My Favorite Things 2016

my-favorite-things-bannerHello again!

The months have whizzed by. A whole lot of life has happened between now and my last post. All those details will be for another day and another post. For now, I’m excited that my favorite link up party of the year is here! If you’re looking for a gift for someone or just a new product to try, I’m sharing my favorite things I discovered this year.

Jane’s Original Mixed Up Salt: Great product on anything but really tasty on popcorn!

J.Olive Company Oils and Vinegars: Each month, this company features a new combination. One of my favorites is Blood Orange Olive Oil and Cranberry Pear Balsamic. They offer reasonably priced sample packs to try their products.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Stick: A great product to keep in the backpack or purse if you tend to burn. No mess. Great for moms on the go too!

San Pellegrino Limonata Sparkling Beverage: A refreshing tart lemony drink – If you like sour lemon drops like lemon Zotz, you should like this drink. This company also carries a blood orange, grapefruit, and an orange flavor.

iRobot Roomba: Life changing- Enough said.

Book Darts: I learned about this little helper from blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy. A super product for a book lover or anyone who is trying to keep their place but doesn’t want to deal with bookmarks that fall out or bulk up the pages.

Rimmel Airy Fairy Lipstick: Right shade of nude pink plus it’s creamy and cheap!

Check out everybody else’s favorite things at Melissa’s site: 320 Sycamore. You might find your next new favorite thing!

Blessings

Mimi

Advertisements

A Few Favorite Christmas Books

Hey!

I love finding and reading book lists. I like knowing what others are reading and what they might suggest for me to read. Beyond the biblical story of the birth of Jesus from Luke’s gospel, these books are a few of my favorite Christmas reads.

The poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore is more commonly referred to as Twas the Night Before Christmas or The Night Before Christmas. This selection is my favorite rendering of this poem because of the illustrations by Mary Engelbreit.

 

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg is a heartwarming tale interwoven with faith about a newcomer to town, a young girl, and a redbird named Jack.

 

Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes is a lovely retelling of the birth of Jesus and the love story of Mary and Joseph.

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen this story told many ways in many movies. I first read it to discover whether the movies followed the book or not. Some do, some don’t. And like most movies and books, the book is a treat. Do yourself a favor and give it a try!

 

Christmas With Tucker by Greg Kincaid: I read this one last year and the story truly pulls at your heartstrings. Grab the kleenex box ahead of time.

 

Mitford Snowmen/Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

These short stories are a nice introduction to the town and residents of Mitford and a must for Mitford readers.

 

Happy reading!

Mimi

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'” Luke 2:10 NIV Bible

My Favorite Things 2015

Hey!

One of my favorite link ups and posts to make all year is Melissa’s My Favorite Things. I love to see what others have shared and get some great recommendations for gift items for Christmas.

#1 Morningstar Farms Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

A favorite at our house and so quick to make! These burgers are great smashed up as burritos too.

#2 Roc Deep Wrinkle Serum

This serum has been a wonderful addition to my beauty regimen.

#3 Liverpool Sienna jean leggings

Super comfortable and when worn with a tunic, and not like the pic above, no one knows they’re not real deal jeans.

#4 Polar: A Photicular Book by Dan Kainen, Carol Kaufmann

Two other photicular books are available: Ocean and Safari. I have a sweet little niece who is going to get one of these for Christmas.

And last but not least …

#5 Off the Shelf.com is a great source for finding new books to read.

My Favorite Things from past years:

  1. 2014

  2. 2013

  3. 2012

Check out other bloggers favorites @320sycamorebog.com!

Blessings,

Mimi

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …” Colossians 3:15 NIV Bible

A look back at October as November Slipped In

Hey!

November seems to have arrived for me quicker than usual. The holidays are just around the corner and I’m still trying to recuperate from the month long writing challenge. If you missed the posts from my #write31days writing challenge on Wisdom From the Animals, you can find all of them here.

October was filled with writing, reading, and teaching. I think, at last count, I was participating in four Bible studies. Obviously, God is working on me and knows I need constant surveillance!

On books, I’d recommend To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee which I reread and  For the Love: Fighting For Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker. I really enjoyed both of these books.

For movies, my recommendations for old releases are The Good Lie about the lost boys of the Sudan starring Reese Witherspoon and The Big Year which is a comedy about amateur bird watchers and the competition to count the most species in a year starring Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson. The best new release that we saw was The Martian starring Matt Damon and based on the book by Andy Weir. So excellent!

In the music category for October, I downloaded a lot of Andrew Peterson. I particularly like The Burning Edge of Dawn CD and Behold The Lamb of God CD. I’m pretty excited about Adele’s new music too.

We went to see our son at the end of the month. I was so glad to see my boy. I missed him. He is doing great and school is jam packed with study. He is pursuing his doctorate in Geographical Information Science from the University of Illinois. I have no idea what he does but I’m proud. His advisor is tops in the world in this field so I think he is getting the education he needs as well as an introduction to Chinese since his advisor and most of his doctoral candidate group is Chinese. We ate at some great restaurants in the Champaign/Urbana area and learned a lesson: Never-ever-under-any-circumstance book a hotel room just off campus on a Halloween weekend. Bad idea. 4am. Two nights in a row. Enough said.

Jack got his undergraduate degree from U of I so he was pretty excited to be on campus again. We took the Amtrak train with a sleeper car. An excellent way to travel. You do need earplugs since the train whistle blows at every intersection.

austin and jack

Delta spent almost 2 weeks with my parents in Arkansas. We affectionately refer to her time with them as doggie boot camp.

daddy and delta

That rundown concludes the days of October that fell like fall’s leaves and ushered in November so quickly I barely got a chance to notice.

Blessings,

Mimi

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NIV Bible

From A Mississippi Poet

Hey!

In the spring, I had an unexpected offer to review two books of poetry by an author from my home state of Mississippi. I was and still am so flattered that someone would ask me to review their work and post a review online. I have to admit along with the surge of excitement also came the weight of realization of “what if.” I worried about what if I disliked the work, what would I say, and then how would I review the work kindly and gently but honestly? Fortunately, that worry was lifted and unfounded as I began to read Patricia Neely-Dorsey’s books of poetry.In his Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke instructs a young writer –

“write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember.”

This sage advice perfectly captures what Patricia Neely-Dorsey has accomplished in her work. For those from Mississippi, a sense of home and place will resonate strongly in the words and take you to the front porch, the church potluck, to musings about Elvis, and even to the budding of love. But, I believe her words transcend beyond the borders of our state and reach any who feel a connection to their home, to a simple life filled with the love of place, family, and friends as well as those who are curious about what it means to be southern.

Patricia Neely-Dorsey is a woman who cares deeply for her home state and is a reflection and vocal proponent of showcasing Mississippi’s finer points. She is the recipient of the title Official Goodwill Ambassador of Mississippi by Governor Phil Bryant and one of her newer poems (not included in these two books), Meet My Mississippi, is being considered for selection as the official state poem. Her poem, Country Living, below, is included in a textbook for high school students in Germany learning English as a second language.

From Reflections Of A Mississippi Magnolia:

Country Living

It’s grassroots.

It’s simple.

It’s basic, not plush.

Uncomplicated.

Uncluttered.

Unhurried.

Unrushed.

It’s relaxed.

Unpolluted.

Unequaled.

Unmatched.

From My Magnolia Memories and Musings:

Them Blues

Somebody’s always singing

Them Monday Morning blues songs

Them sho’nuff done me wrong songs

Them stayed out all night long songs

Them moaning, groaning love songs

Them bear your heart and soul songs

Them feel it in your bones songs

Them make you weak and strong songs

Them letting go and holding on songs

Them totally yours and mine songs

Them everybody knows songs…

We ALL love them blues…songs

One of my favorites is about reading but has a twist. From Reflections Of A Mississippi Magnolia:

Avid Reader

I want to be

Your favorite book,

That you read

Over and over again,

From cover to cover,

And get lost in the story.

Not a fairy tale.

Not a mystery.

No cliff hangers.

Just

A Plain

Old Fashioned

Love Story

If you love what you’ve just read and would like to learn more about Patricia, check out her website found here. Her books can be purchased on her website or you can also find her on Facebook here.

Blessings,

Mimi

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:18

Tidying the Nest

Hey!

Earlier in the summer amidst all of the clutter and chaos my house became after we began a renovation on an RV all summer (post to come), I looked around and thought, “This house is a disaster and as soon as the kids move out I’m purging all this stuff BIG time!” Technically, I might have actually said that statement out loud more than a few times. I think my receptors to words like clean, tidy, organized, and stress-free were heightened because I heard these words everywhere associated with Marie Kondo’s book. So, after much hype on blogs and GMA, I drank the koolaid and bought the book.

Ms. Kondo is touted as an organizer extraordinaire. She has developed a method of organizing called the KonMari method that has literally swept Japan’s households clean of clutter. Ms. Kondo describes her methods in detail throughout the book as well as sharing some of her personal history. All of that aside, I was underwhelmed by the book. I’ve read organizing books before, and just maybe I was hoping for a cleaning fairy wand, but I was disappointed.

What I did like about the book:

Her methods for folding are genius. I’m still working through the discarding of my clothes but I’m impressed so far. As a lifetime baller of socks, the idea for storing socks has really helped me save time and helped me to quickly get to the socks that I want. Also, the order and manner of discarding is unique. When I sorted my tops, for instance, the book instructs you to pile all of your tops from everywhere in the house (except the ones in the laundry) together to sort. Instead of room by room or closet by closet, she has you gather all of the like items into the same location before you discard. I found this idea easier than other methods and quicker. Lastly, Ms. Kondo states that the discard will take months. She’s right. Her approach is more comprehensive but I believe it will yield better results. This idea is obvious yet candidly refreshing.

 

What I did not like about the book:

Some of the practices that she would like you to incorporate as you are tidying are unrealistic and are perhaps better understood in a Japanese culture. I found some of them odd and off-putting. For instance, she suggests that you remove all of the contents from your purse each night, thank the purse for its service and allow it to rest for the evening before refilling the purse in the morning. Not going to happen here. Poor purse. She also requests that you verbally greet your home when you arrive and as you tidy your space and discard items that you thank the items for their service. Again, not for me. These practices are probably a reflection of her Shinto beliefs.

Ms. Kondo also shares parts of her personal history to explain her passion for organizing. I found most of these personal stories distracting to the book’s purpose. One story would’ve been sufficient instead of interspersed throughout the book. Perhaps, these personal insights would’ve been better suited to a memoir rather than a book on organizing. In addition, I also found the English translation glitchy at times. While the words were probably translated right, the overall gist was wonky in these places.

 

Ms. Kondo’s mantra to use while discarding is: Does it spark joy?  Overall, I’d say this book is a 2.5 stars joy out of 5 stars joy rating. I’m encouraged to use what I like from the book and discard the rest.

Blessings,

Mimi

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” 1 Peter 2:1-3 The Message

 

Books, Books, Books

Hey!

Books and summertime go together, don’t you think? I do and I have been steadily reading this summer. I only wish I could forego all of my daily chores to sit and read for hours on end. Ah, that would be bliss!

At the start of the year, Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy issued a reading challenge: Read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months. She chose the categories and those participating chose their own books. I’ve been nibbling away at the categories and now have only 2 left to go! As far as my own personal goal to read 50 books this year, I’m on the right track with 32 read so far for the year.

#1 A book I’ve been meaning to read: Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner: This book sat on my nightstand for a couple of years. I enjoyed it and felt parts were spot on for me but I liked her book girl meets God more. A solid 3.5 stars out of 5 stars.

#2 A book published this yearThe Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: I loved this book as much as the first one, The Queen of the Tearling. The story headed into a different direction than I expected but I’m all in for the third one. I can’t wait to see the movie with Emma Watson!  4 stars

#3 A book in a genre I don’t typically readHorrorstor by Grady Hendrix: Creepy, easy to read, quick paced and not my cup of tea. I gave this book 2.5 stars because I did like the concept of using the store as a setting which added to the creepy factor and I liked the graphics used throughout the book.

#4 A book from my childhood: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: Still love this wonderful story. I gave this book 5 stars because of sentimental reasons and because I do feel the story is excellent as well as the writing.

#5 A book that was originally written in a different language: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke: Originally written in German, this story is about a young man seeking advice from the poet. Lots of wonderful thoughts and quotes on life and writing. 4.5 stars

#6 A book everyone has read but me: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult: I couldn’t finish it. I tried really hard. I read it for book club and I read half of it [200 pages] and sort of skimmed the rest. I just don’t like Jodi Picoult’s style of writing. Everyone kept telling me I would love this one because it was not like her others. I disagree. It was exactly like her others. No rating, wouldn’t be fair.

#7 A book I chose because of the cover: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai: I’m reading this book now. The story is as beautiful as the cover. A girl accompanies her grandmother back to their native Vietnam to discover what happened to her grandfather and is learning about the value of family. Right now, the book is hovering in the 4 star region.

#8 A book by a favorite author: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good  by Jan Karon: I loved being back in Mitford with all of the familiar characters. The book did feel a little like a swan song. 4 stars because I adore this series.

#9 A book recommended by someone with great taste: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay: My friend Nancy suggested this book to me and I loved it and have recommended it to others. I ordered her second book the minute I finished this one. 4 stars

#10 A book thats currently on the bestseller listThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book is also not a typical genre for me but I read it for book club. I thought the book was well written and I enjoyed it but I was so stressed out reading it which is why I don’t normally read this genre, psychological thriller. 4 stars

My last 2 categories to conquer are: A book my mom loves and a book I should have read in high school. If you’d like to read my full review on any of these books (except for A Wrinkle in Time and Listen, Slowly), you can find them by clicking on the Goodreads bar on the right hand side of the page.

Blessings,

Mimi

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103 NIV Bible