Book Review: Tasting Grace by Melissa d’Arabian

Tasting Grace: Discovering the Power of Food to Connect Us to God, One Another, and Ourselves by Melissa d’Arabian

I’ve long been a fan of Food Network and when Melissa d’Arabian competed and won Next Food Network Star, Season 5, I enjoyed her practical approach to food and feeding your family in simple, affordable, and healthy ways.

In her new memoir, Tasting Grace, she elaborates on her experiences winning Food Network Star, but also her life experiences before becoming a TV personality: growing up in a home with a single mother, struggling with her mother’s suicide, becoming a successful career woman, living in France and meeting her husband, moving back to the Unites States, and giving birth to their four daughters in close succession.

Intermixed throughout each of these life experiences is her realization of how we serve a creative and good God, and how He can be honored with our everyday approaches to food. Here d’Arabian shares practical encouragement for how we can thoughtfully shop for ingredients, the ways we serve others and ourselves when preparing, cooking, and entertaining, and the grace-given choices we have when partaking of and enjoying food.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC.


Knit: Summer 2019

FOs (Finished Objects)

Pattern: Golden Pear
Cost: Free!
Modification: CO 72 sts
Needles: US 6, 16″ Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles, US 7, 16″ Knit Picks Karbonz fixed circular needles & Boye aluminum 7″ DPNs
Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash – Black, White, Golden
Recipient: Landon

I love a good colorwork pattern and this one was easy to follow, with a beautiful incorporation of the yarns transitioning from one section to the other. In honor of my graduate school alma mater, this became a Mizzou Tigers themed hat for our friends’ twin baby boy!

Pattern: Golden Pear
Cost: Free!
Modification: CO 72 sts
Needles: US 6, 16″ Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles, US 7, 16″ Knit Picks Karbonz fixed circular needles & Boye aluminum 7″ DPNs
Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash – Deep Ocean, White, Golden
Recipient: Leighton

I substituted black for a lovely peacock blue to coordinate this one for our friends’ sweet twin baby girl.

Pattern: Golden Pear
Cost: Free!
Modification: CO 72 sts
Needles: US 6, 16″ Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles, US 7, 16″ Knit Picks Karbonz fixed circular needles & Boye aluminum 7″ DPNs
Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash – Ruby, White, Golden
Recipient: TBA

Gryffindor colors – hurrah!

Pattern: Pembroke Scarf
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 3, 24″ Chiagoo fixed circular needles
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Alegría – Orquidea
Recipient: TBA

This started out as another Nurmilintu by Heidi Alander on our trip to NYC, but I didn’t like the weave of the lace section, and after making multiple mistakes, I frogged it in favor of the straight-garter pattern of the Pembroke, which has been a delightful summer knit!

WIP (Work in Progress)

Pattern: Chim Chim-in-ney Christmas Hat
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 8, 6″ Addi bamboo DPNS, US 9, 6″ Knitters Pride DPNs
Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash – Ruby, White
Recipient: TBA

What wooly goodness awaits you this Fall? For me, it’s getting started on Andrea Mowry’s Wool & Honey Sweater and knitting up more pairs of her North Country Mitts. Bring on the cooler weather!

Summer 2019: Unblogged

A few snapshots of Summer 2019:

Accompanying The Optometrist for a summer conference at Big Cedar Lodge and attending Sunday morning services at the Garden Chapel was an ecumenical blessing.

The rain had not yet fully abated, but the sun was out after a summer storm, which prompted us to grab our umbrellas and go for a walk to seek out a rainbow in our neighborhood. It being a double rainbow was doubly beautiful.

The prospect of spending over a week in Colorado was sadly cut short when I became sick with food poisoning, prompting us to come home early. However, the short time we had in the mountains with friends was a reprieve and we’ll hopefully be able to return another time.

Gathering with 30 dear friends on a Saturday night in July to celebrate summer birthdays and other noteworthy occasions was a scheduling miracle in and of itself, only made more complete with grilled bratwursts, cake, and homemade ice cream.

A huge undertaking of our summer was having the interior of our house painted in July. The upheaval of packing like we were moving but not going anywhere was extremely stressful for me: the one who thrives on routine, organization, and everything in its place. However, the crew did an excellent job and we are so pleased with the end result! It’s also given us a chance to clear out the clutter and make our new-to-us house even more functional and homey.

Good, bad, new to you? What have been some of your highlights this summer?

Read: August 2019


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

This Newbery Award winning novel by children’s/YA powerhouse Lois Lowry, was strategically paired with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (read in July) for our summer book club and makes for a terrific, historical fiction complement to the well-known WWII Holocaust diary.

Revisiting this as an adult reader reminded me of all the reasons why I loved it as a girl and how it still holds up today: friendship, bravery, and courage. If you’ve only read The Giver by Lois Lowry, I encourage you to pick up Number the Stars from her back catalog!

Read via: home library


Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

This light-hearted selection from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, was an easy, not too racy, modern “chick lit” complement to Tom Hanks’ roles in 90s romantic comedies. With You’ve Got Mail ranking in my Top 3 movies, I found myself smiling repeatedly at the various movie references Winfrey uses in this fun, summer read.

Main character Annie is desperately waiting for her own real-life version of Tom Hanks to sweep her off her feet. With family ties in Columbus, Ohio, she is hesitant to uproot her life and use her film degree in a big city, so she jumps at the opportunity to work on a Hollywood movie filming in her hometown. The only problem is that the leading (hunky) star is a bit of a jerk, who surely can’t be her own “Tom Hanks.” Right?

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan


Girls Like Us by Randi Pink

This soon-to-release YA novel follows a group of pregnant teenage girls in the 1970s, when times, cultures, and expectations were different than they were today. But were they really?

More is coming soon – look for my full review in October!

My thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for the ARC!


The Gown by Jennifer Robson

Rounding out one of my last personal selections from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guidethis historical fiction novel centers around the real-life work done in the sewing workshop of British dress designer Norman Hartnell for the wedding of (then) Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip.

Throughout the story the reader is whisked away to England in the late 1940s where two of the dressmakers, Ann and Miriam, develop a loyal friendship, with long-lasting family connections, which helps establish a broader story arc around these inspirational women.

Read via: Hoopla audio


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

When finally receiving notice that my library e-book copy was available for download, I had no idea what to expect from this bestselling debut. If you are like me, waiting for your turn to read this, I won’t spoil anything for you, but just say, I can see what the fuss is about and the unique characters and atmospheric setting will stay with me for a long time!

Read via: Overdrive e-book

And now Fall awaits! What are you excited to read in the season ahead?


Learn: Summer 2019


Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this Summer.

The above photo is the giant coleus on our back porch that was visited by a most beautiful butterfly one morning in July.

Turn on your out of office notification while on vacation and stick to it!

When we traveled to New York in May, I did a really good job not checking my e-mail and enjoying time to experience all that was around me vs. thinking about summer routines back home. Granted, this is easier to do when times are slower, like then, but it reminded me how work will always be there, but our trip to New York needed my undivided attention.

Ask “What happened to that person?” vs. “What’s wrong with that person?”

When reading about the ongoing homeless population that take shelter in/around many public libraries, even though there isn’t a solution for how to combat these complex issues, I loved the prompt to rethink someone’s circumstances, rather than simply pass judgement on their situation.

Pokémon Go!

The Optometrist began playing Pokémon Go! when it released a few years ago, but after we had Sylvester put to sleep and before we left for New York, he suggested it would be fun if I played along with him. And it has been! It’s been a great way for us to spend time with one another, go on LOTS of walks, explore new areas of our town, and have common goals as we advance in our levels.

Tennis elbow

After visiting an experienced massage therapist in the spring and her finding some really sore areas near my elbows, I think we finally got to the root of what was causing the pain in my arms over the past few years – tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Continued modifications at work and in my exercise routine have proven helpful as I now have hardly any pain in my hands as I type, knit, and play piano. Hallelujah!

Brooklyn Duo

You guys! We discovered these phenomenal husband/wife musicians this summer and they are a new favorite!!!! Click above to watch them reimagine “Yellow” by Coldplay.

Oat milk

Over the past few years I’ve begun eliminating a lot of dairy from my diet, switching to almond milk for cereal and smoothies (1/2 & 1/2 and heavy cream are hard to substitute when cooking, however). Yet, I had heard really good things about oat milk, and sure enough, I found I much prefer its thickness and flavor, especially when drinking a glass.

Edward Herrmann was FDR in Annie


For years I loved actor Edward Herrmann as Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, but when re-watching the 1982 version of Annie, a childhood favorite, I discovered he is FDR! Photo credit.

What have been newfound discoveries for you this Summer? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

10 (but really 13)

Today marked my first day of school in higher education for the 10th year in a row. WOW! If you count a handful of previous years in Missouri when I worked at a community college and two other K-12 school districts, it’s technically my 13th full year in public education. Again, I say, WOW!

As I took my morning walk around the neighborhood, guided by the moon that had not yet set, which prompted me to reflect on some of the key aspects I’ve learned about myself and working in higher education the past 10 or so years:

  • It’s okay to ask for help.

    There are likely always going to be people who have been doing this longer than you and they will be happy to lend a hand, but you have to ask for the help you need.

  • Be willing to say yes.

    Committee work, leadership opportunities, invitations to collaborate…say YES. It may not be forever, it may only be once a semester, but after a while you become known for how well you get along with others and these partnerships take you a long way to being known for who you are and what you do outside your office space.

  • But know when to say no.

    I love being helpful, I love being a servant, and being a go-to gal. I’m a Type A, Enneagram 1 and know how to get the job done. But there comes a time when I know I’ve reached my limit and have too many plates spinning at any given time. The term I use is “bandwidth,” and I’ve learned (often, the hard way) that I sometimes have to say NO and trust that the job will be done well by someone else, and if it’s not done well, then it’s not my job to clean up somebody else’s mess.

  • Self-care is important.

    This looks different for me based on the semester and the number of items on my (aforementioned) plate, but I can always count on a morning walk, a bath, a cup of tea, time to pray and meditate on scripture, a little yoga, or a chat with a good friend to get me outside of myself when the stress starts to build.

    For work tasks, sometimes this means staying 15 minutes later on a Friday so I won’t have to think about a particular task over the weekend. Sometimes it’s turning on my out-of-office notification and being diligent to not check e-mail during days I’m away from campus, trusting my smart and capable colleagues can hold down the proverbial fort while I’m gone. (Sometimes all of these are easier said than done, but I’m a work still in progress.)

  • You’re the expert in the room.

    One of my dearest mentors and former colleagues-turned-friend shared this with me when I was feeling nervous about teaching a library research class to a large group of undergraduate students. They didn’t know I nervous, so why show it? So I walked into the computer lab with my head held high, a smile on my face, and decided to be the expert in the room.

  • Not all the students in your class are going to pass your class.

    This was another Higher Ed Lesson 101 learned several years ago when I first taught a section of our Freshmen orientation course. As badly as you know they can do the work, as badly as you want them to come to class and do homework outside of class, and as easy as you know this work is, sometimes students do not pass your class. It’s hard, but a fact of life.

  • Sometimes you’re the mentee, sometimes you’re the mentor.

    In my first 6 years of being an academic librarian, I was surrounded by colleagues who had accrued 15, 30, and 40 years of service at our institution and was thus mentored by them in various aspects of my job. Since most of these individuals have now retired and/or moved, I am gradually stepping into the role of mentor for my newer, younger colleagues and remain thankful for these strong and good examples set for me to emulate as the roles reverse.

  • Be kind. Always.

    Living in a small town, I can’t count the number of times a checker at Dollar General or the waitress at a local restaurant says, “Do you work in the college library?” I always say, “Yes, I do! Remind me, what class brought you to the library? Are you still taking classes?” It’s always humbling to A.) Be recognized, even in a small way, but more so, B.) Realize I made some sort of lasting impact on this person and they were comfortable enough with me to approach me again in public weeks after the fact.

Maybe this is back-to-school time for you, too? Regardless of the length of time you’ve been at your job, what lessons are you learning in this season?

Read: July 2019


Sunrise Cabin by Stacey Donovan

We took an ill-fated (literally) trip to Colorado at the beginning of the month, but even though we had to return home early, this gentle romance from Hallmark made for a pleasant reading experience when I wasn’t feeling well.

Set in Colorado, 1st grade teacher Paige meets investment banker Dylan at a local bakery and just as their love begins to blossom, the cabin Paige has been renting goes up for sale and she can’t understand why Dylan wants to also buy her beloved home. Decisions are  made by them both, personal and career alike, that determine their happiness and future.

Read via: Hoopla e-book


Becoming by Michelle Obama

Having pre-ordered this about a year ago, and it sitting on my nightstand for over 6 months, I had been waiting for the right time to read this chart-topping memoir from former First Lady Michelle Obama. Using my 4th of July sick, stay-cation was the perfect time to journey with her as she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, her ivy league education, her first encounter with law intern Barack Obama, their romance, marriage, parenthood, her career, his rise in public service, and ultimately his election as President of the United States.

Mrs. Obama’s approachability, hard work, determination, and commitment to self, family, and country make this autobiography worth the notoriety it has earned and deserves.

Read via: home library


Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Calahan

(Apparently reading books with the title “becoming” was an unintentional theme this month!) I was previously unfamiliar with Joy Davidman, the accomplished author and later the collaborator and wife of C.S. Lewis. While this was historical fiction, it read like a series of believable letters and communications exchanged between the two of them. The audio narration by Lauren Woodward was also spot-on as she provided a British accent for the dialogue for “Jack” (C.S.), which I enjoyed. I’m now excited to read more of both C.S. Lewis’ and Joy Davidman’s back catalogs!

Read via: Hoopla audio


Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

I find reading a graphic novel to be a good reset between weightier books and this story of Indian-American teenager Priyanka was just what I needed. The mystic guidance she receives through a seemingly magical pashmina spurs her on to learn more about and take pride in her Indian ancestry was a beautiful, quick read.

Read via: academic library youth collection


Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

The writings of Shauna Niequist have become some of my favorites, and even though this was a Christmas present from my parents, I intentionally save her books for summer, when I have more mental bandwidth to ponder and savor each word.

Favorite essays from this collection include “A Blessing for a Bride,” “Princess -Free Zone,” and “The Home Team.” I haven’t read her books in published order, but this is the only one I hadn’t read, so now I wait with anticipation what she publishes next (and/or re-read everything again)!

Read via: home library


Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Hurrah for completing the Anne series for the first time! This final installment where Anne and Gilbert are parents of six children wasn’t my favorite, since a lot of the stories are centered around the growth and mishaps of her children. However, it’s been a sweet journey experiencing Anne Shirley Blythe’s growth, maturity, and eternal whimsy and I will likely re-visit a few of the Anne books again in years to come.

Read via: Hoopla audio


The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I’m certain I’ve read parts of the Diary of Anne Frank when I was in junior high, but I don’t believe I’ve ever read it in its entirety. Thanks to facilitating a discussion with a colleague whose doctorate is in Jewish culture, I was spurred to pick this back up as an adult and was reminded of how whip-smart, cheeky, and vibrant her life truly was.

Read via: academic library youth collection

The arrival of August means the Fall semester begins soon, but I’ve got a full slate of books on my TBR including Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey, and more!

How about you? What books are keeping you company as summer draws to a close?