Book Review: Lark Cooking Wild in the Northwest

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Well, it is the month of love and people always say that love can often be shown through the food we serve one another. That is why I have chosen to focus on a cookbook for this week’s book review — and not just any ol’ cookbook, but one that speaks to me in more ways than one.

Lark — first off, I love the word. It ranks right up there for me with the word serendipity. When I looked up the word, its exact meaning is, according to Merriam-Webster,”a source of or a quest for amusement and adventure.” Well, now I see why I’m drawn to the word. Amusement, Adventure — and then pair that with food and I am off to the races with my imagination.

So, the restaurant, Lark, in Seattle holds a perfect name for me. Many years ago, I was so intrigued, I dined at this restaurant and was completely enchanted by its small space and plates that seemed to take my tastebuds on an adventure that evening.

Eventually, Lark moved into a new space and it is it still a grand restaurant in Seattle that I highly recommend to you. However, if you cannot make it out to this restaurant, this cookbook, Lark Cooking Wild in the Northwest is a wonderful book that captures not only their recipes, but how to make the most of our provisions in the Pacific NW.

There are three seasons of eating in the Pacific NW, according to Lark, and they include: Mist, from November to March, Evergreen, from April to July, and Bounty, from August to October. As you can guess, the names go with the themes of the season each year. The restaurant cooks within the seasons and the recipes encourage cooks to do the same.

The book itself takes me on an adventure through many favorite recipes that I have tried at this restaurant over the years — like the sun choke chips! Simple, crispy — yum!

There are so many cookbooks out there on the bookshelves, perhaps on your kitchen shelves, and this addition will make itself worthy by the recipes that will inspire you to cook with the seasons of the Pacific Northwest. Even the cover has me dreaming of the mysteries of this area.

A gorgeous book for a wild, adventurous, amusing palette — and there is always the restaurant as a back up too!

Book Review: The Book of Mistakes

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Does this look like a Mistake?

Do you feel like you are a work in progress? I know I do! And I think that is why I am drawn to this clever children’s book, The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. As you can imagine, there are not many words on any of the pages, just often the word “mistake.”

As the artist draws a splotch here and there, an eye too big, and a foot too large, with too much space between foot and sidewalk and more, the creative process unfolds in the drawing pointing out the mistakes. Yes, many mistakes.

And then something marvelous happens with all of those mistakes. Beauty, form, creativity, whimsy, a story full of hopes and imagination. What began as something wrong became right.

How many adults – let alone children – have little patience for any mistakes that we make? If it is not perfect from the start, why bother? I have come to realize that perfection is really rather boring and all that work to be boring is pretty arduous. But, ah! Mistakes. Mistakes take us to unknown places, create journeys we never intended to take, help us see something we never would have seen without the mistake.

Mistakes personify and embody life – the creative one and beyond. We often think we can read large non-fiction books about mistakes and figure out how to make peace with our mistakes and not make them in future.

Alternatively, you can turn to a book like this that names the mistakes during the creative process and courageously follows where they lead. Ah! A fresh take on making mistakes!

Book Review: All Are Welcome

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Yes You Are Welcome!

I was at a favorite independent bookstore the other day and look what I found? A wonderful children’s book titled, All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold with illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman.

With very few words on the page, this picture book packs a punch with its chorus line on each page, All Are Welcome, and the bright pictures of the children moving through their day from home to school and home again.

It’s a message that I resonate with today — and I particularly liked this passage:

We’re part of a community. Our strength is our diversity. A shelter from adversity.

Wow! Doesn’t that just say it all for all of us?

In a time when people are being divided by their differences, I am reassured to find this beautiful picture book with its simple message teaching the next generation where strength lies in community and reminding the adults to not fear, but to move in and embrace the other.

All Are Welcome Indeed in my practice and in my life.

Book Review: Girl, Woman, Other

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I joined a book club this year. It has been years since I have belonged to a book club where we meet on a regular basis to discuss a book. It feels like a novelty to return to now that grad school reading is over. I have to say I love to read and so it is wonderful to be in a group again that appreciates reading and discussing books.

We started off our little club with the book Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. This is a book that follows the lives of twelve black, British women and their unique stories. It is fiction, but the author covers many angles and stories of holding these intersecting identities in British society.

As one who is always looking at the ways that our unique identities see the world and how we find a place for ourselves, it was marvelous to read a fiction book that explored how twelve women did this for themselves in their lives.

Now, there are a lot of characters in this book and it can be difficult to keep track of them all, especially if listening to this book on audible. Further, it does feel at times like the author goes for more breadth rather than depth with her characters. Someone in our book group pointed out that it felt like the author had to check off the various identities that black, British women can hold and she had to cover them all. Many said they would have been sufficed with just a few characters with deeper stories.

As it is the author is trying to open the reader up to the many ways that black, British woman find their way through society. If you are interested in s vibrant, energetic voice that covers the topic of women embracing their unique intersecting identities and interacting with the other from their particular stance, then this is the book for you.

Excellent!

Book Review: Yes! What Would Jane Do?

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Ah, Jane Austen, A perennial favorite author of mine down through the ages. Do you feel the same way? Now here is a woman who could write the truths of life, across all important facets of life, and hit the “nail on the head” with her sharp wit and astute observations about people. Her writing has stood the test of time for generations and will continue to do so for the ages to come.

I was completely delighted when a friend gave me the little quotable book, What Would Jane Do? that seems to answer all of the questions to any of our thoughts and ideas of a given situation from money to men to relationships to social cues and beyond!

Love Austen’s Voice

This book is perfect for your bedside table or a coffee table so that you can turn to a page or two each day and hear Austen’s voice on any number of topics. A particularly favorite part of having a collection of quotable books is picking up the book and randomly turning to a page — I feel like this random act that falls open to a surprise page is exactly what I need to hear in that moment.

Austen then speaks directly to me. From there, I know what Jane would do and I may also have some guidance on what i should do!

Happy quotable book reading!

Book Review: Be More Yoda

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Be More Yoda

I feel like my holiday season was full of Yoda! First off, I met Baby Yoda – actually the character is known as “The Child” – on the new Disney show, Mandalorian. For me, he may be a child, but he looks like the grandson of Yoda — thus, he is Baby Yoda to me. He seemed to have the inklings of wisdom like his elders as well. How fun to watch the show and this character.

And then a friend gave me this book for the holiday season – Be More Yoda. In this little coffee table book, one can find all of the wisdom from Yoda, who encourages us all to be mindful in our thinking. I certainly could use these little bite-sized bits of wisdom that Baby Yoda already seems to be taking up.

It’s the usual fare of mindfulness, but done in Yoda fashion. He reminds us:

  • Be present
  • Don’t fear failure
  • Focus your mind
  • Play
  • Be yourself

Basic tenants of mindful living, but what a fun way to deliver the concepts, especially if you love Star Wars and Yoda most of all!

Be More Yoda Indeed!

Book Review: Forest Bathing

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Forest Bathing

A professor of mine mentioned one day that she was off on a Forest Bathing adventure with some friends one weekend last year. My ears immediately perked up! What is this Forest Bathing. I had no idea, but the idea sounded delightful.

Basically she explained that she did not know much about it either, but that she and her friends were going to the woods and be with the trees. So, she was not going to actually take a literal bath out there, but rather become immersed in the forest, i.e. in the natural world.

This idea was on my mind when I ran into this book:

Now here was an interesting book that seemed to know all about the subject. I bought it given all of my intrigue over the concept. First, it is a gorgeous book full of calm pictures of forests and trees that immediately relaxed me.

From there, I was amazed at the many different ways to be with the trees in nature, as well as how we bring ourselves to the forest. Much of the book incorporates meditations and mindful activities to practice when among the trees, which seeks to help people incorporate practices that will reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by sharing time with the natural world.

This may just be another gimmick in the realm of uber self-care practices, but I believe the notion of Forest Bathing can just allow us to be present to ourselves and nature when we are in it and also make it a priority to spend time there. I know for myself, I always feel rejuvenated to be on a hike in a forest – perhaps I will find more time in 2020 to Forest Bathe.

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas in Paris (Series)

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Mrs. Claus Recipe for Self Care Right Here

A whimsical tale to celebrate Christmas and its spirit. Betty Lou Phillips and Roblyn Herndon teamed up to give us a delightful tale of cheer revolving around Mrs. Claus, rather than Santa Claus.

Mrs. Claus takes off to Paris in this little book to shop and enjoy herself — and stays a little too long for Santa’s liking. After all, Christmas is upon us! He hails the first sleigh to Paris to find Mrs. Claus, who is enjoying herself above and beyond.

This little series of books — there is also one that takes place in New York City, is all about taking a beloved story and modernizing it for today. More for adults than for children, this is not a story that will last through the ages, but I am happy to see the emphasis shift to Mrs. Claus and her adventures before the big day.

In many ways, in these books she is at the height of taking care of herself during the busiest season of the year. When I read through these little books, it’s a reminder to take time for myself and do as Mrs. Claus does in these little charming books.

It’s a perfect moment to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday week. I hope you have some special books that you enjoy pulling out this time of year and enjoying the special messages of the season.

Merry Christmas!

Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge

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The Little Book of Hygge seemed to take America by storm a few years ago. In typical fashion, I just bought the book. I admit I am behind the fads, but I was still interested in how the Danes seek to secure their happiness. I have often noted in these world surveys of happiness, it is the Danes who are the happiest people on Earth. Wow! They must have some secrets in this Hygge lifestyle that I needed to know about.

So, what exactly is Hygge? Well, come to find out it’s simply the embrace of universal values that are lived out well by the Danes. Some of these values include:

  • Being with the people we love
  • Feeling safe
  • Embracing home
  • Access to the great outdoors too
  • Good design

The list can go on and on actually. It is not something that is unfamiliar to Americans in the least, but more difficult to secure for ourselves given the difficulty in balancing all that must be done by Americans to get through the every day with working as much as we do and keeping up with our busy family life.

What I appreciated was looking at all of these various elements through the lens of a different culture and country that allows for these universal values to flourish given much of what Americans have to spend time earning for themselves is given by the government – albeit the people are paying taxes for this support. Without having to scramble so much to work so hard there is more time for a hygge lifestyle to be embraced.

At the very least, we can observe ways that other cultures make room to care for themselves and create a happy life in their communities. Much of it is dependent on the time we have to create such an atmosphere, but even on a limited time and budget, finding ways to care well for ourselves and those we love is important. Whether it will always lead to a happy state strikes me as a fallacy, but, let’s face it, the author is trying to sell a bunch of books so he too can have more resources to enjoy more Hygge.

So, give it a browse — even if only at your local bookstore and take an idea or two that strikes you as interesting.

May the Hygge be with you! May we all create our own little Hygge!

Book Review: Snowflakes Pop-Up Book

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Pop-Up Snowflakes!

What is it about a good pop-up book?

Maybe you are thinking, “Pop-Ups? My kids read those when they were young. I’m long past those days.”

Maybe you are thinking, “Pop-Ups? I miss those fun books!”

Well, I have news for you — there are pop-up books that are not only for your kids, but also for you and maybe even your pet, if you live with a curious cat as I do.

This Snowflakes Pop-Up Book is a perfect example of a gorgeous pop-up that enchants with not only all of the hidden facts about the snowflakes, but the beauty of the snowflake cut outs that pop and delight page after page.

I pull my copy out each and every year and it gets point-of-pride placement on my coffee table in the living room. The cat comes over at least a few times and paws over the various images that pop off the page. It’s enchanting.

If you don’t have a lot of time to read the latest bestseller or even that pop fiction quick novel, a pop-up book can give you a sense of reading accomplishment. Not only that, but you have the chance to appreciate the images that delight.

I highly recommend any pop-up book, especially one like Snowflakes that transports me to a winter wonderland each time I read this book.