Welcome to my library

Friday, February 27, 2015

At this point in my life, I am supposed to be downsizing, right? Not adding to my collections of stuff. And I have made a lot of headway in getting rid of unnecessary clothes, kitchen gadgets, multiple sets of dishes, and extraneous papers and photos. But I do make an exception for two things -- teacups and books.

Storage for the books was getting to be a problem. We had to: 1) stop acquiring books for the rest of our lives, 2) get rid of a pile of books (and our collection is already carefully curated), or 3) get some more bookshelves. Guess what we chose to do?

I am pretty excited about these new bookshelves. We got several in December, and then a few more last week. 

The family room now has a really cozy, library feel to it. Before, it seemed as though the TV dominated the room, and I really disliked that. But now, this baby is the star of the show.

I moved the furniture around so that my favorite chair faces both the fireplace and the wall of books. It's like sitting with a roomful of my favorite friends. C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Elizabeth Goudge, Wendell Berry, Miss Read, Dostoevsky, Dorothy Sayers . . . wise mentors, all.

I have had so much fun organizing and alphabetizing all my books. From left to right I have fiction, then a shelf of poetry and fairy tales, then nonfiction, then my Harvard classics, cookbooks, then all my Christian books, then children's books (only a fraction of what we once had), then a half shelf of Christmas stories, and then some reference books (dictionaries and a set of encyclopedias).

In another corner is a bookshelf that contains all my how-to books, gardening and home decorating, sewing and writing, beauty and style.

In the library (my husband's office) are two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with his books (a lot of political and economic books, as well as his favorite fiction, including John Grisholm, Tom Clancy, Lee Child, etc.) 

Upstairs are four more loaded bookshelves with books that belong to our children, and in the basement more books belonging to our son who lives out of state. I don't count those.

I'm really wondering where I kept all these books before. For weeks as I've been organizing these shelves I have kept running into more, shoved here and there on tables and in piles on the floor and in boxes in closets and in drawers. This is even after having got rid of at least a dozen large boxes of books from our homeschooling days.

The happiest thing about this is the amount of room still left on the shelves! Plenty of room for nice used books from Amazon, Abe Books, and the library sales. (I seldom buy a new book, unless it is a particular classic. Most of the new books have been gifts.)

And just so you know, I use the library a lot. Not every book gets the privilege of being part of this collection!

Ah. I feel quite rich as I sip my tea and gaze at their friendly and wise faces.

Do you collect books, too?

Advice from a friend

Monday, February 23, 2015

I love my readers. You all gave me a huge shot in the arm with your supportive and encouraging comments after my last post. 

A dear friend emailed me with some suggestions to help with the hunger I've been experiencing with this weight loss/lifestyle change. I asked her permission to share her email, because I thought it had some great ideas that maybe some of you would appreciate.

Here it is (with my comments in italics) . . . 

It was sad to read that you are experiencing hunger as you travel such a healthy road. Nutrient dense food should fill you up and and keep you full longer. (Uh, yeah, that's what I thought.)

The foods you mention are wonderful. Please consider adding some good fats which just may be the appetite "icing on the cake."

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Add raw egg to my morning smoothy.  And yes, took me a long time to try it. Do this only if you know where the eggs come from. I get mine from a milk group member who feeds them organically and they roam free weather permitting.  I can give you their information if you are interested, they are $3.50/dozen. (Yeah, it might take me a while to try this.)

2. Add coconut oil to smoothy and my daily warm drink consisting of either Carob-milk-coconut sugar or raw cacao-coconut sugar-milk. Lots of minerals in cacao and carob, plus carob has great fiber. Of course you could always substitute coconut milk. (Ooh, cacao and coconut sugar; I'm sold!)

3. Use Ghee (tons of CLA) to sauté veggies, cook eggs, etc.

4. Drink Kombucha - not sure why I feel fuller but the probiotics alone are so incredible for the gut. (Yes, I've made this before, and it is good.)

5. Eat organic - grassfed beef. Very nutrient dense and the fat is very healthy. I crave protein so this works for me. (A steak almost feels like medicine to me; it perks me right up! I only eat a half of one, and it is so satisfying.)

6. Soup: Large pot, OG kale, cauliflower, orange/yellow/red/green peppers, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, meat of choice (actually anything you like). I use Trader Joe Free Range chicken stock or Trader Joe OG Red Pepper soup (has some spicy heat).  Sauté meat and veggies in Ghee or Coconut oil. I guess you could call this more of a stew consistency than soup.

7. I eat lots of eggs. The yolk is excellent for our bones. Hard boiled are a great snack. Eggs as an omelet with lots of veggies and some meat is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (Yes, what is it with these egg whites they have me eating?!)

I find that my smoothy lasts a long time, so I have a large meal about 2:00 or 3:00, then a smaller meal at dinner time or my hot drink. Added bonus with an afternoon meal is that dinner prep for my husband is done with very little mess to clean up after he eats dinner.

You are doing so good and the benefits of eating better will actually increase their effect over time. (yay!) I started this road about 2005 and it took a number of years to really see big changes because I changed the types of food much more slowly than you are! So be encouraged!!!!!!


The takeaway here I think is not to be afraid of a little extra healthy fat in my diet.

My friend is a walking advertisement for the benefits of healthy eating. She's at a great weight, has energy, and looks beautiful. She also does lots of research on these topics, so I'm definitely going to pay attention to her advice.  She's invited me to tea to talk some more; I'm anxious to hear more about her eating and lifestyle habits.

And thank you, again, friends for your support and encouragement. It means so much to me that you stop by and visit!

Choosing my hard

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It's hard to be overweight.
It's hard to lose weight.
Choose your hard.

Have you heard this one? Why, oh why, do both options have to be hard?

Yes, I'm going to whine a little bit here. 

I should be happy. I've lost 13 pounds since January 2. Not bad. I'm eating really good food, lots of vegetables and fruits and lean protein, with a little Greek yogurt and nuts. My meals taste delicious and look beautiful.

A waffle made with banana, egg whites, almond milk, cinnamon, and rice protein powder. Yummy.
But, man, I feel empty and hungry, even eating five meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, to keep blood sugar levels stable). Especially around 9 or 10 at night. There's nothing in the house to "cheat" on, so I grumble and fix myself another cup of herbal tea. And then just go to bed, sometimes sighing and feeling sorry for myself. Oh, brother.

And get this, I had planned on losing 20 pounds, even though I knew 40 would be better. But 40 just sounds so overwhelming, such a huge mountain to scale. But, when I mentioned it to my doctor, he said, yes, 40 would be good.

Sigh. This is going to go on for a while.

Actually, it's going to go on for the rest of my life. I've told myself from the beginning that this is a lifestyle change. I'm not going to lose weight and go back to my old ways. I'm trying to "re-frame" things.

Sugar = wrinkles, aging, constipation

White flour = gluey paste in my bloodstream

Processed foods = high sodium, "dead" food

etc., etc.

Every time I think about certain "treat" foods, I try to mentally condition myself this way. And I think of my body loving healthy foods, and all the little cells in my body happily crying out, "Yay! Look at this great food she's feeding us!"

My clothes fit better. A couple things are actually too big. My skin looks better. All kinds of good things are happening, especially since I'm also regularly exercising, too.

But this is hard. There really is no magic way to lose weight. One of the hardest is the new mindset to get used to, that this is what the rest of my life is going to look like. And I'm determined it won't seem like deprivation. I'm hoping that I will get used to eating foods that are good for me, that are health-giving, and that certain foods just won't appeal to me anymore, that I will remember that they won't make me feel good. 

And yes, even so, I do enjoy an occasional lovely dessert. I can give up crackers and pretzels and ice cream and pasta and rice and bread and sour cream and mayonnaise. Forever, even. But pie or cake or a special baked good will remain on the okay-to-have-occasionally-in-small-portions list.

For Valentine's Day, I purchased a small, fancy bakery cake, just enough for two. It was delicious and satisfying. No leftover cake to tempt me the next day.

I'm getting there.

Because I tell you what. I never want to do this again.

Got any tips?

Beauty in the face of evil

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I haven't been able to work up too much enthusiasm for a tea post in the past couple days.

I've always wanted this blog to be a place of beauty, a respite from the stress of daily life, a place where the beautiful matters . . . So forgive me if I open the door a little, and allow some of the very real ugliness, the very real evil of the world, to seep in through the crack just for a moment.

I can't get this picture out of my mind . . .   21 Christians kneeling, waiting to be beheaded by ISIS terrorists. 

Anything I would show you in the way of pretty teacups or flowers or lovely books seems somehow so trivial in comparison.

It seems wrong to be enjoying a cup of tea, sorting through makeup, and planning a new wardrobe for when I reach my weight-loss goals, which is what I was doing when I heard the news, and to share all that shallow stuff with you.

So there's a lot I could write, but I'll just leave it at this.

Daily life is full of an embarrassing amount of trivia, but there you are . . . 

We also pray, we love, we forgive, we sacrifice, we do the best we can and then try and do a little more.

And we remember, even after this latest atrocity in a whole string of horrific atrocities, that the beautiful does matter . . .  it is infinitely important. The warm smile of a good friend, a gorgeous sunset, the sacrifice of a husband taking care of his wife with Alzheimer's, freshly fallen snow sparkling in the sunshine . . . even a cup of tea shared with a friend, chatting about a pretty shade of lipstick.

The most real things in life are the most beautiful; courage and grace and hope and faith. You saw it on the faces of those 21 martyrs. Look at them again. They were beautiful. 

And they are now with the Author of beauty Himself. 

 I want to have eyes to see beauty in all its manifestations, to hold it up in defiance of the evil that surrounds us, to have the courage to cling fast to Beauty like those martyrs did. 

Yes, our world leaders need wisdom. They need our prayers. We have a lot of work to do, and we will need courage. But we rejoice in knowing that Beauty and Truth and Goodness will win; has already won.

Sharing today with Sandi.

This is real romance

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. I just read some amazing statistics about how much is spent on flowers and candy and jewelry for this annual holiday. And who doesn't like getting a present from someone they love?

But, of course, real love is more than just the showy gift once a year on February 14. It is more than the grand gesture. It almost always comes packaged in such ways that it might be easy to overlook, or take for granted. 

Real love looks a little like this . . .  It's a husband who:

* Gets up early in the morning and snowplows the driveway while I'm still warm and cozy under the down comforter.

* Loads up the woodbox so that I'll have plenty of wood to enjoy a cozy fire while he's gone.

* Pitches in and helps with housework. He works full time and I'm home full time, but if I get behind or am not feeling well, he just folds laundry, does the dishes, or sweeps the floor as a matter of course.

* Volunteers to grill or take me out when he can see I'm a little tired of cooking.

*Takes off work to go with me to a doctor's appointment that might be uncomfortable or scary.

* Gives up buying things for himself so that others can have.

 And I won't even list all the ways he was there as a good dad to our children while they were growing up, and now, as young adults.

These are the things of real romance, not the showy flowers or expensive gifts (although I've been blessed with those as well). It's the nitty-gritty of everyday life, nursing one another through flu and hurt backs, putting up with bad moods and forgiving angry words, allowing the other person to have their way, and holding on even when things are rough.

It's meeting each other's eyes and smiling at a private joke in a room full of people, being comfortable together in a silence that needs no words, laughing over morning coffee.

I was only 18 when I met my husband. A lot has changed. I'm not the same person, and neither is he. But 33 years of marriage later, I can gratefully say I know what real love is.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be . . . 
                                       -- Robert Browning

{All pictures from Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion by Michelle Lovric}

A chic and elegant Valentine's celebration

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I won this beautiful Limoges teacup from Martha at Martha's Favorites. She subtitles her blog "Confessions of a Serial Collector." Those of us who love teacups can relate! She always shows each of her teacups from her extraordinary collection with a matching brooch. So guess what I got with my teacup?

The teacup and brooch came with pretty paper napkins, a teabag rest, and some Earl Grey tea.

Thank you, dear Martha, for the wonderful gifts. Your beautiful, vintage Limoges will be loved and treasured. 


Because I am still trying to lose weight embracing a new chic and elegant lifestyle over here at The Beautiful Matters, I am having my hazelnut coffee, not with food for the body, but food for the romantic soul.

(See how nice that sounds? It's all a mind game.)

Maybe Horatio Nelson, the famous English admiral, knew the secret. As he writes to Lady Emma Hamilton on January 29, 1800, " I can neither eat nor sleep for thinking of you my dearest love, I never touch even pudding."

This book, Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion by Michelle Lovric, has some lovely pictures and contains facsimiles of real love letters from famous people such as John Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning tucked into envelopes in the book.


My husband and I have decided we will forego the high-priced, calorie-laden restaurant meal on Valentine's Day, and will bypass the box of chocolate we normally indulge in. (A recent trip to CVS had me wishing I had blinders on -- chocolate, chocolate everywhere!)

Instead, I will make salmon with fennel; we will have Pellegrino with lime in crystal wine glasses, and dine by candlelight. Our present to each other will be a lovely couples' massage that I will schedule for sometime next week.

See, it's not about deprivation; it's about luxury!


Even Caramel, the official blog cat, is having to rethink her relationship with food. On a recent trip to the vet, she was quite embarrassed to discover she has put on 2 pounds, weighing in now at 13-plus pounds. She was also told she needs to get some exercise, just like me.

Caramel takes refuge in my daughter's arms as she receives the bad news. She is not a fan of going to the vet.
In good news, I have now lost 11 pounds! 

I am also drinking copious amounts of tea and trying to stay warm. After a brief foray into upper 30-degree weather, temperatures are once again plummeting. Brrrr!

I'm joining Tea Time Tuesday for Sandi's special Valentine's Day Tea. Come join us for the fun!

The official reading list for 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

I know it's February, but our book club is still finishing up a couple books from 2014, including Fahrenheit 451 (never read this before; great discussion) and now Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

So next Monday we will be starting the official 2015 list, voted on by the 11 of us. Out of about 50 nominations, we whittled it down to these 21.

 Bel Canto by Ann Patchett  
 Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas            
 Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

 What’s in a Phrase?: Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre  
 The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton **

 The Lonesome Gods by Louis L'Amour

 First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn **
 First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen
 Lila by Marilynne Robinson **
 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
 A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman  **  
 The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton

Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey **     

 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys    
 Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

 Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (I've read this before)

      Miracles by Eric Metaxas   
 Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham

Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh      

Quite a diverse list. I'm looking forward to most of them, especially those I've starred. There's a couple I wouldn't have chosen to read, but sometimes it's good to read something outside your normal repertoire, no?

We read at a pretty fast clip, about a book every two weeks. But I'm still going to try and fit in some of my own personal reading. Besides trying to read through the Bible again this year, I'm going to try to read more by these authors:

Wendell Berry (in particular, his essays)

P.D. James
Louise Penny
Elizabeth Goudge
and more Miss Read when I want something light and pleasant.

And someone recommended an author named Rumer Godden. And Elizabeth Kostova. And . . . well, you get the picture.

We got more than 8 inches of snow yesterday here in my part of Michigan. Goody. (Really, I mean that.)  The pantry is stocked with groceries, we have plenty of firewood, and the tea pot is on.

My favorite thing ever. Books, tea, and a fire. 

Roasted and ground cocoa beans; 10 calories, loads of antioxidants, 0 sugars, but I have to say, takes some getting used to. If you're expecting hot chocolate, this ain't it!

 Any other book suggestions?
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