Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Report: What I've Been Reading

One of my New Year's resolutions is to read more books. It feels weird to type that, because I've been a bookworm since I learned to read -- frankly, I'm obsessed with books. Oddly enough, though, I found myself reading less and less over the past few years. I got so busy with all my responsibilities as a mom that I put my favorite pastime on the backburner. Not anymore! This year, I've made my personal reading a priority again and, well, let's just say I wish all resolutions were this enjoyable to keep!

I thought I'd share a few of my recent reads with you -- at least the ones that are applicable to this blog. (If you're curious of all the other books I've been reading/listening to, you can check out my Goodreads profile here.)  

{Pssst! Let me just say from the get-go, any of these books would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift. If you order today with Amazon 2-day Prime shipping, you'll most likely get it in time! Or you could be all old-school and go to an actual bookstore...}

Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes by Catherine McCord
One thing I am adamant about in my kitchen is that I will only cook one meal at dinnertime; I'm no short-order cook. The kids eat what the adults eat (and vice versa).  As I was looking for some more kid-friendly recipes, I  was drawn to the premise of this cookbook: one family, one meal.  I was curious how she could make food that wasn't too intense for kids but not too bland for parents. This book has lots of simple recipes and my family has enjoyed almost everything I've made from it. Particular favorites: the graham crackers (I actually prefer her recipe over the one I've been using from The Homemade Pantry), enchiladas, pumpkin waffles, pesto meatballs, cottage cheese pancakes, and wonton soup. This cookbook is definitely a great resource for family-friendly recipes and ideas. 

I did a have a couple drawbacks about the book: one, the book is full of photos of the author in such posed situations (she mentions in the book how she used to be a model and it shows); I would rather see more photos of food than of her working in her garden, looking over her shoulder at the camera, or gnawing on a chicken kabob. Another drawback: I came to this book for some help with a picky toddler and I found all the talk about how absolutely amazing her kids are and how they eat every single thing ever offered them kind of annoying/frustrating.  But, I have to give credit where it's due -- that picky toddler has eaten pretty much everything I've made from the book!  

Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
Last year, my doctor advised me to limit grains and dairy in my diet. When he told me that, I immediately thought of my dad, who has followed a paleolithic diet for years (right before it started getting all popular) and decided to turn to some of the paleo cookbooks for ideas of what to eat. I'd flip through various paleo cookbooks, thinking some of the recipes looked good, but they mostly made me miss all the foods I really wanted to make. (Spaghetti squash can never replace regular spaghetti for me, no matter how hard I try). 

Anyway, I found Nom Nom Paleo a few weeks ago and was blown away because every recipe in the book looks delicious! Seriously, I would make any of them. Unlike other paleo cookbooks I've come across, the writing style is fun to read, not preachy, not dogmatic, no doom-and-gloom talk of how wheat will kill us all. I'm still working on cooking through this cookbook, but I'll tell you, what I have made has been awesome. One stand-out: the walnut shrimp. It was just as good as the kind I order at my favorite Asian restaurant. I couldn't believe it was paleo! My husband took the leftover spiced maple walnuts from the recipe to work and his coworkers loved them. My family doesn't follow a strictly paleo lifestyle, but this book definitely has a place on my kitchen bookshelf (yep, I have one -- cookbooks are my weakness) because I want to feed my family whole, unprocessed foods. I can't recommend this cookbook enough!

The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too by Alys Fowler
I can't quite remember where I saw vegetables incorporated into flowerbeds for the first time. I can remember, though, how the purple cabbages were woven in with the flowers and how brilliant I thought it was. Over the years since then, I've become enamored with the idea of turning yards and lawns into mini-homesteads. So when I saw this book, I ordered it right away. My impulse buy did not disappoint at all.

Simply put, I loved this book. So often, gardening books get complicated and/or formulaic; this book is neither of those things. Alys Fowler's approach feels so natural and the way she writes is so friendly, like she's walking you through her garden and giving you information, recipes, and tips as you go. Like the tip about making fertilizer out of comfrey -- I'm still excited about that one and trying to get some Russian comfrey into my garden as soon as possible.  One other kind of silly thing I loved: this book is so British! The Anglophile in me couldn't help but sigh over phrases about how rhubarb is "a doddle to grow" or the best ways to grow courgettes and aubergines (zucchini and eggplants). This book was a lot of fun to read and it made me even more excited to get out in my garden and try new things!

Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
If you've read this blog for a while, you probably know that I am a Dave Ramsey devotee. I wholeheartedly believe that his program of seven "Baby Steps" leads to financial peace. My husband and I have completed Baby Steps #1 and #2 and we're close to finishing #3. If you haven't read The Total Money Makeover, stop reading this post now and get your hands on a copy! 

Since, as I said, I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey, I preordered my copy of his latest book, Smart Money Smart Kids. I went into this book already familiar with his program for kids, but I still learned a lot. I could write a whole post about Dave's program for kids and teenagers, so I will soon. But for now, I'll just say that this book should be required reading for every parent. What a world it would be if the next generation followed the principles in this book!

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith
This book surprised me, to be totally honest. I'd read lots glowing reviews of it, so I ordered a copy. At first, I only liked it and found myself sort of wondering what all the fuss was about. I found myself wishing it had more actual decorating ideas/how-to instructions -- the perfectionist in me likes having things spelled out and I struggle with improvisation and experimentation (which is a big theme of this book). But as I continued reading, I caught the vision of what this book is really about: transforming the place where you live into a home you love. I finished the book this past Monday and already I find myself feeling less intimidated and more excited about decorating my house. In fact, the day after I read it, I finally took down the curtains I've hated for years but have been too afraid and overwhelmed to change. Right now, I'm looking at the new drapes in my family room as I'm typing this and can't help but feel a surge of happiness. I love that room more now than I have in a long time!

In terms of how this book relates to this blog, Myquillyn Smith's message about contentment, gratitude, and finding joy in your present situation goes hand-in-hand with frugality. I know I've found myself thinking more about what I wish I had and about plans for someday, instead of living in the present. She also shares lots of tips of how to decorate inexpensively, often using things you already have and breathing new life into them. The writing is funny and moving all at once (I was in tears by the end). I wish I could buy a copy for each of the women in my life!

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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