11 Books Worth Reading (Summer Reading Recap)

“Reading more” was one of my goals for this summer. When life gets busy, reading is usually one of the first things I drop. But there are just too many wonderful books out there to not devote a few minutes each day to reading.

Though I’ll likely never zoom through four books a week like some amazing folks do, I did make it through eleven books this summer that were worth the effort.

Books Worth Reading

  1. I’m No Angel: Winsome and humble. That’s the spirit of this beautiful autobiographic tale of a young Christian wife who made it to one of the most coveted runways ever as a Victoria Secret Angel model… and gave it all up to be a Proverbs 31 wife.
  2. The Five Love LanguagesI don’t like books that put people in boxes or encourage us to make excuses for sinful behavior. The Five Love Languages did neither. If we don’t speak the love language of our spouse (or child, sibling, friend, etc) it is easy to think that we’re obeying the command to “love one another”, but not demonstrating it in ways that are as meaningful as we think.
  3. Little Princes: This is the gripping autobiography of a young man who decided he was going to spend his life savings on a trip round the world. In order to ease his conscience (and stop his friends from shaking their heads in disapproval) he started his trek with a short stint at an orphanage in Nepal. Little did he know he would come to care about these children and battle greedy child-traffickers, overwhelmed officials, war-ravaged cities, and a dangerous trip along goat paths for their sakes.
  4. Lessons at Blackberry Inn: With the clear goal of inspiring readers to imitation, Karen Andreola paints a beautiful image of a homeschool family. It’s set in the country during the Great Depression. At times it was overly sentimental, but laid a compelling case for the art of gentle learning. (Plus, I love books that honor happy marriages!)
  5. Mara: Daughter of the Nile & The Golden Goblet*: This year, we’re studying Creation to the Fall of the Roman Empire. I thought these novels might be fun read-alouds to highlight life in ancient Egypt, but were too complex. I sure loved them though! Nothing like getting your history lesson in the form of a fast-paced novel!
  6. Toward a Truly Free Market: Joshua read this book with some guys from church, and highly recommended it. I was a bit leery about beginning a dense book on economics, but found it totally worth the effort. The author offers a fresh and compelling view of economic theory. If you’re worried about the direction our economy is headed, I highly recommend Toward a Truly Free Market.
  7. Fresh Eggs Daily: A fun and simple read, this beautifully illustrated book is a great guide to caring for chickens naturally. It’s filled with great facts like “planting mint near the coop helps repel mice” and what weeds and table scraps are good for chickens.
  8. The Art of War: One of those classics I had never got around to reading. Which is silly since it’s super short and so universally loved (and Librivox has a great free audio recording of it.)
  9. Fat Chance: Beathing the Odds against Suger, Processed Foods, Obsity, and Disease: Obesity is an ever growing problem in the modern world and we must stop saying it’s just a self-discipline issue, because it isn’t. This book is an excellent look at how our bodies deal with extra fat, the biochemical causes of obesity, why diets rarely work, and how to increase our (and our children’s) chances for healthy lifestyles.
  10. Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: ‘m blessed with a very happy marriage, but there’s always room to make it even better, right? This book is filled with simple “secrets” that highly happy couple practice, and all marriages can incorporate.
  11. The Eagle of the Ninth*: Another historically-based novel that was a bit too mature for the kids, but was a fascinating tale about life in Roman Britain. It’s amazing how a story gives feeling and life to the dry facts of ancient times.

On the Bookshelf this Fall

What’s on your bookshelf? 

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[Full disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.]

(Another reason I didn’t think these were appropriate for my children is that I want to wait to introduce false gods to them till they are mature enough to appreciate the wonderful truth that these false gods were conquered by Christ.)

 photo credit

Why You Should Start a Compost Pile NOW (& how to do it)

Summer’s soaring temperatures have plummeted and autumn leaves are beginning to litter the ground. Now is the perfect time to start your compost pile.

Approximately 90 billion pounds of food is wasted in America every single year. That’s roughly 30 percent of the food that is sold. (Source)

Why You Should Start a Compost Pile Now

Not only does a compost pile cut down on your household waste, it turns that “waste” into rich and beautiful soil to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in.

Even if you don’t garden, starting a compost pile is worth it. I promise you that the avid gardeners in your life would consider a few loads of fresh compost an awesome present.

So why should you start your compost pile NOW? Because a good compost pile needs two types of materials: greens (like kitchen scraps) and browns (like, you guessed it, dried leaves). Plus, if you start in autumn, your pile will be at least partially composted come spring planting time.

How to Start a Compost Pile

Select a Site for Your Compost: 

Pinterest is full of ideas for cute composters. Me? I opted for a plain old-fashioned pile, hidden behind the shed. I’d suggest tucking the pile in a hidden, but easily accessible, spot. If you have to dodge an obstacle course to get to it, the compost pile is likely to get neglected.

Also make sure it is a spot that doesn’t stay soggy for days after a downpour. A pile that’s too wet starts to smell bad quickly.

To compost properly, the pile should be at least 3′ wide by 3′ long and (eventually) 3′ tall. That size will help it generate enough heat to compost properly.

Build Your Compost Pile: 

Compost piles are not like puffed pastries. You do not have to measure exactly to get rich crumbly results. The general rule of thumb though is 1 part “green” materials to 3 parts “brown” materials.

Green (or nitrogen-rich) materials:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grinds & tea bags
  • Garden trimmings from healthy plants*
  • Eggshells, preferably crushed
  • Farm animal manure, like rabbits or backyard chickens
  • Weeds, that haven’t gone to seed
  • Grass clippings (add in thin layers or stir around so it doesn’t mat)

Brown (or carbon-rich) materials:

  • Leaves, except black walnut leaves
  • Cardboard (even toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc)
  • Shredded newspapers, scrap paper, etc (avoid glossy paper though)
  • Straw
  • Corncob husks

Material to AVOID in your Compost Pile

  • Meat, dairy, and oil (you don’t want to attract nasty critters!)
  • Glossy paper
  • Cat & dog (or other carnivore) poop
  • Weeds that have gone to seed (for obvious reasons)
  • Diseased plants (you don’t want to spread plant diseases to your compost pile!)

Speed up the Composting (if you want)

Left to their own, these materials will compost. Eventually. If you want to speed the process up, keep the pile moist and aerated.

Keep the pile moist: If the pile is too dry, it won’t compost well. If it’s too wet it won’t either (and might smell bad). The ideal “wetness” is like a moist sponge. Honestly, when I’m watering the garden in the heat of summer, sometimes I’ll spray the pile down too. I’m not in a huge hurry and don’t worry much about it though.

Keep the pile aerated:  When you first start the pile, it’s usually nice and aerated. As the materials start to break down, use up oxygen, and compress, the pile gets more matted. If you want to speed up the composting, aerated it a bit with a pitchfork. Again, this is optional and something I only do rarely, because I have plenty of other things I’d rather do with my time!

How can you tell when it’s ready? When your compost smells earthy and looks like rich soil not a pile of leaves, eggshells, and potato peels. Sometimes the bottom layer will be ready first and you can just scoop some out to add to your garden soil.

Go Start Your Compost

Starting a compost pile is about as difficult as doing a load of laundry and NOW is the best time to begin. Just pick your site, add your materials, and wait the pile to turn into rich compost.

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Want to start your own garden but don’t know where to begin? Of the stacks of gardening books I’ve read, One Magic Square is hands down my favorite. It’s down-to-earth, informative, upbeat, and inspiring.

 May be linked up at Mama Moments,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

photo credit 

Herbal Helps for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

When I learned we had been exposed to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a slight shiver ran down my spine. It sounds simply dreadful, doesn’t it?

Thankfully, it’s rarely as scary as its name.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a contagious illness caused by several different strains of Enterovirus, but it’s hardly ever serious. Usually it starts with a sore throat, proceeds to a fever, and then little rashes or blisters appear on the hands, feet, and/or mouth.

Herbal Helps for Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

This very cute baby isn’t mine (photo credit). Thankfully, Edmund’s never got this bad. 

Of the half dozen children I know with it, only one followed the normal progression. Edmund was perfectly happy till he came down with a fever on Sunday.

Meg played like a champ all day Tuesday, but an hour after tucking her into bed she complained “My hurts all over.” She didn’t have a fever, but had little rashes on her feet. I rubbed homemade herbal salve on her feet, gave her a bit of pain medicine, and she woke up perfectly happy (though she still had a painless rash.)

I didn’t even told Rose she has a slight rash on her face. It hasn’t seemed to bother her in the slightest and since we’re quarantining ourselves anyway, what’s the use of worrying her?

Herbal Helps for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics are useless. It usually clears up on its own within a week, but I wanted to do what I could to boost all of the children’s immune systems and fight the illness off as quickly as possible. (We have an Ancient Egypt party coming up at their weekly academy and simply have to be better in time! ;) )

Here are a few herbs that are generally considered safe* for children that help fight viral infections and/or boost their immune system:

Instead of giving one big dose a day, herbal remedies are best split into multiple smaller doses throughout the day. I aim for every hour or two during the height of the illness, then tapered off for a couple of days once they’re recovering.

I also rubbed homemade herbal salve on their rashes before they lay down, which seemed to sooth them.

A lukewarm oatmeal and lavender bath also soothes itchy rashes (and the kids just think it’s fun!) To avoid a very slimy oatmeal mess, put the oats in a clean old sock and run the water through it.

Very rarely, serious complications occur, which cannot be treated at home. Usually though, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a non-threatening childhood illness whose speedy demise can be helped along with herbs.

Have you (or your kids) had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

*I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research and contact your health care provider immediately if your condition is serious!  

May be linked up at Mama Moments,Works for MeGraced Simplicity, & Simple Lives

 [Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Loved by an Almighty God

Loved by an Almighty God
A few years ago, my lovely sisters and sisters-in-law visited our tiny duplex in Alabama for the weekend. One of the benefits of crowding ten people into a 650 square foot home was the incentive to spend more time outside. One gorgeous evening, Joshua offered to lay the kiddos down while we girls went on a walk.

After meandering down to the square and visiting the quaint college library, we headed home. The bright city lights warded off the growing darkness around us. We were almost home when a car slowed down and the driver rolled down the window.

Picking up the pace, we braced ourselves for rude comments or cat calls.

Instead, the elderly gentleman called out in a kind voice, “I just want you girls to know that Jesus loves you.” Then he rolled the window back up and continued down the road.*

The memory still brings a smile to my lips.

So take courage, for “you are loved by an Almighty God.” **

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* I’m pretty sure that only in the south do completely random strangers stop traffic for pleasantries. Once, a grandpa held up cars at a stop sign while encouraging me to “Enjoy the kids, they grow up before you know it! I sure miss mine.” I assured him I would, and then he drove off while I continued our walk to the park. The drivers behind him didn’t seem the least bit annoyed.

**the lovely reminder that Darlene Schacht uses to close her blog posts.

photo credit

Cayenne Pepper for Shock

If I were just a wee bit less clumsy, I wouldn’t have the chance to try out the lovely herbal remedies I read about (like onions if you bruise yourself while tumbling down the stairs.) What would be the fun of learning about herbs though if you don’t put them to the test, right?

It was the day of Joshua’s little sister’s wedding rehearsal. He wasn’t able to get off work as early as he’d hoped so by the time he got home we were already running late. I hurried to load up the van while he changed. I quickly walked around the back to buckle in Meg. Normally, I can walk under the open trunk with no problem. Alas, the trunk wasn’t quite open all the way and I trotted right into it.

Immediately, I started to hyper-ventilate and felt like I was going into shock. Unbidden tears streamed down uncontrollably. I put my hand to my head and blood poured down my arm.

Cayenne Pepper for shock (Or, when cayenne tastes sweet!)

Cayenne pepper from the Bulk Herb Store

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research and contact your health care provider immediately if your condition is serious!  

I made it to the table and melted into a chair, leaving a trail of blood from the garage to the kitchen table. I knew head cuts bleed really easily and the blood loss shouldn’t bother me. But everything seemed to spin out of focus and I couldn’t stop shaking, crying, and hyper-ventilating.

Joshua came running when he heard my feeble call for help.

“Cayenne! Can you get me some cayenne pepper in water?” I whispered weakly. “I think it will help.”

Despite the dazed feeling, a vivid story of cayenne helping shock had come to mind. [Herbs come alive in Lalitha's Ten Essential Herbs, making it much easier to remember when to use what!]

Joshua fumbled hurriedly through the spice cabinet and finally found the buried cayenne pepper.

I’m not sure how much cayenne he put in the glass of water, but it was bright orange. Normally, I’m a huge wimp when it comes to hot stuff. With shaking hand I took a sip. The cayenne tasted sweet!

A few sips later, I had stopped shaking and started breathing more regularly. By the time Joshua had gently wiped the blood from my hair and cleaned up the trail of blood, I was feeling recovered enough to go to the rehearsal. As I read later, it’s common for people suffering from shock to experience the sweet taste when they take cayenne pepper. Tasting the spiciness again is a sign that the shock is fading.

We were really late, but we made it to the rehearsal. After we got back, I upgraded the cayenne pepper to an easily-accessible spot in the spice rack.

Why is cayenne so effective? Read more here…

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityProverbs 31,  & Simple Lives

 [Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]