Doing the best she can to raise happy, healthy children

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If you’re a following of my blog, you may remember prior to graduate school I was part of a book club at my church. We read quite a variety of books. Some were light “free-reading” books and others were more serious books. I decided to return to the book club this year. Last month’s book was a nice light book. This month, we tackled a more serious book. Here is my review of this month’s selection.

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The IMAM’s Daughter: My Desperate Flight to Freedom by Hannah Shah

Shah tells her story of growing-up the daughter of a Muslim’s religious leader’s daughter. She tells her story of enduring her father’s physical, sexual, and mental abuse. She addresses the issues associated with the closeness of Muslim community. She decides to run-away at age 16 once she realizes she is being sent away to marry one of her cousins in Pakistan. After running away, Hannah converts to Christianity which forces her to live a life running away from her family who wishes to execute an “honor” killing.

Hannah’s story of her life is heartbreaking. Because of the closeness of the Muslim community, her tragic abuse which started at age 5, was never addressed by anyone. Its hard to believe that this occurs in today’s society. Its hard to believe its widespread. The abuse made parts of this book very difficult to read. However, Shah explains that many Muslim woman experience the arranged marriages and physical abuse. It breaks my heart knowing there are woman and children enduring this.

This book provides a firsthand telling of growing up Muslim in England. It sheds some light in how the family interacts with the non-Muslim world. I know its only 1 family and 1 person’s view, but it does provide some insight. It was eye-opening to realize that her family (especially her father) was polite to non-Muslims to their face but behind closed doors the hate was over-powering. The book provided insight on how Muslims learn about their religion. The memorizing of verses without any instruction on their meaning was the mainstay of her teaching. The dependence on those telling you what those passages mean is the mainstay of their teaching.

It also was surprising to read that abuse didn’t just happen at home. Shah’s Muslim instructors would beat her if she got an answer wrong. Her brother went to Pakistan to become a religious leader and was abused. Abuse was common place in Shah’s life.

The book does tell the story of her finding love, peace and Christianity. She was able to leave her family and abusive past. She found Christianity and converted. She found Hope and found a way to help other Muslims. This is a story of escaping a tragic past and finding hope. Despite the dark parts of the book, it ends uplifting and positive.

It is an easy read. I was able to finish it in just a few hours of dedicated reading time.  At times, I felt the book bounced around a bit. It is written conversationally. This is a style I like, but it also tends to allow for some bouncing around in the story.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Muslim to Christian conversion. I would caution that child abuse is discussed openly in this book. I would not recommend this for children or anyone under the age of 18 due to the topics discussed.

I would give this book a 4 out 5 bookends.

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School started about 2 weeks ago. It has been a crazy last few days. My daughter is now in 4th and the homework workload has increased quite a bit from 3rd grade. My son is in 2nd so he’s also no beginning to see twice weekly homework. Luckily his homework is still really pretty easy and not too time consuming. At least not yet.

With all of that taken into consideration, I had planned on finishing this book sooner. I want to finish a book lent to me and then I need to read my book club book too. With all of that, I’ll be pretty busy the next few weeks trying to get everything done.

None the less, here is my book review on The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

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Barnett tells the story of Margaret Lane and Chief Ranger Ford Brayden. It is set in 1927 with the National Parks Service. Margaret is from a wealthy political family whose dream come true is to spend some time in the National Parks. She is amazed by God’s artistry as she works as a naturalist. Ranger Brayden grew-up on the mountain. He is haunted by his father’s death and does not see the park in the poetic way Margaret does. The two work together to preserve the natural beauty of the park.

This book spoke to soul and I quickly connected to both Margaret and Ranger Brayden. Margaret’s appreciation of the beauty of nature paired with Ranger Brayden’s common sense and knowledge of the danger was a great combination. The author did a fabulous job of weaving the two points a view together to create a truly perfect picture of nature.

This book is a Christian novel. Margaret often refers to God’s handiwork and is confused by Brayden’s inability to see and/or acceptance of God’s work. She does pray to God and several of her conversations regarding nature does revolve around God.

The only negative to this book was there were some slower parts.

Overall, this is an excellent read. It connected with my soul and my desire to to be out in nature. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an historical novel of a slightly different sort. I would recommend it to young adults and adults.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 bookends.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What are reading now? Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear form you.

 


I am very excited to have finished the last book in the Amish of Summer Grove series. It is a well-written fantastic story. To be honest, I want to get to my review quickly, so I won’t delay!

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Gathering the threads by Cindy Woodsmall

This is the third and final book of the series. Ariana has returned to the Old Order Amish that she grew-up and loving. She finds herself feeling confused and uncertain of where she belongs. Skylar is also found struggling a bit figuring out how she fits in with the Brenneman family.

This book ties the entire series together and pulls everything into a wonderful ending. Woodsmall’s characters continue to grow. I grew to love all of them. I loved where they ended and the path we took along the way.  The book is a coming age of sorts as both Skylar and Ariana must find thier path and define who they are.

This book is a Christian novel. There are multiple references to God. The story is so much more than a Christian Amish novel. It evaluates what it means to be a family and how to be true to yourself and honor God at the same time. There are many underlying Christian themes such as honesty, forgiveness, and love.

I honestly did not find anything negatives about this book. It was an absolute delite to read and a fitting conclusion to the series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish or Christian novels. I also would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories about family relationships. This book is an innocent story with no sexual contexts. There is the mention of past drug use and smoking. I would recommend this book to young adults.

On a scale of 1-5 book ends, I give this book a 5 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I did receive this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

If you’d like to pre-order this book, click HERE. You can also pre-order it from Amazon.

What are you reading? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to share a link to one of your recent book review.


So, I’m two days late this week in my Monday edition of 21 day fix post. I ended up traveling last weekend and although I got home yesterday, I was beat. Traveling alone with the kids was exhausting! It reminded me how lucky and grateful I am to have such a helpful husband.

So week 2 wasn’t great. I did good with the exercising for about 1/2 the time. Then with traveling and such, I did none. I did walk quite a bit. But that was pretty much it. My eating wasn’t great either. I drank a lot of coffee on the go (Starbucks and gas station sweetened coffee drinks). Yeah. I’m feeling the lingering effects of traveling, tiredness and poor eating choices.

Week 2 Goals: No Candy- did pretty good until I started the road trip. Seriously, I ate almost an entire bag of chocolate covered raisins while driving. Oops… Exercise daily- that did not happen. Increase water intake- also failed. Eat all fruits and veggies 4 days was also a failure.

Week 2 Accomplishments: I don’t think there were many. I did mostly make better snacking choices. I ate fruits and veggies for snacks when I was home. And really only splurged at the end of the week when I was traveling. So, I’m going to count that as an accomplishment.

Week 2 Areas for Improvement: Wow. There were a lot. I think overall, the biggest theme for me was finding a way to be accountable even when life gets busy. I think last week really reinforced my need to get a bit more structure in my eating/planning. I could have/should have done better. I could have planned and packed healthy snacks for myself. I could have gone to the store while out of town and picked up some fruit.

Week 2 Over-all thoughts: I struggled last week and see myself having some struggles this week too. I almost feel like I should’ve waited at least three weeks before trying to start this. Life is busy and hard and I’ve not put for the effort I needed to in order to be successful. I also feel like I made a lot of excuses for why my meal planning didn’t get done or I ate poorly and didn’t exercise. Sadly this week is 1/2 over and I’m feeling the same excuses break into my thinking, again. I’m wondering if I need to get connected to a challenge group to help me stay motivated.

Week 3 Prep: Honestly, I started this week still out of town and my “bad habits” from last week are lingering into this week. So, I did not get any prepping done.

Week 3 Goals: My biggest goal is to get re-focused on what I’m doing. Its late in the week to do much prepping as a goal. I will tonight make some hard boiled eggs. I will begin tracking my containers again. I have family in town this weekend, so I will make sure there are plenty of fruits and veggies in our house. Its also the State Fair starting this week. One HUGE goal for me is to not over-indulge in fair treats this year.

There you have it. My not-so-successful week of 21 Day Fix. I will work on the last few days of this week in hopes of salvaging some of it. We are all human and we have goods and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. I will not let that define me.

I’d love to hear how you manage eating healthy and/or follow the 21 Day Fix when you’ve got family visiting. I’ll have an extra 7 people (more than double my little family) staying with us for 3-4 days.

 


Hello my friends! Sorry I’m posting a lot today. I’m trying to get caught and/or stay caught up on my posts. The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy. Today was a bit more relaxed which is why I was able to finish up a book. We also ran a few items to Good-will and played some video games. Overall, a pretty good day!

I finished reading The Tea Planter’s Wife today and here is my review.

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The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Gwendolyn Hooper is a young, newly married woman who moved from London to Ceylon. Life in Ceylon is not at all what she expected. Her husband becomes distant, neighbors are difficult and the workers are resentful. She also quickly discovers her husband has a secret and he’s not willing to share it with her.

Jefferies does a great job of setting the stage and describing the environment of 1920’s Ceylon. She writes a rich story with themes of love, distrust, and prejudice. She tackled each of these topics while weaving a story with many twists and turns. This story does a good job of demonstrating how not being open with a spouse can lead to loss and poor decisions.

The cons of this story are a few. I had a hard time connecting with the main character. I found her immature and without much depth. In fact, I found many of the characters to be shallow. I believe the story would help flesh out the characters more. However, there were very little growth in the characters despite significant life circumstances. Her characters had wonderful opportunity to be fleshed out. I feel like the story would’ve been better if only one of the social issues/themes. This could provide more room to flesh out the character potentially. The lack of fleshed out characters and multitude of issues addressed in the book makes the book seem very long.

Overall I felt this book was just OK. Its not great, and probably wouldn’t come up in conversation for me to recommend.

On a scale of 1 to 5 bookends, I give this book a 3.

This book is not good for teenagers or younger as there are sexual scenes in the book. Although not completely explicit but they are written in the story.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher for an honest review.


Hello my friends!

I started the 21 day fix and am 1 week in. I did it about a year ago but graduate school took over my life. This led to a pretty sedentary life. Of course, this led to me gaining some weight. I decided to give this a go again since I enjoyed the exercises before and the diet overall focuses on healthy eating: lean meats, plenty fruits and veggies, etc. I also decided to write about my experiences following the 21 Day Fix.

Week 1 Goals: Exercise daily and begin following the diet.

Week 1 Accomplishments: I hit all 7 days of exercising. The last time I did this program, I skipped the Pilates and Yoga days. Instead I just took the day off from exercising. This time, I decided I didn’t want to do that and would plan on doing all 7 days of exercising. I did not buy any soda for the house. This is HUGE considering during graduate school I was drinking 3-4 cans of diet soda a day.

Week 1 Areas for Improvements: Diet. I did OK considering I started it somewhat abruptly. However, I still found myself snacking on candy my kids had (Dots, Twizzlers, Etc.). I also did not fully track all my food everyday.  I also drank my coffee as usual which includes adding some sugar and caramel syrup.

Week 1 Thoughts:  This was a pretty good week. The exercising felt good but I did have to modify every day most of the exercises. It was tough realizing how much I’ve lost in a year! I was much stronger when I was running and exercise regularly. Despite my diet not being perfect, I feel good about what I did last week.

Week 2 Goals: No candy! I don’t have much in the house this week so that will help me tremendously! Exercise daily. Eat all my veggies and fruits at least 4 days this week. Increase my water intake.

Week 2 Prep: I made two jar salads. I have fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge. I need to track down my food sheets with recipes I used last year. I’m hoping to find them, but if I don’t, I’ll reach out to a coach and ask for the lists.

Have you completed the 21 Day Fix? Did you like it? What fitness plan have you tried? I’d love to hear from you!


Hello my friends! A couple of weeks ago I found an amazing deal on the 6 quart instant pot. I’d been watching them for a few months after seeing a lot of chat on the interwebs about how awesome these things are. It took the hubby a while to think it was a good idea. It was one more appliance to fill up our cupboards. However, when Kohls’ deal helped convince him.

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Yogurt
I was so excited to make this. Honestly, this was the main reason I wanted an instant pot. Well that an the ability to cook chicken from frozen in 25 minutes. I have a rice cooker and a crock pot. So, although these tools would be useful, I could already accomplish those tasks.

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So, back on topic. yogurt. We eat a lot of yogurt in this house between just eating it and putting it in our smoothies. I also liked the idea of making my own yogurt. I hadn’t attempted it before buying the instant pot because it seemed like a lot of work. When I got the instant pot this was the first thing I researched. I immediately found several recipes with minor differences. I do think you may need to do some experimenting to make it work. I was pretty lucky I had success the first time.

Recipe 1
Ingredients
6 cups milk
2 TBS store-bought vanilla yogurt

Directions
1) Sanitize your instant pot: 1 cup water in the instant pot, 
set for 1 minutes.Have your valve in the sealing position. 
2) Pour out all the water. Add the milk. Push the yogurt button 
and then press the Manual button. The display should say boil. 
Once the instant pot has boiled the milk, it will ding and the 
display should say Yogurt. 
3) Once it finished boiling, shut off the instant pot and set a 
time for 25 minutes. Measure your yogurt and set on the counter. 
4) After the 25 minutes, open the instant pot and stir in the 
yogurt. Mix it well. 
5) Turn on the instant pot, push the yogurt button and add time 
to 14 hours.
6) Drain off extra fluid if desired.

This one worked pretty well. I originally set the instant pot for 8 hours, it didn’t seem set up well. Since it was late at night, I added the additional time to equal 14 hours so I could go to sleep! Everyone in the family love this yogurt. It lasted less than a week and I need to make some more.

For my second batch I decided to add a little vanilla.

Recipe 2

Ingredients
1/2 Gallon Milk
1 individual sized carton of vanilla yogurt
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Directions
1) Sanitize your instant pot: 1 cup water in the instant pot, 
set for 1 minutes. Have your valve in the sealing position. 
2) Pour out all the water. Add the milk. Push the yogurt button 
and then press the Manual button. 
The display should say boil. Once the instant pot has boiled the 
milk, it will ding and the display should say Yogurt. 
3) Once it finished boiling, shut off the instant pot and set a 
time for 25 minutes. Measure your yogurt and set on the counter.
4) After the 25 minutes, open the instant pot and stir in the 
yogurt and vanilla. Mix it well. 
5) Turn on the instant pot, push the yogurt button and add time 
to 12 hours.
6) Strain extra fluid as desired.

This second one did not set up as well. I did only do 12 hours instead of the 14. It had quite a bit of extra liquid. I was able to strain off quite a bit of fluid but it was still a runnier yogurt. At first, I was quite worried it wasn’t going to work. However, after it chilled in the fridge, it was thicker. My husband said he didn’t care for the vanilla in it. It felt it added an after taste. I’ll probably not add it in again when I make it but instead we’ll add it after and right before we eat it.

Here’s what the yogurt looked like once its finished but not drained yet.

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Have you tried to make yogurt? Do you have a good recipe for it? Have you had better luck when adding in flavoring? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment and share your yogurt success stories!