Compassion Bloggers: Back to School!

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The phrase “back to school” always brought mixed emotions when I was a child. Summer was over, and that meant the end of days at the beach, homework-free nights, and sleeping late. On the other hand, I was excited to start the new school year in the next grade and see friends I had missed during vacation. Even now, I feel that indescribable pang when Labor Day weekend rolls around.

As a child sponsor through Compassion International, I am especially aware of the blessings that education provides for children in developing countries. In developing countries, for example, only 66 percent of primary school-age children attend school, compared with nearly 80 percent worldwide. Only 49 percent of secondary school-age children worldwide attend school, and more than half of the children who do not attend school worldwide are girls.

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”

Isaiah 60:1

The important role of education in releasing children from poverty is a major reason why I sponsor a child through Compassion International. The organization’s holistic approach includes educational opportunities, health care and instruction, and life-skills training. Sponsors write letters to their sponsored children, and let the children know that they are valued in a world that can seem so cold and dismissive.

Compassion International’s Christ-centered programs motivate and encourage children to reach for the stars!

You can learn more about Compassion International by visiting the organization’s website and reading about its Holistic Child Development Model.  Here’s to a blessed and inspiring school year around the world!

 

 

My Book Release: I Left Her There — Poems and Short Fiction

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I’m pleased to say that my first book, titled I Left Her There: Poems and Short Fiction, has been published! It’s actually been fun putting the book together and sorting through my writing from the past ten years. I revisited some of my greatest joys and most difficult heartbreaks, and the journey has given me a breath of fresh air and an even greater love for writing.

My husband John has persistently encouraged and exhorted me to do this. My parents gave me the freedom as a child to search for and express my creativity. And of course, my friends — particularly my fellow writers — continue to inspire me with their dedication to the craft.

The book is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, in paperback and for Kindle. Hope you’ll give it a read!

Know Your Food: The Push For Cruelty-Free Poultry

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Like many consumers, my husband and I do our best to buy sustainably produced foods, such as free-range eggs. We have been uncomfortable, however, knowing that free-range does not necessarily mean cruelty-free. The sad truth is, farms that raise egg-laying hens usually rely on large hatcheries for their supply of hens — hatcheries which routinely kill the male chicks shortly after they hatch. According to a report from the Daily Telegraph, male chicks are typically placed on a conveyor belt and minced alive or gassed.

Fortunately, sustainable farmers have found a better way! Turns out that centuries-old farming practices are making a comeback — and rightfully so.

Eatwell Farm: Pioneering the Next Generation of Humane, Sustainable Poultry from Nigel walker on Vimeo.

One of the leaders in the effort to produce eggs in a sustainable and humane manner is Nigel Walker of Eatwell Farm in California. Walker is raising heritage chickens, which are breeds that were naturally bred in the United States prior to the mid-twentieth century. These dual-purpose breeds do very well outdoors and have long lifespans. The sustainable food blog Civil Eats notes that instead of relying on hatcheries, farmers will be able to breed their own male and female chickens and raise them sustainably and humanely for eggs and meat.

Sustainable agriculture offers a variety of benefits. Besides living healthier and happier lives, for example, free-range chickens provide natural fertilizer for plant crops and produce better tasting eggs and meat. When we step away from the factory farm and embrace the independent family farm, we regain our connection to the food we eat.

The change will not be instantaneous, but it is encouraging to know that groups such as The Livestock Conservancy are working to protect and promote sustainable agriculture.  To learn how you can help Eatwell Farms and the movement toward humanely raised poultry, visit Barnraiser.

Book Review: My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz

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Many people who love to cook dream of packing up and moving to Paris. David Lebovitz did just that, and we can vicariously visit the City of Light and its culinary treasures through his book My Paris Kitchen. Along with recipes and photographs of Paris and sumptuous food, Lebovitz shares wisdom and cooking tips. He recalls his job interview with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, reflects on the benefits of using a mortar and pestle versus a food processor, and lists the tools and ingredients for a Paris kitchen.  The recipes, which include first courses, main courses, side dishes and desserts, take center stage in this book.

As I look through recipes such as  “Cherry Tomato Crostini With Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese,”  “Butternut Squash Bread Soup,” and “Almond Cakes With Browned Butter,” I mentally rearrange my shopping list and look forward to trying these dishes. The recipes are accessible and understandable, and make me want to delve into these flavors and ingredient combinations.

I highly recommend My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. The recipes alone make My Paris Kitchen a must-have for the cook, but the engaging stories and photographs make the book an entertaining read for anyone who loves to learn about international cultures. If you enjoy reading about cooking, travel or both — even from the comfort of home — you’ll want to add this book to your collection.

If you want to find out more about this book and the author, you can read more information on My Paris Kitchen or David Lebovitz.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Why I Am a Compassion Sponsor

Her name is Joan and she lives in Uganda. At age six, her favorite pastimes include storytelling and singing, and I have been her sponsor for a little over a month. As I searched and prayed for a child to sponsor, I kept going back to Joan’s picture and story. When my new sponsor’s packet arrived in the mail this month, I put Joan’s photograph on our refrigerator.  I placed the Compassion bookmark imprinted with Joan’s picture and suggested prayers in my Bible.

Many small steps led to my decision to sponsor a child. In the summer of 2013, I heard a pastor speak about how women and children have suffered from violence and poverty throughout history. Children have been specifically targeted from the days of the early lives of Moses and Jesus to the present day violence in Syria.

“Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” Jeremiah 31:15 (KJV)

I never had children of my own, and I wondered what I could do to help a child. As a freelance writer and blogger, I have shared my Christian faith and to be inspired by the faith of other bloggers. I noticed that some of my fellow bloggers were writing posts about Compassion International. I visited the organization’s website and was impressed with its holistic approach to releasing children from the cycle of poverty.

My husband began sponsoring a child from Ghana through Compassion International in January 2014. Soon our refrigerator was covered with drawings and letters from my husband’s sponsored child. We could see the difference Compassion was making in her life. I felt an irresistible pull to sponsor a child as well, but I hesitated. We were preparing to move out of state and besides, what if my freelance work became scarce? The last thing I wanted to do was begin sponsoring a child and then have to stop.

I had forgotten that we have a Lord who provides.

“So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14 (NIV)

When higher paying, more reliable work came my way, I followed my heart and became a sponsor for $38 a month. Besides, the gym I had been attending had closed, and it was no coincidence that the membership fee that I was no longer paying had been $38. The Lord knows I like to have confirmation, to see the numbers.

The day that I was able to write Joan a letter and tell her that I believe in her was one of the happiest days of my life. I was able to tell her that I am proud of her for helping her family at home, and that I like singing and storytelling, too. I read about Uganda and looked at the map. Joan is in my prayers and thoughts, as are the children who still need sponsors. In the years to come, I cannot wait to see how the Lord works in our lives.

Book Review: The Chopped Cookbook, by the Food Network Kitchen

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So many times I have looked in the pantry or refrigerator and wondered how to use the ingredients I have on hand. It often seems as though the recipe I want to try needs the one ingredient I don’t have. I needed a resource to show me how to make the most of what’s already in my kitchen. When I learned that the Food Network Kitchen had created a cookbook based on the series Chopped, I jumped at the chance to read and review the book.

The Chopped Cookbook contains recipes and guides that explain how to “use what you’ve got to cook something great.” For example, the section called “Ten Fun Pan Sauces” lists the proportions of aromatics, deglazing liquid, main liquid, richness and finishing flavors that make a great pan sauce. “Completely Fun Ways to Cook Vegetables” offers fresh and creative recipes for veggie dishes. There are similar sections for vinaigrettes and salad dressings, vegetables, grains, pot roast and many other dishes.

I have tried some of the recipes and can’t wait to try more. The recipes in The Chopped Cookbook are surprisingly easy to prepare, so looking through the book gives me confidence to try new flavor combinations. My family loved the Buttery Roasted Potatoes With Wilted Spinach, and I loved the easy recipe. In the Chopped spirit, my husband made a few substitutions and made his own version of the Slow-Cooked Salmon With Olive Breadcrumb Sprinkle.

Whether you are a veteran cook or a newcomer to the kitchen, you will find inspiration from The Chopped Cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook for anyone who loves to create great food!

For more inspiration, you can read about the Food Network Kitchen or order The Chopped Cookbook.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.