7.31.2012

Book Review: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Hi, folks. Today I'm reviewing a good little book I finished up a couple of weeks ago, which was...

Steal Like An Artist
by Austin Kleon.
(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate. All opinions are my own. Blah blah blah.)

I can't remember who it was, but someone online (Goodreads? One of the blogs I read?) recommended this book, and I thought it looked interesting, so I ordered it online without having ever seen it in person.

When it first arrived, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting it to be a "real" book discussing the creative process in depth, but it's more like one of those little "life's little instruction books," or a gift book with about half the pages dedicated to pithy one-liners and artsy illustrations. However, once I got over my initial disappointment in what it was going to be, I did find some useful ideas and tips in it.

The book is broken up into ten little chapters, or ten bits of advice for artists. They include pointers like, "Don't wait until you know who you are to get started," "Write the book you want to read," "Side projects and hobbies are important," "Be nice," and "Be boring."

I almost didn't order it simply because of the title: I didn't like the reference to stealing; however, he's not talking about burglary or plagiarism here. Rather, he says that you (and consequently your art or other creative work) are the sum total of all the things you allow into your life to influence you. Artists get their ideas from a combination of many people, ideas, places, and things. You're influenced by the artists who inspire you, the music you listen to, the books you read, the places you've been, etc. His version of "stealing" is simply that you should take the best ideas that you gather from many different sources of inspiration, and then take them to the next level and make them your own in the process. I liked his recommendation of being mindful of what you're allowing to influence you and his warning of "garbage in, garbage out."

I also appreciated what he had to say about discipline. While common conceptions of "creative" types may label artsy people as "wild," "free-spirited," "bohemian," etc., Kleon recommends avoiding that kind of lifestyle. Being successful in any field, including art, takes lots of discipline, hard work, organization, and time. He gives some good, practical advice about keeping a regular schedule, taking care of yourself (eating right, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, etc.), marrying well (to someone who will support you AND crack the whip on you if you start slacking), and keeping track of goals and accomplishments.

The only thing I didn't really care for were a few of the quotes from other people that he included. The names weren't familiar to me, but they sounded like rappers or something, and that's hardly where I would go for good advice. Anyway....

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I think any creative person could glean some useful advice from reading it. Have you read it yet? What did you think?

......................


What are YOU reading?


7.24.2012

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

I'm back this week with another review of one of my summer "beach" reads. This time, it's...


The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan.

(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate, all opinions are my own, blah blah blah.)

Maybe it was the fact that a number of people had recommended this novel so highly to me, and I built it up too much in my mind beforehand. Maybe it just came too close on the heels of Hannah Coulter, which I really loved. Whatever the reason, I just didn't enjoy this book.

Tan is, undeniably, an excellent writer and compelling storyteller. It wasn't the writing, but rather the story itself (and the worldview behind the story) that didn't sit well with me.

In a nutshell, the plot centers around four Chinese women and their four daughters. The mothers, recent immigrants to San Francisco in 1949, form a club, "Joy Luck," where they eat elaborate meals, play mahjong, and talk in order to temporarily forget about the difficulties they have left behind. When one mother dies, the father asks his now-grown daughter to fill her place in the club, where she listens to her mother's friends' stories. The women share about their lives and their attempts to preserve the cultural and emotional connections with their American-born daughters, who are dealing with problems of their own.

I expected the book to be more about the club, but Tan doesn't really talk much about it other than in the introduction. Each chapter is simply each woman's story, which occasionally intersects with the others' stories.

All I could think about while reading this novel were the articles I had read about the controversial book that came out last year, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. The mothers in this story could easily be labeled as "Tiger Mothers." They set extremely high expectations on their children and are very harsh (borderline abusive) towards them when they fail to live up to those expectations. Children in this worldview seem to exist simply for the bragging rights and provision in old age for the parents, and if they prove to be a disappointment, they're more or less expendable. There are a few hints of affection here or there between the mothers and children, but overall, I found the mother-daughter relationships portrayed in this book to be dysfunctional, co-dependent, and unsettling.

While there are a few references to missionaries and a Baptist Church, in this book, Christianity seems to be either simply something to be used to get "stuff" (the poor immigrant families receive donations and gifts from the church, etc.), or a talisman that has been tried and found wanting (a mother uses a Bible to prop up a lopsided table after it failed to magically save her child from dying). The worldview behind the women's beliefs is very much based on Eastern religions - Buddhism, Taoism, etc., which manifest themselves in the many superstitions and signs that dictate people's decisions and futures. The light of the gospel doesn't shine anywhere, and overall, it's a pretty dark book.

Although it was interesting to read a novel written from a very foreign perspective and worldview to my own, and although Tan is an excellent writer, those facts just didn't redeem this story enough for me to want to revisit it in the future or recommend it to anyone else. I was disappointed.

Have you read it? What did you think?

7.23.2012

The List that Never Ends: # 681-690

Well, it's been a sad week on many fronts. The shootings in Colorado, as well as some troubles closer to home, have been weighing heavy on my mind... However, if a woman who was in the theater that terrible night can express gratitude and faith in God's goodness in the face of horrific circumstances and blatant evil, then I can too... So I continue to count...


Thanking God today...

# 681. ... that the CO shooter's gun jammed and prevented him from taking any more lives than he did, and that he was captured.
# 682. ... for my parents, who are taking on some added responsibilities in another difficult situation, and are doing so without complaint.
# 683. ... for the inspiring testimony and life of WWII POW vet, Louis Zamperini, and many others like him, who faced unbelievably difficult circumstances in their service of this country.
# 684. ... for the power of the Gospel to change lives, and for the power of forgiveness to set the captive free.
# 685. ... that He always seems to orchestrate events and influences in my life so that I hear or read or see something that I need to hear/see/read, just at the moment when I need it.
# 686. ... for the safety net of my husband, who "reigns me in" when I need it and consequently keeps me from getting involved in unnecessary drama (if I can just listen to him!).
# 687. ... for the excitement of two upcoming weddings for two friends.
# 688. ... for flashmobs, and for the fact that sometimes they wind up being spontaneous "worship services" due to the music selections... It makes me think of the verse that says, "...that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow..." - I'm really looking forward to that day.
# 689. ... for smooth-writing pens and clean new notebooks.
# 690. ... for kindness.

Joining Ann today...

My prayers go out today on behalf of the injured and the families of the victims of the CO shooting... I'm so sorry for your loss, and pray that God will uphold you during this difficult time.

7.17.2012

Book Review: Hannah Coulter

Well, last week contained the elements of a perfect vacation for me: good books to read, sunshine, water, and a lounge chair. I read two books start to finish and started a third, so I thought I'd share a little review of each with you.
My first selection was

Hannah Coulter
by Wendell Berry.

(Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate, all opinions are my own, blah blah blah.)

This was the first novel by Berry that I'd ever picked up, and I'll definitely be going back for more. Berry is a modern author who is creating quality literature in a pop-culture world where truly good storytelling is becoming a lost art. Hannah Coulter is a love story, but you won't find any cheese-ball sparkling vampires or thinly-veiled pornographic descriptions pandering to raging teenage hormones here (thank goodness).

No, this is the story of a life well-lived, a member of the Greatest Generation reflecting on her life, loves (she has been widowed twice, once by war, once by cancer and age), and community. The plot isn't terribly exciting, but it doesn't need to be: the beauty of the language and the wisdom she shares is what carries this book. It's hard to put down.

Rather than going into a long, rambling attempt at a plot synopsis, I think I'll just let Hannah speak for herself. If you don't want any spoilers, you may just want to go pick up the book and start reading it now. Otherwise, here are some of my favorite quotes centered on the major themes of the novel….
On love, marriage, and sticking it out "for better or for worse":

"Sometimes too I could see that love is a great room with a lot of doors, where we are invited to knock and come in. Though it contains all the world, the sun, moon, and stars, it is so small as to be also in our hearts. It is in the hearts of those who choose to come in. Some do not come in. Some may stay out forever. Some come in together and leave separately. Some come in and stay, until they die, and after."

"You have had this life and no other. You have had this life with this man and no other. What would it have been to have had a different life with a different man? You will never know. That makes the world forever a mystery, and you will just have to be content for it to be that way. We quarreled because we loved each other, I have no doubt of that. We were trying to become somehow the same person, one flesh, and we often failed. When distance came between us, we would blame it on each other. And here is a wonder. I maybe never loved him so much or yearned toward him so much as when I was mad at him. It's not a simple thing, this love."

"You can't give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering. You can't give yourself to love for a soldier without giving yourself to his suffering in war. It is this body of our suffering that Christ was born into, to suffer it Himself and to fill it with light, so that beyond the suffering we can imagine Easter morning and the peace of God on little earthly homelands such as Port William and the farming villages of Okinawa."

On a son-in-law's infidelity:

"So how come he ended up leaving his wife and boy, talking about 'fulfillment' and his 'need to be free'? 'It's the time,' I thought. 'The time wants men to be as silly in character as they are by nature.'"

"It would have been better for Marcus if he had been tireder at night."


On family and community, or "membership," as one character charmingly calls it:

"Grandmam came back from that distance in time that separates grandmothers from their grandchildren and made herself a mother to me."

"The love he bore to me was his own, but also it was a love that had been borne to him, by people he knew, people I now knew, people he loved. That, I think, was what put tears in his eyes when he looked at me. He must have wondered if I would love those people too. Well, as it turned out, I did. And I would know them as he would never know them, for longer than he knew them. I knew them old, in their final years and days. I know them dead."

"Danny gave the same watchful friendliness to Nathan. Heaven will have to pay our debt to them. They have made me glad I have stayed alive, as Burley Coulter used to say."

"When you have gone too far, as I think he did, the only mending is to come home. Whether he is equal to it or not, this is his chance."


On the horrors of war:

"Counting noses, Bess missed Andy and went to look for him. She found him finally in the dining room, in the corner at the end of the sideboard, crying. The knowledge of it passed over us all. He didn't know, as we grownups knew, what the war meant and might mean. He had only understood that what we were that day was lovely and could not last."

"Some of them were heroes. And they said not a word. They stood among us like monuments without inscriptions. They said nothing or said little because we have barely a language for what they knew, and they could not bear the pain of talking of their knowledge in even so poor a language as we have. They knew the torment of the whole world at war, that nobody could make or end or escape alone, in which everybody suffered alone. As many who have known it have said of it, war is Hell. It is the outer darkness beyond the reach of love, where people who do not know one another kill one another and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where nothing is allowed to be real enough to be spared."


On the marching on of time, and the need for the living to "live right on":

"Time doesn't stop. Your life doesn't stop and wait until you get ready to start living it."

"The living can't quit living because the world has turned terrible and people they love and need are killed. They can't because they don't. The light that shines in darkness and never goes out calls them on into life. It calls them back again into the great room. It calls them into their bodies and into the world, into whatever the world will require. It calls them into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones."


On kindness and forgiveness:

"Kindness kept us alive. It made us think of each other."

"And then I was aware that an old woman whose head hardly came to my shoulder was standing beside me. She was wearing a head scarf and a dress that hung on her as it would have hung on a chair. She was shrunken and twisted by arthritis and was leaning on two canes. Her hands were so knotted as hardly to look like hands. She was smiling at me. She said, 'You don't know me, do you?' I knew her then, and almost instantly there were tears on my face. I started feeling in my purse for a handkerchief and tried to be able to say something. All kinds of knowledge came to me, all in a sort of flare in my mind. I knew for one thing that she was more simpleminded than I had ever thought. She had perfectly forgot, or had never known, how much and how justly I had resented her. But I knew at that same instant that my resentment was gone, just gone. And the fear of her that was once so big in me, where was it? And who was this poor sufferer who stood there with me? 'Yes, Ivy, I know you,' I said, and I sounded kind. I didn't understand exactly what had happened until the thought of her woke me up in the middle of that night, and I was saying to myself, 'You have forgiven her.' I had. My old hatred and contempt and fear, that I had kept so carefully so long, were gone, and I was free."


On thankfulness:

"And so I have to say that another of the golden threads is gratitude. All through that bad time, when Virgil's absence was wearing itself into us, when 'missing' kept renaming itself more and more insistently as 'dead' and 'lost forever,' I was yet grateful. Sometimes I was grateful because I knew I ought to be, sometimes because I wanted to be, and sometimes a sweet thankfulness came to me on its own, like a singing from somewhere out in the dark. I was grateful because I knew, even in my fear and grief, that my life had been filled with gifts."

"And so an old woman, sitting by the fire, waiting for sleep, makes her reckoning, naming over the names of the dead and the living, which also are the names of her gratitude. What will be remembered, Andy Catlett, when we are gone? What will finally become of this lineage of people who have been members one of another? I don't know. And yet their names and their faces, what they did and said, are not gone, are not 'the past,' but still are present to me, and I give thanks."

"And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence."

On the advantages of being content in the simple things and the life and work you have, and the dangers of yearning for something "better":

"Most people now are looking for 'a better place,' which means that a lot of them will end up in a worse one. I think this is what Nathan learned from his time in the army and the war. He saw a lot of places, and he came home. I think he gave up on the idea that there is a better place somewhere else. There is no 'better place' than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we've got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven."

"We lived here by our work. Our life and our work were not the same thing maybe, but they were close."

"But it was true. After they all were gone, I was mourning over them to Nathan. I said, 'I just wanted them to have a better chance than I had.' Nathan said, 'Don't complain about the chance you had,' in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, 'Don't cuss the weather.' Sometimes you can say dreadful things without knowing it. Nathan understood this better than I did. Like several of his one-sentence conversations, this one stuck in my mind and finally changed it. The change came too late, maybe, but it turned my mind inside out like a sock. Was I sorry that I had known my parents and Grandmam and Ora Finley and the Catletts and the Feltners, and that I had married Virgil and come to live in Port William, and that I had lived on after Virgil's death to marry Nathan and come to our place to raise our family and live among the Coulters and the rest of our membership? Well, that was the chance I had. And so Nathan required me to think a thought that has stayed with me a long time and has traveled a long way. It passed through everything I know and changed it all. The chance you had is the life you've got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people's lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn't wish for another life. You mustn't want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: 'Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.' I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions."

"Suppose your stories, instead of mourning and rejoicing over the past, say that everything should have been different. Suppose you encourage or even just allow your children to believe that their parents ought to have been different people, with a better chance, born in a better place. Or suppose the stories you tell them allow them to believe, when they hear it from other people, that farming people are inferior and need to improve themselves by leaving the farm. Doesn't that finally unmake everything that has been made? Isn't that the loose thread that unravels the whole garment? And how are you ever going to know where the thread breaks, and when the tug begins?"
"The old thrift that once kept us alive has been replaced by extravagance and waste. People are living as if they think they are in a movie. They are all looking in one direction, toward 'a better place,' and what they see is no thicker than a screen."


And, finally, just a couple of lines that made me smile:

"As trees go, I would say they are getting about old enough to vote."

"I was idling along with my stick, recognizing the trees and wishing them well."


...................


As I'm sure you've gathered by now, this is a book well worth reading. It's like sitting on the back porch with your grandmother, shelling beans and listening to the story of her life and the wisdom she's picked up along the way. So pick up a copy and get to know Hannah yourself, and be sure to grab a tissue too – you're going to need it.
…………….
That's all for today…

I'll be back next week with my review of my other beach read:
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.


What are you reading?

7.16.2012

The List that Never Ends: # 671-680

"O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!"

- William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act 1, Scene 1


Thanking God today...


# 671. ... for a safe, fun, and relaxing trip to the beach with Josh and my parents and our crazy dogs.
# 672. ... that the dog we almost hit on the way home from a friend's house on Saturday night was okay.
# 673. ... for a fun day at the water park with Josh's family, and a party to celebrate my nephew and sister-in-law's birthdays.
# 674. ... for lots of time to read on our vacation.
# 675. ... for good books on our new Nook...
# 676. ... with its built-in glow light that enables reading in bed in the dark. (Josh and I are both excited about this one - I can read in bed at night, he can go to sleep with the lights off.)  
# 677. ... for new-to-us furniture for our living room.
# 678. ... for Neosporin and Bandaids for skinned-up toes and other boo-boos.  
# 679. ... for sunshine on my shoulders.
# 680. ... for singing at the top of our lungs in the car with Josh.

Joining Ann today...

7.13.2012

Book Review: Whiter than Snow by Paul David Tripp

My latest read was Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

 
This book is a devotional, broken up into 52 chapters which are intended to be read one per week over the course of a year. However, I've never been one to stick to any "devotional" book consistently over that long of a period of time, so I finished it over several days.
The themes are sin and grace, and the chapters are based on a verse-by-verse breakdown of Psalm 51, written by David as he reflects on his sin with Bathsheba:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.  Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Overall, it was an encouraging and insightful read, and I enjoyed it. I appreciated Tripp's verse-by-verse analysis of the Psalm and his insights on sin, repentance, grace, and mercy.

The only thing I didn't like at times was the "jazz-y" style in which it was written. He switches between prose (which I loved) and a sort of free-style poetry (which I found distracting and a little annoying at times). However, overall, I really appreciated what he had to say. I'll leave you with a few favorite quotes:

You and I don't live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don't careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn't set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It's the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what's going on in our hearts.
...............
Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It's not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don't seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can be found only in Jesus Christ.

...............

Let me suggest that there are two ways that the justice of God should comfort us sinners. First, His justice means that His assessment of us is accurate. It isn't colored or slanted by prejudice or bias of any kind. It isn't shaped by any kind of hidden personal agenda. God's assessment isn't weakened by favoritism or the cynicism of previous experience. God's view of us is pure and accurate in every way.... And because God's view of me is untainted by sin, it's clearly more reliable than any view that I'd have of myself. Second, the way that God as Judge responds to me is right and pure as well. God's discipline of me is without personal bias. It isn't weakened by anger or impatience. His justice is never distorted because He's lost His temper or has tired of dealing with me. To add to this, since He isn't only just, but also merciful, loving, and kind as well, God's justice is always restrained and tempered by these things. He's a God of mercy who metes out justice. He disciplines us in love. His kindness colors how He responds to the sins of His children. 
So, if you're looking for some encouragement, a better understanding of sin and grace, or a good weekly devotional, check it out!

Disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate, so if you purchase this item through my link above, I supposedly earn a little something back, and I thank you...


7.11.2012

Quotables: C. S. Lewis


"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

- C. S. Lewis

7.09.2012

The List that Never Ends: # 661-670

"All that we behold is full of blessings."
~William Wordsworth

Today, I am thanking God...
# 661. ... that no one was injured in the car accident that Josh was in last week, that the damage to his vehicle was minor, and that both drivers involved had insurance!

# 662. ... for the fun and relaxing treat of going to a spa for a pedicure with my Mom.
# 663. ... for a very cool-looking moon the other night.

# 664. ... for a fun 4th of July celebration with Josh's family.

# 665. ... for the encouragement that's come through seeing our church - once again - pull together to help a family in need.
# 666. ... for very kind e-mails and new orders from customers who like my work. (Thank you!)

# 667. ... for slow but steady progress made on a huge project.

# 668. ... for the opportunity to get away for a few days (pictures to come!).

# 669. ... for some much-needed rain.

# 670. ... for a pile of new books to read...always a treat.
Joining Ann today:

7.04.2012

Happy Independence Day!

If you're an American, as you celebrate this great land's birthday today...


 ... and think about how blessed you are to live in a country whose founders did everything they could to establish it on biblical principles and liberty...



 
...where you (at least so far) have the freedom to worship as you choose....


... speak your mind...


 ... and generally pursue your happiness...


... take a moment to remember the brave people who have served to protect those freedoms in the past....



... and are still serving to protect them today...


 
... and even in the midst of your celebrations...


...remember this...

If you are a Christian, as much as you may love and appreciate living in this country...
... (and we do) ...

...it's not our home.


"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
- 2 Corinthians 5:1

...and that is precisely why, as we watch our country decline and move further and further away from the biblical principles upon which it was founded, we don't have to lose hope or be discouraged...

...because it's not our home. We just live here, for now... but not forever.

So happy Independence Day....

... and as you thank God for your freedoms here in the good ol' USofA,
thank Him infinitely more for your freedom in Christ...

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
- Romans 6:17-18


 
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
- Galatians 5:1
...and avoid that yoke of bondage!

7.03.2012

Homemade Coffee Creamer

Well, after holding out for about 31 years, I have recently jumped on the "I've-gotta-have-my-coffee-in-the-morning-or-else..." bandwagon. I blame the Keurig machine that I gave Josh for Christmas (the gift that keeps on giving).

So now, rather than merely enjoying the occasional treat from Starbucks or a cup with dessert at Bible study, as was my former custom, I am sucking it down by the gallon (or at least the large travel mug size) every morning.

I must confess, however, that, although I do love the deliciousness that can be found in the grounds of those fantasticly convenient K-cups, a big part of my love of coffee is flavored creamer, and according to my husband, I like my coffee to be more or less a "liquid version of cake."

"Why, yes, I would like a little coffee with my creamer, thanks!"

However, what I don't like is having to cringe every time I read the label on the store-bought versions... Not only do they contain a lot of sugar and other unhealthy sweeteners, but they also use a bunch of creepy chemicals and preservatives that I'd rather not be consuming every day. Over the past year or so, I've been making efforts to cut way back on my sugar consumption, so this morning I decided I needed to come up with a solution to nip this coffee creamer problem in the bud. After all, little changes here and there add up.

After googling "homemade coffee creamers" and pouring over Pinterest recipes without finding exactly what I wanted, I came up with my own version. I thought I'd share it with you, in case you, too, were looking for something like this. I'm drinking it in my coffee as I write, and I have to tell you, it ain't half bad. So without further ado, here you go....

Bee's Homemade Coffee Creamer

Ingredients:
2 cups Half and Half
4 Tbs. Stevia "Cup for Cup"
2 Tbs. 100% pure maple syrup
3 Tbs. Mexican vanilla
5 dashes each of nutmeg and cinnamon

I poured about 1/4 cup of the half and half into a small saucepan and added the rest of the ingredients, heating and stirring with a whisk until the stevia and maple syrup had dissolved. Then I combined that with the rest of the cream, poured it into a glass bottle, and popped it in the refrigerator. It took me about five minutes to make, so it's definitely something I can do on a regular basis. You could also make a larger batch so that it would last longer - I will probably do that next time, but I didn't want to waste my ingredients in case this turned out to be a flop.

The flavor is actually quite good - it surprised me, because I thought anything other than the "real" creamers (ironic, since just about everything in them is actually artificial!) would be a disappointment, but I can definitely drink this every morning without feeling deprived.

I included the maple syrup and spices to mask the tiny "whang" that sometimes comes along with using stevia, and it seemed to work, although you could probably leave out the maple syrup and substitute unsweetened almond milk if you wanted a truly sugar-free version. However, I'm okay with the tiny amount of sugar that the syrup and half and half add, and it's much less than the store-bought creamers have.

In the future, I may try to come up with some other flavors, but since I use French Vanilla most of the time, this will probably be my go-to recipe...

Enjoy!



7.02.2012

The List that Never Ends: #651-660


The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings! 

~Henry Ward Beecher


I am thanking God today...

# 651. ... for air conditioning on these crazy hot days!


# 652. ... for a fun "girls' night out" at the late movie and an after-midnight trip to Wal-Mart (always entertaining) with two of my sisters-in-law.

# 653. ... for beautiful (and free!) wildflowers for my table, found on my daily walk with Harvey...


# 654. ... for the fun of having all of my husband's family here for a few weeks.

# 655. ... that some friends' lives were spared during a fire in their apartment building yesterday (please keep them in your prayers, however... they, along with several other families, lost pretty much everything they own).

# 656. ... for the comic relief that pets (and kids, for that matter) provide during stressful times... for instance, we learned that Harvey has OCD this week when I realized that he was spitting out all of the round kibbles and only eating the triangular pieces from his food.... crazy dog. :o)


# 657. ... for an empty "to iron" basket (for the moment, at least!).

# 658. ... for progress made on a very big project.

# 659. ... for access to clean water.

# 660. ... for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and for the brave men and women who have fought to protect those freedoms.

Joining Ann today....