Tuesday, September 30, 2014

31 Days of Blogging: I'm Committing!

31 Days of Gracefully Aging
My blog has been rather hit-or-miss lately...mostly miss.  But today I came across a challenge that will force compel me to blog faithfully, at least for 31 days.

It's called simply "31 days," and it's a challenge to write on one topic in your blog every day in the month of October.

The topic I've chosen is:

Gracefully Aging

I'm on the far side of my 50's...so much so that I can see that big 60 milestone looming in the not-too-distant future.

A while back, I determined to be the best "woman of a certain age" that I can be.  My blog will focus on making the aging experience as beautiful as possible...not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well.

I plan to include, not only tips and advice from experts, but profiles of some of the gracefully-aging women that inspire me most.

Also, plenty of encouragement for those who, like me, want to believe that loveliness is not necessarily a quality that belongs only to the young!

Here's hoping for a successful month of blogging!

Here's a list of each post as it becomes available:

Day One: Modeling Joy

Day 2: Is there an expiration date on beauty?

Day 3: What about cosmetic surgery?

Day 4: Role models! My sister Beverly

Day 5: Wise Words

Day 6:  To gray or not to gray?

Day 7: Role models! Marie-Therese of The French Touch

Day 8:  Using health and fitness to defy your age

Day 9: YouTuber Miss Tammy

Day 10: Hair--The Long and Short of It

Day 11: Charla Krupp's How Not to Look Old

Day 12: Wise Words

Day 13: The Anti-Aging Serum that's Freely Available

Day 14: Blogs! 40+Style

Day 15: Makeup--Is Less More?

Day 16:  A Responsibility to Mentor

Day 17:  A Responsibility to Mentor Part 2

Day 18: Christie Brinkley's Anti-Aging Tips

Day 19:  Wise Words

Day 20: Blogs! Pam of OverFiftyFeeling40

Day 21: Our Aging Parents

Day 22: Our Aging Parents Part 2

Day 23: A makeup tutorial for mature women

Day 24: The Joy of Grandparenting

Day 25: Judy Chapman of Modern and Mature

Day 26:  Great Quotes about Aging Well

Day 27: Losing a Parent

Day 28: Living in an Empty Nest

Day 29: Blogs! Patti of Not Dead Yet Style

Day 30: Helen Mirren

Day 31:  I Did It!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Best. Pancakes. EVER.

These are the pancakes I used to make for my kids on Saturday mornings when they were growing up.  I haven't made them in years, and had forgotten how ridiculously good they are until I made them for myself this morning!

(Unfortunately, I can't make them for my half-Swedish husband, as he will only eat Swedish pancakes.)

Anyhoo...if I remember correctly, this recipe was given to me by my co-worker Irma years ago.  I believe there's one that's very similar in the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

You probably have everything you need on hand to make these yummy pancakes. (Except maybe buttermilk, but you can take care of that by putting a tablespoon of vinegar in the milk.)

I found the recipe I had given my mom in some of her things this past week.  She usually doubled the recipe, and that is very easily done.

As is, it makes about 9 medium pancakes.

I promise you, it's worth the little extra time to forgo a mix and make these from scratch!

Favorite Pancakes

-1 egg
-1 cup buttermilk (or add a tablespoon of vinegar to regular milk)
-2 T. vegetable oil
-1 c. flour
-1 T. sugar
-1 t. baking powder
-1/2 t. baking soda
-1/2 t. salt

Beat egg.  Add remaining ingredients in order listed and beat with whisk until smooth.
Grease heated griddle if necessary. Pour batter from tip of large spoon onto hot griddle.
Turn pancakes as soon as they are puffed and full of bubbles. Cook on other side until golden brown.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Oh, and the next time I make pancakes for my grandkids, this is what I'm going to do (found this cute picture on the internet):

photo credit: "your healthy world

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My love affair with biking

When my husband told me he was going to buy me a used bicycle, my response was "Don't waste your money!"

Frankly, I had no desire to ride a bike.  It has been more years that I would care to count since I had been adept at riding one (think: childhood), and I was more than a little scared of  how my not-so-graceful adult self would fare on a bicycle.\

Thankfully, he ignored me.

And I'm so glad he did...because this little mama has been the source of an enormous amount of fun, relaxation, exercise, and re-discovering one of the purest and simplest joys of childhood.

"It's just like riding a bike...you never forget how!"

Mmm-hmm. I'm sure you've heard that little saying before.

Well, yes and no.  The truth is...while your body remembers how to balance itself on a bicycle...this grown-up and significantly larger body had a hard time remembering just how to maneuver the contraption with confidence.

My first bike ride, together with my husband, was a disaster.

He had already been riding for several weeks, and even at its worst, his strength and endurance is way above mine.  And he's a natural athlete.  I'm...NOT.

It was one of the worst 55 minutes of my life.  I thought I was going to die.  And I was horribly clumsy and awkward...I kept thinking how my kids would have thought it was hilarious (they're not mean-spirited, but they enjoy ogling a train wreck as much as the next person.)

Practice makes perfect

I was ready to give up after that first awful ride.  But I didn't.  I purposed to take a short spin around my neighborhood every day until I had more confidence.  And you know what?  I finally did!

Riding my bike has brought me so much enjoyment this past summer.  Besides giving me much-needed exercise, it has helped me get in touch with and really appreciate beautiful parts of my city, like the ones depicted here, up close and personal.

Living in Northern Illinois, the day will come when I'll have to park my bike for a long hiatus.  I'll be sad when that happens...but I'll look forward to springtime and the first time I can take my trusty little blue friend for a spin again!

I took this one underneath "Symbol," a large metal sculputre that's supposed to be symbolic of our city.

The Sinnissippi Recreation Path, where I did the majority of my biking this summer

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Son of Hamas" Revisited: A New Documentary about an amazing book

A while back, I reviewed the book "Son of Hamas" on my book blog, Cindy's Book Club.

Now, Tyndale House informs me that there is now a documentary based on the book.  "The Green Prince" premiered September 12th in New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles, to "amazing reviews."

Scroll down for a trailer of the film.

But first, here's my review of the book:

It's rare that I step away from my beloved fiction to read a nonfiction book. Most often it's a biography.

Indeed, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices is autobiographical, but it's a radical reading departure for me.

The Middle East and me

My life has been somewhat connected with the Middle East since I was a child and my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon.

My brother was born just a couple of weeks after my family was evacuated from Lebanon during the Six Day War in June of 1967.

(Ironically, my brother grew up to serve as a US Marine during the Gulf War, then as a contractor helping train Iraqi police and working alongside the military in Afghanistan.)

Just as I will never forget the beauty of the short time I spent in Lebanon, my heart is saddened at the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the region.

I guess those are the reasons I picked up Son of Hamas. I was intrigued by this story of the son of a founder and leader of West Bank terrorist organization Hamas.

Mosab Hassan Yousef

This from the book's website:

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader.

Son of Hamas was not an easy read for me. I sometimes felt as if I were reading a history book and that I needed to focus to keep track of the various terrorist organizations and events, which sometimes seemed to run together.

But I wanted to read this book. My brother once shamed me because I couldn't name all the major terrorist organizations off the top of my head, despite the fact that I've worked in radio news for years.

I wanted to educate myself and delve into the inner workings of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Since Mosab ended up collaborating with Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet for several years, I was definitely able to do that.

Mosab characterizes his father as a kind, humble, devout man who mostly cared about the welfare of his people. However, it became increasingly hard for Mosab to reconcile his father's gentleness--the man literally was unable to kill a bug!--with a person who would encourage and countenance the killing of thousands of innocent people in the name of Allah.

The remarkable power of God's Word

The ultimate reward for sticking with this gripping and violent book was a revelation. I've always known this, but it's still amazing to see it illustrated so vividly: God's Word has the power to dramatically change lives and situations.

At one point, Mosab is invited to a Bible study by a British missionary. As he's always been open to learning about other religions, he decides to go, sort of on a lark.

To his surprise, he really enjoys it. He's given a New Testament, and since gifts are precious in the Arab culture, he reads it.

Writes Mosab:

"I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope.
Then I read this: 'You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy,' but I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"(Matthew 5:43-45).

That was it! I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before I heard anything like this, but I knew this was the message I had been searching for all my life......."

There was no Damascus Road experience, but Mosab is ever more drawn to the God of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and eventually converts to Christianity.

I won't tell you anything else about the book, in case you decide to read it for yourself. If, like me, you're used to the entertainment of fiction, it may at times be a difficult read. But it's a remarkable one that will stay with you long after you close the book.

Trailer for "The Green Prince"

Find out more about "The Green Prince"  here

Thursday, September 11, 2014

15 Books That Will Always Stick With Me

I noticed something that's been going around Facebook recently.  People are "tagged" to list the books that have stayed with them, or stuck with them.

No one has tagged me on this, but I recalled that a few years ago I actually blogged about my own list.  So, ta-da!  Here it is again.

(I almost didn't list the Bible, because it's really in a category all its own, but no list of "books that stayed with me" is complete without it.)

1. The Holy Bible

 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

It's a living thing.  It's unlike any other book that has ever written or ever will be.  

And now to ordinary, man-made books:

2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte--After loving this book almost all my life, I finally wrote a review of it here.   It's not "the mother of all gothic novels" for nothing. It has everything: romance, mystery, suspense, a dangerously attractive love interest and a heroine we admire and care about.

3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte--Heathcliff is the ultimate bad boy that you can't help falling a little in love with (although, as I've matured, I see him much more as a villain than as a romantic figure.) Windswept moors, sobbing heroines--it's a mess, but you can't help being captivated.

4. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot--The gut-wrenching true story of  missionaries killed while trying to give the gospel to a remote tribe.  Written by the remarkable widow of  one of the missionaries.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis---technically more than one book. (My favorite is probably "The Silver Chair")--I was avidly reading these books as a child, many years before the movie hype came along, and probably before many of you were born! Still, I continue to re-read them about once a year.

6. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott--Introduced me to the joys of fiction when I was a very little girl. Now, as an adult, it seems a bit quaint-- but I still love it.

7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen--I've always loved the way Darcy and Elizabeth are inexorably drawn to each other throughout the book, despite ostensibly not being able to stand each other. And Elizabeth is one of the coolest heroines ever...feisty, funny and beautiful.

8. The Red Knights of Hy Brasil, by Christine Savery--This was a childhood favorite when I was a missionary kid in Beirut, Lebanon. I had lost it, but a few years ago I found a copy online, and yes, I do read it again occasionally. I also give this book at least partial credit for my lifelong obsession with Ireland, and desire to go there. I blogged here about finding the book after many years.

9. Not My Will, by Francena H. Arnold--I blogged about this book not too long ago here. Written many years ago, it still stands the test of time.

10. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers--Showed me how really excellent, top-notch and absorbing Christian fiction can be...and the message has been literally life-changing for some young women I know.

11. The Atonement Child, by Francine Rivers--What would you do if you were a Christian college student about to marry a star preacher-to-be---and you were raped by a stranger?  And you were pregnant?  Rivers handles this question with unflinching real-ness.

13.Wisdom Hunter, by Randall Arthur-- Probably the most brutally honest look at graceless Christianity to date. Combines a fascinating story with vital spiritual insights.

14. The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom--This true story of a Dutch woman imprisoned by the Nazis for helping Jews is an incredible portrait of faith and grace.

15. Auntie Robbo, by Anne Scott Moncrieff--Another childhood favorite that I've found and bought again online. I blogged about it here.

The list could go on...and on...and on!
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