Friday Faves: Auditory Enrichment

One of the things I have been doing over the past several months is listening to podcasts while I work. These are comprised of various types of listening; from sermons to news and politics, some informative broadcasts and also educational encouragement. Podcasts have evolved into my first option for engaging the mind and contemplating ideas. They are, for me, more cognitively enriching than reading articles online.

I still have a list of favorite, friendly blogs but overall, I find podcasts more enjoyable. I can listen to several while my kids are in school (they go to school a couple of days a week) and still get lots of household tasks accomplished.

I’ll confess that I’ve wondered if the trading of screen time for podcasts is tantamount to exchanging Cheetos for Smartfood, but decided that since I get a lot more done listening than while indulging other forms of distraction, the podcasts are here to stay for a bit. I listen to random podcasts on occasion but have subscribed to eight, in particular, and I listen to these regularly. This Friday Fave will highlight my current favorite podcasts. I installed the Castbox app on my phone, which makes it much easier for me to see when my favorites have a new episode as well as dig around for others that might be interesting.

Here, in no particular order, are the podcasts I subscribe to along with a little bit about why I enjoy each one.

Proverbial with Joshua Gibbs: This one is a part of the Circe podcast network. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has read here for any length of time, this is my favorite of the three Circe podcasts on the list.  In his podcast, Gibbs “explores the wisdom of the ages as it comes to us in proverbs, by which [he] means wise sayings a man may live by if he’s not so arrogant as to think himself special”.  He opens every weekly episode with that quote, and I have yet to tire of it.

The Commons: Part of the Circe Institute’s podcast network, The Commons is thoroughly focused on topics related to Christian classical education. It helps me to remember why we have chosen the education path we’ve chosen. Especially when the road seems hard.

Ask Andrew: Ask Andrew is also offered through the Circe Podcast network. In it, Andrew Kern asks specific educational questions that Circe readers submit. Again, Circe is dedicated to Christian classical education.

The Candace Owens Show: I really enjoy listening to this young commentator who covers a range of topics from a thoughtful, countercultural, unapologetically conservative perspective. She always has interesting guests, too.

Voddie Baucham via SermonAudio: I have always enjoyed Voddie Baucham’s scripturally systematic, intellectual approach to teaching. I always learn new things and am challenged in new way by listening to him.

Primal Blueprint: This is a podcast produced by Mark Sisson, author of Mark’s Daily Apple.  He doesn’t always host the podcast, but it’s still chock full of good information about health and nutrition.

The Ben Shapiro Show: I hardly think I need to get into a lengthy description of this one. Almost everyone knows who Ben Shapiro is. He is so smart and intellectually honest that he manages to produce a hugely popular video show and podcast in spite of his rather annoying voice.  It took some time, but I got used to it. For the uninformed, he discusses the hot political topics and headlines of the day from a libertarian perspective.

The World and Everything In It: This is a daily news and issues podcast that reports and analyzes from an explicitly Christian perspective. Somehow, they manage to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like proselytizing. They are thoughtful, honest, and balanced.

The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe’s amazing voice and stellar storytelling ability combine to offer uncommonly known insights into people and events most of us are familiar with. His website describes it as “a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span”. Yep. It sounds like a podcast for me!

Those are the eight podcasts I am subscribed to and listen to on a semi-regular basis. Some of these I listen to more consistently than others, of course. Now on to the important question:

What are some of your favorite podcasts and which ones do you think I might enjoy but haven’t yet heard about?

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Apple Season!

“Pumpkin spice” is advertised everywhere we look from September through Thanksgiving (and I’ll admit I made these “pumpkin spice” energy bites yesterday), but for me, the real treat of the fall season is a crisp, sweet, tart apple.

Sidebar: The quotes around the words pumpkin spice are because in reality, there is no such thing as “pumpkin spice”. Flip over any package of the stuff, which is ubiquitous on spice aisles this time of year, and you’ll find a list of ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Or at least you have them when you cook as much as we do: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and possibly allspice.

While these are indeed used to flavor pumpkin pie, they’re also used for sweet potato pie, some apple pies (minus the ginger, of course!), butternut squash recipes, and many more that I won’t bother to list. My point is that the pumpkin spice gimmick has been a cash cow for the food industry when most home cooks already have the stuff in their cabinets. You can even flavor your own coffee with it for a fraction of what Starbucks charges! But as usual, I’ve digressed from the topic at hand, which is the happiness apple season brings me!

For today, I was trying to decide how to list my favorite apple varieties. I concluded that I’ll list my top five -in no particular order- along with what I use them for. Not all apples shine best in the same ways!

Granny Smith: a great baking apple. These were cultivated in Australia in 1868 by a “granny” named Maria Ann Smith. Something about Granny Smiths makes just about anything you bake with them taste phenomenal. I suspect it’s that bit of tartness juxtaposed against the sweetness of the other ingredients it is baked into. I will occasionally eat a Granny Smith just because, and one of my daughters only ever wants to eat Granny Smith, but I consider it best as a baking apple.

Pink Lady: Cultivated and principally grown in Australia (in 1973), pink lady apples are a cross between tartness and sweetness. They are a little crunchier and a little sweeter than Granny Smiths, and they work well when making drinks such as apple lemonade. We’re big around our house about making eclectic drink combinations for Sunday dinners.

Gala: Cultivated in New Zealand during the 1930s, these are my favorite economical snacking apple. The perfect combination of crunchy and sweet makes them a favorite to slice and eat along with a salad for lunch.

Honeycrisp: Hands down, the apple I most look forward to this time of year! These apples, cultivated in the 1970s in Minneapolis, taste like a very decadent treat. They are more expensive than most other varieties of apples, but in my book, every bite is worth the added cost per pound. Cooking Light explains here why Honeycrisps are so expensive.

Those are my favorite apples along with some random trivia about when and where they were cultivated. We don’t experience much resembling a change of seasons down here, so we have to take our bits of fall however we can get them. For many Southerners, that’s pumpkin spice. For me, it’s all about the apples.

Do you enjoy the apple season? If so, which are among your favorite varieties? There are so many, after all!

My Reading Life

I pilfered this idea from Rod Dreher, who posted his answers to these questions after reading Clive James’ answers to them at The Guardian. I thought it was an excellent idea, and contemplating the answers made me think deeply about my own reading life, so here goes:

The Books I Am Currently Reading:

I’m currently reading three books. The first is Dorothy Sayer’s Mind of the Maker. The second is Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley. The third is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll probably finish them in that order, so stay tuned.

A Book That Changed My Life:

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that immediately springs to mind. It was an excellent opportunity to be reminded that as Christians, we would do well to be thankful for our mutual fellowship. We should be looking for common ground rather than reasons to bite and devour one another over minutiae. It really is a classic exploration of Christian community. A second one might be The  Heart of the Five Love languages by Gary Chapman. It really helped me reconsider how I interact in my marriage and personal relationships.

A Book I Wish I’d Written:

I can’t really think of a book I wish I’d written, although the books that I immediately thought of when I read the question are the ones by authors who drew on their local culture: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Lion’s Paw by Robb White, and  Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, all set in Florida during overlapping periods, are the kinds of books I wish I could write. I am not inclined, however, towards fiction writing so I can’t say definitively that I wish I’d written any of them.

A Book That Had the Greatest Influence on My Writing:

For right now, I’m thinking it’s probably How to Be Unlucky by Joshua Gibbs. I’m sure this is partly because it’s still relatively fresh in my mind, but it’s also because I really appreciate his ability to write about faith in a genuine way without over spiritualizing every facet of life.

I haven’t yet determined whether or not this speaks well of my spiritual state, but I want to be called higher (and to call others higher), from down here among the wrestling rabble, not from the pretense of on a lofty plane, of having arrived. I hope, when I can sort my thoughts enough to produce an entire volume, I can find the sweet spot Gibbs hits in his writing.

A Book I Think Is Most Over/Underrated:

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, hands down. Unless I’m in a conversation among die hard literature types, I never hear any mention of this novel of hers. And it is among my favorite Austen books, second only to Emma which I love for its humor.

A Book That Changed My Mind:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell was the first book I read that made me think completely differently about economic policy and politics as an integrated subject. It was partially the beginning of my abandonment of liberalism and the discarding of incongruent thinking on the subject of, well…basic economics.

The Last Book That Made Me Cry:

Books don’t generally make me cry. While I can’t think of one which fits that specific bill, I can think of one that moved me emotionally as I read it. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis is a book that lays bare the stages of grief in a way that almost anyone can appreciate.

The Last Book That Made me Laugh:

My Man Jeeves and Other Stories, by P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is among the best humorist writers and reading his books are guaranteed to make me chuckle.

A Book I Couldn’t Finish:

Fierce Angels was the latest one. I just couldn’t swallow all the intersectionality and oppression talk. Sometimes even I, who can wade through quite a lot of muck for the sake of information, have to throw in the towel.

The Book I’m Most Ashamed Not to Have Read:

I tend to think that if I haven’t read a book yet, it’s okay. It’s even okay if I never read it. However, I used to feel kind of icky that I’ve never read The Odyssey. Oh, well. Maybe one day.

My Earliest Reading Memory:

The Dick and Jane books in first grade. I could already read when I got there, so it was a drag reading these.

My Comfort Read:

The Bible, followed by almost any Jane Austen novel.

The Book I Give As a Gift:

I recently gave How to be Unlucky as a gift to a friend, and a Frog and Toad collection to an expectant mother. I don’t have a go-to book that I give as a gift. I’m a gift card kind of gal and a gift card to Barnes and Noble frees the giftee to choose whatever they want to read.

The Book I’d Most Like to Be Remembered For:

I don’t have an answer for this one as I haven’t published a book yet. Time will tell either way…

Now to the important part: Tell me all about YOUR reading life by answering some of these questions in the comments!

 

Friday Faves: A Bibliophile’s Hurricane Necessities

Happy Friday, all!

Gonna keep this one short and sweet since those of us on the southern half of the peninsula are supposed to be super busy right now scurrying about, filling the coffers at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

And I probably would be, were I not married to the most prepared, competent man on the planet. I say that well aware of the bias which informs it. Did I mention he’s also 6’2″ and super cute? But I digress.

Even though we’re seasoned natives who are well prepared, there are a few things a reader needs to be on top of for herself. In the event of no electricity for days on end, she needs to power her evening reading. So now that the grocery is stocked, gas tanks are full, and the generator’s been tested, what does a bibliophile preparedness checklist look like?

  • Charge all e-readers: Kindle, iPad, old Kindle, and the cell phone all need to be fully charged so that even when it’s dark and the lights are out, I can still read. My Kindle Fire is backlit!

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  • Booklights: You know, those little contraptions that snap on to the top of the book and then shine onto the page, however poorly. The key to those is to have several so you can use two at a time.

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  • Homework checklist and reading schedule for the kids. It’s highly likely they won’t have school on Tuesday and possibly Thursday, so it’ll be imperative that I make sure they stay on track with their assignments. That way, when they return to classes, they are prepared to turn in all assignments as scheduled. Things can get a little loosey goosey around here between Labor Day and the upheaval of the norm that hurricanes and power outages bring with them.

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  • Instant coffee (and tea bags): When you’re running on generator power, you must be selective about which components to divert the power to, and the coffee maker doesn’t make the cut. The stove might, though, meaning you can boil water. Morning reading feels better with a cuppa, so with instant coffee (I drink decaf) or your favorite tea bags on hand, you don’t have to forgo your hot morning drink.

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Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment. Dorian isn’t due till Tuesday, as he keeps delaying his visit, so if you can think of another useful item I may have forgotten, do tell!

Preferably before Sunday.

Rabbit Trail: Friday Faves!

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I hope to have time this weekend to write up the next installment in the Mating in Captivity series. Meanwhile, I figured we’d check out this rabbit trail and share some of our favorite things. I’ll go first!

Favorite Book:

That’s like asking me to name my favorite child. When you read as many books as I do, the favorite among them changes in relation to the genres and types of books that have been read in the last year. My favorite book at the moment is a tie between A Girl of the Limberlost, Barracoon, and How to Be Unlucky by Joshua Gibbs. I haven’t reviewed the latter book yet because I want to give it a re-read before I delve into it. This guy really resonates with me, from a spiritual point of view. I never cease to be amazed by that since he is Orthodox and I am what I refer to as a raging Protestant.

My favorite movie:

At the moment? Chef, starring Jon Favreau. I wrote about that one recently, complete with a couple of video clips. My favorite film of all time if I had to pick one is probably the BBC’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma (I wrote about that one here before as well), followed lastly by the old Charlton Heston version of The Ten Commandments.

My favorite place to vacation:

The mountains win this one, hands down; The Smokey Mountains in particular. I live near the beach, so while I enjoy it, it’s not my favorite place to get away. That said, there is no place quite like the Florida Keys, my second favorite vacation adventure, followed up by our nation’s capital. There’s so much to learn in Washington D. C. that you could go there every year and learn something new almost every time.

Favorite school subject:

I suspect this one is a no brainer. Writing and literature, of course! I read mainly for pleasure, but I rarely read a book without jotting down my thoughts and opinions about what I am reading as well as any memories or feelings it evokes. I do that whether or not I post a public review of the book. Doing this is highly satisfying to me, which is why it isn’t particularly difficult or time consuming for me to review books here. I always made A’s in English and literature.

My favorite form of exercise:

High Intensity Interval Training, usually referred to as HIIT. My preferred version is a good hard run alternated with brisk walks. I used to think log jogs were the best, but I’m over those now, unless my kids rope me into doing a race. By race, I mean a race against myself. I’ve never run fast enough to win a race. Wait! I did take top place female in my age category at a 5K about 4 years ago. Hah! I am not a huge fan of weightlifting, but I do moderate amounts because it’s good for me and my husband will gently remind me of that if I start to try to avoid doing it.

My favorite beauty routine:

Currently, it’s using my jade roller, which I use after a pretty extensive skin care routine. It only takes about 20 minutes a night but my husband says it seems like it takes 45. The results speak for themselves though, so I continue to do it.

My favorite beauty product:

M.A.C.’s 24-hour concealer is my go to whether I’m getting made up or not. The stuff is awesome. My favorite –currently- hair product is Mielle Organics Pomegranate and Honey Leave-in Conditioner. This one is specifically formulated for tightly curly hair, so not a universal product. It makes my hair feel good, and it’s not unusual for someone to hug me and note that my hair smells good. Win-win!

Those are a few of my favorite things. Currently!

If you feel like it, take a minute to share your favorites in any of these categories. I’m most interested in your favorite books, movies, and vacation spots.

Have a great weekend!

Real Food, Chef, and Stream of Consciousness Food Thoughts

I’m currently reading Larry Olmsted’s Real Food, Fake Food. It’s an eye-opening expose along the lines of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but with an emphasis on informing us of how much of the food we buy is actually fake. By that, I am not referring to the prepackaged, sugar-laden, man-made food that we all know is the antithesis of real, nutritious food.

No, Olmsted aims to reveal that a large percentage food we purchase at premium prices precisely because it is real food, is actually fake. Fake as in not at all what we think we’re buying. Grass fed beef that isn’t from cows which were grass fed. Maine lobster –most seafood, really- that isn’t, Kobe beef that can’t legally be that, and Parmesan cheese laced with wood pulp.

“All of the Kobe beef sold in this country, by chefs famous and anonymous, in ten-dollar sliders or three-hundred-dollar steaks, was fake, all of it, end of story. Every single restaurant and store purporting to sell Kobe beef—or any Japanese beef—was lying, including some of the country’s best-known chefs.”

Kobe beef isn’t a dish I have any particular interest in. In fact, a lot of the more high end food issues Olmsted delved into were less than riveting for me. Tuna, however, is a different animal; literally:

Consumers ordering white tuna get a completely different animal, no kind of tuna at all, 94 percent of the time. Your odds of getting served real white tuna in a restaurant are about the same as hitting zero/double zero on a Vegas roulette wheel, which is to say, not good.

I have a bit more to read before I finish the book, but seeing as my most diligent efforts still haven’t made me a bona fide book blogger, I’m following my instincts and writing about it now. It’s been so surprising in many respects that I am looking forward to doing some research of my own to validate Olmsted’s claims. I rarely take the findings of book authors at face value without corroboration.

Food and cooking is a huge part of our family dynamic. We cook a lot, and we take a lot of interest in cooking real food. Breakfast for us is as likely to contain kale or Brussels sprouts as eggs, as we make try to pack nutrition and real food into every meal. Quality ingredients are important when we cook, which is something we all do, from my husband to our youngest child. Reading that our food supply is more tainted than I already knew is a bit unnerving.

Nevertheless, we have to eat, and we all need to eat the best food we can afford. So we do what we can, give thanks for what is before us and trust that we’re getting what we need from the food we eat. Food is also an opportunity for feasts, fellowship, and fun, contrary to what some people would have us believe.

A few nights ago, I decided to watch the 2014 film Chef, starring Jon Favreau. I was in the mood for a movie, and I was in the mood to watch someone else cook. Since Chef is one of my favorite movies and I haven’t watched it in a couple of years, I gave it a re-watch. I can barely stay awake late to watch anything anymore. When I’m up late, it’s because I’m doing something other than sitting passively, so it took me two nights to watch it.

Sidebar: This is not a family friendly film. There is no sex and no violence, but there is rough language, which is the reason for its MPAA rating. I worked in a restaurant for four years of my young adult life and know that such language is common in a restaurant kitchen. When coupled with the fact that I am not sensitive enough to that kind of thing, it barely bothered me. However, not everyone is as jaded as I am, so consider this your cinematic content advisory.

There are lots of great food and cooking scenes in the film, but my favorite is the scene where the lead character makes his son a grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese sandwiches were my specialty when I was dating my husband, and I made them for him pretty regularly. The care and attention the chef gives to such a simple dish highlights how food feeds us in ways far beyond taste buds and physical sustenance.

Incidentally, neither my husband nor I have eaten a grilled cheese sandwich in a very long time.

Until next time, fellow bibliophiles!

More Short Stories and Mid-year Roundup.

Where did the time go? It’s the first day of the third quarter of 2019. I have a birthday coming up very soon, even though it feels as if I just celebrated one. Preparation for the upcoming school year is well underway, and even though we’re still 16 months away from our country’s next major election, we received a political call at our a few nights ago. The mother’s encouragement trusim about long days and short years rings quite true today as I consider how quickly time  seems to be flying by.

Short stories worth a look:

In preparation for the new school year when our kids will be studying British literature (last year was American literature), I had the great pleasure of meeting with several women much smarter than me for a time of literature appreciation. We read short stories by British authors.

One of the best things about short stories (I’m certain I’m repeating something I’ve said before), is that they can be read quickly. Because of that, even those  who have limited amounts of time for leisure reading can read great literature which transmits time tested values of what is True, Good, and Beautiful. Others, such as the first one I will highlight, are just a light and fun good time, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that either.

  • Jeeves Takes Charge, by P.G. Wodehouse (read at link), is a story published in 1916 by the renowned British humorist. Wodehouse is one of my go-to writers when I want to read something that is not only funny, but intelligently so. This story is the one in which we meet the indomitable valet Jeeves for the first time. As the story suggests, he takes charge from the moment Bertie Wooster, the young heir, hires him into his employ.
  • The Red-Headed League, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (read at link) first appeared in a magazine in 1891, and is one of many Sherlock Holmes short stories. A red-headed client appears with a fantastically bizarre and mysterious tale which has left him confused. Holmes, using his masterfully astute gift of deduction, figures out that what appears on the surface to be nothing more than a curious story is actually the beginnings of an elaborate criminal heist.
  • The Blue Cross, by G.K. Chesterton is the first of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries. Of the three stories I read this weekend, this was by far my favorite. Up until this point, I hadn’t read any of the Father Brown stories, but that is about to change. This story, filled with equal bits of mystery, humor, and profound -without being preachy- insights into the nature of man and nature itself, enveloped me from the first. I am very glad to be entering the world Chesterton’s fictional works, albeit a little late.

Mid-year roundup:

  • I took a minute to tally up the book reviews I’ve posted to date this year and I’ve written a grand total of 20. That isn’t many, especially when you consider that four of those were chapter installments of the Feminine Mystique throughout January.
  • In what counts as a pretty big departure from how I’ve handled this blog over the preceding three years, I’ve also written 21 discussion posts, covering everything from education to book trends,  genres and characters, and even a couple on current cultural trends. As I expected, when I began to add more of those kinds of posts, the conversations here were more animated and robust. I appreciated hearing all of your thoughts on the various topics. So thank you.

My favorite books of the year so far:

  • My favorite book that I’ve read so far this year is one that I haven’t reviewed here yet. I haven’t reviewed it for two reasons. The first is that I’ve picked it up and put it down so many times that it took what seemed like forever to read it. I often needed to set it aside and let the ideas marinate for a few days. Now, I want to re-read it and I have a friend reading it along with me so I hope to have a review up in August. At that point, I’ll divulge the title. I do have other favorites which I’ll break down by fiction and nonfiction.
  • My favorite fiction book for the first half of this year was A Girl of the Liberlost. The beauty, language, and deep relational insights of this book have stayed with me.
  • My favorite nonfiction books of the year tied for first place. The first is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I find that I am still challenged by everything about this book. It is a magnum opus for the digital age. My second favorite nonfiction book to date at mid-year is Beauty Destroys the Beast, by my friend Amy Fleming. Yes, it’s a favorite because she’s my friend. More than that however, it’s a favorite because it speaks to a subject that I actually care about, and I agree with what she has to say about it.

Looking ahead to the second half of this year:

  • I am currently reading a few books, including a novel by the British humorist P.G. Wodehouse whose short story I reviewed above. In addition, I have three non fiction books in queue. However:
  • School starts around the middle to end of August, and we still have a lot of prepping to do for that.  At that time, my entire reading queue may be overtaken by British literature, so don’t be surprised if all the book reviews here are books by British authors -except for books I’ve already read but not yet reviewed.
  • What we refer to as “birthday season” in our family has meant we’ve been partying like it’s 1999 since May, partying overtime in June, and won’t really let up until the beginning September when all the of seven birthdays in our immediate family are wrapped up. I’ve eaten too much cake. Speaking of which, here’s one I made for one of my girls upon special request:

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This dark chocolate cake, with peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache drizzle and Reese’s peanut butter cups on top was very good! It was also so rich that no one (guests and family alike) could finish an entire slice. I think that’s the sign of a good dessert; you only need a little of it to be sated. We’re on a sugar moratorium around here to recover, making exceptions for, and only for, each of our respective birthdays.

Summer in Florida is oppressively hot, but we’re still managing to have great fun because, why not? I still can’t believe that we’re half way through 2019!

How’s your year been so far? Read any good books lately?