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4 Books that Made Me Better in 2018

29 Apr

As much as I would like to think that spending my free time lying down and bingewatching Southern Charm makes me a better wife, mother, and citizen, I am pretty sure all the hours I have logged gorging on everything Bravo has not actually progressed me as a person.  That much.  It has made me keenly aware, however, that there is a big difference between a botoxed 37-year-old and an everyday, organic 37 year old.  😦

Don’t hang up!  Don’t click away just because you just found out that I’m 37.  Slash basic.  Don’t be shallow like me!

So, anyway. 🙂 I took some time to read this spring.  Not because I wanted to become a better person. But because our VPN setup was detected and disabled by UK’s media police…hence I got permanently cut off from Bravo.  (You can’t stream that amazingness outside of the USA no matter how hard you try.  And no matter how hard your husband tries for you.)

So books it was. 

In all honesty, I have poured over all four of these titles in the past few months.  They’ve sharpened me, made me feel more professional, and brought me up to speed in areas that actually matter–I hope they can help you as well.  


Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education, Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer’s Rethinking School is a must-read (or audible download) for American parents of school-aged children. 

Empower yourself to help shape and personalize your child’s education—read this now!

The five-section book covers:

  • how our current K-12 system came to be
  • how to best make the system fit your child
  • ideas for creating solutions for when it’s not a good fit
  • advice for parents whose children may be dealing with disabilities, bullying, maturity differences, and giftedness
  • how standardized testing may legally be declined (though the system doesn’t advertise it)
  • how to choose reasonable alternatives for one or more subjects that are not working

SWB has been my education guru for the past 8 years.  (She also wrote The Well-Trained Mind, The Story of the World, and The Story of Western Science.)  This is her latest work, it is pure brilliance.  

We have no idea how much power and freedoms we enjoy in the United States 🇺🇸 to make the system work for us.  Our schools exist to serve the students, not the other way around.  

If Susan Wise Bauer is reading this, the invitation to tea in the Cotswolds still stands.  🙂



The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper PlaceAndy Crouch.

Keeping technology in its proper place is a necessary discipline for every person, not just the kids.  This is the playbook for how to navigate the buffet of technological temptations that inundate our children.    

Andy Crouch has done the research for you, he laid out all the statistics on technology use in our society.  He reminds us how technology can bring us together and be used for the greater good, but that instant gratification and entertainment can not replace the harder work of developing our minds, hearts and souls.  

He points out how to put various boundaries on technology in order to keep our children engaged in “3-D world” as much as possible. 

This work is full of ideas and concepts to help create a family culture that we love.  It’s written from a Christian perspective, so not all his points will apply to everyone.  However, the wisdom Andy lays out will resonate with people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. 

This leads me to the next great book–the antidote to our technology-driven society:



The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah MacKenzie

Straight up, Sarah MacKenzie‘s writings/podcasts/blog posts have made me a better mother.  That’s a pretty big statement.  All of her work, everything she publishes, re-energizes me to lead my children toward truth, beauty and goodness. 

The Read-Aloud Family reveals how reading aloud prepares your children for academic success and develops compassion and empathy in your kiddos through stories.  It also addresses how to find time to read aloud, and how to choose titles that work best for your family.  It is full of fabulous book lists as well.  

One thing I have seen from personal experience which she underscores in the book: reading aloud doesn’t have to mean hours per day.  It can be peppered all around school, sports, and social schedules.  She actually encourages reading mere minutes per day–a five-minute portion is plenty to get the ritual established.

Growing young minds, being more present as a parent, and connecting closer as a family in five to ten minutes per day?  There’s not a better bang for your buck.  This is a life-changing (potentially world-changing) habit that needs to be revived in our culture.



The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Morgan Cron

Thank you to my friend Jen Hartney for pointing me to this one.

Turns out, reading a personality assessment in narrative form resonated with me far more than answering a questionnaire followed by a printout of my results. 

This book is worth a year’s fees of therapy and counseling.  

Look, I have been on the brink for a long time.  I have.  But when I read The Road Back to You, I realized something so amazing: I am not *completely* insane!  I am just a 4, which explains everything!  Oh, and that unnamed loved one is a 5, so I am not frustrated at them anymore!  And my husband the 9 godlovehim, he’s great too, and everything all makes sense now.  Most personality “flaws” are just behavioral manifestations of their particular type…not that the flaws are always acceptable, but it helps me to give out more mercy.


Self-awareness is crucial for mental and spiritual health.  “What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you– and your relationships.”  Do yourself, your family, and your friends a favor and find out who you are.  This book is such a wonderful tool for amassing this kind of wisdom.  Note: we had a hard time narrowing down a number for my mother.  She was on the line for a few different numbers.  After ruminating over it a few days, she landed on the one that best describes her. 

If you are not instantly sure which of the 9 types you are, it might take you some reflection to land on it.  I, however, am textbook–took me eight seconds to decipher myself.  



Alright, that’s it.  Have you read any of these?  Please share with us your most favorite bits of wisdom from them.
Thanks for stopping by!  



A Few of My Favorite Things

17 Sep

I love stumbling upon new ideas and things to try. Since I have not yet allowed myself to wander into the Pinterest world, I rely on articles from my hubby, suggestions of friends, and a few blogs I follow. I feel like a jack of all trades constantly trying new things, but once in a while something new really sticks. Here are a few of my newest favorite things:

1. The oil cleansing method. I wanted to blog about this immediately after I tried it, but I waited a few months to make sure I was a devoted follower. In an effort to detox, I ditched most of my skin care products after discovering they didn’t score very well on the EWG cosmetics database. I searched for safer alternatives and came to the conclusion that I could either spend WAY too much money on a fancy organic skin care line or I could go back to the basics. I chose the basics. Try this: Pour a large dollop of castor oil and another large dollop of your favorite oil (I like avocado or jojoba) in the palm of your hand. Rub hands together to mix oils and apply to face in circular motions for a minute or so. Take a hot wash cloth, ring it out, and let it set on your face for a bit to let your pores open and oil soften. Repeat, and then gently wipe remaining oil off with washcloth. Go to bed. Wake up to skin that feels amazing. Repeat every night. The pain of washing washcloths and taking a little extra time quickly wore off for me. Now, I look forward to it nightly because it has been so beneficial. I no longer need a separate moisturizer and my face does not look shiny by 10am anymore! For more detailed instructions, read here.

2. Dry brushing. I’ll admit I came across this after searching for natural “cellulite” remedies during swim-suit season. While I’m not convinced of that benefit, it is amazingly invigorating and makes me feel just plain good. It is also the cheapest and easiest way to exfoliate, stimulate blood and lymph circulation, tighten and tone skin, stimulate oil and sweat glands, improve nervous system function, aid digestion, and prevent premature aging. My routine includes first thing in the morning to wake up my body, and then again post workout before I hit the shower. Here is a how-to video and further reading.

3. Liquid Castile soap. This has been my go-to soap for many things: face wash in the shower, body wash, and kids shampoo/body wash. I like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Dr. Woods Liquid Castile soap (most grocery stores at least carry Dr. Woods).  It can be used full strength for skin cleansing, and diluted for shampoos, household cleaners, and laundry detergent! A little goes a long way, which is an added bonus for the budget. Plus, combined with dry brushing, the need for lotions and moisturizers afterwards is almost non-existent. Organic soaps and oils aside, I’m certainly far from all-natural elitist–just taking steps towards a less toxic life. I too spent a half an hour sampling all the new pumpkin scents at Bath and Body Works the other day and buy my kids funky character themed soaps, because sometimes things like that bring worthwhile smiles.

4. Protein packed coffee. In a perfect world I have eggs or some type of animal protein for breakfast every morning with a handful of nuts, but busy mornings happen more often than not. Try this: In a to-go coffee mug mix 8oz hot coffee, a splash or two of unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and a serving of your favorite protein powder. I stick my blender bottle insert in my Contigo travel mug, shake it up, and it’s perfect. Yum. It makes a great pre-workout breakfast, plus coffee IS very beneficial!

Here’s to trying something new!


“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” ~F.D.R

Favorite Strawberry Muffins

16 May

Strawberry picking season is here!  Since strawberries are one of the most heavily contaminated crops, buying organic or local are your best bets.  Not only do they taste a million times better, they are richer in antioxidants, and not laden with harmful pesticides.  Resist the urge to buy the commercially grown strawberries on sale 2 for $6.99.  I will admit that was me, in the dark and loading up my cart, remaining naive so I didn’t have to pay more.  I slowly realized that all of my time spent ensuring I was eating clean and cutting out toxic foods (sugar, grains, gluten) was partly in vain.  I was ignoring the chemicals in my otherwise clean choices. Read here.  No better day to start than today! OK, on with the recipe.

This is my family’s favorite muffin.  I can even get my pickier oldest to pack them in her lunch.  They’re made from nutrient packed coconut flour, super food coconut oil, sweetened only with strawberries and puréed banana, and inspired from one of my favorite recipe sites–Comfy Belly.  The strawberries keep them super moist and you’ll never believe they don’t have a ton of honey or agave to make them so sweet.

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 heaping cup strawberries, diced fine (this is about one plastic container)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine first three ingredients in mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients (minus strawberries) to food processor or mini chopper and combine thoroughly.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly.  The batter will become thick quickly, this is normal.  Fold in diced strawberries.  Spoon batter into lightly greased (with coconut oil) muffin tins or non-stick liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Makes about 10-12 standard muffins or 18-24 mini muffins.
**Pictures are from a double batch



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