Books as Gifts

A friend of mine asked me for some gift-giving advice. She wanted some book recommendations for a Christian niece who is turning 30 and got married within the last year. I thought I would share my ideas with all of you, too! And, for you, I will link the titles so you can click-and-buy, if available.

Oh, fun! I love books! I have copies of all these at my house if you’d like to look through them before deciding what to buy. You might mention when you give her the books the importance of having a family library and that your gifts are intended to help progress toward that.

I have some suggestions in the “practical” Christian Wife/Woman category – I personally enjoyed each of these books A LOT!!:
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Shaeffer (a real favorite of mine – that changed the way I thought of a stay-at-home wife)
Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot (a really excellent book!!!!!!!)
God’s Purpose for the Family by Stephen Kaung
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

There are also two books that I think I can recommend based on the description, but I haven’t read them yet (hopefully soon!):
The Joy of Hospitality: Fun Ideas for Evangelistic Entertaining by Vonette Bright and Barbara Ball
Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski

And I also think it’s good to read some novels with good teaching too, like Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (such a good book!!!)
I recently read Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler, which I really enjoyed.

Another idea is to give a book that will be part of a life-enriching activity. For example, you could give a nice blank notebook (with watercolor paper) and a copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden  – so that she could be inspired to keep her own nature journal. Another one is Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe (a really fun book!).

A Turkish Get-Up and Turkish Delight


It all started a few months ago when Kent was reading a children’s picture book version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, in which Edmund ate Turkish Delights from the evil queen. Then Kent got kettlebells for his birthday and started doing a whole body move called the Turkish Get-Up. Then we found out that the Turkish Get-Up could be done with a person instead of a kettlebell. When Adele made the connection between the two things with Turkish in the name, we were inspired to hunt down a recipe and make Turkish Delights. FYI, they are just gooey sugar water with powdered sugar on the outside. There is some flavor from rosewater, but when we saw a bottle named Adele, we decided to get that one instead, and the orange blossom was pretty tasty.


Christmas Here at The Pantry Book

Adele LOVED her fort kit. And her fort has stayed up in the living room ever since Christmas Day.


Her fort is pretty awesome if I do say so myself. It has two separate rooms and a shelf for storage. Adele got a princess flashlight and a princess headlamp along with a large flashlight to go with her fort kit (flat sheet, clothespins, rope, and a polka dot bag to keep it all together). They were a real hit!


Mimi and Adele made a snowman cookie craft from pinterest. My mom is really an excellent grandma. She is always interacting with the kids, doing things that they enjoy, investing in relationship with them. My children are so blessed – and I am too!


I started reading Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. It’s motivated me to do a lot more walking and on a variety of terrain. We took a “hike” through a nearby wooded park. Carmel had Everett in an Ergo backpack and I had Eleanor in another one. We even had lunch there in the open air. And it was lovely! The picture below is of the bottom of the roots of a tree that we assume fell over in a storm. Pretty cool!


Adele hit the jackpot this year – she got to go ice skating TWICE! Once with Daddy and once with Mimi.


Eleanor is really interested in climbing things. She loves to get up on the footboard of Adele’s high chair and also on Everett’s therapy bench.


When Mimi took Adele ice skating, they went out for burgers, fries and milkshakes! Yum!

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Today after church we took Mimi to the airport. We all miss her lots =(


Fondue 2014

**This is an updated version of a planning post I wrote two years ago. We have streamlined the party (less stress) and this post and shopping list reflect the changes. This is mostly for my own use (to refer to in the future).

We like having our friends and family over to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We like Fondue! A lot! And what’s more fun than a bunch of little kids running around with a bunch of open flames on the table? =) This is where I give you all the details to help you put together a fondue party of your very own. Also, it helps me get ready and not make the same mistakes two years in a row! See how it all turned out here.

We own FIVE fondue pots, but that’s not enough so we always ask Kent’s parents to let us borrow one more for our party. I bought a few from Goodwill and Kent and I each had a couple from before we got married.

An easy way to prepare for this party is to order a fruit tray and a veggie tray premade and just use those as the dippers for dessert and cheese fondues. I think it is a lot cheaper to do it myself, but it’s also more work. It’s your party, so it’s your call – I won’t judge (I’ve done it both ways).

First, my shopping list:

  • raw ACV
  • PB
  • kombucha
  • strawberries
  • cherries
  • bananas
  • apples
  • pineapple
  • mandarin oranges
  • pound cake/angel food cake
  • sparkling mineral water LOTS!!!
  • bread
  • horseradish
  • 4 boxes TJ’s fondue
  • coffee ice cream
  • Sherbet
  • sternos

The night before the party:

  • get out the fondue bin from the basement
  • Set up all the pots with sternos
  • Get the punch bowls and cups out
  • Stack up the party plates.
  • Set up napkins and fondue forks

After lunch on the day of the party:

  • chop/slice all veggies/fruit/bread/pound cake and prepare on trays/bowls with several baggies of back-ups to bring out as the party goes on
  • prepare dipping sauces and put in ramekins (with extra in jars to keep in the fridge)
  • slice all the meat VERY THINLY

At the Main Food Table


We serve two cheese fondues in ceramic pots like this heated by tealights and two meat-cooking fondues (broth and oil) in metal fondue pots like this heated by small sternos. We put raw meat on platters; then we put hot broth in one metal pot and hot beef tallow in the other. Then we put out dipping sauces for the meats.

Fondue Cheese from Trader Joe’s

We started using the boxes of Trader Joe’s fondue cheese and it’s delicious. We usually go through three during the party and have one for back-up. It’s great with any leftover broccoli on Christmas Day!

Cheddar Beer Fondue

1 lb sharp cheddar, shredded (or 1/2 Monterrey Jack and 1/2 cheddar)
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
dash cayenne
3/4 cup beer
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

In bowl, combine cheese, flour, mustard and cayenne; mix well. In a regular pan (not the fondue pot), combine beer and Worcestershire sauce. Heat (on the stove) until bubbling; gradually add cheese mixture and stir constantly until the cheese melts and mixture is smooth (about five minutes). Transfer to ceramic fondue pot with tea light.

Sassy Barbeque Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon Braggs raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sucanat
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco® sauce
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk the sauce ingredients with 1/8 cup water. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mustard Sauce

3/4 cup strained yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp Braggs raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
3 Tbsp hot mustard (or dijon)

Horseradish Cream Sauce

1 cup sour cream or strained yogurt
3 Tbsp horseradish
1 tsp Braggs raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sucanat
1/2 pepper
salt to taste

Mix well and chill before serving. We always have extra from the fondue party, so we eat it with filet mignon at our Christmas Dinner.

Served with:

  • crusty bread
  • broccoli
  • caulifower
  • carrots
  • cherry tomatoes
  • snap peas
  • apple slices

At the Dessert Table

We put this one near an outlet because we put the dessert fondues in two electric fondue pot like this. We use a crock-pot style pot because the sterno flame fondue pot heat is too hot for the dessert fondues – burned chocolate doesn’t taste good.

Chocolate PB Fondue

4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
8 oz (1 cup) raw heavy cream (or heavy whipping cream if you don’t have access to fresh raw milk and cream)

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine chocolate and cream in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Add sugar and peanut butter; continue cooking until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into electric fondue pot.

Served with:

  • strawberries
  • cherries (if available)
  • sliced banana (sprayed with orange juice to prevent browning)
  • apple slices (with lemon juice to prevent browning)
  • pineapple chunks
  • mandarin orange segments
  • cubed pound cake
  • cubed angel food cake

Try to make the fruit as dry as possible so that the fondue won’t slide off. Also, the fruit should be chilled, which helps the chocolate to coat the fruit more easily.

Chocolate Fondue

16 oz sweetened chocolate
4 Tbsp Rum
1/2 to 1 cup cream or milk

Melt choc and cream in double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and add rum. Transfer to fondue pot.

At the Beverage Table

I like to serve drinks at parties with my little cut glass punch cups. I have over 50, so that’s enough for most parties. People sometimes lose their cup and take another, so I usually have to wash a few in the middle of the party. If you use regular-sized cups, people will take too much punch, which they will put down and forget about, and you will run out before most of the guests arrive. Small cups make it last for the whole party, even if people get lots of refills. I bought my punch cups at Goodwill for pennies! I also like to put the beverage table near an outlet because I sometimes serve a hot punch in my crockpot.

Healthy and Tasty Eggnog (Triple Recipe)

5 local pastured (don’t eat grocery store eggs raw!) egg yolks (save whites for ginger bread house glue/icing)
1/3 cup maple syrup
pinch of Celtic sea salt
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1 or 2 Tablespoons whey
1 Tablespoon organic lemon juice
3 cups raw milk (or pasteurized milk if you must, but NEVER ultra-pasteurized milk!)
1 cup raw cream (or pasteurized cream if you must, but NEVER ultra-pasteurized cream!)

You can use more cream and less milk if you like it creamy. Beat or blend egg yolks until thick. Add syrup, nutmeg, whey and lemon juice. Add milk and cream. Beat until frothy. Store in the fridge until right before the party. I usually double or triple this recipe for the party and serve in a crystal punch bowl. We like to float scoops of coffee ice cream on the top.

Cold Christmas Punch

kombucha with sherbet floating at the top =)

Around here lately

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Homemade wreath from yard trimmings =)

We decided not to do a Christmas tree this year, but we have trees on the porch!



“Hey Adele, why don’t you put Eleanor in between you and Everett?”


Bad idea!



As soon as we saw this, we lowered her crib mattress. And it’s a good thing we did because the last couple of times I’ve gotten her from her nap she’s been STANDING UP! That’s right, she’s just seven months old and she has five teeth and pulls to stand. Crazy!


I’m defining “lately” a bit loosely here – this next one is from Thanksgiving.

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Just a little post-bath baby nudity.


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By the way, I love this wagon! It takes up about a tenth of the space (compared to the double stroller) in the trunk and I can even fit THREE in.

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European Starling in my Nature Journal

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I made a “map” of my watercolor palette, which I think really helps to know what colors to mix because it shows you the mid-tones and washes of each color, which is vastly different from how they appear dried in the palette.


I finally found something for opaque white details on top of watercolor – white gel pen!


My top “nature journal help” books of 2014. Obviously, you need a field guide. And I have really loved learning modern calligraphy, but the real stand-out for me is the Laws Guide to Drawing Birds. I think this is a MUST for any Charlotte Mason nature journal-er. It’s just an awesome book!