Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fannie Farmer and Victorian Cooking: A Book Giveaway!

I picked up this fabulous book, Fannie's Last Supper by Chris Kimball, and decided to host a book giveaway so you can love it too! If you are a foodie, a Downton Abbey fan, or just someone curious about what it was like to live in Victorian Boston, you are in for a treat (or, rather, a 12-course extravagant meal).

Chris Kimball is a chef and magazine editor and owner of a Victorian era home in Boston. After researching the Boston Cooking School and Fannie Farmer, he decided to undertake the creation of a meal that perfectly replicated the common foods, cooking methods and style of turn-of-the-century urban America.

He had help, of course, but cooked a beautiful meal on a wood-burning iron stove in a steaming hot kitchen - so hot that the chef's pants melted onto her legs. I thought this entire book was fascinating - and (for the truly adventurous) it includes recipes.

They made a mock turtle soup which involved making stock from a calf's head. Calf's hooves were boiled to create gelatin (a bit disgusting) but the product is gorgeous.

Apparently formal Victorian meals involved as many as 12 courses served in two hours or less. As many as 131 pieces of silverware were used for each person for each meal. The silver covered dishes we see in formal settings were useful as Victorian diners did not want any smells coming from the kitchen. Because of this, the kitchen was set far back from the dining room and food needed to be carried down long drafty hallways...thus the covered dishes.

You will enjoy his careful research and the trials and tribulations of recreating the past. They filmed this as a television special. Also interesting is the study of Fannie Farmer herself, who was a rather practical version of Julia Child - a woman who knew how to cook, teach, and market herself.

As a faithful watcher of Downton Abbey, I found this book often making me think about those formal dinners at Downton. I know you will love it.

To enter to win - just leave a comment! I will choose one person and send you the book!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Can You Wear a Pompadour to Church? Review of Adventures in Churchland

I can't believe I missed this book when it was first published! Adventures in Churchland tells the story of rockabilly drummer Dan Kimball and his search for Jesus through the harrowing world of the evangelical church.

They were not prepared for him with his Doc Martens (and flashy yellow stitching) or his slicked back, 50s-pompadour style hair. He was even less prepared for evangelical worship songs that sound like Celine Dion and Christmas pageants where men wore bed sheets as costumes.

I found myself chuckling and nodding out loud - and wincing more than once - as I read his account of an "outsider" approaching the church with honest questions.

Dan has it right. It's not about what we think church "should" look like. It's about Jesus.

He finds his way in through an 83-year-old man in London who gives him a cup of Ovaltine and invites him to meet the real Jesus.

This is a book about Jesus and church and finding your way home. It is a book about the need to shed our preconceptions of what church is and what church-goers should look like. It is a book that speaks truth in a way that is easy to hear.

As someone who was raised in the church and loves the rockabilly scene, I adored this book. I want all my friends, believers or not, to read it. The foreword is written by rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson. There is a chapter about the faith story of Johnny Cash.

It challenges those of us inside, those dyed-in-the-wool churchgoers, to step outside of our comfort zone and make sure that not all of their friends are Christians. We are too isolated. We lack relevance. We need to be in the world, but not of it. Amen!

If you haven't read it, please do so. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Selling Your House Without Losing Your Mind

This summer, our pool has decided it would prefer to be a lovely shade of green.

Despite my best efforts, the pH-level has been bouncing all over the place. The bleach is often ineffective. It wouldn't be so bad, but we are trying to sell our house. Nobody wants to buy a home with a Kermit the frog, pea-green pool.

My husband and I have been working like crazy to keep our home ship-shape. Now I'm not the neat-freak type, so (normally) I am quite happy if my house has only a light layer of dust. This summer, however, we have had to make it look like we live in a model home. Not easy with a dog, a teenager and an elderly mother-in-law.

At our last showing, we spent an hour running around the house like crazy people - dusting, cleaning, and spritzing air freshener. I even plucked a few orange Tiger lilies and threw them in a cut-glass vase on the coffee table.

The buyer walked in, took one look, and left in 3 minutes.Three minutes! He didn't walk through the house, look at the backyard or go downstairs. He probably didn't even notice the lilies!

Can I say, "Aaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhh!!!!!????"

In the early spring, we bustled around completing our unfinished home projects. We "neutralized" our house as much as we could, and then put it up for sale by owner. After a period of time, we gave in and listed with a Realtor. Now, we are in the hardest part of all: waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more.

Unfortunately, the buyers who have looked at our home don't fit the type who will probably buy it. Our house is a family home with swimming pool, nearby park and elementary school. One couple was older - and didn't like stairs. One was a single woman who didn't want maintenance. One buyer said my retro furniture made the house look old (she did not appreciate our vintage style). Sigh.

Through this process, I've come to a firm conclusion: Selling your home can make even the sanest people crazy.

So if you are considering a home sale in the near future, here's a few suggestions:

1) Get rid of any smells. Stock up on Febreeze. Use a Borox/water solution to wipe down baseboards and basement walls. Clean the pet cage. Get rid of old boxes and stored clothing. Walk around your house sniffing the air like an Irish Setter. Be persistent.

2) Declutter. Throw out half of your possessions - just kidding - but a at least get rid of a good portion of them. That old fish tank you've been saving in case you ever decide to raise tropical fish? Time to ditch it. Get rid of the threadbare afghan, the half-empty boxes of stale cereal. Toss, toss, toss. Call the local thrift store and delight them with the bounty of your excess.

3) Neutralize. For us, that meant bidding farewell to my ever-so-creative, Mary-Engelbreit-inspired kitchen floor. It was a lovely red/yellow/green varied pattern. Now it is a very, every-person appealing patter of beige and lighter beige. My super-cool 1950's vintage curtains? Replaced with a lovely pair of tan drapes. Sigh. It looks like we're living in Pleasantville: all grey and beige and normal.

4) De-personalize. Pack away the photos of your family. Take your personal info off the fridge. Make it look like a very pleasant hotel with no sign of the previous inhabitant. Well, as much as possible. We left our teen and mother-in-law's rooms alone. But, the main areas are cleared of our gorgeous, smiling faces.

5) Take a break. You need some days to kick up your feet and heels and relax. This is stressful! Be kind to your spouse. Try not to overdo each home showing (easier said than done). Allow yourself to have time to just be - go out to dinner, watch a movie, barbeque, take a walk. Remember that your sanity is key to surviving this long process.

6) Be patient - and try very hard not to take rejection personally. One site said that every review of your home will be negative until someone makes an offer. So true. Read the reviews of home buyers, but take each comment with a grain of salt. They may have a hint of truth in them - but they aren't objective. These home buyers have something very specific in mind - and it just might not be your home.

Most of all, keep your ultimate goal firmly in mind. Remembering why you are going through this time of insanity will ensure that you keep a smidgen of self-respect during the coming months.

Best of luck to you, my friend. We are in this together.

Your house is beautiful.

You are beautiful.

Monday, July 7, 2014

When Expectations Don't Fit

In my guest blogger series, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to discuss one of the questions found at the end of my book, When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give UpToday's question is about Emma Dryer. 

Women of Emma Dryer's day were expected to marry and devote their life to household work. What are the social expectations for women today? Are they different for Christian women? How has your life conformed to or gone against the expectations of society or the church?

Enjoy this essay from my friend, Connie Mann. Connie and I first met in college. Now, she is a boat captain and fellow writer! Also, be sure to pick up a copy of her fiction novel, Angel Falls, an exotic adventure set in Brazil!

I’ve spent a good bit of my life feeling like I escaped the island of misfit toys. As a little girl, I dressed the cat in my doll clothes and climbed the neighbor’s tree so I could read, uninterrupted. I wore my hair boy-short, but was mortified when the elementary school principal once called me, “young man.”

I’ve never been a girly-girl. I’ve always loved pink, but if it comes with ruffles or lace, no thank you. I choose clothes based on comfort, not fashion. I don’t polish my fingernails, because they’ll be chipped by noon. Toenails? Yes, those get polish.

I come from a family of crafters, but my creative ability showed up in stories, not samplers. I still have half-completed cross-stitch pictures from when I was twelve. Much to my family’s disappointment, while my female relations glued and painted and sewed, I snuck off to an obscure corner with a novel or a notebook, hoping no one would notice.

A while back, I got a captain’s license from the USCG. It took almost a year to get that credential and I absolutely love my job. But more than once when I’ve told someone what I do, the response has been, “You? You’re a boat captain?” Followed by gales of laughter.

I write books and blogs, but I get a little antsy if I haven’t been outside or around people on any given day. Though I love to entertain, I clean my house when I finally realize the cleaning fairies STILL haven’t shown up. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. Baking, not so much.

When it’s my week to bring dessert for our small group, things get a little stressful. For years, I brought grocery store macaroni salad to potlucks. I had a system: bring a pretty bowl and spoon with you and make the swap in the parking lot. (I may not be girly, but I am resourceful.)

I can poke fun at my quirks because I’ve finally gotten comfortable in my own skin. I wasted years worrying about what I should and shouldn’t do, what kind of woman I was ‘supposed’ to be. I finally realized that God made me, me. He gave me different gifts and talents from the ones He gave you. He gave me a heart to encourage others and there is no greater compliment than when people say they feel comfortable and welcome when they come to our home.

I think there are far less ‘shoulds’ in God’s mind than we impose on ourselves. It’s time to let go of who we think we ‘should’ be and celebrate who God made us to be. Let’s thank Him for our strengths and abilities and for equipping us exactly for the roles He needs us to play. You are exactly who you are ‘supposed’ to be.

Connie Mann is the author of Angel Falls, a romantic suspense, and she blogs at As a USCG-licensed boat captain, she gets to take local school children on Florida’s Silver River and show some of them their very first alligator. When she’s not writing, she’s usually out on the water or exploring new places with her family. Visit her online at

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Rockabilly Christian Life

Photo by the fabulous Jill Obermaier.

Milt and I have been slightly obsessed with all things 50s for the past few years. Well, in all honesty, my vintage obsession goes back a bit further. Here, in this article for Christianity Today's blog Her.meneutics, I share why my love for the past links to my faith.


My rockabilly friends hoard 1950s-era fiberglass lampshades and Formica-topped tables. They drive clunky, chrome-trimmed, gas-guzzling cars that have no seatbelts and sometimes leave them stranded on long trips. The guys sport gabardine suits and greased-back pompadours. The gals carry '50s Lucite purses and wear full-skirted dresses with armfuls of bangles. They swing their dance partners to thumping music played by tattooed upright bass players.
Walking into these events, a retro dance or hot rod car show, it feels like traveling back in time. These 21st-century folks live and breathe the culture of the 1950s. Yet again, in our seemingly endless cycles of American nostalgia, everything old is new again.
Click here to read the rest of . . . "My Rockabilly Christian Life"