I have recently discovered the Maggie Hope series and have been delighted to listen to them on audiobook. I have read the first two in the series and am eager to read the rest.
Maggie Hope was born in England and raised in America after the tragic death of her parents in a car accident. She returns to England to sell a house left to her at the death of her grandmother. Maggie gains new friends and a new job in London as a typist for Winston Churchill. Her smart mind and mathematical skills help her decode a german message in an advertisement and sets her up to become a spy during World War 2.
Part mystery/spy novel and part character-driven drama, these books show the toll of the war on individuals and how so many sacrificed to stop the spread of Hitler's regime.
As Maggie grows in her abilities as a spy, so does the danger she finds herself in. And things are not always as they seem in Maggie's past. Her dead parents still have a role to play in Maggie's life in ways she couldn't have imagined.
I've put book 3 on hold at the library audiobook site and can't wait to continue with Maggie's story as she heads to Berlin and more family secrets are revealed.
I read five books in August. Two mysteries (on audiobook), one cozy mystery, and two nonfiction.
One of the nonfiction books was Lara Casey's "Make It Happen." I enjoyed it but I'm enjoying her more recent book, "Cultivate" better. I'm about halfway through that one.
I read book two of the Knight & Moon series by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton. I have to say that I'm torn on that series. I love the main characters a lot. In fact, Emerson Knight is a great character and a lot of fun. And Riley is a great partner in his escapades. It's the supporting characters who bother me. Emerson's cousin is written just like a male version of Lula from her Stephanie Plus series, which would be okay except for two reasons: he's in the book too much, and the audiobook reader is the same person who reads the Plum series. So even she makes him sound just like Lula. It seems a bit lazy on both the writer and the audiobook reader's part and a quite distracting for me as a reader.
All the other supporting characters in books one and two feel familiar, like they're just recycled characters you've seen before. The bad guys seemed really implausible and that's saying something because you don't read an Evanovich book for a realistic look at crime. You go into it with the attitude that you'll have fun and just go with the weirdness. So when you start thinking, that's TOO odd, there's a problem.
With all those issues, I did enjoy the main characters and the storyline enough to read the next book, although I think I'll skip the audio version. Not hearing Vernon speak in Lula's voice will be easier when I'm reading it on my own.
I think five books this month is a respectable number, but I'm really hoping to kick that number up a bit this fall. I used to read over 200 books a year and this year, I'll be lucky if I can get 75 read. In fact, if I hit 75 I'll be really surprised. I'm going to be looking for ways to get more reading in as I have a lot of nonfiction I'd like to get to in the next few months.
I'm going to start posting about some of my favorite books each month on Instagram. I got the idea from a journal spread I saw and realized the size would be perfect for an Instagram photo. I'm going to work up a template and start posting about books more often.
How about you? DId you read anything good in August? Is there anything you tried to read that you didn't like? Share in the comments!
One of the questions I get asked the most on Instagram is how I make my cold brew coffee. I thought it a good idea to write up a detailed explanation and post a link to this post on my Instagram for those who want the complete instructions.
I've been making cold brew coffee long before it was popular. In fact, no one had heard of it and my friends all thought I was crazy. But I kept telling them how much creamer and smoother it was and handing out samples to anyone who expressed interest and eventually I started getting asked to bring it to parties and events. Then coffee shops started selling it and now it's "a thing."
It's probably been around longer in other areas, for longer than it has in my neck of the woods and everyone seems to have their own ideas on how to make it. I don't guess there's a "right way" to do it, but I'm gonna share how I make it for those who are interested.
To Make the Cold Brew:
I use the Toddy system to make the cold brew. It makes a concentrated coffee that's almost syrup-like. When I first started making it, coffee was sold in 16 oz. bags so I used the recipe that came with my Toddy. Now that coffee mostly comes in 12 oz. bags, I've had to adjust it just a bit. I'm going to give you directions for both sizes as I honestly think the 16 oz. bags give you a better flavor. If you want to use the full pound of coffee recipe you'll likely want to go to a coffee shop and get your coffee, not the grocery store. None of the grocery stores in my area sell a one-pound bag of coffee anymore.
You can purchase any type of coffee for cold-brew although some is certainly better than others. I would suggest you try several until you find one you like the best. I currently use Peet's Coffee, Major Dickason's Blend. If you are buying beans from a coffee shop, ask them to give you a rough grind. That makes the best although the grocery store grinds work ok too and most won't notice a difference in taste either way.
1. I put the stopper in the bottom of the Toddy plastic canister and press a wet filter down in the bottom ring of the canister. (The Toddy system comes with the filter and the stopper.)
2. I add a a small amount of water (about 1/2 inch) to the bottom of the canister. Then I pour in about half of the ground coffee. ( 6 oz or 8 oz depending on the size bag of coffee you have.)
3. Slowly pour water over grounds until they are covered with water. Do this very slowly so that the grounds get wet. If you just dump the water in, all the coffee will rise to the surface and the water will sink to the bottom. Work slowly and move the water around to cover all the grounds.
4. After you are done step 4, you should have the canister about half filled. Let it set for five minutes to settle and let the water continue to wet the grounds.
5. After the five minutes, add the last half of the grounds and cover with water as before until the water reaches about 1/2" from the top of the canister.
6. Place plastic wrap over the top of the canister and let it sit on your kitchen counter for at least 12 hours. I recommend 16 or so unless you are using an exceptionally dark coffee. I usually set up the grounds when I get home from work and are making dinner and then let them sit overnight.
7. After they've set on the counter for at least 12 hours, take the stopper out of the bottom and set the canister on top of the glass carafe. It will take a little bit of time for all the water to move through the filter. DO NOT stir the coffee, shake the canister or press down on the filter. Any of these could cause a layer of sludge to end up in the glass canister.
8. When the liquid is drained, remove the canister, put the lid on the carafe and place in the fridge. The coffee concentrate you've just made will last at least 14 days and up to 21 days depending on the type of coffee blend and the coldness of your fridge. It won't really go bad for awhile but the taste will start to change somewhere between that 14-21 day window.
9. To clean the canister, use a spatula to clear all the grounds out of the canister and into the trash or compost bin. Then use a straw to pop the filter out of the bottom. Rinse the filter off under cold running water and then place in a ziploc bag. ( I recommend putting the stopper in the bag as well as it's easy to lose!) Then place the bag in the fridge until the next time you need it. According to the people who make the Toddy, you can use it about 10 times before you need to throw it out and use a fresh one. (You can purchase additional stoppers and filters on Amazon or direct from the manufacturer.) Lastly, I rinse out the container well and wipe it down. I do not wash it with soap.
Now, you have a nice big carafe of cold brew coffee. The next step is to make it into a delicious beverage ready to drink.
To make the Coffee Drink:
1. Because the cold brew is a concentrate, you'll want to dilute it with milk or water, or some mixture of both. If you made your cold brew from a 16 oz bag of coffee, you'll want to use a 1 part coffee to 2 parts milk/water ratio. The 12 oz. bag would be weaker and would need less, so that would use a 1 to 1 ratio. I usually do the 1 to 1 ratio and use a large mason jar, so I'd add 6 or 7 ounces of cold brea and 6 of 7 ounces of milk to the jar.
2. Then I add 2 Tablespoons of Hershey's dark chocolate syrup and stir well.
3. Then I add ice to fill the jar.
• I will sometimes freeze brewed coffee in ice cube trays and use those to ice my cold brew drink, especially if I'm drinking it out on my patio on a hot day. The ice melts so fast and really dilutes the drink too much when I use regular ice.
• You can use flavored creamer, half & half, heavy cream, water, almond milk or chocolate milk if you prefer. Just make sure you dilute it with something as the concentrate will be really strong, especially if you used the 16 oz bag of coffee to make it.
• Don't put the cold brew in the fridge while it's in the canister. In my experience, it slows down the process and give you a weaker brew unless you leave it in the fridge for 24 hours or so.
• You can use flavor syrups like coffee shops use to add additional flavors. My favorite add-in is toasted marshmallow syrup. If I use that, I will still use the Hershey dark chocolate syrup but just put less in. I like my coffee mildly sweet some days and use less at times. You'll have to experiment to see what you like.
It seems like there's a lot to this, but once you've done it a time or two I think you'll be glad you tried it. I make it all summer long and sometimes in the winter for a treat. If you have specific questions I haven't answered, just leave me a comment. And if you give it a try, let me know how it goes, ok? Enjoy!
I've just added some files to the Grace Book page. These are bookmarks for A5 and Letter sized binders that cover some great reflection questions to ask yourself at the end of the day. I will be doing an Instagram Live video on Wednesday night, August 9th around 9pm EST about how I use these questions and how I end my evenings. I hope you'll join me!
I do not spend a great deal of time on Pinterest because you can loose hours on that site, but I do enjoy it from time to time. I just added a new board today, Mad for Mod. Drop by and check it out. Click the Pinterest icon on the right hand side of this page. See you there!
"The meaning of earthly existence is not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prosperity, but in the development of the soul." - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I love January and July. Those two months are natural resets for me. The beginning of the year is full of promise and possibility and I enjoy setting up a new planner and new goals. And July is somewhat the same. By the beginning of July, I've finished all the work for the church year and I jump into planning mode for the various ministry areas I am responsible for. It's a chance to dream and fix things and take risks and organize, organize, organize.
I have several re-organization projects going on right now, several areas that need a reset. At my job, one I want to do some work on is Kids Church, which I oversee. I want to get some processes streamlined and more clear. And I want to provide more help and resources to my people who serve in Kids Church. I'm also resetting the women's ministry in a fun way with an event I want to promote heavily. The idea came out of a conversation with my mom and my brain has been buzzing about it ever since.
Personally, I have a few reset items at home as well. First of all, I'm resetting my closet as it's become a black hole where junk goes to die. It's a pretty small closet so it gets junked up quickly. The way I've been organizing it hasn't been working so I'm eager to try something different. I also have started a reset creatively, but I'll blog about that another time.
I've been on vacation for all of July so far, but tomorrow is my last day to loaf around. I'm looking forward to jumping back into work on Monday to start new projects and start dreaming.
"Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop." - Wayne Muller
You can't. Understanding God is beyond our skill set. I wish I remembered that more often.
I was reading today in Romans 2 where Paul begins telling the Roman Christians not to judge others because they are sinning just as greatly, and probably in the same ways. He says in verse 4, "Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Paul is connecting their inability to understand God to their action of despising God. They thought his patience was approval of their actions because they didn't understand the reason for his patience and kindness toward him. So in turn, they began to despise the good gift God had given them.
This was a timely reminder to me because I can grow angry over what God is or isn't doing in my life. I get frustrated easily when I know God could snap his fingers and fix something that remains broken for years. Does he not care? And so I begin to sin by despising his plan. Because I don't understand it, I grow to hate it.
What this verse tells me is that my frustrated with God and his actions in my life stem from the fact that I don't understand him. Instead of frustrating me, it should comfort me. If it's impossible for me to understand the mind of Christ then there's a high probability that the answer or rescue or intervention or salvation or provision will blow my mind as well.
If I focus on understanding him, I will easily fall into distrust and frustration with him. But if I TRUST him and allow him to work things out in his way then I will see something great happen I coudln't have predicted.