Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review of "The Bee-Friendly Garden"

I think we're all aware that honeybees are in danger.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a real thing.  (Check out "Vanishing of the Bee" on Netflix if you want to learn more.)  And, if the honeybees die off, we're going to have a problem, since they pollinate a great deal of our food, not to mention produce honey.  But, it seems like an overwhleming problem.  And one that is too great for us to do anything about.

But that's just not true.  One of the easiest things you can do is provide safe food for honey bees.  And what do honeybees like to eat?  Nectar and pollen.  And what makes nectar and pollen?  Pretty much all flowering plants.  However, not all nectar and pollen is the same.  Some types of plants have more protein, fat, or amino acids than others.

So, if you want to help out honeybees, as well as many other members of the bee family, you just need to grow plants that they like.  While these vary region to region, here in my area of Wisconsin, some that bees find very appealing are coneflowers, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, poppies, basil, and lilacs.  Many of these plants are easy to grow.  I have domestic black-eyed susans and I swear I couldn't kill these things if I tried.

gardening book

If you want to learn more about bees and what types of flowers, shrubs, and trees bees like, and how to make an ideal habitat for them, "The Bee-Friendly Garden" by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn is a great resource.  This book is packed with information about different species, what types of plants they find appealing, and why, and several chapters on how to plant a bee friendly garden and provide ideal spots for bees to nest.

There's also tons of pictures.  It will provide you with photos to help identify which species of bees are frequenting your flowers as well as lots of pictures of flowers bees like and examples of bee-friendly gardens.  If you're interested in gardening, or providing food for bees, this book is a great how to guide.  I know I'll be keeping it with my gardening books for future reference.

I received a copy of The Bee Friendly Garden in exchange for an honest review from Blogging For Books.  All thoughts are my own

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May Goals

This year is flying by.  It seems like it was New Year's just a month or two ago!  I've been busy but not with anything that really seems worthy to blog about.  Maybe I'll give you all an update of randomness in a week or so.  In the meantime, here's a much belated recap of April and my goals for May.

April Goals

  • Read 4 books.  Nailed it.  I actually got five done.
  • Daily devotions and prayer time.  I did great on the devotions and spent time praying most days.
  • Exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes a time.  I walked for at least forty-five minutes outside.  Walking outside is so nice.  There's birds to listen to, flowers to see, occasional animals to watch.  Not to mention all that sunshine!  I love it!
  • Limit spending on unessentials to $20.  Well, I did pretty good, but didn't make it the whole month.  There will be a post in a day or two detailing how it all went.
  • Declutter house.  I made it through the kitchen, and my closet, but am continuing to work on it.
  • Write daily.  Not even close. :(
Goal Link Up

 May Goals

  • Spend half an hour writing three times a week.
  • Walk 10,000 steps three times a week.
  • Continue to exercise at least 30 minutes a day five times a week.
  • Memorize ten Bible verses.
  • Finish my prayer cards that I started a few months ago.
  • Increase veggie intake and decrease grains.  Try to eat grain free three times a week.
  • Read four books.
  • Daily devotions and prayer time.
  • Spend five hours a week on blog stuff.
I have a feeling that a lot of these are going to be refined and/or retried in June.  And, if you're interested, you can go to My So Called Chaos, and check out what everyone is working on in May.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Weekly Top Ten- Websites Edition

I'm linking up with The Broke and Bookish to share my Top Five favorite websites that aren't book related. I could have easily shared five more but I didn't want to overload you all.  Maybe I'll share five more another day.  So hold on to your hats, here we go...

  1. Yes and Yes If you haven't checked out Sarah's amazing blog, do it now.  She blogs travel tips (both US and international), maintaining friendships, pursuing your dreams, make up tips, recipes, book reviews, you name it, this girl does it and does it well, all while maintaining an authentic voice and a sense of fun.
  2. Simplicity Relished  Daisy blogs about simplicity.  But this isn't just a blog about throwing out things.  She talks about building a capsule wardrobe, traveling, goal setting, and living mindfully.  She does all this without sounding like some minimalist snob and providing beautiful photos.
  3. Campfire Chic Cam is probably one of the driving forces who made me realize that I don't have to wait until I can afford a big cross country trip to go on an adventure.  She's all about finding time after work or on the weekends to have fun.  She's outdoorsy and crafty and will totally motivate you to get out and then journal your adventure.  Plus, she provides lots of links to interesting things she finds around the web.
  4. Blissful Basil This is a great blog even if you're not vegetarian.  Ashley cooks up delicious plant based foods and if you're adventurous and willing to try new things, this is a great place to start.  I'm currently addicted to her coconut pistachio blueberry bark.  It's great right out of the freezer with a cup of coffee.
  5. The Frelancer's Fashion Blog This is one of the first blogs I started to follow it's.  Ulrika is a few years older than me, lives in Finland, and is a burlesque dancer, but this is not a blog about burlesque, although it does show up occasionally.  Mainly, I get a picture at her life in Finland, her fabulous vintage clothes style- she wears a lot of her mother's clothes and wears a lot of vintage reproductions.  She lives most of the time in a gorgeous farmhouse in the country.  She has an adorable toddler, and I've been reading since before he was even born.  She also shares pictures of her beautiful plants, vegan food she makes, and her gorgeous decorating style.  It's serious eye candy.  You should check it out.  

    So there you have it.  Have any recommendations for non book related websites I should be visiting?  Let me hear about them in the comments below!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

May Reading List

April was a pretty good reading month, although I didn't get through all the books on my list.  I'm hoping to keep that momentum going for May.  Here's what I've picked out:
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch is a kind of history of the Rwandan genocide.  This genocide always puzzles me because the Hutu and Tutsi's seemed to have gotten along, they intermarried, they lived and worked together, and then bam, in three months time, 800,000 Tutsi's are murdered, just like that.  
  • Walden and "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau is one of those books I should have probably read ages ago, but never got to, so I'm choosing it for this month, as my classic pick.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is first in a trilogy.  I didn't realize that when I got it at a thrift store a while ago, but it sounded kind of quirky.  It even kind of reminded me of Lev Grossman's The Magicians.  (Although I felt kind of let down by that book, so we'll see if this one leaves me feeling more warm and fuzzy.)
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has been on my book hunting list for over a year and I was so happy when I found it on Bookmooch a few months ago. I love her writing style and how honest she is and I wish we could be best friends for life, in a totally none creepy way.  My friend who used to be a massage therapist at the chiropractor's office I worked at kind of reminds me of Anne Lamott.  Or maybe Anne reminds me of her and that's why I like her so much.  Anyhow, this is a pep talk kind of book for writers or want to be writers and I'm really looking forward to jumping right in.
So what are you reading this month?  Or have you read any of my picks?  What'd you think?

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Book Recap

Read in April
April 2015 Book Recap
April has flown by, and I was actually able to make a small dent in my to read list.  Maybe not even a dent, maybe like a nick?  But anyways, thanks to my $20 challenge, I was able to resist adding anything new, and actually read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while.  Here's the recap:

The Joyful Christian by C.S. Lewis is a collection of excerpts from several of Lewis' books on a variety of topics.  I don't think it's any secret that I love C.S. Lewis at this point so of course I found this book enjoyable.

A Praying Life by Paul Miller is far and away the most helpful book I've read on prayer.  It made me realize that I was way overthinking prayer.  There are no rules, no requirements, no definite way you have to do it.  There is not a specific formula to get God to hear you and and there is no magic code that you need to know.  It's made my mornings so much more enjoyable to go for a walk and just pray and listen to the birds and watch the clouds and enjoy being outside.  I've felt closer to God in the last month than in anytime I can remember.  Which is amazing and also scary.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was okay.  But I didn't really enjoy it.  To be honest, I was glad once I was finished with it.  I like fantasy fiction and I like regular fiction, but this book straddled the line too much for my taste.  I know it's considered magical realism, and that's kind of the whole point of the genre, but it just didn't appeal to me.  I also felt like there wasn't enough development of any of the characters to make me really care what happened to them and I thought Pedro, Tita's one true love, was pretty much unworthy of her, and couldn't understand what she saw in him.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson is a book I had won in a blog giveaway from Just Bee and actually had put it on my reading list last October but never got to.  It's considered a young adult read appropriate for grade school or maybe middle school and it would make an awesome read out loud book.  I remember my mom reading out loud to me and my brother when we were kids, even once we were old enough to read on our owns, and I loved it.  Having someone read you a story is one of those pleasures that should not just be relegated to childhood.  Anyways, the story is good, with some funny parts and while I was out of the target demographic, I did enjoy it, and will keep an eye out for the next ones in the series.

The Secret Place by Tana French is book five in the Dublin Murder Squad series.  Every book seems to revolve around a story that in the end, leaves one of the protagonist detectives utterly destroyed- whether mentally, career wise, or just family wise.  So, I was totally expecting Stephen to come out of this one burned to a crisp.  Stephen Moran plays a minor role in Faithful Place and it was nice to see him take the wheel this time.  He's older, and wiser to Frank Mackey's tricks so I enjoyed seeing them reunited on a more level playing field.  This book went farther into uncharted territory of what is possible, places that French had kind of hinted at, but never really explored.  I enjoyed it and in the ranking of Murder Squad books, I'd put this one in at a solid second, behind The Likeness

So, that's what I tackled for April.  What about you, did you read anything good or interesting that I should be checking out?  If so, let me know!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

5 Things Exercise Has Taught Me

I have never been a fan of exercise.  At best, I viewed it as a necessary evil.  At worst, it was a waste of time.  But, after a hike this fall, that proved that I was severely out of shape, one of my New Year's resolutions was to exercise more.  I know it's good for a person's health, both physical and mental and many great writers swear getting outside and walking is necessary to the creative process- Henry David Thoreau, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, Charles Dickens, and I venture many more.  As a sufferer of long Wisconsin winters, I figured it would help with my self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder.  I also was hoping it would help my clothes fit better and give me more energy.  So, basically I was expecting a lot and not sure exercise would be able to deliver, but in the past four months I've realized quite a few things.  Here are my top five. 

  1. You can start slow and still reap benefits.  In January, my goal was to exercise three times a week for twenty minutes a time.  Since it was January and we had cold, snow, and darkness, I used the treadmill.  Then I upped my goal a little each month.  Just getting active made me feel better and more positive.  And now I walk outside most days for 45 minutes.
  2. You can multitask while you exercise.  If I use the treadmill, I often just listen to some upbeat, loud, EDM music.  When I walk outside, I listen to podcasts that I downloaded or work on praying for family and friends.  If I ride my bike, I'll often pack snacks and books, and read and write in the park for a while.  If you feel guilty just going for a walk for a walk's sake (which you shouldn't- but if you do), have a goal in mind.  Walk to the library.  If you only need a couple things, walk to the grocery store.  Walk to visit a neighbor.
  3. You can just walk.  Some of the best days of exercise are ones where I just walk and think.  No music, no podcasts, no end goal just the sounds of the birds and thinking.
  4. You can eat more if you exercise.  I love chocolate.  Good quality chocolate.  When I did the cleanse at the beginning of the year, I felt great, and was losing a lot of weight, but I knew once the cleanse was done, I'd want to eat cheese, bread, and chocolate.  Exercising gives you more wiggle room in your food choices.  I am making better food choices, but I still love a nice Chocolove Toffee and Almonds bar occasionly.  I have kept off all the weight I lost during the cleanse and even lost a few more pounds.  Without exercising, I'm sure I would have gained a lot of this back. 
  5. You can skip a day, but don't be surprised if you don't want to.  At first, I had to push myself just to get three days a week in.  Now, there's been weeks where I go everyday, or only skip when it's down pouring.  I feel so good after a nice walk that I crave just getting outside. 
So what's keeping you from exercising?  Or, why do you exercise?  What motivates you?

Friday, April 15, 2016

My $20 Challenge

My $20 Challenge

So one of my goals this month was to limit my pocket money to $20 for the whole month of April.  My most frequent splurges are lunches out with friends, coffees, books, thrifting, the occasional trip to Target or Joann's, and online shopping when I find a good deal for something I think I need or it's cheap so I should "stock up".

It was kind of a spur of the moment thought due to several things.  Here were a couple of my reasons.
  1. I don't know how much I spend each month.  I don't have any limits on how much I can spend a month.  I mean, I think if I was charging up hundreds of dollars a month, my husband, Jim,  might say something.  But, as it is he always encourages me to spend time with friends or treat myself if I feel like I need to.  And while I love his support and trust in me, I feel like I should be more responsible with how I use our resources. 
  2. I want to take two trips this summer.  One up to Lake Superior and another to Colorado.  While I'm traveling with friends, and we travel relatively frugally, it's still going to take some dough to fund these.  While Jim and I have a joint checking account, and we never talk about my money or your money, I feel like I should be making some cuts to my spending to make up for the extra travel.  After all, if I was single I would have to do this.
  3. I have too much stuff!  I am always seesawing between trying to declutter my house and finding great deals or the perfect something.  I know I have too much stuff- whether it's books or fabric or lipsticks or stationery, I have a tendency to hoard things.  But, then I justify it to myself by saying that I'll use it all eventually.  Time to start using it all.
So, how's it going so far?  Well, to be truthful, it was harder than thought.  Here's my expenditures so far:

April 3     $3.00     for Persians rolls
April 13   $11.00   for lunch out with a friend
April 14   $4.00     for DairyQueen blizzard for treat for Hubs.
total        $18.00

It's going to be a rough go to only spend $2 the rest of the month, but even if I go over, I've already realized a lot about my spending habits, and I do plan on tracking what I spend more closely in the future.  What do you think?  Do you track your monthly spending?  Where does most of your pocket money go?  Any tips to help you keep your money in your pocket longer?  And I'll be sure to update you all on how the second half of the month goes.