Friday, November 30

Shadow of Night

I don't read a lot of fiction these days. There's too much to learn and do in real life. But I have been waiting for Deborah Harkness's Shadow of Night since last year, and have had the audio book requested from the library since they bought it. It finally came in right before Thanksgiving, and I was able to listen to it while on the road for my holiday travels.

Seriously, people. I cried. It was that good.

If you have not read the first book in this series, A Discovery of Witches, do yourself a favor and get it from your library asap. This series is flawlessly crafted; a historical scholar, Ms. Harkness does not rehash the standard cliches and story lines of witches and vampires but sculpts a completely different world for them. Her ability to weave together a complicated and engaging tapestry of plots and sub plots is on par with Tolkien and Goodkind.

Be forewarned though - the next book in the series isn't out yet. So after you've indulged in the awesomeness of DoW and SoN, you'll be stuck in same place I am... that purgatory of waiting for the next amazing instalment in your new favorite series. I don't know whether to say you're welcome or I'm sorry!

Thursday, November 29

Time to Decorate. Wait... What?

If you'd ever met my sister, you'd know immediately that I did not get the decorating genes in my family. My sweet sister will cheerfully decorate for any holiday (and do a great job). I am more of a "season-less decor" kind of person. I prefer to celebrate the change of seasons through culinary means.

Usually, I get off easy in this - my husband has an awesome job that literally takes him to the ends of the earth every year. (That's him at the South Pole a couple years ago.) Inevitably his travels keep him away at Christmas, and I get away with doing no decorating at all. 

This year, however, my Beloved will actually be home for Christmas! It is also our first year in our new home, so there clearly there can be no slacking this year! That sent me digging through our single bin of Christmas-related decor. We were good on ornaments, but embarrassingly light on around-the-house touches. 

Then Dayspring came to the rescue.  Their Love Came Down table runner in tones of cream and gold adds the perfect understated but festive touch to our table. (And its reversible - red and gold on the other side, if you're looking for something brighter.) It was so nice to find decor options that are elegant and functional.

I was amazed at the difference the complimenting Tea Light Holder Trio made in my kitchen - lined up on the island, they create a surprisingly rich, warm glow. I can't wait to turn off all the other lights and sit with a mug of hot chocolate, watching the snow fall by candlelight. Added bonus - these are very flexible. Though their message is perfect for Christmas, they are not so Christmas-y that you couldn't keep them out and use them all year.

So although I still haven't found the extension cords we need to hang lights in the windows or gotten my hands on a stand to keep a Christmas tree upright, our house is graced with the first touches of Christmas. And for the first time in a long time, I think I might actually enjoy the season. 

Disclaimers: I received these items free from Dayspring in return for my review, but was not required to give them a good report. My opinions (as always) are my own. Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures of these items as they are displayed in my own house. Technical difficulties made it impossible to get the photos I took from the camera to the computer... thanks for understanding!

Monday, November 26


Literally months ago now I got my hands on a copy of Sneak, the sequel to Swipe. Life was busy, and it sat neglected on my desk. But once I picked it up, I was through it in no time, staying up well past bedtime to finish it. 

Sneak picks up where Swipe left off, with Logan Langley on the search for his sister. Daniel and the Dust are searching themselves, while Logan's former friend Erin watches the plans she'd so carefully laid go drastically wrong. In a world full of surprises and danger, assumptions are challenged and characters find unexpected strength in themselves and in the faith they were forbidden to know.
I greatly enjoyed this book. I was again impressed with Angler's ability to present characters who are little more than children with an inspiring but realistic combination of strength and vulnerability. They can crack codes with their electronics masterfully, but stumble in finding their way through relationships and the adult world. I also sincerely appreciated his rendering of adults; in a genre where adults are often portrayed as fools or oblivious, Angler's adults love their children and lead the way in holding out against the darkness of the world.
The power of Faith is woven in seamlessly, never leaving the reader feeling smacked over the head with it or alienating anyone. It is handled simply, respectfully and naturally – another thing that can be hard to find. I strongly recommend this book and look forward to the next in the series.

Monday, November 19

Skin Deep

With lots of last-minute projects flying my way at work the last couple weeks, I've half-written about a dozen posts in my head... but haven't quite gotten as far as getting them written down here. Hopefully I'll be back on track this week!

Menu Idea Mondays are temporarily suspended; my isolation diet has kicked in, and I'll be lucky if I make so much as a batch of muffins between now and Christmas, so there won't be much new to post on that front! (Look for it to return in January.)

For today, though, I have a great resource to share with you: Skin Deep.

Skin Deep is a cosmetics database hosted by the Environmental Working Group, and it has just been completely overhauled and refreshed to carry the latest data and be easier than ever to navigate.

Why check out Skin Deep?
  • Many cosmetics are loaded with questionable (or downright nasty) ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, lead to toxic buildup in your body, and increase your risk of cancer. 
  • When standing in a store isle or shopping online, surrounded by options (and often limited information) it can be really hard to sift through it all. 
  • We are responsible for our health - who wants to sabotage it by laying your body with toxins every day when you don't have to?
  • Companies respond to $$$. The number one most effective way to improve the quality and safety of the products we buy is to vote with our dollars! Spend your money with companies making safe, high-quality products and more companies will (begrudgingly) start making their products conform.
Skin Deep is very user-friendly; you can see at a glance an overall assessment of a product's safety, or zero in on factors that are important to you (like allergens).

If you're gifting (or asking for) any kind of cosmetics or personal care products (shampoo, body wash, styling products) this holiday season, I encourage you to check out this database first!

I won't rant here about how the FDA and other government tentacles don't actually protect us or about how much junk they cheerfully let us poison ourselves with; instead I'll just say that there is tremendous power in being an informed consumer. Skin Deep makes it easy to exercise that power wisely - so hop over, check them out, and pass the word along.

[Note: I am in no way being compensated for this post, and there are no charges or registrations necessary to use Skin Deep. It's just a resource I appreciate and want to highlight so that others can benefit from it as well.]

Sunday, November 4

Two Books Worth Reading

Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows is one of those things that you run across and immediately know it will be either amazing or awful - and nowhere in between. It's the first book in the Zombie Bible series; when I ran across the Kindle edition for $2.99, I had to try it.

I'm pleased to report it was fantastic.  The story follows young Jeremiah (the Biblical prophet) and his wife as they leave their hometown and travel to Jerusalem. There, God begins to speak to Jeremiah and opens his eyes to the horrors taking place in the city - women and child abused and abandoned, priests offering sacrifices to pagan gods... and the scourge of the walking dead beginning to roam the streets. The author did an incredible job of bringing his characters to life - you could taste their fear, ache with their grief and rage with them. It sounds crazy to say, but this is the most life-like and empathetic portrait of a prophet I've ever read, and its portrayal of God's lament over lost and wayward children is far better than any strictly Christian book I've encountered. Definitely recommend this one and can't wait to check out the next two in the series!

On a completely different note, I also checked out Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient by the editors of Grit magazine. Focused on simple food made from real ingredients, this book was well designed and easy to use. Clearly it was put together by people who know their way around a kitchen! It won't do me much good at the moment, since real (non-hydrogenated, unadulterated) lard is hard to come by around here. but if you have access to lard I recommend grabbing a copy of this for your shelf. It covers baked goods, vegetables - all kinds of variety to the recipes, and no complicated or expensive kitchen equipment involved.

That's it! Short post today, just passing along some good things. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1

A Promise Kept

Five years ago, we brought home a frizzy little bundle of fur with a dipstick skunky tail; we were immediately in love with him. As he got older, we began promising that one day - when we had a house and weren't dealing with the restrictions of an apartment - we'd get him a companion.

Well, in April we bought a house. In October, tired of being patient, Arthas finally got direct about holding us to our promise.

We've learned a few things since we picked up our first furry baby, though. A heartbreaking number of Border Collies are abandoned, neglected and abused every year. People buy them because they think it would be cool to have one of the smartest dogs in the world, but then are completely unprepared for the time, effort and energy involved in raising a Border Collie... or the destructive mischief that results when you fail to do so.

So this time around, we called Glen Highland Farm - a Border Collie rescue. The team there introduced us to this little beauty:

Rescued from a "breeder" she weighs all of 30 lbs at 3 years old - but she's quite a little spitfire! Sweet and affectionate, she nonetheless is fearless at playtime and decidedly a herder. We've named her Nenya. (Yes, like Arthas the name is sourced from Tolkein. It's the name of Galadriel's magic ring.)

Arthas is delighted. (As you can see, they wasted no time turning into mudballs together.) I'd write more, but nap time will be up shortly and there will be balls to throw and rope toys to shred. So I'll leave you with the latest Fuller Family photo: