Thursday, June 30, 2016

European Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I got the chance to cook with some European Extra Virgin Olive Oil recently, and it sure was a treat. I do love good olive oil. One summer as a teen I visited a large farmers market in San Franscisco. At the time, olive oil meant the virtually tasteless substance my mom cooked with. Wandering around the market, we stopped at a booth that sold olive oils from all around Europe. We got to sample them all and I couldn't believe all the flavor differences. This was not my mom's grocery store olive oil, some were fruity and nutty while others grassy and herbal. This led to an appreciation for good quality olive oil and the European Extra Virgin hits the mark.   

So how do you find these products in the store? Because really, it doesn't much matter if you can't actually purchase them! You can also look for the European Union PDO certification (Protected Designation of Origin – also know as DOP in Italian) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication – also known as IGP in Italian). PDO certified products must be produced, processed and prepared in a specific region using traditional production methods and have the sensorial qualities attributed to that region. PGI is less strict and certifies that one stage of the process occurred in a specific region. Third party authorities constantly monitor these certifications.

 Look for the country or countries of origin on the label as well as best buy date and lot number. Some brands offer QR code technology so you trace the oil back to its source. Living in a very rural area I generally choose to purchase specialty things online. Use the same care and purchase from a trusted source.

A few tips for using quality olive oil--

- To ensure freshness, make sure you use it within 6 months
- Screw the cap on tight to protect against air.
- Store oil in a dark cool pantry away from heat and light, which causes decay. 57°F is the best temperature for storing and beware not to store your oil next to the stove (oops, I totally do this).

Did you know that-

-Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the freshly pressed juice of olives. It is cold pressed, meaning it is pressed without heat or chemicals. 
- Acidity must be below 0.8% or virtually free of acidity. This has nothing to do with the pH or taste, but the % oleic acid (fatty acid). Higher levels indicate improper production and rancidity. 
-Peroxide value must be below 20 millequivalents of oxygen/kilo of oil, which indicates the amount of oxidation or aging that’s occurred as a result of exposure to oxygen, light and heat. 
- A panel of expert tasters trained by the International Oil Council test for taste defects and the presence of positive attributes of fruitiness, bitterness and spiciness. If the oil doesn’t have the signature fruity taste and harmonious balance it won’t pass as extra virgin.

I used the olive oil to make a caramelized balsamic salad dressing. My garden is full of all sorts of great salad ingredients right now, so I added little gem lettuce, spinach, orach, snap peas, broccolini, a little bit of dill and some feta cheese (although a more assertive blue would have been better). This dressing was really great. I loved that you cooked with the olive oil and then also added it in uncooked at the end. The salad felt like a special lunch and would be great for dinner too. Salad dressings are one area where I always try to use my good oil. You can really taste it! My kids enjoyed comparing the European olive oil with some cheaper stuff I had around. It was obvious even to them which one had great flavor.

The recipe I used-- 

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Garden Update

Well, things in the garden have really started to mature. It is certainly looking different than last time I posted about it! These beds were made with logs by my husband a few years ago. It was very much a "well, we have these lying around, might as well use them" type of project... but it has turned out to be a great garden.

Peas, edible lupine, tomatoes

Zucchini, green onions, turnips, little gem lettuce, spinach (gone to seed), broccoli, grapefruit mint and pineapple sage

more tomatoes, beans, peppers, broccolini and a bunch of other stuff 

A lovely, vibrant calendula flower.

A super crowded bed with many volunteer plants. Poppies, roselle, money plant, zinnias, wonderberry, amaranth and a sweet little boy wearing an orange sweater ;)

ESV Journaling Bible from Crossway

So, we have talked about a few new styles of the Bible that have been published lately-- The ever lovely Beautiful Word Bible and the latest NKJV Full-Color Study Bible from Thomas Nelson. Both of which I have enjoyed and continued to use. Today I thought I would share about the ESV Jounaling Bible from Crossway.

Writing is, in large part, how I process my thoughts. Journaling and writing has been dear to me for years. Something about writing things down helps me solidify how I feel about things. I can erase, and erase again until I have the words just how I like. It is a big part of how I learn and remember things as well. If I write something down, I can almost always remember it. I read through old journals and am reminded of when I met my husband, our first baby, first house and so on.

So Bible journaling just makes sense to me. Writing is just one of the ways that I react and process God's word. I often write in my Bible, with teeny tiny letters, wherever they fit in the tight margins. I habitually keep a pen close by when I read and often leave it in my poor, abused Bible as a bookmark. There is always something I want to underline or mark. Having a Bible with designated writing space? Well, that just sounds like perfection.

And this Bible really is pretty perfect. When I was looking through Crossway's selection they all looked nice, but I was truly impressed when I received it. It comes in its own special case, which you can see the spine of in the first picture, near the middle. The cover is a soft material, almost suede like. When opened, it lays flat on the table-- which makes it very convenient to write in, as you're not constantly swatting the pages back.

My main complaint about the Beautiful Word Bible was that, while nice to look at, writing in it severely damaged the pages. All the pens I tried on it bled through the thin pages, making the text and art on the other side unreadable. I did not have that problem with this Bible. The cream colored pages held up well to use. They have a soft quality to them as well, which makes writing on them enjoyable.

I know that these things may seem a little nit-picky. A Bible is a Bible, and what matters most is His word. No matter the page quality, cover or margins. However, there is something very enjoyable about a well-crafted, quality Bible. I know that it will stand the test of time. I was thinking as I wrote in it, this is something I can pass onto my kids. It has an heirloom quality that means the binding isn't going to fall apart and it wont be held together with duct-tape in a few years.  

I am going to use this Bible to pray through the scriptures for my family. As I read through God's word, I plan to write personal prayers for my kids, husband, myself and our family as a whole. I'm also going to write different verses that stand out to me. I hope it's something that will bless my family and as I learn from God's word!

There are lots of ways to use a Bible like this. Record your own reflections and prayers or words from a pastor or teacher who inspires you. Use the margin to write how God is working in your life, how He is answering prayer or working on your heart. One idea that I had was to use it like a daily journal. As you read through the Bible daily, write down the things your family is doing and how God is working. This would be perfect to use for drawing, painting or making beautiful art on. However you use it, this Bible will not disappoint!

I received this Bible in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Read the World Summer Book Club

If you read my review last week of Give Your Child the World, you will recognize that bright blue book! To go along with the book there is a fun Read the World Summer Book Club! It starts this week. All you need to do is read at least one book from each region in the world mentioned in the book. There are also tons of free printables and other info available on the site!

I thought this would be a really fun way to gain some momentum reading these books. We picked up a few suggestions from the library and we are diving in! What are we reading?

-  A Cool Drink of Water by Barbara Kerley
-  Me in the Map by Joan Sweeney
-  The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
-  How to Bake Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

So far we have really enjoyed all the selections!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Give Your Child the World

We live in a really rural area. Outside a teeny-tiny town with only small towns around that. As far as culture goes... Well there just aren't many cultural experiences that are going to happen organically around us. I love this beautiful place that I live in, with its hay-fields and rivers. However, teaching my children about the cultures of the world is going to take some mindfulness on my part. That's why I was really excited about reading Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin.

Give your Child the World is all about igniting a deep love and compassion for the world through the basis of powerful stories. The first part of the book Jamie goes in depth over just how powerful a book can be. As a parent, I really struggle with how to practically tinder that love in my children for life, I love what Jamie says,
Jamie C. Martin"Thankfully, we have at our fingertips a miracle vaccine--one that can boost our children's immunity to the world's distractions and heaviness. Story. Well chosen stories connect us with others, even those on the other side of the globe. Build your kids' lives on a story solid foundation and you'll give them armor to shield themselves from the world's cynicism. You'll give them confidence to perserve in the face of life's conflicts. You'll give them a reservoir of compassion that spills over into a lifetime of love and action. (p.18)" 

So, good stories are powerful. But luckily Jamie doesn't leave us there. Besides the book list, she offers some practical, easy and cheap ways to bring the cultures that interest us into our homes. Her ideas range from using maps to trying ethnic foods. The book itself is laced with grace, Jamie continually encourages the reader to start where they are and not get downtrodden with guilt.

 The rest of the book serves as a gigantic reading list of curated books to inspire. This treasury includes over 600 children's book recommendations. Within the reading list you will find the books organized by region, country, and age range (ages 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 and 10-12). Each book on the list has a description as well as a disclaimer of any content the parent should be aware of.

I love our local library, but if I'm not prepared the children's section is basically a guessing game. I pull a book out, one in a million, and hope it looks okay. All the while trying to keep a baby happy and two young children from going crazy. I get less and less picky as our civilized behavior runs thin. I love that I can grab this book, get online and check what titles my library has and then pick them up. Then I can let my kids find a few "special titles", knowing I have some actual good reading for us too. Because last time we were at the library my son chose Managing Toxic Waste- Issues For the 90's and you better believe he wanted it read as a bedtime story.

I also love the play on words in the title. So many parents want to give their child the world in a material sense. They want their children to have everything they might desire. This book is all about giving your child a heart for the world so that they can then give back.

I'm just dipping my toe into subjects like this. I'm only at the start of my homeschool and parenting journey. Sometimes I feel incredibly lost and overwhelmed as to how I am suppose to do all this. I know my main goals but I feel like I'm stumbling in the dark as to how to practically get there. Then a resource comes along, a book or a podcast, and it excites me so much. I'm really thankful for other moms like Jamie, Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mackenzie. Jamie has done such a wonderful and thorough job with this book. I am excited to incorporate her ideas and list into our families life.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review

Monday, June 13, 2016

NKJV Study Bible

So, you might have noticed- there are a lot of translations of the Bible out there, and many styles as well. From your classic text on tissue thin pages to new styles with wide margins and illustrated verses. Personally, when I pull out my Bible, I choose to use my NKJV study Bible. I got it years ago when I began Bible college and it feels like an old friend. The cover is held on with packing tape and there are multiple pages splashed with coffee.

The newest imprint of the NKJV Study Bible from Thomas Nelson features some updated design. This Bible is marketed as "personal size". Basically, it's super thick but a little smaller all around. I love the full color pages, something my other Bible didn't have. There are maps, Bible-land photos and all sorts of different graphics that enhance your learning. Every thing under the red line in the above photo is study-notes. Obviously, I haven't read through every note yet, but the ones I have read have been helpful. The blue-ish grey boxes are reference notes.

The pages are thin, like any Bible, but they don't feel flimsy or like they will tear easily. I generally underline and write in margins with a pen. It's important to me that the writing doesn't impair my reading of the text on the other side of the page. With this Bible, I was able to underline and write with only very faint marks appearing on the flip-side of the page. It opens fairly easily and doesn't feel super tight or stiff. It may seem picky, but I hate when I lay a Bible in my lap and it keeps trying to close on me. The writing is pretty little, but not bad for such a small Bible.

My only real problem with this Bible is the flimsiness of the cover. It's just not very thick or substantial. I'm afraid it probably wont hold up over frequent use. There are a lot of other soft-cover options out there, I wish they had chosen one that was thicker.

Overall I am pretty happy with the quality of the notes, images and pages of this Bible. And of course, you just can't beat the content ;)

I received this Bible in exchange for my honest review   

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Every year I forego the traditional New Years resolution in favor of something a little different. I make a goal to learn one new skill. In past years I have learned to knit, crochet, sew, save seeds in the garden and this year I decided to focus on calligraphy. I have been practicing with this worksheet set from The Postman's Knock. It's been a lot of fun and a lot more challenging than I anticipated!

 I love the modern style that has become so popular in resent years, but the classic italic lettering is gorgeous too. If you are looking to learn the basics of the italic alphabet, Simply Calligraphy by Judy Detrick is an excellent resource.

This basic guild walks the beginner calligrapher through lower and uppercase letters as well as number and flourishes. You can learn all about what supplies are necessary as well as numerous tips and tricks for advancing your skills.

I found it easy to follow with clear and concise instructions. It is very simple though. I didn't feel like it offered any new information that I hadn't already read in my online research. Certainly, it is always nice to have that information in book form at your finger tips. This would make a really fun present with some of the supplies mentioned in the book!

The book itself is softcover with beautiful gold lettering. The cover isn't as sturdy as I would have like to have seen and is prone to warping and bending. Other than that though, it's a lovely beginners guild.

I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.