Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

The Good Earth (House of Earth, #1)The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easy to see why this is considered a classic. Written in an older style (since it is early 20th century) and character driven, but with a plot that follows it throughout - the place of the land in the life of Wang-Lung and what will happen to it and him.

Yet another book that shows that truth is "written on our hearts" even when Bible principles are not part of a culture. Wang Lung's life had struggles but was going well until he takes a prostitute in his home. The principle remains - we reap what we sow, and Wang Lung did just that. Many unfortunate incidents in this book, mostly due to the choices of the characters. There are objectionable elements but they are handled without being gratuitous or explicit.

I enjoyed Pearl Buck's writing style, but I appreciate books with understated plots and greater character development. I also enjoyed this because of having read one of her short stories in the past ("The Frill") with my sophomore literature students, which also reveals great details of the people and their lives. She obviously intimately knew the culture about which she was writing. I found this book to be a learning experience as much as an entertaining one.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday's Fave Five 7-3-2020

 LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

I haven't done FFF for awhile.  Most of it can be related back to my busy-ness with the first thing on my list:

1. Blueberries.  Blueberries.  Blueberries.  Blueberries.  Blueberries.
We have a dozen blueberry bushes on our farm.  The season was over before we closed on the property last summer, so we didn't know what we were in for.  So far we have gotten over 30 GALLONS of berries!  This past Monday Mike and I picked 6 gallons, just the two of us!! That is about 6 hours worth of picking.  I've put 50 pints in the freezer, given away bags and bags, and made everything I know that includes blueberries and is low-carb (as well as a few things that are not).  My entire month of June has been filled with blueberries.  I'm not complaining.

2. A beautiful arrangement of hydrangeas from my neighbor.  She was so kind to bring it by.  She's the manager of one of our favorite restaurants, and if one of us is having a birthday, or sometimes for no reason at all, she'll send us a free appetizer or dessert.  The restaurant has not yet opened back up, so she's bringing things like this bouquet from her yard.  Very kind.

3. More fresh produce.  (Notice the. . .blueberries. . .in the back of the picture.)  Some of this was given to us; some I got at our farmers' market.  Either way, it's the best time of the year for eating.

4. Aldi's.  I stopped by there this morning.  I can get stevia, almond flour, etc., there for MUCH less $$ than the other stores.  I really appreciate having one close by.

5. Finally - 35 years of marriage.  We celebrated on Monday by. . . picking blueberries.  :-)  We aren't going to take a trip of any kind right now - at least no trip is in the plans - but I hope to in the future.  We did go out to a nice restaurant Monday night and get a lovely meal.   Not the most romantic of pictures below, but it will do.  :-)  I think I'll keep him, especially since the warranty has run out.  :-)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


I researched and fertilized the blueberry bushes at our farm in mid-March.  In mid-April, this is what we saw.

 Mike sent me this picture on June 1.

And here I am the next day.  I got about a half a gallon of berries that day.

I picked again at the end of last week.  And these pics are from yesterday.  The bushes were loaded.  Two gallons of berries were ripe.  They took a couple of hours to get picked.

And the bushes are still loaded with unripe and ripening berries.  I know what I'll be doing the next few weeks.  I plan to keep a count to see how many total gallons we get.  So far we're at 3 1/2.

Monday, May 25, 2020

In Manchuria

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural ChinaIn Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China by Michael Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a riveting book, written about the northeastern part of China known as Manchuria, an area which is not usually written about as much as more southern parts. Manchuria was, however, prominent in the pre-WWII and WWII days, due to the Japanese invasion of China which occurred in that part of the country. I have a special interest in this due to my son's having spent two years very near the village written about in this book; also, several of the things about the culture I observed during my three-week visit there in 2014.

Meyer has tremendous first-hand knowledge, both from his personal experiences and from being married to a Chinese woman who grew up in Wasteland, the village that is the focus of the book. He weaves his personal story with the intricate history of the area. The Japanese influence there caused much bitterness among the older people; the societal changes currently being imposed upon them are causing them much frustration.

This book is full of insight into the specific people with whom Meyer interacted. I could not read too much at once because it was so deep and intertwined. I gave it a 4 only because the book at times got so complex that it was difficult to follow. However, In Manchuria is well worth the reader's time and will give much knowledge about a lesser known area of China that has its own individual history. And Meyer weaves a great story about the people with whom he lived.

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Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday's Fave Five, 4-17-2020

LINK to Friday's Fave Five Host Blog

1. Strawberries are in!!  Mike surprised me with a gallon of fresh ones a few days ago.  I made one of our strawberry cheesecake pies on a pecan crust and it was so good and spring-like.

2. Progress at the farm.  Mike has been down there every day this week, for 8-10 hour days.  He's putting in a gravel walkway and we've had dirt delivered for the foundation of the tractor barn.  That's in addition to several other issues that are being taken care of.  He's been a busy man, but he loves it.  Yesterday I finished all my on-line work by lunchtime, but had several things to do that didn't require internet.  So I ran a couple of errands, went down to the farm, set up a table on the new deck, and got my work done there, watching all the goings-on, and enjoying the beautiful weather.  It was a lovely afternoon.

3. A new lunch idea.  One of the things I'm not supposed to have is pizza - that crust is loaded with carbs.  I've occasionally had it by eating very little crust and mostly eating the toppings.  However, this occurred to me the other day.  These crusts are carb balance tortillas, and the pizza sauce is very low in sugar.  (I didn't know there was such a difference in sugar content of pizza sauces - this is Ragu Hearty.)  Mushroom topping, would have included sausage had I had any browned, and mozzarella cheese.  Of course not as luxuriant as real pizza crust, but a passable substitute.

4. We have blueberries!  These are smaller than they appear, but if things go as planned, we will have more than enough in a few weeks when they ripen.

5. Confidence that our country may begin to open up again soon.  My friend Barbara mentioned prayer for our leaders in her FFF, and I agree with her that they need prayer for great wisdom in this difficult time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Sweet Note

This is from our former neighbor, who moved away at Christmas with his family to an assistant pastorship in Michigan (their dad was also the youth pastor at our church).  I love this young man (2nd grade) and his two siblings.  When we would drive down our street, if the children were playing in the yard, they would run up to our car (if we had time to stop) to get a hug.  In the past year, their mom would occasionally let them walk up to our house to visit.  I usually knew who it was when I heard the front doorbell ring!  

I found this treasured note once again this morning.  I received it the last day of school before Christmas vacation.  Love the spelling of my name.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday's Fave Five 4-3-2020

 LINK to Friday's Fave Five Host Blog

1. A finished blanket.  Not sure where or to whom this is going to go, but it's done.  In one way the "wheels" of yarn with four or five colors on each one are nice to use because of not having to constantly change color.  But the downside is that the rows are not even.  I'm not bothered by having some stripes narrower than others, but I don't care for color changes in the middle of a stripe.  It's OK, but I think I've used enough of the yarn wheels for now.

2. Teaching by video.  I am well into the third week of teaching online.  I never realized how my organizational "happy place" was the five stacks of materials, one for each class, on the low bookcase right behind my desk.  Trying to stay organized here at home was quite an effort at first, and very overwhelming, surprisingly so.  But after learning to focus on one class at a time, this week has gone much better.

3. A deck!!  This is the beginning stages.  The tin roof has been replaced on the top, and the floor joists are all in, as well as half of the flooring.  Today the job is to be finished.  This is on the side of the cabin at the farm.  It will be wonderful to have a great place to relax and have meals.  Until now, the only place to have a meal or sit outdoors under a cover was the small stoop out the back door.  That was nice, but the evening sun was always in someone's eyes, and there was very little room to move around.  This is going to be a great solution.

Last Friday's beginning:

And the progress from today!!!
4. More time.  That is the small silver lining on this home-teaching social distancing.  I have never had much time in the spring; the spring break from school has always been somewhat of a marathon to get many things done before heading directly into the huge craziness of the end of the school year. So this has been really nice.  Yesterday I was able to go to the farm, get in the tree stand in the woods, and look for migrant birds (which I was unsuccessful at); then just be there for awhile in the afternoon.  Unheard of during a normal year.

5. The only bread I eat here at home is rye, because it is the lowest in carbs.  Well, with the current conditions in grocery stores, it is hit or miss to get it.  On Tuesday, our store was completely out of what we buy.  I went to another store. . .and got the last two loaves on the shelf.  That's the second time that's happened during this whole situation.  Since it's not really a matter of choice, but necessity, that I have to have that certain bread, I was very thankful to have gotten those loaves.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Low-Carb Chocolate Cheesecake

Everyone who tastes this raves over it.  It's one of those experiments that worked out - unlike the ones that are epic fails.

The crust is what makes it so, so good, although the filling is wonderful also.  So here goes - I hope this is just as good for anyone who tries it.

CRUST:  The proportions actually make too much for one pie plate.  I usually fill a pie plate with about 2/3 of the mixture, then put the rest in a smaller Pyrex pan which I later fill with another recipe of filling.

This is a variation on the great lemon cheesecake recipe sent by my cousin.  I like that one the way it is written - will post it sometime - but like this version also (even though I've made it more complicated).


1 1/2 cups pecans - measure and then chop fairly fine in food processor.
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup Stevia or your choice of sweetener
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash salt
Approx. 1/4 cup almond flour - may need a little more to make a good crust consistency.  If crust is too crumbly to easily pat into pan, you can add melted butter a tablespoon at a time.

Pat into a Pyrex pie pan and another smaller Pyrex or other baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  The smell coming from the oven will be wonderful.

FILLING for one pan:
1 8-oz. bar cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Chocolate Milk - No Sugar Added variety
1 package sugar free chocolate pudding mix
1/4 cup sweetener
1/2 cup cream or half and half
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together with an electric mixer.  This thickens very quickly.  Spread over crust.  Shave some dark chocolate over it if you desire - just a tiny bit, enough to look like a garnish.  Put in refrigerator for a couple of hours.

My husband cannot get enough of this.  He keeps saying - Are you SURE it's low-carb?  Yes, I'm sure.

I hope it's just as good for anyone who tries it.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday's Fave Five 3-27-20

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. I have survived a full week of on-line teaching.  It is somewhat intimidating.  Especially because we are a private school, I feel the need to really teach - not just give assignments and have the students return them to me.  So I've been making some short videos.  Two days ago I went in to the science lab, pulled out all my examples of metals and non-metals, and did demonstrations with them. It's a lot of work but satisfying in the end to feel that it's been a worthwhile process.

2. Last week I made a chocolate cheesecake that was completely low carb and that my husband and parents said did not taste low-carb at all.  In fact, the last two days, Mike has been asking me if I got another one made.  I think that is a hint.  :-)  I guess I will try to get busy today.  Maybe this time I will get a picture to post.  EDIT:  I got one made.  :-)

3. The upside to sheltering in place is that we are living a quieter life.  For the first time ever, I have enough time in the spring to enjoy the bird life that is most active in this season.  And we have the farm property this year, so I can ride out there with Mike, hike out to one of the deer stands, and see things I've not gotten to experience due to teaching full-time for so many years - more years than we've even been interested in birds.  Which leads me to the next one:

4. This photo.  I got it yesterday of a black-and-white warbler.  Those little things move so quickly that they are about impossible to photograph, or even see with binoculars, because by the time I've got the spot found in the eyepiece of camera or binocs, the bird has moved.  It took me about a dozen camera clicks, and then cropping, to get this.  But it is very satisfying!!

5. Still, to my knowledge, no one that I know has gotten the virus.  I am hopeful and prayerful that this will all settle down soon, and also that President Trump will be able to get the economy going again soon.  These are unsettling times, but knowing that God is sovereign is very comforting.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Fever! The Hunt for a Killer Virus

Fever! The Hunt for a New Killer VirusFever! The Hunt for a New Killer Virus by John G. Fuller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely riveting reading, especially about the people involved and the scientific sleuthing to track down this terrible illness. Especially interesting considering what we are going through right now with COVID-19. I read this book a number of years ago, pulled it out a couple of days ago, and was not able to put it down until finishing it. My only criticism is that the end of the book is so sudden that the reader feels a little "dropped off the shelf." I highly recommend this, especially for people who like scientific books that are geared to the general public.

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