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Holy Basil Tea

Trader Joe’s has a new tea! I was a little skeptical a month ago when the cashier told me a new “basil” tea would be coming out, but this organic holy basil herbal tea is a winner! The flavor is bitter and spicy, which is somewhat reminiscent of a chai tea. I love that it’s naturally caffeine-free! I’m also excited to try this as an iced tea this summer, maybe with a slice of lemon.

TJs gives a short blurb about the tea on the box. This sparked my curiosity about tulsi tea. I did some research, and here are five fun facts about tulsi tea:

  • The tulsi herb originated in Indian, where it was used for medicinal purposes.
  • Tulsi is Hindu for “the incomparable one.” It is also known as holy basil and is nicknamed the “Queen of Herbs.”
  • Tulsi is an adaptogen, which is a substance that reduces stress and promotes normal physiological functioning.
  • One source cited research that found tulsi reduced stress, sleep problems, forgetfulness, and exhaustion in people and animals. Who knew a tea could do all that?!?
  • Tulsi is also known for having other medicinal benefits such as improving oral health, regulating sugar levels, treating acne, strengthening the immune system, and treating coughs/colds. 

This tea seems to be able to treat everything! After drinking it for a week, I can’t say I’ve personally observed any of these benefits (I still fall asleep while reading in bed at night), but I love the way it tastes! 

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March Reads – 2019

I spent the first half of my spring break sick, curled up on the couch with a stack of books while the rain tapped on my windows. Well, to be honest, there was also a lot of binge watching TV shows, but it was still a great month for reading.

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

by C. S. Lewis

I have read biographies about C. S. Lewis, but I loved hearing his testimony in his own words. Every time I read something by C. S. Lewis, I’m astounded by his intelligence and the way he crafts words into stories. This book was no exception. In this autobiography, Lewis traces how God was sovereignly orchestrating his search for joy throughout his early years to bring him to Christianity. Lewis includes the everyday details about his school days and home life, including descriptions of the people who influenced his thinking over the years.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

I’d been excitedly waiting to read this book since before it was even published. It did not disappoint! This book paired so well with “Surprised by Joy” and “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War.” Although this is a fictional telling of the romance between C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman, it seemed to be built on a lot of history and fact. The story is told from Joy’s perspective and shows the journey she went on from being an admirer of C. S. Lewis’ work to becoming a close friend and confidant to being his devoted wife.

Every Heart a Doorway

by Seanan McGuire

I think the premise for this story is intriguing, but I was left somewhat disappointed by this book. The story takes place at a school for teens who have traveled to other worlds that feel more like home than our world. They are now stuck in our world and dealing with negative repercussions from experiencing the wonder of another world. Horrific deaths begin to take place, and one group of students take it upon themselves to track down the murderer.

I have always loved stories about other worlds and dreamt of finding Narnia, so I was somewhat intrigued by the idea that traveling to another world might not be as wonderful once you return. However, I did not care what happened to any of these characters. They could have all died, and I would have been perfectly fine with that. Granted, I tend to like more character-driven plots, and the length of this book just didn’t lend itself to much of that. I’m still wrestling with whether this book just wasn’t for me or if it was simply poorly executed.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

by John le Carre

I decided to read this book so I could listen along to the discussions about it on the Close Reads podcast. I don’t think I’ve really read a true spy novel before this, and I’m worried that now I have very high standards for all spy novels. I loved this book. I never knew who or what to believe and didn’t fully understand what was happening until the very end. This is the first book I’ve ever ready where I’ve finished it and thought “I need to immediately go back to the beginning and read this again!”

I don’t even know how to give a good synopsis of this book without being confusing or giving away too much. The main character, Leamas, has spent his career as a spy during the cold war, and now he has one last assignment to bring down a German leader. Slowly, Leamas begins to realize things are not quite what he expected. Is the mission spinning wildly out of control or are there unknown factors at play?

If you read this book, I highly recommend listening along to the corresponding episodes and discussions on the Close Reads podcast. I wish I could analyze and think about literature the way they do!

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

I loved rereading this classic tale of romance and revolution. I was able to see more foreshadowing the second time through, and I was reminded how much I like the character of Miss Pross. As an added bonus, I got to discuss how this book illustrates the virtue of justice with a great group of ladies at book club. 

How Does Sanctification Work?

by David A. Powlison

This little book gives a brief overview of sanctification and real-life examples of what sanctification looked like for some Christians. The concept that stood out to me the most was Powlison’s statement that “Ministry ‘unbalances’ truth for relevance; theology ‘rebalances’ truth for the sake of comprehension.” I balked at this statement initially. I didn’t like the idea of “unbalancing” truth, but once Powlison unpacked what he meant, it made so much sense! He explains how it is important for us to have a full understanding of theological truth so that we are ready with the one specific “nugget” of truth needed in a given situation. “Unbalancing” truth means that in difficult situations there is typically one especially relevant biblical truth that God will use to speak into our lives to advance our sanctification.

Vinegar Girl

by Anne Tyler

Kate’s father, Dr. Battista, is trying to matchmake her with his research assistant, but not because he has her best interests in mind. His assistant’s visa is about to expire, and Dr. Battista is desperate to keep him in the United States. Kate is busy keeping house for her father while also watching out for her annoying younger sister, and now she has to deal with this awkward stranger who she’s supposed to marry. But maybe this marriage is just the opportunity she needs to break free and start a new chapter in her life.

I’m typically skeptical of retellings, especially modern retellings of classic stories, but I really enjoyed this story! The audiobook was excellent. Anne Tyler did a beautiful job translating Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” to a modern situation. I found the main character relatable, and I loved the humor woven throughout the book.

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February Reads – 2019

Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

This classic American novel made a great audiobook because of its length. I enjoyed how Mitchell combined Scarlet’s story with the history of the Civil War and post-Civil War.

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was the February book for my book club. I enjoyed this book in high school, but the high school me had no idea what was really going on in this book. I thought it was just a tragic romance. Rereading this book made me realize that Fitzgerald had a completely different message to share with his readers. This book points out the sin and depravity in our world. The characters show us that we can get everything we want and still be lacking. A godless world is an empty world. 
If you read this in high school, maybe it’s time for a reread. It’s a quick read but also beautifully written and powerful. I would also recommend listening to the podcast episodes on this book from Close Reads podcast. Listening to literary experts discuss this book was so helpful and interesting. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

I devoured this audiobook! This story of Eleanor combines the awkward, humorous, and pain of human life. I thought it was interesting that this book is told from Eleanor’s perspective, yet as the reader there were often times when I had more insight into what was going on than Eleanor. I thought I had the plot of this story figured out, but there was still a surprise twist waiting for me in the end. I found myself thinking “I knew it! Wait, what???” and going back to catch the final piece of the puzzle that surprised me at the end. Also, as a warning to sensitive readers, the trauma, mental illness, and abuse dealt with in this book made me both angry and heartbroken at times.

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Books must look clean

The only criterion I have is that books must look clean, which means that I have to disregard a lot of the potential reading material in the charity shop.  I don’t use the library for the same reason, although obviously, in principle and reality, libraries are life enhancing palaces of wonder.  It’s not you libraries, it’s me, as the popular saying goes.  The thought of books passing through so many unwashed hands – people reading them in the bath, letting their dogs lick them, picking their nose and wiping the results on the pages.  People eating crisps and then reading a few chapters without washing their hands first.  I just can’t.  No, I look for books with one careful owner.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I love old and used books, but I completely agree with Eleanor Oliphant: they have to be clean. This quote reminded me of a used bookstore I visited in Colorado last summer. The yard of the bookstore was littered with “antiques.” Behind the store, there was a foreboding display of tombstones. Perhaps this was where they buried the unsuspecting customers who got hopelessly lost (or worse) in the endless stacks of dirty books that filled the bookstore. A blue light dimly lit the inside of the bookstore, and I began to wonder if it was possible to contract a foot fungus through my shoes as my feet sunk into the mildewy carpet. When I dared to pick up a book, I found the cover and spine dusty and the pages slightly damp. I didn’t see the owner until I was on my way out. A pair of eyes peered silently through a gap in the ceiling high stacks. If someone wanted to write a bookstore murder mystery, that store would be the perfect setting.

But seriously, Eleanor Oliphant put into words exactly how I feel about library books. Libraries are wonderful places, but I will go out of my way to get a nice, clean copy of a book from a known source rather than check the book out from the library.

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Book Club

I have joined a book club this year, which is a new adventure for me. We are using “On Reading Well” by Karen Swallow Prior as a guide. In her book, Prior discusses virtues using 12 books as a backdrop. I’ve always believed it’s important to read a variety of literature from throughout history, but I’ve never been able to articulate WHY that is so important. Prior answers that question more eloquently than I ever could have. So far, I’ve really been enjoying her book. I’m excited to continue this reading challenge and to discuss some great books with some great friends.

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January Reads – 2019

The Boy Who Loved Too Much

by Jennifer Latson

I loved listening to this book. It was one of those audiobooks that made me want to do the dishes or drive across town just so I’d have an excuse to listen to it. The book follows the journey of a mom and her boy who is diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a lesser known disability compared to autism or Down Syndrome. The author does a wonderful job of alternating between the scientific research and the mom and boy’s story. This is a book I would recommend to teachers, parents with kids who have disabilities, and anyone else who has every interacted with a person with a disability….So basically, everyone could benefit and learn from this book.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

by Henry Fielding

I am ridiculously excited to be a part of a book club this year. We are reading through the books discussed in Karen Swallow Prior’s book, “On Reading Well.” The book for January was “Tom Jones” which, at 800 pages, is not for the faint of heart. I won’t be recommending it to too many people because of the length, but overall I found this book interesting and comical. Set in the 1700s, this book tells the story of Tom Jones, a young man who shows charity and care to others but lacks prudence when it comes to making life choices. Although it was written over 250 years ago, the themes and topics dealt with in this book are surprisingly relevant for modern readers.

Life Together

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This book was on my to-be-read list for a while because one of my favorite quotes about serving others comes from this book. There is so much packed into this little book, but I found I didn’t agree with Bonhoeffer on everything. There were still some great truths in this book, but it made me think more critically about what the Bible says is essential in order to have a healthy Christian community and what are traditions or preferences we have developed in the church. 

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War

by Jospeh Loconte

I started and stopped this book several times before sitting down and reading the last half, but it was not because I didn’t enjoy it. I just kept getting distracted by other books that had due dates. In this book, I loved how the author combined the history of WWI, the themes in literature as a whole in the post-war era, and the friendship of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the works of Lewis and Tolkien now. Their writings truly went against the grain of their time. In their fantasy stories, they didn’t shy away from the horror of war but embedded a message of hope for those willing to fight for good. 

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Friendship & Forgiveness

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Miracles

I recently enjoyed reading “Miracles” by C. S. Lewis. Lewis explains theology in a logical, step-by-step way that I find so helpful. And I love his use of analogies! Simple truths come to life. In this book, he starts by explaining the evidence for a God who created nature. He moves on to give evidence for miracles and how they relate to the laws of nature. I love how he pointed out that miracles are supposed to startle and amaze its audience, and in order for that to happen we have to first know and understand the laws of nature. We have to know and understand science to fully appreciate how awesome and creative our God is. Lewis finishes by looking at the life of Jesus and describing the significance of the miracles he performed.

“If they [miracles] were not known to be contrary to the laws of nature how could they suggest the presence of the supernatural? How could they be surprising unless they were seen to be exceptions to the rules? And how can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? If there ever were men who did not know the laws of nature at all, they would have no idea of a miracle and feel no particular interest in one if it were performed before them. Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary.”

 

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Hello 2017

One of my goals this year is to use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read. Honestly, I was a littel bitter when Shelfari was discontinued, especially since my books did not transfer correctly to Goodreads (nerd problems). I’m still not convinced I like it as much as Shelfari, but I’m willing to give it a try. I am excited that there is an app and an easy way to save quotes. Why not try it with me? I’d love to be “friends” with you and see what you’re reading. Click here to see my profile.

2017 Reading Challenge

Emily has
read 1 book toward
her goal of
25 books.
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Happy reading!

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Farewell to Summer

After finishing my master’s degree…

WOOT WOOT!!!

WOOT WOOT!!!

….it was nice to have a relaxing summer to refuel. I found plenty of fun and nerdy ways to fill my time.

 

I spent a week on Lake Michigan with my family. Hiking, soaking in the scenery, playing games in the cabin on rainy days, roasting marshmallows over the campfire…it was wonderful.

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I spent time digging in the dirt and trying to grow things. I love my herbs, zinnias, and cherry tomatoes!

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I transferred all our home videos from VHS tapes to DVDs. This required getting in touch with my inner 90’s child and researching the workings of VHS tapes to save the corrupted 95-97 tape. I felt pretty accomplished.

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I made a tea mug rack (with help from my grandpa) out of reclaimed wood from our old swing set. Pinterest win!

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My grandpa also helped me transform my $2 garage sale finds into some beautiful chairs. I now have a greater appreciation for Windsor chairs and milk paint thanks to him.

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Before

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After

 

Of course it’s not summer without some summer reading!

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“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” -C.S. Lewis

 

I also spent quite a bit of time getting ready for my new job as a school SLP! I have my resource teachers to thank for creating such a cute, organized room.

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Add a trip to the zoo, hanging out with friends, lots of bike rides, Shakespeare in the park, a sister road trip to visit friends in KC, and some other summer activities and you have the perfect summer!

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