Classics Challenge - Anna Karenina

I've been wanting to read a Russian Novel for a couple years now but found them intimidating. Last fall I decided that 2017 was going to be the year I did it! I was just determined - even more so once I found out Russian Classics were their own category.

I did get a bit freaked out when I downloaded it to my kindle and it said expected reading time was around 24 hours. I think I would have preferred not to know that! But once I got started, I was surprised by how easy of a read it was, at least it terms of following the story.  I guess I just expected to be a lot more confused by the names and the plot that I was. No, I didn't understand all the intricacies of the politics and side stuff but I grasped enough to understand the characters and their reactions. And I couldn't pronounce the names but it wasn't too hard to remember for the most part, who was who. There's a lot of characters and relationships between them and they are all fairly complex people but I felt so immersed in the world that I couldn't help but connect to it all. The chapters are short so it made it easy to just read a few at a time. And the storyline jumps around so much that I never got stuck in a section about the ones I didn't like as much for very long which helped me keep going.

But while it was a technically easier read that expected, the ideas aren't. This is the type of book I could easily see a book club coming together to talk about and if everyone gave a brief synopis, you might not even think they were talking about the same book. For me, it was all about Kitty and Levin. In both cases, I liked the characters to begin with (although not always their choices!) and loved experiencing their life and growth through the story. I found Aleksey's thought process fascinating and I found myself sympathizing with him quite a bit. Anna's sections were actually my least favorite although I was still quite drawn into her story at the end. I stopped many times to think about what I would, or should, do if I were each character and there weren't usually easy answers to that question. Despite being set in a time and place I know very little about, people are people and I felt like this was a fascinating and realistic portrayal of them.

So overall, I loved it! After a bit of research, I had originally wanted to read the Constance Garnett translation and that's what our library's e-book says they have but when you actually got to download it, it's the Pevear (P&V) translation so went with it. This definitely seems like a book I'd love to reread someday so perhaps I'll try that translation next time. I'm pretty sure they'll be a next time - in a decade or two.

Anna Karenina is my Russian Classic selection for the Back to the Classics Challenge over at Books and Chocolate. 


Spring Update

I don't know why I can't seem to keep up with this old blog thing...maybe it's the three kids and the homeschooling and the 10 chickens, one old cat and 2 crazy pooping guinea pigs. Or something. I don't know. But anyhow, here's a spring update. Maybe there will be another before summer. But no promises.

Buying - A minivan! After a year and a half of smooshing three kids and their massive carseats in a 5 seater SUV, we were able to upgrade. Now I gotta be totally cliche and go to Target and buy some organizational stuff for it. I probably won't be wearing leggings or buying myself a starbucks while I'm there but I might put my hair in a topknot. Can't break the mom mold too much.

Doing - All the nature stuff, all the time. Seriously, it's crazy!  The first of march has us buying a new batch of baby chicks. Baby chicks are so so cute! But then they grow and the cuteness factor decreases while the pooping increases and they needed to go outside. Craig processed the old hens last weekend. It was his first time and I don't think it was a favorite activity of his but he hide it well and managed to sneak in a bit of a science lesson. These are all the eggs he found developing in just one hen! But we cleaned out the empty coop and just this morning moved the babies out there. 

They aren't this cute right now. And they aren't pretty like full grown hens. They are awkward adolescents. Apparently its not just the human species that struggles a bit in the middle. 

Then we found a dead mouse. Well, first it wasn't dead. I found it in the breezeway and calmly relocated it to the backyard. I may have screamed before I calmly carried it out in a net but that's neither here nor there. Then Craig put out traps. Then it was dead. Lucy insists that the one that the trap caught wasn't the same as the cute cute one she saw me take out in the net. I have no opinion on that matter. But we are right at the end of Term 1 of Year 2 of Ambleside Online and what chapters were coming up next in the Burgess Animal Book but the mice chapters so I couldn't say no to a journaling request. We identified it as a Deer Mouse and when I mentioned that mouse was in the next chapter, they insisted I read it right then on a Sunday afternoon. I rarely read ahead in their school books but I made an exception. I was pretty much feeling like a supermom in the nature study department - until Lucy informed me Monday night that Jonah had found the dead mouse again and was carrying it around all afternoon. Supermom nature mom or not, I have limits and they had been reached! 

But even that wasn't the end of nature week! We met up with some friends and searched for a fairly rare flower called the Fremont's Leather Flower. It only grows in a tiny area in our state but with a challenge like that, we had to try. And we found it! And then we ended up on a hike around the glades that none of us was quite prepared for. Over three hours and almost three (up and down, muddy waterfall filled) miles, all three moms and all nine kids made it back to our picnic spot. I may have had to carry Norah in my Boba on my back and a soaking wet Jonah in my arms (he played in the creek) for the last quarter of it, but we made it! My kids insist that even with the ice cream I treated them to afterwards, they never want to do that particular hike again but I think it was worth it. The views were amazing and I'm pretty impressed at what their little (and my older!) body can do. I didn't take any pictures on the hike itself because I left my phone with my bag at the front (because I didn't think we'd be hiking!) but here is the elusive flower. It's more impressive than my photography skills would indicate. 

Lucy draws pretty things too. Like this dogwood. I asked her if she wanted to draw the rare flower we drove out specifically to see. No, she wanted to draw a Dogwood which are pretty much everywhere  here. I am very proud of myself for letting her choose. 

Limping along - The last few weeks of school. Besides the nature studying, we're just pushing through weeks 10 and 11 of the term. Not because anything is wrong with the term, but the weather is so gorgeous that its too hard to call them back inside in the morning and sit at the table. Also, Norah has discovered that she can open my kitchen drawers this week. We toddler proofed the cabinets a while back but she didn't know how to open the drawers. Until now. Craig picked up some locks at home depot tonight and they will be installed this weekend. But one more week! We can do it.

Cleaning - Everything! My spring cleaning fever has kicked in. I don't ever plan for spring cleaning, I just wait until I get the urge. It normally happens around Easter. And yes, all of a sudden I need to clean all the things! But the main floor is almost done and now that the baby chicks around out of the basement, I'll move down there. This is probably another reason the school days seem harder. Doing both well is difficult and maybe I should have waited until exams were done but I want to be done by next week too! Then it's spring break for everyone! I've got books to read! And Macarons to perfect!

First batch of Macarons. Edible but ugly. 


Whole30/Elimination Diet Wrap-up

I didn't mean to leave y'all hanging with the whole 30 thing but it just took for-e-ver to finish adding it everything. Yesterday I had quinoa with seemingly no reaction so I think it's finished!!! YAY! Now, the hard part has been over for a while. I like quinoa as much as the next gal, maybe more so, but its not exactly hard to live without it either. Really once wheat and butter was back, the rest seemed inconsequential. Although my first bite of peanut butter was really all I imagined it to be.

The good news - the brown rice was the only thing I reacted to! Which means that I don't have any big dietary changes to keep up with. The caveat is that I do feel the effects of sugar pretty quickly. But it's not a no sugar thing, just a really watch myself. And things with fat and protein along with that sugar seem much easier for me to handle. Yes to a bowl of ice cream after dinner - no to the donuts at church. I also lost about 5 lbs. Not gonna complain about that even thought it wasn't really a goal of mine either way. Now if I keep up with the ice cream thing it might not stay lost but c'est la vie.

The bad news - the brown rice was the only thing I reacted to. No big miracle with a diet change like so many other people with hashimotos/thyroid issues. Now, I'm in a good thyroid place right now but I was hoping that I'd discover something helpful after having put all the time and money and energy into giving it a try. If I work hard to put a positive spin on it, I still did learn something and now I don't have to worry about whether there is a big diet component I'm missing.

Overall, I'm not super impressed by Whole30 program. I know a lot of people who really like it and if you are eating a Standard American Diet, I can see how it would probably be a good change. I'm more of a slow and steady type when it comes to major lifestyle changes but I know there are some personalities that do better with this type of program. Whole30 is clearly laid out in terms of rules and there is a lot of support on blogs so you don't have to make too many decisions which is a huge factor for me and the time factor and goal setting is a big part of it. It's not really meant to be sustainable in its entirely but if you can keep some of the changes, you're probably going to be better off. My guess is that a lot of people go right back into eating the same old crap they were before. I did. I mean, not crappy processed foods, but the same stuff I ate before. Not a lot of the changes stuck. I ate a lot more vegetables while on Whole30 (because I couldn't eat anything else!!!) including a large salad for lunch everyday and I hoped to keep up with that - but have not done as well as I hoped. For the most part, we eat really healthy, whole foods that I prepare myself, it's just that they are now back to being cheesier.

I really wondered if this whole thing would change my perception of Paleo. I didn't come in with the mindset that grains are the enemy or dairy is inherently bad for you. I just didn't believe that despite the current hype. I was really a bit nervous that I'd chance my mind and then be stuck having to live without them. Now after having eaten dairy/grain free for a while - I still don't believe those things. I like those foods, I think they are healthy if your body can handle them. Mind can and I will continue to eat my delicious fresh raw milk and peanut butter and banana toast. Of course, if you can't handle them that's different. None of the Paleo things I ate in the last 6 weeks are bad for me either but my body clearly needed more carbs that I could easily get with Paleo, at least not with the amount of time I was able to dedicate to feeding myself.


What kind of baker am I?

I love to bake and I love all things British so what could possible go wrong with my watching The Great British Bake off when they added new episodes to Netflix? Well, maybe that I was on a crazy diet where I could nothing! Okay, not really, but almost.

It was torture. And that show is always a little bit like that because half the time I have idea what they are making or how I could possible buy or make that but it looks good. Even if they give me the recipe, I'm just never going to attempt to make a Rosace a l'Orange. Or Suet pudding - but I don't want to eat that either so that's okay. I have to consol myself with the fact that I will never be able to taste what they are showing me, but at least I can make a really good chocolate chip cookie (Ignore nestle; melt the butter! Then mix wet ingredients, let sit, mix some more until its ribbon-y and sugar dissolves. You're welcome).

I did crack up when the final's technical challenge of the season I was watching was - pretzels. And all three ladies were going on about how they only kinda knew what a pretzel should look like and why would anyone actually want to make a pretzel....and I had literally made pretzels the day before. (Pretzels were my gluten/wheat reintroduction food because the ingredient list is so simple I knew if I had a bad reaction, it would have to be from pretzels. Either that or I was reaction to water or salt in which case I have major issues. Plus they are yummy and liturgically appropriate! We make them all the time). The differences between America and Britain are fascinating.

I love how it only takes a few episodes before each baker on the show has a pretty definied role. Their's the guy who always cuts himself, the girl who has to have a theme and the interesting flavor combination person who always has Mary looking at them sideways. Or the short-cut guy who has Paul saying "well, that's not how I would do it." It got me thinking about what type of baker I am.

Messy for sure although I am getting better about that. Possible because I can often convince Craig to take kids outside to play while I tidy up and then I get to listen to whatever music I want instead of the Moana soundtrack on repeat. Just possible.

Pretty rustic and simple. I can do pretty and I used to love doing fun cakes when I was a teenager. But I'm always baking on borrowed time now. Nothing fussy.

Repetitive. I like to find a good recipe and repeat it until I've got it down. And I don't mess around much with flavors. Which is funny because I love flavors in my cooking and I cook a lot of ethnic foods - indian, thai, german/hungarian, korean - all the foods from all the countries with all the flavors. And I'm always trying new dinner recipes. I made samosas this week and they were good but both Craig and I said they needed more flavor. But if I make a cake, its probably be chocolate. Just chocolate. Maybe because I have to cook dinner every night so if it flops, no biggie. But I don't get to bake nearly as often so I want it to taste good.

But it rekindled in me a desire to start stretching myself. I've really done well with my breads and rolls lately but I want to try something fancier this time - the macaron. I mean, they are everywhere right now! At least, visually. I haven't EATEN one because I don't see them actually around here and I probably wouldn't want to spend the money on one if I did. But still, pretty, fun, not very rustic - something different!

I'm actually going to start with meringue cookies to work out those skills without having to worry about wasting lots of expensive almond flour. I think I've made exactly one meringue baked good in the last decade - a pavlova. It was good but even that was at probably two years ago. Time for practice! I'm guessing I'll have plenty of taste testing help.


Enjoy - A Book Review

The idea of rest and Sabbath and enjoying and delighting in God and His creation is an idea that I've been really thinking about a lot these past few months. So when I saw Enjoy pop up as a book to check out, I thought it would be a good fit for a devotional/bible study addition. I was right.

Trillia Newbell is not an author I'd ever heard of before but she covers this the idea of finding opportunities to enjoy the things God has provided us with in many ways. She talks about food and friendships and marriage and the sabbath and even art appreciation (yes, the arts!). I started reading this book and really pondering the end of chapter questions and thinking about how to apply it. Then I realized while that was great it was going to take me over two months to review this for y'all! So I speed things up. But it's not really a case of mile wide, inch deep because those are practical sides to an underlying issue of how everything in our life really should point back to God and how that fact is freeing. It enables us to enjoy it.

I'm also slowly working my way through a classic education textbook type book called Norms and Nobility. One wouldn't think those overlap much but they have. Norms and Nobility talks a lot about how modern education (and the modern world in general) has become very utilitarian. I don't think the church is immune to the effects of that. But Enjoy tries to combat that in a very practical, yet theologically sound, way.

Part of my wishes it went a bit deeper on some issues although now that I think about that, I see how that's not what she was going here but it will enable me to continue that on my own. I plan to go back again on the chapters I did faster and re-read and answer her questions and then go on to pursue some other books that focus deeper on the one to two issues that I think I struggle most with this. For me that means maybe a few of Flannery O'Conners pieces about Christians and their art which I've been hearing about and maybe a book that focuses on the Sabbath. But other people may have other issues they want to go dive deeper into.

 It's got a great conversational tone; I think Trillia sounds like a woman I could easily be friends and I think Enjoy would make an excellent book for a weekly or monthly women's discussion group.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.