Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wildtree Adventures

Recently I purchased my first Wildtree freezer workshop bundle. This bundle provides the Wildtree products and the recipes you need to make ahead meals in your freezer. I used to do a lot of make ahead freezer cooking and had dropped off the bandwagon so I was excited to get back to this. I did find the twist with the Wildtree bundle is that the freezer meals are more prep work for later cooking instead of cooking ahead and then freezing for "heat and eat" meals.

I had purchased the Family Favorites workshop and a packaged titled "5 Minute Prep." The 5 minute prep had freezer instructions for several items as well. While the workshops are designed to do all at one time, I didn't follow the directions exactly. Our family buys beef and pork from a local farmer. While I do plan to make the beef and pork recipes, I didn't have all of the meat I needed thawed so some of them will wait until another day. I also took some other liberties with the directions as well but more on that in a bit.

After consulting my list of needed items and what I already had available, I headed to the store where I purchased an immense amount of chicken. Upon coming home, I decided it would be easiest for me to deal with one kind of meat at a time. So, I proceeded to work preparing my chicken breasts (butterflying and slicing) and chicken thighs (cutting off the excess fat). After working through my breasts and thighs, I had the protein for three meals bagged and sauced. I will admit I had a non Wildtree sauce that I want to use up this week so I sliced and set aside some chicken to use for that as well. The next recipe called for skinless chicken drumsticks and chicken thighs. I was unable to find the exact item but did find the needed drumsticks and thighs with the skin still on for a great price so I set to work skinning the meat. When finished, I had not one but two more meals processed. I then turned my attention to slicing and dicing the necessary vegetables to add to my bags. My workshop instructions also included some recipes using salmon. Fortunately, I had some frozen individually packed salmon in the freezer. I was excited that I had enough for two meals and quickly placed the fish and appropriate sauce in the bags.

I was quite excited now to place 7 pre-made meals in my freezer. However, as previously mentioned we buy meat from a local farmer so our freezer is a bit on the full side. Fortunately, a little bit of re-arranging created the necessary room for these bags. In doing so, I took out some meat to additional meals. As this meat was already frozen, I did run into a couple of snags. For some items, I simply unwrapped the meat, placed it in the bag, and poured the sauce over it. For another meat, the plastic it was wrapped it wasn't coming off easily. I had intended to put the little bit of Thai-flavored sauce I had left from a previous recipe over the pork steak, but instead the pork steak is now thawing in the refrigerator for use later this week. When I decide to cook it, I'll choose between several open sauces. I may find for the remaining 5 meals in this workshop that it is more convenient for me to thaw the meat several days before I wish to use it, do my prep work the evening before and then leave it in the refrigerator in a ziploc bag or in the pan I will need to use.

While rummaging through my freezer, I discovered a fairly large size beef brisket. Given that room in the freezer was at a premium, there is now a brisket thawing in my refrigerator. I was very excited to find that searching for "beef brisket Wildtree" located numerous recipes using Wildtree products I had available. I look forward to serving Ethiopian Brisket with Swiss Chard later this week. I found that there are numerous recipes on the Wildtree site and on customer blogs.

While I love to cook from scratch and try new recipes, I'm really excited to have at least some of our meals planned out and made ahead of time. I'm hoping this will eliminate some of the last minutes crazies of deciding what to eat particularly on busy evenings."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Love in a Broken Vessel

I read lots of books and most rank in the middle in that they are an enjoyable break from whatever I ought to be working on but rarely earth shattering or memorable in the long-term. Today I finished a book that fits the memorable in the long-term category. Mesu Andrews writes fictional accounts of Bible stories. I had previously read another of her books which I had enjoyed so when I found Love in a Broken Vessel in the depths of my Kindle, I decided it was my weekend pleasure. This book retells the story of Hosea and Gomer. Andrews does a wonderful job of researching and setting her books in the Bible time period. The addition of flesh, blood, conversation, and feelings to the Biblical accounts are so enjoyable. As one would suspect, this style of writing requires much artistic license. Andrews does a marvelous job of combining research of life in Bible times as well as theological research and creating an engaging story. Particularly in this story, Andrews emphasizes the love and emotions behind the story of Hosea and Gomer and how their story mirrors the story of God's love for Israel and likewise for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Author Spotlight: Melanie Dickerson

Sometimes you find a new to you author and then proceed to read absolutely everything you can find by that author. That was my experience recently when I was introduced to Melanie Dickerson. Recently while at ALA, my daughter and I both picked up ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) of books by Dickerson. They look interesting enough that instead of mailing them home as we did the majority of the books we picked up, I stuck these into my carry-on luggage. I quickly read the first book I had picked up, The Princess Spy, and discovered it was part of a larger series titled The Fairy Tale Romance Series. I then recalled that I had nabbed several of these books on sale via my Kindle. So, I started at the beginning of the series and read through the entire series, and even purchased the one or two I didn't have already, straight to the yet to be published The Silent Songbird.

As the series title indicates, these novels are based on fairy tales. Each book is a re-telling of a specific fairy tale such as Cinderella or Snow White. Each fairy tale has been set in medieval Germany and are based around one particular kingdom. As such, while each story can and does stand alone, they are also part of a larger series where Dickerson entertwines the stories in a most enchanted way. As I was reading the stories, several fairy tales were easy to spot due to the names that were chosen for the main character or other clues. However, for other stories, it was quite difficult to discern which fairy tale was the basis for the story. In addition to the fairy tale as the basis of the story, Dickerson does an amazing job with the details of the setting and larger historical context. For example, being set in medieval Germany the characters are historically all members of the Catholic church. As such, she incorporates their faith easily into the overall story in a natural way. Some of the characters in each story are members of the aristocracy and have access to the Latin Bible which is then brought into the story as well.

Melanie Dickerson's primary audience for these works is young adult. However, I found the stories completely engaging although I am well past my young adult years. Being young adult novels, I was able to read through them quite quickly which helped in my binge read of the whole series in one weekend. This series as well as her newer series A Medieval Fairy Tale and The Regency Spies of London are highly recommended for school and public libraries as well as church libraries. They are perfect for junior high and high school readers who have out grown the Disney Princesses and are also familiar with the original Grimm fairy tales. They are also highly recommended for mother-daughter read-together opportunities.

Newest from Richard Louv

If you have previously read Richard Louv's books The Last Child in the Woods or The Nature Principle, his newest work Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature Rich Life needs to be added to your to-purchase pile. Unlike his previous works which focus more on the theoretical side of why spending time in nature is important, Vitamin N is a guide-book for parents and anyone else who works with children which gives ideas on how to easily provide opportunities for children to experience nature. As such it is not a book to read straight through and then put on your shelf. It is a book to leave where you can access frequently and dip into on a regular basis so that the ideas shared can be put into practice.

My review copy was an ebook but this book really needs to be purchased as a print copy in order to make the most of it. If you are a parent of pre-schoolers or early elementary aged children, you need to run to the nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of this book. If you are a home-school family, this book will be a great asset to nature study and other educational endeavors. While targeted to parents, there are ideas that can be implemented by adults as well. Libraries, schools, YMCAs, and other organizations that provide services to children and families will also benefit from having access to this book.

I was provided a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Her Texas Family

Her Texas Family by new to me author, Jill Lynn, is a great breezy summer read. Part of the Love Inspired series, this book was a departure from my typical historical fiction. However, it was a very enjoyable departure. A brief synopsis of the book is available on the Amazon page and I don't wish to give away any more of the story than necessary, so instead I'd like to focus on a specific aspect of the story--the in-laws. Her Texas Family focuses on the creation of a new family and involves what is left of a previous family. Unfortunately, the in-laws are controlling and cause all kinds of problems for the potential new couple. While reading the story, I found myself quite angry at the in-laws for their socially elite attitudes and controlling behavior. As such, beyond a lovely and clean romance, several life-lessons about how people treat each other or should treat each other are rolled into the story as well.

Recommended as a great vacation read whether you are camping, at the beach, or poolside. Appropriate for teens as well as grown-ups and would provide opportunity for great mother-daughter discussion. I look forward to reading additional books by Jill Lynn as well.

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Crazies!

While typically my blog posts focus on book reviews, I'm interrupting our usual programming to offer a brief glimpse into other aspects of life. We have hit that time of the year known as "The Crazies!" This time of the year is brought about by the schedules of a variety of activities all coming to a frenzy at once. This event doesn't happen often but when it does we are in full tilt running mode. My blog break this evening comes during my only evening at home in two weeks. So why this sudden hit of the crazies? Here are the pieces as they have occurred and are continuing to occur.

Chicago day trip: Friday, April 8 was our anniversary. We decided to take a whirlwind trip to Chicago with our children to see the Van Gogh exhibit. We really wanted to see this special exhibit and discovered this was the only day that would fit into our schedules before the exhibit closes on May 10. So, while celebrating our anniversary with children in tow wasn't ideal, they enjoyed getting a day off school. It was great fun and we enjoy going to Chicago but also enjoy coming home.

Public Presentations Contest: On Saturday, April 9 both children participated in the public presentations contest at our local 4-H office. When we sign up for projects in the fall, they are excited about doing them. However, in reality, the presentations were being pulled together while enroute to Chicago on Friday but went fairly well.

Talent Show: On Sunday, April 10 both children participated in a talent show sponsored by our 3 county 4-H unit. One recapped her vocal solo from her contest in March and the other recapped his public presentation, a comedy routine, from the day before.

Music Festival: Thursday, April 14 was the county music festival where one child participated in the county chorus. The concert was a lovely presentation by junior high students from around our county. A lovely side benefit was being home before 8 p.m.

Hippology/Horse Bowl: Saturday and Sunday, April 15-16 was the state 4-H hippology and horse bowl competition. For the past two years I have "coached" or more accurately organized our county team for this competition. It includes a one day regional competition in March followed by a two day competition in April. All three days involve getting up at the crack of dawn to travel and then long days of competition. We were pleased with our results, particularly that our junior team placed 4th in the state, and we had a good time.

Robotics: This year I am working with our new county 4-H robotics spin club. We have been preparing for our first state competition which is scheduled for Saturday, April 23. Every spare evening for the last two weeks when the building has been available has been spent working on our LEGO Mindstorm robots and getting the fine tuning completed for that event. It will be great fun for all but involves another long day of travel and competition.

Choir Tour: Our children also participate in church choir. The 5th and 6th grade choir take a short overnight choir tour to another church before presenting their home choir concert. This helps them get used to traveling on tour in a low key way. Choir tour however is scheduled for April 23 and 24 which is also robotics competition! So, my son and I are joining the choir members at the hotel Saturday evening before Sunday's morning choir performance in another town followed by a home concert at 4 p.m.

Recital: Sunday, April 24 is also my daughter's voice recital back in our hometown at 2 p.m. But I'm in another town almost two hours away for choir performance that morning. Thankfully, since I'll be in my own vehicle due to robotics on Saturday, I've arranged to leave as soon as the choir is finished that morning so that I can make it to the 2 p.m. voice recital which will finish just in time for the 4 p.m. choir performance.

I predict at 6 p.m. Sunday, I will collapse in bed!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Are You Smart?

Dr. Kathy Koch explores the variety of ways someone can be smart in the new edition of her book How Am I Smart?: A Parent's Guide to Multiple Intelligences. This book does a great job of bringing Dr. Howard Gardner's concepts of Multiple Intelligence to a level understandable and applicable to all. Dr. Koch spends several chapters introducing the concept of various smarts and then delves into each of the 8 smarts individually. Throughout the book she gives many examples of how student lives have been changed by realizing they are smart in various areas as well as how this information has changed adults as well.

This an an updated edition of the previous 2007 publication. The major differences seem to be new examples that incorporate more social media and other technology that has become even more common place. A new companion website exists which contains a free smarts assessment available via the passcode contained in the book. This book was an easy read but gives good ideas of how to find the different ways in which children are smart and suggestions on how to encourage them. I recommend this book for parents of young children who are in pre-school through early elementary. While there is some worthwhile information for parents of older children, it is definitely aimed for parents of youngers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley and Moody Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”