Reading, Reviews

All The Pretty Things and Other September Reads

Thank you for all your kind words after my last post, The Summer That Was Quiet and Hard. Knowing that the whole self-contempt, identity issue is something many of us face, I wanted to share a few books that are helping me think through it all. 

This past month or so of reading has been completely out of the ordinary. I am usually a novel girl, as in, I read lots of novels and throw in a few nonfiction books here and there for good measure. But when you’re trying to figure out a lot of real life and you feel like you’re wading through deep waters, a thirst for help and wisdom and true stories from other travelers along the path is all that will do. And I gotta say, a couple of these books that just came out in the last two months are amazingly wonderfully.

Present Over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of LivingI put Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect on my Spring TBR list, hoping to get an early release copy. I didn’t get one, but it was God’s goodness to me that I didn’t and that somehow I didn’t even get around to buying it the day it came out. I waited to read it until the very end of August. There could not have been a more perfect book for me to read at that very moment in my life. This surprised me, because I actually thought before I started the book, “I’ve kind of heard a lot about this message –the slow your pace, pay more attention to the present message–lately and I’m not so sure this book is going to have anything new to say about it.” Let me tell you, I was wrong.  Present Over Perfect bowled me over. It was this book that helped me recognize the self contempt I was feeling, and the one that gave me some tools to start waging the slow thought-battle against it. Niequist has so many good things to say about how we define ourselves and what our defining measures can do to our lives, in good and bad ways. I want to read it again right this minute. I hope you pick it up, and I hope it is the huge gift to you that it was to me.

All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way HomeEdie Wadsworth of Life In Grace has been writing her memoir for three years. This is one of those, “I wasn’t going to write a memoir but a publisher asked me to” situations that makes aspiring writers jealous and angry, but I am really glad that Wadsworth wrote it, no matter what the process was. All The Pretty Things is a book I couldn’t put down. Edie grew up in rural Tennessee, the daughter of dysfunction and love. Her family and her story will make you laugh and cry in sequence over and over again. I loved it. If you’re a fan of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this book is definitely your cup of tea. I liked it even better than Walls’s memoir because of the huge measure of hope and redemption on every page. I bought this book. I love books, I read tons of books, but the library is my best friend. I hardly ever buy brand new books, but I bought this one. It’s so good, and filled with hope in hard situations. (Side note: her short podcast series Grace Talks is still my favorite podcast ever).

Chase

Chase Study Guide: Chasing After the Heart of GodThis is the second study I’ve done by Jennie Allen (the first one was Stuck) and again I am so thankful for the books and studies that are in my life at just the right time. Chase begins with a chapter called “Identity” and that is perfect. I’m finding you have to come face to face with who you are without God and with God before anything can become clear and you can live in the goodness God gives us. Chase studies the life of David and so far it’s been eye opening to look at stories I’ve read a million times (like David and Goliath) through the lens of how David’s belief in God changed his actions when compared to everyone around him. Truly, what we believe about God and ourselves changes everything.

So that’s what I read in September. And now it’s October! I’ll be back in a few days to post my reading goals for this Fall. Until then, have a great start to October!

Reading, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking: Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine is Changing My Life

On a gloomy December morning, I enjoy the rare treat of sitting alone at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a toasted English muffin slathered in blueberry preserves, and a book. I wouldn’t choose this type of morning every day–I love the chaos and energy, the blue eyes and burnished blonde hair usually flying around the circle from living room, dining room, kitchen, at 8:00 a.m. on any given morning–but as a once in a while thing, this morning alone is heavenly.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with RecipesWhat book am I reading? Funny you should ask. It’s kind of a cookbook, kind of a memoir. It’s Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, a book I wouldn’t have picked up on my own whim in a million years. But I heard Shauna speak twice in the last year, and then a speaker at MOPS said Bread and Wine was pivotal in helping her become the cook she always wanted to be, so I ordered it from my library and here it sits in front of me. I’m not a cookbook reader. I struggle with even wanting to cook, and much more with the actual cooking. When the whole Julie and Julia book and movie were crazy popular, I just shook my head and said, “Why? Why would I put myself through a year of making complicated, French recipes?” I wouldn’t.

And I still wouldn’t. But when the every day need to feed and nourish my family collides with the stress of planning and prepping and shopping so often that it just drives me crazy, I know this whole cooking thing is something I need to figure out. Add Bread and Wine to the mix, and it suddenly becomes something I really, really want to figure out and just might enjoy. Niequist says, “I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are….And the only way to get there is to start where you are.”

I’m teetering dangerously on the edge of declaring 2015 the year I begin to truly learn to cook. It’s quotes like this that make me brave:

“We’ve been told that cooking and baking and entertaining are specialized skills that only some people possess, and that without a culinary degree or a lifestyle brand we can’t be expected to do anything but buy prepared food. Marketing and advertising campaigns urging us to eat out or buy already prepared foods want us to think that plain old cooking is difficult and not worth learning. This trend began in the 1950s after factories that used to make ammunition had to make something else. So they started making shelf-stable food in cans and boxes, similar to what soldiers had been eating but unfamiliar to the average American family. In order to sell canned food and cake mixes, advertisers had to convince American women that cooking is too hard and troublesome for our modern world. But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.” (Bread and Wine, p. 41, emphasis mine)

Quotes like that, Niequist’s skillful and passionate writing on the glories of food and love around the table, and my 100% confidence that my husband will totally back me up in this even though I haven’t asked him yet (he will) urge me on into this scary thing of picking up a cast iron skillet, crushing some peppercorns with it, and then attempting to make Stake au Poivre. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds ah-mazing. I’m kind of worried I’m going to waste a lot of money on food that turns out badly, but then I read this:

“It takes some time to learn, to try and fail and make a mess and try again…But it’s a lovely process, with not a minute wasted. If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that’s a skill for life–like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive.”

Yeah, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on learning golf and I’m still not even close to good at it. I guess it’ll be more worthwhile to try and do something well that I have to do every day anyway.

I guess I’ll take a deep breathe and let myself dive over the edge.

2015, I doubt I’ll be a Foodie when I’m through with you, but I plan to make a mean Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce before you’re over.

Whether you consider yourself a Foodie or not, Bread and Wine is a delightful, insightful read that pretty much anyone can enjoy. I highly recommend it. But be forewarned– you may find yourself searching for Sriracha sauce in the grocery store before you’re through. Or maybe you already know what aisle that’s on. If so, call me. I need help. =)

Read more Saturday Cooking posts here!

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