me about Sunday Riley. I have tried lots of things for my adult acne prone skin, but always the products are too drying, or just don’t work, or are too expensive. This kit has been absolute perfection for me. I love how it uses lots of natural ingredients (though it is not organic or all natural). I should also say that my sister who told me about this is saving my life/face. It’s great to have someone who has similar skin trying out things! Thanks, Emily!

The Lazy Genius – This was my favorite podcast in 2018. I love how Kendra helps me think clearly about the everyday things I deal with that can build up into mental overwhelm. I also love her philosophy of having one “guru” on topics – one voice you consult about various things. For example, your mom might be your cooking guru, your co-worker your travel guru, etc. The Lazy Genius is my “simplify the everyday things” guru.

Stitchfix – I dislike clothes shopping 99% of the time, so Stitchfix is a lifeline. I’ve gotten a box a year over the last three years and every time I’ve kept all the items in it. Possibly it’s because I’m desperate not to have to go shopping and not very opinionated about clothes, but I think the stylists are pretty good at their jobs! I guess you could say Stitchfix is my style guru.

Homemade lotion and lip balm – All store bought body butters and balms pale in comparison to these two very easy recipes. I buy the ingredients from Amazon (mostly the cheaper NOW brand) and use cocoa butter in place of coconut oil because coconut oil irritates my skin (weird, I know). One batch of each of these will last me about four to six months. Trust me, making a batch is way easier than taking my crew (or even just myself) to the store, so not only is it better than what’s in stores, it keeps me out of stores. Win, win. (Notes – the lotion says it’s for varicose veins but really, it’s simply a good basic moisturizing recipe whether you have vein issues or not, and for the lip balm, I leave out the honeysuckle).

Fancy? No. Awesome? Yes.

The Lark Ascending – I listen to this song three or four times a week. It’s a song that seems to tell a story. It puts me in mind of all the pioneers and brave people that have gone before me. The song is always paired in my mind with the painting below since Sarah Clarkson so wisely put them together in an Instagram post. It lifts my spirits and also braces me up to do the good work in front of me while looking for the beauty around me. [P.S. The whole album by Tasmin Little is exquisite.]

The Song of the Lark, Jules Breton

Those are the things lifting my spirits this winter!

For a list of summer favorite things, go here!

Everyday Life

To Fight and Win Against Internet Exhaustion

Hello, from my first blog post of 2019!…on January 28th….but hey, at least it’s still January! So sorry it’s taken so long. I’ve had bit of a mental dilemma when it comes to blogging and the whole internet experience lately. As I reflected on 2018 and planned for 2019, I realized something. I suffer from Internet Exhaustion. Okay, okay, that’s not a real condition. What I really means is I let the internet exhaust me in 2018. I’m a golden child of the information age, and it’s wearing me down. It’s as if having to know all there is to know is part of my core being. That’s why it’s just so tiresome to see article title after article titled “The 12 Books You Can’t Miss This Year” or “The one thing you should be doing to make mornings a breeze” or “These 49 Amazon Products Are LIFE!” Like, really, 49 of them? It’s tiresome because many of us feel like once we’ve seen that headline, we HAVE to know. We have to click on it. We HAVE to know what one thing we’ve been doing wrong when we clean the shower. We have to know the one thing NOT to say to our bosses and ALL the other “one things” because we are responsible, capable adults, and if we don’t know, we might not be capable of being responsible, capable adults….it’s madness. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

I’ve read a bunch of articles about how we’re addicted to these types of, well, articles, because getting new information gives human brains a hit of dopamine. And, apparently, many of us have major FOMO when it comes to information. Combine the Fear of Missing Out with our addiction to the dopamine our brains produce when we learn something new, and we can

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Nom, nom, nom!

let ourselves become internet consuming monsters. Yes, last year I was an information Cookie Monster, cramming all those unhealthy calories in like a cookie addict (especially the delicious looking cookies titled “Six Things You Didn’t Know About Queen Elizabeth’s Nightly Routine”…guiiilty…). And it’s trickled into this year as well. So I have to do something about it!

Maybe you’re feeling like me and you didn’t even realize it. Maybe you and I both never want to know what versions of Avocado Toast we have to make before we’ve really lived. I mean, it’s okay. We’re good. We don’t actually NEEEED to know about the three-step process to eliminating blanket odor. OH no, I didn’t even know that was a thing but maybe all my blankets have it!

See how easy it is? I just made that up. But it didn’t sound too far fetched, did it? We’ve all read articles just that loony before and actually given our thought-space to them. So, right, we’re fine without knowing how to make the sixteen best tomato sauces and how to avoid blanket odor. (Seriously, do not go sniff all your throw blankets right now). We’re good.

But are we? Because that’s what we have to decide. Will I believe I’m fine without knowing all there is to know, or staying current on, well, everything? If I can truly stay healthy and sane and also use the internet, I have to ignore the articles I know are luring me in as a FOMO suffering, info-loving person in the Information Age. It’s like I’m a shopper going in to a store for laundry detergent, but I end up spending an hour weeding through clearance items so I don’t miss a possibly amazing bargain. The internet can be the same — I only meant to spend one minute online checking the weather, but 15 minutes later I’ve learned the best way to organize a home media center and I still don’t know what the weather is going to be like today! I can make a choice every time I go into a store to only go in and get what I need and come right back out…so I should start practicing that way of “shopping” every time I open up a browser, right? Intentional internet usage: that’s the answer! If I went into Target looking for a set of measuring cups and came out with a set of measuring cups and three pages of cute seasonal stickers from the Dollar Spot and a gorgeous green water pitcher that’s going to look great on my open shelf cabinet, I would see that as a failure and be really disappointed in myself. (I’m not judging your Target shopping habits here, by the way, just my own…). I’ve got to change my mindset to be an intentional internet user just as I am an intentional shopper (most of the time). I don’t have time to browse the aisles in TJ Maxx so why in the world do I think I have time to get lost in the aisles of information on the internet?

So intentional internet usage is the plan going forward! And that leads me to this blog I write here. Knowing so much of the content on the internet is draining us more than giving life to us, I don’t always know what the write Tinners Path, Englandhere anymore. The pressure to generate titles like “Fourteen Books You Must Read to Your Kids This Winter” is just yuck. I don’t want to be another voice telling you what you can’t miss. Not to mention that I feel like I really can’t come up with those titles because all I’ve read lately is older books. How does “The Twenty Best Books You Missed From 1951” sound to you? Catchy? I thought not. But anyway, the point is I think I’d like to continue putting up book reviews and sharing other good stuff, but it’s never my intention to be another shouting voice wearing you down and making you feel like there’s one more thing you have to know or do. I hope this spot on the internet is a light, open space, for maybe finding a good read or pointing us to a path of thoughtful and intentional living. With that goal in mind, I think I can keep putting out content out into this amazing and often overwhelming world.  

I hope you don’t deal with Internet Exhaustion at all! But if you do, join me in 2019 to fight in? Let’s be intentional internet users, intelligent but not weary and worn down with information and click bait. I find so much encouragement and good mentorship on the blogs I choose to follow, and I have no intention of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I aim to finish 2019 in a saner state of mind than I began it with when it comes to the choices I make on what to feed my mind. As always, thanks for choosing this spot on the internet to stop and stay a while! I’m looking forward to sharing more books and life with you. 

With love and good wishes for the coming year,

Mia/Alana 



Everyday Life

Two Months From Christmas

Well folks, it’s October 25th, so the obvious question for all of us is: ready for Christmas? Got your shopping started? Began prepping the teacher gifts (you know how long that vanilla extract takes!)? Shopped for matching outfits for your kids’ Christmas photos? Deep cleaned your house so that the moment your fall pumpkins rot, you can whip out all the greenery and twinkle lights?

Good grief, October 25th, and it’s time to get pumped and do this thing or go home. It’s time to prepare for holiday magic, but I’m already preparing for holiday exhaustion.

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Photo from Gimmesomeoven.com

Doesn’t the fact that we have to start preparing for Christmas in mid-October or set ourselves up for definite and absolute failure tell us something? Things have gotten out of hand. Twelve secret santas, four hundred teacher gifts, thirty-two holiday parties….I may be exaggerating, but only slightly. It’s all a bit much. And the crazy thing is, the things that are potentially my favorite parts of the holidays – Christmas gifts, Christmas home decor, holiday gatherings — are also the parts that stress me out the most. They’re both the detractors from holiday joy and the givers of holiday joy.

Or are they? Do I really expect them to bring me joy? Christmas epiphany: if I don’t already have joy from deeper, more imporant things, I won’t get it from the outer trappings of our cultural Christmas traditions. I’m the one who brings the soul joy I receive from a heart of worship and love for God and others to all of that extra, surface stuff.

So as we gear up for Christmas 2018, maybe what we shouldn’t be doing is soaking vanilla sticks in vodka for our vintage jar gifts (that was so 2016 anyway)…maybe we should be soaking our hearts in worship? Maybe it’s worship that will make my heart both tender and strong for all the love and joy I and you and all the rest of us are expecting to pour out when late December dances into our everyday lives and reminds us that hope has always been here and it’s here to stay. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving always comes first. After all, worship starts in gratitude and humble awe. That’s why today, I’m choosing not to skip Thanksgiving in my holiday preparations. It’s easy to brush over it in favor of all the tasks Christmas brings to a person, and especially a parent, in this current holiday frenzied age. Yes, it’s October 25th, two months ’til Christmas, but it’s also four weeks ’til Thanksgiving. The real Thanksgiving can start today.

Preaching it to myself and sharing it with you, in hopes that our hearts and not just our homes are ready for Christmas 2018.



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