Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds from ejfalke

Just popping in with a few great things I recently found on Pinterest.  We recently enjoyed some great family time at Yosemite National Park (which is only about 80 miles away now) viewing fall colors and filling up the nature bucket in my soul.

  • I swear, if I were in this library, I might curl up with a few good books and never leave.  Look at that view!  Especially if one of these rocking cushy chairs were in there.
  • And if I were in one of those chairs in that library, I might pick up some books by Alice Munro, this year’s Nobel laureate for literature.
  • Or maybe something more introspective. This list from Awesomely Awake has some books that I really want to check out.  If these look good to you, also check out Replenish by Lisa Grace Byrne (book review coming soon).
  • And more introspective can be found here with some fun autumn-inspired writing prompts to sink a little deeper into this wonderful season (which I know is a favorite for so many people).
  • And please, someone make me a grilled cheese sandwich with a waffle iron.

Let’s all go out for pumpkins and hot chocolate, no matter what the weather is like!  I hope everyone is having a great week!

P.S. Did any of you catch my first post on The Library Adventure when I reviewed The Folk Keeper?  What did you think?


Autumn Renewal

Autumn is here!  And big things have changed for my family.  Last week we moved down to the middle of the San Joaquin Valley of central California after three years in the North State.  It is a good change for us, but, as moving usually is, it has also brought a measure of upheaval that is finally settling down.  One thing that has settled into place is more dedicated writing time for me.  This is important because I have a couple new writing adventures going on.  The first is that I am now a regular contributor to a new blog, The Library Adventure (Facebook page)!  This is a really fun resource for book reviews for all ages, themed book lists, activities based on children’s books, and other information on using the library.  It’s a fantastic source and I am excited to be part of the team.  I’ll be reviewing books for middle school kids each month.  Go check it out!

Speaking of books, here’s what I’ve been reading over the last few months.  It’s not a lot because things have been a little crazy.

  • You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins: Good encouragement for anyone who fancies writing but is intimidated by, well, being a writer.
  • Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer (her teenage daughter!): Super fun YA fractured fairytale.  I love that it was Picoult’s daughter’s idea and they wrote it together.
  • True Christian Motherhood by June Fuentes: Simple e-book with Biblical motherhood encouragement.
  • Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum: Gut-wrenching Holocaust-era/present-day novel.  Terribly sad.  Terribly, terribly sad.
  • When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke: Re-reading a feel-good fave.  Young teacher moves out to the Canadian frontier, falls in love with a Mountie, what’s not to love?
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Fascinating story combining magic and it’s effect on real-world pain.

Happy Fall, y’all!

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds This Week


I thought Friday would be a good day to post some of the favorite things I’ve found this week online.


Reading in 2013 (Jan.–July)


I made a goal to read 20 books in 2013, and I’m there!  My Kindle Paperwhite has really made it a lot easier to read because of the built-in light.  I gained some hours of reading that previously were lost – waiting for Little Bird to fall asleep or long nighttime drives.  The e-reader is such an awesome invention.  I held off on getting one for a long time, considering myself a book purist, but once I did get one I was hooked.  Carrying a lot of different books, being able to categorize them, ease of page-turning, auto-bookmarking…it’s all great.  {I even prefer it to books in most cases…Sitting by the pool with my kids is not one of them.}

I thought I would share what I’ve been reading this year.  I’m going to split my list into things that I’ve re-read this year, novels, and non-fiction/e-books.

What I’ve been re-reading (because some books you just need to read more than once):

  • Harry Potter 4, 5, 6, and 7 – When Amazon announced that the Harry Potter series would be available as part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, I was so thrilled.  Each month I would download the next Harry Potter and read it in a few days at the beginning and then wait all month to be able to read the next one.  This is a really fantastic series (if, for some reason, you haven’t read it), and I loved it all over again.


  • A Study in Scarlett, The Sign of the Four, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I love the new BBC adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, so I thought the best way to wait out the break between seasons was to read the original stories.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – A young couple moves out to a lighthouse 1000 miles off the Australian coast, hoping to start a family.  Tragedy strikes, and decisions are made and regretted.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  Beautifully written.
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – A group of distinguished guests, including a family opera singer, are taken hostage by a militant group in a developing nation.  Lovely story about the power of music and shared trials.  Loved it until the very end.  I’m talking the epilogue.  Too weird of a twist for me.
  • Serendipity by Louise Schaffer – A generational story about the dissonance that often occurs between mothers and daughters and the pain that happens in the absence of communication.
  • Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult – This Picoult novel explores the controversy surrounding ending life support when the victim has virtually no chance of recovery.  Interesting side notes into understanding wolf relationships.  A definitely page-turner.
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen – Historical fiction exploring the life of Mary Bowswer, a real Civil War Union spy who voluntarily gave up her freedom to spy on Jefferson Davis as a slave in his house.  Very interesting read.
  • The Sisterhood by Helen Bryant – Weaves together history surrounding an ancient convent in Spain, another convent in South America, and the present day.  Loved the premise and most of the story, but there were too many gaps in the storyline for me to really like it after I was finished.  I was disappointed because some important things weren’t resolved.  It is available through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.


  • It Takes a Parent to Raise a Child: 9 Principles for Families to Love and Live By by Glen C. Griffin – I really liked this parenting book.  It’s pretty basic stuff, but reading the basic stuff always helps me regain a big picture on the whole family and parenting thing.
  • Embracing Beauty by Trina Holden – I liked the biblical perspectives on making ourselves beautiful, and there was a great piece of advice on finding personal neutrals, which was helpful to me now that I am re-doing my whole wardrobe.
  • The No-Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley Morgan – Another good book for someone trying to streamline their closet.  Goes into detail for the specific pieces you should own as well as what works for different body types.
  • 5 Minute Reading Tricks: for raising rockstar readers by Amy Mascott – Great short tips on increasing literacy.  This is one that I want to print out and be able to flip through to apply to my littles and our home culture of literacy.
  • Honoring the Rhythm of Rest by Daniele Evans – A short e-book about the importance of finding down time.  Quick and inspirational.
  • Frumps to Pumps by Sarah Mae – Most applicable to those who struggle with making getting dressed in real clothes part of their routine, which I don’t have a problem with personally.
  • The Homemaker’s Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule by Amy Roberts – This e-book has good information on developing a family routine or rhythm (and the difference between the two), which is something I always feel like is lacking in my home, so I am working on following the advice on starting where we are and not necessarily trying to impose some schedule ex nihilo.
  • The Playful Family by Shawn Ledington Fink – Great ideas emphasizing the importance of loosening up your mood as a parent and, consequently, the atmosphere in your home.  It connects well with It Takes a Parent because one of those principles is making your home a happy place to be.  I really liked the part on saying “yes” more often.
  • The Family Camping Handbook by Katie Kimball – Inspiring a love of nature in my kids is very important to me, and so we hope to spend more time camping as a family in the future.  I read this right before our recent campout and there is some information in here that makes camping-specifically camping preparation-a lot more organized and less stressful.  It also has a lot of good information on making healthier versions of classic camping food.

What have you read this year?  Do you like to read e-books?

Weight Loss

Summer SlimDown Update

7.17It’s been 10 weeks since I started the Take Shape for Life program, and there are two weeks to go until the 90-day Summer SlimDown is over.  (That doesn’t mean I’m done with the program or done losing weight, that’s just the weight loss competition I joined.)  I’m down about 30 pounds so far.  {And 50 pounds for the year…I lost about 20 pounds on my own before beginning the program.}  Over the year I’ve gone from a size 18-20 pant size to a size 10 now.  (I was at a comfy size 16 when I started the program.)  I’ve gone from XL and XXL shirts to medium and large.

What has amazed me from the beginning is how good I feel.  The program uses Medifast foods which are protein-carbohydrate balanced, and you eat six small meals throughout the day.  Aside from the typical carb cravings in the very beginning, I haven’t been hungry and I haven’t felt any of the after-effects of food that are all too common – being tired from eating a carb-heavy lunch or feeling stuffed enough to be sick for example.

Because my husband has been doing the program, too (and he’s my health coach), I’ve of course had a lot of support on the home front, and I haven’t really felt denied, either.  Until I came out to my parents’ house for a vacation.  Then all the feelings of denial started to really hit me, and I will confess to totally blowing myself out of my fat-burning state Monday night at Chili’s.  It was purposeful and mindful indulgence and I enjoyed every.single.bite.

But you know what?  I set the “cheating” bar rather high with that taco pizza and molten chocolate cake.  Now when I see the sugar cookies (you know, the super soft ones with the brightly-colored, super sweet frosting?) or the rolls, I just remember that gooey chocolate cake and I think, “Eh, I could do better,” and the temptation goes away.  I’m not advocating this as a good idea, but hey, it’s worked for me.  At least for now.  {wink wink}

The competition might only have a couple more weeks, but the road is far from being over.  My original weight goal is a little less than 20 pounds away, but my birthday is in early September, and I want some cake, so we’ll see.  Another great thing about this program – going along with the Habits of Health that we learn about and start to implement along the way – is the thorough transition period that helps you get back to eating non-Medifast food the right way.  So I’ll be well into autumn before I’m really done with this stage and on full maintenance.  It’s going to be exciting to start a new phase of my life, one that is healthier and not dependent on food for emotional release.

Any way you look at it, 2013 is truly going to be remembered as a year of monumental health changes for the better in the life of my little family.  Do you or someone you know want to make these kinds of changes?  We’d love to help.  Send me an email at ejfalke at gmail dot com and we’ll get you some information.


At Peace Among the Trees

Plinky prompt: Describe your first memorable experience exploring and spending time in nature. Were you in awe? Or were you not impressed? Would you rather spend time in the forest or the city?

If this prompt had said “the beach” or “the mountains” or “the wide open prairie,” it wouldn’t have had the impact on me that it did. But the forest. Yes, the forest. I would rather spend time in a forest than in a city or really anywhere else that I can think of. I am at peace among the trees.

My first memories of being is a forest is hiking with my dad when I was 12 years old. We were getting my new hiking boots prepped (and preparing myself in general) for Outdoor Lab – a week-long trip into the mountains for Colorado sixth-graders. We hiked an easy trail through a forest of lodgepole pines. It was my first real taste of being “in nature.” I love the heady smell of fresh pine trees to this day.

Lucky us, our week for Outdoor Lab was right before Christmas. Yes, above 10,000 feet in mid-December. It remains my only experience with thermal underwear. But amid the cold and the snow were night walks with a crystal clear sky above us. So far from city lights, the sky was filled – literally filled – with stars. It almost seemed like the lights outnumbered the dark places. The Milky Way stretched across the sky. Awe-inspiring to say the least. I’ve never seen the like in twenty years since then.

While I keep searching for an opportunity to spy the Milky Way again, I haven’t been far enough removed from light pollution to recreate that majesty. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in forests. Redwoods and pines and oaks, heights of branches and depths of undergrowth, old-growth and fire-charred, the trees are what I love most.

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The difference between knowing and, well, knowing

Side note: Whenever I think of Walt Whitman, I automatically call him Uncle Walt in my head because of the “barbaric yawp” scene from Dead Poets’ Society.  Anyone else do that?

I recently read a poem that really speaks to my heart.  It’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

I love the juxtaposition of the lecture hall—with its professor, the “learn’d astronomer,” his charts, diagrams, proofs, figures, and finally the applause he receives—and the silent majesty of the stars themselves.  In one, the poet has the opportunity to learn something about the stars through abstract and scientific means, and in the other he learns something through direct involvement with – getting out and looking at – the stars.

In so many things in life, we are like mere listeners at a lecture.  We think we can become knowledgeable about the world just by acquiring knowledge.  Of course, with some things our only option is to learn, and we should increase our knowledge no matter our circumstances.  However, how many times do we abstractly think about something – nature, cooking, art, literature, poetry, health, writing – and not dive into it?

I have over 50 boards and 4,000 “pins” on Pinterest.  I love Pinterest.  My most popular boards (to me) are currently my breakfast board, sweet recipes board, literacy and language board, and kid crafts and activities board.  I think Pinterest is great for obsessive organizers because you can organize pieces of information so neatly.  I like to peruse the things that I’ve pinned, and occasionally – only occasionally – do I dig out an idea and try it.  I will check out the numerous children’s book lists and find some to request from the library.  And I am collecting recipes to use for my {future} bread machine (because when I am off this eating program, I am getting a bread machine – and eating bread).  And it’s been useful to determine my real clothing style, since I’m in the process of replacing my entire wardrobe with 50 pounds lost so far this year.  But do I check out a lot more than that?  Not really.  Do I still spend a few minutes every day stashing away ideas on my boards?  Yes.  Am I alone in this?  {Pretty sure that’s a big Nope.}

All the extra information we have available in this day and age can make us feel like an expert in things that we’ve never really experienced.  Remember, “But I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night”?  But I think I need to be like the poet and leave the pin boards and the internet and the fountains of information in search of experience.  Try those recipes.  Hit the trails.  Put the words on paper (er, screen).  Search the books and the ideas behind the world’s greatest words for myself.  And yourself, if you have these tendencies as well.

Join me outside the lecture hall, looking at the stars.


Reflections on Putting on My Wedding Dress for the First Time in Years

wedding dress

This week I put on my wedding dress for the first time in many years.  I’m not sure I’ve tried it on in the last nearly eight years since I got married because for most of those eight years I knew I wouldn’t fit into it.  Now it fits.  But not the same way.  It served as a reminder of how my body has changed in the last eight years.  As my weight has fluctuated over the years with babies and binging and exercise and dieting, the dress showed me that my thighs are thinner and my chest is bigger than before.  Even though I’m at the same weight, the dress would still need to be either altered or exchanged for a different style in order to be worthy of such a special event.

But being a wife and a mother has made its mark on me in more ways than just a larger bra size and stretch marks.  I’ve changed in the process.  I’ve learned more about who I am and what I should be focusing on in my life. 

Relinquishing single status made me aware of the fact that I need time to myself to gather energy up.  I love my husband more than anyone else, but I can’t spend all day with him every day.  I love my kids, but I need to get away from them, too, sometimes.  I have to turn off all the noise and just be quiet and still sometimes, with a book or with my knitting needles or just wandering around a store with no purpose except to clear my head.

I’ve become more patient, not just with family members, but with other people you come in contact with in daily life.  The slow check-out line, the rude driver, the people you are counting on to do something that don’t do it, the constant preschooler questions, the toddler that is into everything…things are easier to handle and annoyances easier to brush aside while I continue to move forward.

I discovered a strong need to delve into big ideas expressed in excellent literature.  I spent a few pivotal weeks over two summers attending the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture’s Teachers Academy.  Six weeks, each day discussing literature for its merit and for its application to society and life.  I’ve gone back to various lectures and presented at the annual alumni symposium three times since then, and those times help illuminate parts of my brain that grow a little dim in the day-to-day focus on cleaning, cooking, and childcare.  What I’m working on now is keeping that from getting dim in the first place.

While marriage and motherhood haven’t been the easiest road (is it for anyone?), it’s been a joy to walk, and I generally like the way I’ve ended up in the process.  I’m grateful for the way the years have opened my eyes to truly see myself, and to smile back at the woman I see.


Little Bird is four years old!

Little Bird is 4!

Excitement, art projects, and cake batter pancakes. Happy Birthday!

It is so hard to believe that my beautiful Little Bird is four years old today!  She has brought so much sparkle and light to my life since she made me a mother four years ago today.  She has been enjoying her artistic passion today in the form of new supplies and a trip to the local paint-it-yourself ceramic studio, where she chose a piggy bank that was painted green and pink and yellow.   She loves to make art.  She can color and draw and then cut things out and glue them down on other paper all day long.  She recently turned our extra bedroom into her own “art museum” where she taped up some of her recent work.  She has always been a girly girl who loves dresses, skirts, and the color pink.  She loves to snuggle and give kisses.  She loves preschool and going swimming at the gym.  At this point in time, Little Bear is usually a pest to keep away from her art projects (I don’t blame her…that kid is into everything!), but they do have their sweet moments together.  I am looking forward to watching her continue to grow and learn as we spend our days together!

Weight Loss

The “W” Word

I’m talking about weight.  Not a nice word to far too many women (and men).  A concept that for most of my life  has been wrapped up with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.  I’ve gained, lost, and gained again.  Each time the number on the scale got a little bigger I would hope that that’s as large as it would ever get.  But it kept creeping.  I topped out around 220 right before I had Little Bear a year ago.  Then I hung out around 200 – my pre-pregnancy weight – for the better part of a year. 

At the beginning of this year, Doug and I decided to take control of our weight for good.  He started the Take Shape for Life program in mid-January and is currently down almost 80 pounds.  He has really made some amazing changes, and he is an inspiration to me and to a lot of people that he is now coaching through Take Shape for Life.  I’ve been counting calories and increasing my exercise and in the same amount of time I’ve lost a little over 20 pounds.  I officially start TSFL tomorrow, and I hope to be down another 45 pounds by the end of summer.

I have a lot of reasons for doing this.  I want to be more healthy and active for my kids’ sakes – particularly for the time that I am able to get pregnant again.  I want to reinvent my style through replacing my wardrobe.  I want to be more comfortable in my skin and more content when I look in the mirror.  There are some things to be said for accepting yourself and loving your current shape, and I believe that.  However, when where you are and where you should be according to the BMI scale are as vastly different as they are for me, I think a bigger change is in order.  At this time in my life, I want to be – and I’m ready to sacrifice in order to be – a success story.

If you want more information on how I’m doing this, check out The Shape of Health.