Friday, April 2, 2010

A trio of book reviews

In the past couple of months, I've read and enjoyed three books written by "mom bloggers." I want to recommend these titles to you, as well as share some of what I learned from each one.

*The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule I'd heard of this book on a couple other blogs, but when I saw a copy at our local library, I thought it would offer welcome inspiration. The author is definitely more crafty and ambitious than I am, but I enjoyed reading about the activities and projects she does with her family. One of the things this book motivated me to do was to give "new life" to some tattered clothes. Natalie's not quite walking yet, and several pairs of her pants have holes in the knee area. Inspired by Soule's ideas for clothing reconstruction, my mom and I added cute patches to Tali's jeans:

Though not a book I would refer to often, TCF is a fun read and well-named, as it offers lots of creative ideas for families!

*Steady Days by Jamie C. Martin

After reading a review on Small Notebook, I made an unusually impulsive purchase and ordered this book on-line. The tagline of the book (and accompanying blog, Steady Mom) is "A journey toward intentional, professional motherhood." I love that!

One of Martin's encouragements to stay-at-home moms is to have a blueprint for your day and your children's day. As she says, "A successful teacher wouldn't show up to her classroom without a lesson plan. We wouldn't arrive for a busy day in the office without an idea of what we wanted to accomplish. Our lives at home are no different." She continues by writing that her motive in having a plan is not to control, but to give what's best to her children. "I care enough to plan ahead; I also know myself well enough to realize that without a plan I drift along, guided only by my feelings in the moment. That's not the most efficient or powerful way to live." I've been thinking about all of that a lot lately, and will likely share additional thoughts in a future post.

When Martin talks about being intentional, she means it. I am amazed at all the routines she has in place for recording special moments/memories, such as Learning Scrapbooks (lists of what is being learned and subjects to learn more about, education souvenirs and notes, etc.) and Look at Me Binders (containing special artwork, photos and handprints). She also keeps a file of index cards with encouraging quotes and verses (she calls them Steady Thoughts) to flip through during her busy days--what a great idea!

This book is divided into four compelling sections: getting organized, retaining enthusiasm, learning together and making memories. I'm glad I own this book and will continue to refer to it for inspiration!

*Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn

I happened onto this book during a rare trip to B&N, and after flipping through part of it, I dropped a (Christmas) hint to my mom that I was interested in reading more. =) This book is a wonderful resource! Eric teased me because I put flags on nearly 30 pages, highlighting lots of strategies to implement and recipes to try.

The first several chapters of the book offer great tips on meal planning and grocery shopping. These chapters end with lists of action points, which are baby steps for improving your budget and efficiency. Here are a few of the action point ideas listed in the grocery shopping chapter: refilling spices from the bulk food department*, making biscuits and cookies instead of buying them, buying and consuming less soda and chips, and stocking your freezer when getting meat on a good sale.

We have already tried quite a few of the recipes from this book, including the two entrees I posted here. One of the ideas I was most excited to discover: homemade coconut milk. I often use this ingredient in Thai recipes, and it never occurred to me that I could make a similar product at home! It's super easy, but I will say I preferred the end result when the milk was part of a peanut sauce, rather than a main ingredient. To make 2 cups, just combine 2 cups of boiling water with 1 cup of sweetened coconut. Let stand for 10 minutes, then combine with a blender. Can use as is or strain to remove coconut flakes.

*We don't have this option in our rural area, but I'm curious if any of you buy spices in bulk, and if you've found it to be a significant savings?

If you're looking for some meal planning inspiration, I would encourage you to look into this book!
Have you read any of these books? Which one most interests you?


Mom said...

A great collection of book reviews! :) I haven't read any of these -- maybe I can look at your copies on our next visit. Love you, Mom

Wendi said...

I'm going to see if my library has The Creative Family. Thanks for sharing!

Katie said...

Darling patch on those pants! :-) (And I love her nickname "Tali" ~ so cute!)

I haven't heard of any of these books! I would especially love to read the creative tips in the first one! I know I could gain a lot of insight from the $75/Feast book for menu-planning and budgeting! Thanks for the recommendations!

May you be blessed this weekend!
Psalm 18:46

gail said...

i haven't read any of these books yet, but have been curious about the $75 one. good to hear good things about it.

and yes, we do have bulk spices at our Winco that i have recently been buying from. it is a huge savings for me, tho i don't go thru a ton of spices. an even bigger family would save even more than the 3 of us.

Anonymous said...

We have three stores in our area of South Carolina where we can buy spices at a greatly reduced price: Fresh Market, Earth Fare, and a Middle Eastern grocery store. They cost about 1/4 of the price that the grocery stores charge. Some Asian markets also carry some types of spices.