Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.


The $12 million facelift that’s returned a New York ‘rose’ to its former glory by Alba Prifti (CNN Style – October 5, 2016)

Visiting the New York Public Library is on my bucket list and these photos just whet my appetite for bookish travel!

Who was Casanova? (Walks of Italy – accessed February 10, 2017)

As I listened to an episode of Travel with Rick Steves on NPR, his guest mentioned the history of Venice, Casanova, and how he became a librarian in his later years. I bet you don’t associate Casanova with being a librarian!

Faith & Spiritual Life

There’s one thing Pope Francis wants Christians to give up for Lent by Antonia Blumberg (Huffington Post  – February 8, 2017)

Good reminders about looking after the marginalized as Easter approaches.

You Can Take the Girl Out of Missouri…

Harry Truman still casts a long shadow in Independence, Missouri by Melissa Block (NPR – February 5, 2017)

Everyone should pay a visit to the Truman Presidential Library in Independence!

Musical Inspiration

Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer’s “Bach Trios”… (Nonesuch – accessed February 10, 2017)

The Optometrist and I are HUGE fans of Chris Thile, have all the Punch Brothers recordings, have seen Nickel Creek live, enjoy his work as host for A Prairie Home Companion, and the discovery of this upcoming album will bring joy to us both, I assure you! We already have immensely enjoyed The Goat Rodeo sessions and Bass and Mandolin, featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer, so this new trio album will be a real treat!

Click above to view/listen Trio No. 6 in G Major, BWV 530, Vivace.

Things that are saving my life right now

Linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and others to share things that are saving my life right now, with today being the official half-way point of winter.

  1. A Soft Murmur

    The lodge where we stayed on our honeymoon 4 1/2 years ago included a noise machine that I loved. We looked into buying one, but boy are they expensive! Therefore, when The Optometrist found this website (and there are very similar apps for mobile devices), I remembered how much I loved the soothing sounds of rain/white noise. This site is bookmarked on my library computer where I often run this app for hours each day to calm myself and mute noise from outside my office.

  2. Waking up with intention

    Through a knitting podcast and a conversation in Sunday School a few weeks ago I’ve become more diligent about awaking, establishing routine (checking weather, blogs, news, e-mail), reading my Bible, and determining my focus for the day. This has allowed me to feel like the day begins with purpose and to be aware of how my attitude impacts the day’s trajectory.

  3. Consistent, hassle-free breakfasts

    When poking around Pinterest early one morning searching for low-sugar breakfast options, I discovered two recipes I’ve come to rely on almost daily:
    Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake
    I cut the recipe in half and still have enough to share with The Optometrist.
    Using coconut extract is also a yummy alternative to vanilla extract.

    Skinny Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Muffins
    I double the recipe, sometimes use dates instead of brown sugar, and always use Hershey’s sugar free chocolate chips.

    We’ve found this combination of food sticks with both of us until lunch time really well. But needless to say we go through a lot of peanut butter and bananas in our house fairly rapidly…

  4. Water Rower

    Our Christmas present to ourselves this year was a water rower, which has been a fairly consistent way of exercising indoors during the winter. I still love a good walk around the neighborhood, but with darker morning and afternoon hours, this helps fill in the winter exercise gaps.

  5. Bath time

    During a recent trip to Walmart I discovered Tree Hut coconut and lime Epsom salts (also available on Amazon). On cold winter mornings a warm bath and the smells of the tropics (or at least warmer temperatures) is a relaxing and optimistic way to begin my day!

Looking back to my 2016 list of things that were saving my life, this year’s list is much more specific, but no less meaningful to my journey at this point in time.


Read: January 2017

A new year, new month, new books read! Here’s my January recap.


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I kept reading reviews from bookish bloggers who read this near the end of 2016 and it piqued my curiosity. My formative years and my current geographic location were/are entrenched in living in a small town surrounded by very rural areas. But my impression of “hillbillies” received such a startling wakeup call through the eyes of Vance, who grew up in the rural Rust Belt of Ohio. His memoir shines a very personal light onto the everyday lives of those living in poverty, violence, and without a lot of hope. This cycle continues today in all parts of our country, evidenced by certain educational and political statistics, but Vance is a living testament to the fact that change and a bright future is possible.

This recent article/interview from The Guardian has more details about this best seller.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

The Optometrist surprised me at Christmas by giving me the boxed set of the Harry Potter movies on Blu Ray! We’ve since worked our way through all eight, which was a lot of fun to see the actors age (with improved acting skills) quickly, one movie at a time. This spurred us to begin re-reading the series aloud to each other, this time from the beautifully illustrated edition by Jim Kay. If, for some reason, you still haven’t journeyed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (either through the books or movies), what are you waiting for?!

This video provides a glimpse into Kay’s home art studio and some of his artistic inspirations.


March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

This YA graphic novel autobiographically recounts Representative John Lewis’ (D-GA) youth growing up in rural, segregated Alabama, and the eventual and pivotal role he played promoting the social gospel and Civil Rights movement. It’s the first of three graphic novels in this series and would be a terrific inclusion for any discussion about Civil Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Black History Month in February. And March: Book Three won the Printz award last week, so I am especially excited to read installments two and three!

Related: This video clip showing Lewis, Aydin, and Powell accepting the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for March. Book One will bring a tear to your eye.


Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Third in the Alaskan Courage series (previously read books 1 and 2 in December), Pettrey plots another inspirational mystery, this time on a cruise ship headed from Alaska to Russia with an unaccounted for disappearance at the heart of the story. The McKenna siblings, along with other recurring characters from the first two books, are featured once more as they open their hearts to God’s leading, find love, and rely on one another to bring about justice to those who have been victims of evil.


Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

YA author (from Oklahoma!) Ally Carter resumes her Embassy Row series with this third installment, which continues with Grace needing to be on the run to preserve her safety, finding out who her true allies are, and discovering the answers to long-held secrets. Grace possesses a lot of youthful angst, but the plot and mysteries are compelling, inviting the reader to journey with her and find out what she learns, especially in light of the historical pressures her character faces.

Read more: my review of book 1, All Fall Down, and thoughts about book 2, See How They Run.

A sneak peak into my February reads…H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Audible streaming), Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild,  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, and more!

Knit: January 2017

This first month of the new year has already proven to be filled with FOs (finished objects), opportunities to learn new knitting skills, and WIPs (works in progress)!


Pattern: Easy Baby Booties
Cost: Free!
Needles: US 6 & US 8 DPNs
Yarn: Premier Wool-Free Sock yarn, Berry Bush & a lavender acrylic
Recipient: friend’s baby

The mother-to-be works at our local Braum’s store (if you don’t have a Braum’s in your town, you don’t know what you’re missing!), whom I’ve gotten to know over the past few years when I stop in to buy milk or eggs on my way home. We’ve chatted about her college course load, work schedule, etc., but after she told me she was expecting a baby I immediately wanted to knit her a pair of baby booties, having the inkling that she may not have any people in her life to give her child a homemade gift. After dropping off the booties at the store on a night she wasn’t working, she took the time to come by my library office to personally thank me the following week. I can’t say I know this young lady very well at all, I don’t even know her last name, but I just felt the Lord impressing on me this was the right thing to do. This was a reminder that being faithful and generous as I exhibit Christ’s love to those in need never gets old.

Pattern: Copy.Cat C.C beanie
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 7, 16″ circular Knit Picks Karbonz
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, Doeskin Heather
Recipient: TBD

I’ve recently seen the store-bought version of these hats all over the place! Friends, students, and various young ladies in Branson at Christmas wearing these slouchy knit hats caught my eye. After seeing a close friend wearing one, I asked if I could take a look at it because I thought, “I could totally make that!” Even though they aren’t very expensive, the finishing was atrocious (looked like it was machine knit flat and then sewed up,evidenced by the poorly matching seams), so make one, I did! It fits a bit smaller than my friend’s store-bought CC hat, but the end result looks much more polished (in my opinion).

(Also wearing Hitchiker by Martina Behm with Lost City Knits yarn.)

New skill learned: Twisted Rib Stitch for the 1×1 ribbing made for a more open and loose brim.

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Encore DK, Light Brown
Size: Newborn (although it turned out bigger…)
Recipient: TBD

The library remained open on the MLK holiday even though our students were out of class for a volunteer day of service. Since I had to work, I wanted my contribution and act of service to be knitting a hat to donate to the nursery of a local hospital. Using left-over yarn from the wedding afghan I knit for friends, I cast on this hat at the local Monday morning knitting group and finished it a few days later. Now to pass along this and a few other hats to fresh and new little babies!

Pattern: Basic Baby Hat
Cost: Free!
Needle: US 6, 16″ circular Knit Picks Rainbow fixed circular needles & US 6 DPNs
Yarn: Gale’s Art Valentine’s Day double sock blank (2016) & Lion Brand BabySoft Solid – Baby white pompadour
Size: Preemie (although it turned out bigger…)
Recipient: TBD (maybe SSK 2017 KAL donation?)

I made socks for myself from this double sock blank last year and kept wondering what I would do with the rest. After knitting the brown hat, and with Valentine’s Day coming up soon…voila!

Added note: I spent time knitting both of these in a weekly university-wide meeting where, once more, I received comments about my ability to communicate and knit simultaneously. Score one for continental knitting!

Pattern: Big Red Dog
Pay-for pattern from: Knit Simple, Winter 2008/09
Needle: US 7 DPNs
Yarn: Crafter’s Secret, Red
Recipient: Hannah

There were many errors I found when first knitting this pattern a few years ago, which I then re-wrote based on my corrections made along the way. Since then I consult my notes and love making these puppets and giving them as a gift along with a Clifford the Big Red Dog book.

After hearing from the recipient’s Daddy that she was hugging the puppet after her Mommy read her the story during bedtime of the night of her party, this is a good indication our dear friends’ little girl will enjoy this throughout her 3rd year of life as she plays, imagines, learns, and grows!

Another added note: since the body of the puppet is knit in the round on DPNs, I took this with us to the movies when we saw Hidden Figures (so good – HIGHLY recommend!). It was my first time knitting completely in the dark! Score two for continental knitting!


Pattern: Granny Stripes
Cost: Free!
Hook: Size E
Yarn: various sock/sport weight bits & pieces
Recipient: I’m keeping this one!

After seeing granny stripe crochet blankets being made on YouTube channels like YarnGasm, the Yarn Hoarder, and LegacyKnitz, I was inspired to pick up a crochet hook after a long time and have been completely fine in “designing” my one-of-a-kind blanket without a firm plan about yarn colors or amounts. This will probably be a WIP for the indefinite future, which is fine, and gives me the bug to start buying mini skeins to add after I’ve exhausted all the color combinations of yarn I’ve previously used (some of which I’ve used every single bit)!

Pattern: Void shawl
Pay for pattern by: Melanie Berg
Needles: US 7 and US 8
Yarn: Quince & Co. Lark, Chantrelle
Recipient: I’m keeping this one, too!

My inspiration and motivation was the one knitted with the same colorway of Quince & Co. by the beautiful Katie of the Inside Number 23 podcast. While others have raved about this pattern, it has required tremendous amounts of concentration to execute everything perfectly. There have been at least two rip-outs/start over again/set it aside for now and come back to it when I don’t want to throw it out the window moments.

Project bag is the toffee colored Field Bag by Fringe Supply Co.

New skill learned: picking up dropped purl stitches. I already knew how to pick up dropped knit stitches, but parts of this pattern have purled sections and I wanted the rows to be consistent. Therefore, this method worked perfectly!

To view more details and photos of my FOs and WIPs, visit my project page on Ravelry.

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.

Books & Literacy

Why we should all be reading aloud to children by Rebecca Bellingham (TEDx Talk (9:29 minutes) – December 29, 2015)

“Reading aloud gives kids a special kind of access to the the transformative power of story…to deeply understand, to think, to learn, and discuss big ideas about the world, about the lives of others, and about ourselves.”

‘Goodnight Moon’ author Margaret Wise Brown was no lady whispering hush by Barrie Hardymon (NPR – January 22, 2017)

A little insight into the life and writings of children’s author Margaret Wise Brown.

Girl Power

Want to raise a trail-blazing daughter? ‘The Notorious RBG’ says do these 7 things by Bill Murphy, Jr. (INC – accessed January 23, 2017)

Seven tips for raising well-rounded girls from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.


Chocolate chip cookie guide (Food Network – accessed January 26, 2017)

12 variations of ingredients and baking specifications to create your perfect chocolate chip cookie. (The one made with coconut oil is my favorite.)


John Krasinski and Emily Blunt buy Brooklyn townhouse by Mark David (Variety – October 17, 2016)

I want to be friends with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt if for no other reason than to visit their new (to them) home in New York.



Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.

Books & Literacy

Take a peek at the Children’s Book Week poster by Jocelyn McClurg (USA Today – January 19, 2017)

Looking ahead to May when Children’s Book Week takes place, what a visually eye-catching and kid-friendly way to promote literacy!

Meet the writers who still sell millions of books. Actually, hundreds of millions. by Karen Heller (The Washington Post – December 20, 2016)

A bit of insight into the success of literary household names.

Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly – January 18, 2017)

What a well-read President we’ve had! From this list I’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming,  All the Light We Cannot See, one of the books in the Junie B. Jones series, The Great Gatsby, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series. I am currently listening to H is for Hawk on Audible and want to read The Underground Railroad, Gilead (on my bookshelf), and Cutting for Stone (on my bookshelf).


Journey across Canada by train by Nancy Gupton (National Geographic – accessed January 14, 2017)

Beautiful, nostalgic, and romantic – what a trip of a lifetime this would be!

We the People

Watch Michelle Obama take a final stroll through the White House with First Dogs Sunny and Bo by Megan McCluskey (Time – January 18, 2017)

If you’ve ever moved before, you know how it’s never easy…even if you are the First Lady.

Pete Souza, Obama’s chief White House photographer, on making pictures for history by Mike Hofman and Alex Reside (GQ – January 19, 2017)

A candid interview with Souza reflecting on how he captured everyday and monumental Presidential moments over the past 8 years, his time also photographing President Reagan, and personal insight into the art of photography.


What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

Books: December Edition

Several sick days during finals week (when the library was busy with students, but slower for me not having to provide any instruction) afforded me lots of glorious time to stay at home to rest, drink tea, and read, read, read! And then, with the semester ending and visiting family over Christmas, I had even more time to read! And somehow, I forgot to post this before 2017 rolled around…so here is my December reading recap!


Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
Oh how I love anything by Blake Crouch! The Pines trilogy was so engrossing and Dark Matter was my favorite book read in 2016 (twice). Now, after finishing Good Behavior, I realize why I enjoy Crouch’s books so much: he writes descriptively and draws the reader in, which helps vividly envision scenarios and characters’ mannerisms, allowing the stories to mentally come to life and remain with you long after the last page is turned.

Comprised of three novellas stories, “The Pain of Others,” “Sunset Key,” and “Grab,” we meet Letty Dobesh, a seasoned criminal who is smart but her past choices and addictions haunt her life post-prison and influence the decisions she currently faces. The stories each stand alone, so there really isn’t a cohesive flow between the three. Yet, after each short story/novella, Crouch provides additional commentary about the story, its creation, and/or how it was adapted for TV; a neat, insider’s glance behind the scenes, allowing the reader to understand this slightly disjointed structure.

While I haven’t seen the TNT series, I’m curious about it simply because Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, plays Letty. Talk about an actress not wanting to be typecast and playing a diverse range of characters!

My thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC!


Greenglass House by Kate Milford

I saw this listed as a Kindle daily deal in early December, and as I always do, first looked to see if my library had this in the youth collection, which we did (which means I probably ordered it…)! Free beats a Kindle deal any day!

This is an inviting story, perfect for cold, snowy weather, drinking hot chocolate nestled near the Christmas tree, and escaping into a world where two children are solving ongoing thefts and mysteries in a unique, snow-bound inn. Although this is a children’s book, the reading level is advanced (upper elementary for sure) and the plot requires some attention to remember different characters, various names, and details about the mysteries that unfold.


What Light by Jay Asher

I received a three-chapter preview of this Young Adult novel from NetGalley, and it propelled me to request it from our public library. Jay Asher is best known for his book Th1rteen R3asons Why, which has become a well known, go-to YA story about the tragic impact of bullying.

In comparison, this Christmas story is much more positive and sweet. Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and each year they travel from Oregon to California to sell their trees, so she has two lives and two sets of friends divided around the holidays. This year, however, she meets a cute boy whose past is shrouded in speculation and rumor, and she must decide whether to accept him as he is, or be fearful of his past. This YA novel includes positive messages of acceptance, fresh starts, and openness towards the future.


Submerged by Dani Pettrey

While I’m pretty familiar with Inspirational Fiction authors, Dani Pettrey had never been on my radar until seeing one of her books as a Kindle daily deal. Again, I opted for checking my public library first to see if any of her books (especially starting with Book 1 of a series) were available. Thankfully, several were, including Submerged, the first in her Alaskan Courage series.

Although I’ve never been to Alaska, I was easily whisked away to the small, fictitious, coastal town of Yancey where Cole McKenna and his adventurous siblings work together with a friend from years past to uncover the motives surrounding a series of interconnected murders. This Christian fiction story includes themes of forgiveness, letting go of the past, the bonds of family, and an assurance in God’s faithfulness.

by Dani Pettrey

After devouring Submerged I grabbed Shattered, the second book in the Alaskan Courage series, at my public library and enjoyed it equally as much as I did the first! The McKenna siblings return once more, with sister Piper and family friend Landon being featured as the main characters in this installment, as they collectively work to prove the true identity of someone who has killed their brother’s friend.  Themes in Shattered include dependence on God, being open to love, truth prevailing, and loyalty among family members.

I’ve also realized my favorite books are written with a strong sense of place, which allows me to fully immerse myself in the writer’s world, and this series definitely whisks me away to an inviting, fictitious place!


A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

I began reading stories surrounding the Baxter family in 2008 and have read every.single.one.of.them (this is the 24th) over the years – wow!  This is definitely the longest series I’ve read and endeavored to keep up with, but the characters leave imprints on your heart and it’s always cozy to return to beloved friends found between the pages.

However, Kingsbury shares a brief backstory about all the characters in the preface, so you can be completely new to the Baxter family and still enjoy this sweet story of love, honesty, forgiveness, family relationships, and the birth of Jesus at Christmastime.

My thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC!