Category Archives: self-help

Edition: On the Reading Radar

Wednesday Reads WideMy Kindle wish list is quite large and gets bigger each week. Since I follow many authors and book clubs on various social media outlets, there’s a new book recommendation almost daily. I could seriously go bankrupt purchasing books. I wish I was a library fanatic but I have a hard time borrowing a book.  What started out as a educational pursuit of taking notes and highlighting books has become a personal hobby. Therefore, I must own the book so I can deface it to my heart’s delight.

No matter if I check it out or purchase it, here are a few books that are on my radar right now.  More than likely you will see a review of one or five in the next few weeks.  By the way, Mother’s Day is around the corner and if you need to buy a book for your mom (hint hint to my kiddos), any one of these gems will do.

51-siNDoBeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Reservations for Two: A Novel of Fresh Flavors and New Horizons by Hillary Manton Lodge.

I adored Hillary’s first novel (check out my review here).  This novel is a sequel, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up. 

Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life? 

As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries? (Taken from  HIllary Manton Lodge’s book page. Click here to visit her site.)


Dog_Crazy2. Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue

Since Harvey (our basset hound) joined the Hall family, I’ve become a little partial to books with dogs, about dogs, or told by dogs, such as Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain.  This one by Meg Donohue sounds like a winner to me. Check out the publisher’s overview below:

The USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls returns with an unforgettably poignant and funny tale of love and loss, confronting our fears, and moving on . . . with the help of a poodle, a mutt, and a Basset retriever named Seymour.

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.

Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, Dog Crazy is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.  (Visit Meg’s author page here.)


Savor_FinalCoverOptions_rev233. Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist

Shauna is one of my absolute FAVORITE writers.  In fact, I want to be her.  She is so great at sharing everyday life in a way the reveals an extraordinary God. Her new book is a devotional format (365 days worth) which is slightly different from her other books which are essay format.  I have loved all three of her other books: Bittersweet, Cold Tangerines, and Bread and Wine.

Check out an excerpt here. 


516TXpkm6+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Many bloggers and writers that I follow on social media have discussed the book. Every quote I’ve read from the book has challenged me or hailed a hearty “Amen!”  Living in Ecuador forced me to re-evaluate what is truly important in my daily life – and it is not the busyness of work, school, or even church.  I’ve got a feeling this book will only reinforce my ideas.  Check out this intro from the McKeown’s book page.

  • Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
  • Do you sometimes feel overworked and underutilized?
  • Do you feel motion sickness instead of momentum?
  • Does your day sometimes get hijacked by someone else’s agenda?
  • Have you ever said “yes” simply to please and then resented it?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist.

I’m sure that several of those questions resounded with my readers.  If so, this might be the book for you.  I can’t wait to glean from its wisdom.

If you dive into one of these books on the radar, let me know what you think.  Come back and leave a comment so reader’s can get more info. 

Happy Reading,






Wednesday Reads: Exchanging Chaos for Intention

Wednesday Reads Wide

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World caught my attention for one reason – the idea of a bike. For the past few years, I’ve so wanted to own a “cruiser bike.” You know the kind with a cute basket on the front, painted in a sweet color like turquoise or pink. I can easily imagine myself just puttin’ around with flowers dangling picturesquely out of my little basket — headed nowhere but blissfully happy.

Now I will say that parts of this book do speak to that fantasy, but most of it is about living in the real world. Not just living but living in a way that breeds positive and life-changing choices for families. It offers the hope of living a slower paced life because you choose it. While this concept is no easy feat in our insanely scheduled and overly busy lives, Tsh Oxenreider presented doable steps to achieve the art of living intentionally. Here’s a few reasons why I like the book:

1.  After living a few years in a foreign country, I gained a new perspective. A perspective stateside friends didn’t really understand – even though they tried. Reading this book was a comfort because Tsh had lived abroad as well. I identified with her and felt comfort knowing someone felt the feelings that bubbled constantly beneath the surface of my heart. In chapter 2 while speaking of her family’s return to the states after a long stint in Turkey, she articulated exactly what I was feeling: “But the truth is, it was hard for us to dive into the deep end of life. Our skin felt itchy, as though our home culture were now a too-tight sweater. And why did everyone seem to be in such a hurry?” I knew she understood me, and I wanted to hear more.

2. She speaks convincingly not condemningly. So much of what she writes gently opposes the modern American life. The subtitle of the book truly is the point. Tsh shares first her reasons for living intentionally and then gives some practical suggestions on how to make that happen. She discusses grocery shopping, child rearing, traveling, career pursuits, education, and even entertainment. Each area of our lives can be lived by choice and not by force. Just the simple act of making that choice in various areas of our lives will render them more enjoyable and purpose-filled. One of my favorite quotes from the book is the discussion of purchasing fair trade foods. While the younger generation is living for a “cause” they often – like the older generations – don’t really know why. Tsh says it this way: “Jesus taught that we should love one another just as he loved us, and that we are called to look out for the interests of others and not just ourselves (John13:34, Phil. 2:4). This means we shouldn’t, in good conscience and to the best of our ability make daily choices that harm others. This includes where we spend our money.”      This concept was easy for me to see after spending many weekends at the local open air food markets in Costa Rica and Ecuador. I adored this part of my week. Most Saturdays were spent procuring various fruits and vegetables from local farmers and then cleaning and storing them all. My family was eating healthier and I was a part of that. In Costa Rica, I could have easily gone to the grocery store and purchased many of the same items, but it was a better choice to support local farmers and a step toward living a more intentional life.

3.  Her book gently confirms the heart’s longing for a fuller life without all the extra work. Learning to live with the idea that less is more, in every aspect of life, is difficult in a world where everyone consistently seizes more, more, more. As I read each page I noted ways that I could make my life more intentional. I discovered ways to incorporate that concept into every day life – not just on Saturdays. I think it was easier for me to adapt to her ideas since I had been somewhat forced into simple living while in Ecuador, but I do know that this way of life is so much more fulfilling. As Tsh says, “we were made to live with intention, beyond the status quo. Don’t waste your years punching time clocks, sacrificing your ideas and passions and relationships without purpose. You have them for a reason – use them well.”

4.  I would whole-heartedly recommended this book to young wives and mothers. I read many of Tsh’s words and thought if only I knew this when my kids were younger. I would have done things so differently. Young wives and mothers need to have tools to build the best home they can for their spouses and children. Often they fall prey to the idea that it’s a bigger home, better-paying job, and college-prep kindergartens. Tsh helps the reader see that while those things have value, there is no greater value than making the choices that are truly best for your family. It doesn’t matter what other moms or wives are doing. But learning to define at a young age what your family will be about is invaluable. This will be my next baby shower or wedding gift. Such truths that need to be learned early.

On her blog The Art of Simple, Tsh best sums up the concept of the book.

“It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.”

So often I’ve felt I had no choice but to live the busy, over-scheduled life I was dealt. I had no idea that I could make small choices to change that life into a better one for my family and me. Living intentionally has made me a happier person and my family more focused on what’s truly important to us.