I don’t much like the number I see when I step on the scale these days. But so it goes for many women, and probably many men, as well, if they care to acknowledge it. And it’s a terrible time of year to start trying to nudge it back toward a more desirable incremement above 100, what with all the upcoming festivities, family gatherings, sweets, and rich foods.

I love those rich foods. I love the sweets, and most of all I love the festivities. Food is important to me. I’m reading a wonderful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist, and I have essentially wanted to underline the entire book so far. Yesterday I read a segment where she recounts hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper, of The Splendid Table on NPR, say that there are two types of people in this world: those who wake up thinking about what’s for dinner, and those who don’t. Like Shauna, I am one of those who does.

These are definitely must-eats.
Photo Credit: Olenka Kotyk via Unsplash

In many ways, this serves me quite well. It’s what inspires me to meal plan, to shop and eat frugally. It’s what enables me to put a home-cooked meal on the table even after working a full day out of the house. It’s what keeps me from mindlessly consuming unhealthy snacks because I’m not sure what else to eat.

But in other ways, it can be a burden. It can lead to an increased sense of guilt if I end up eating out, ordering takeout, or otherwise deviating from the plan at the last minute. It can mean that I’m consumed by thoughts of food, and any attempt to change my habits (e.g. diet) can quickly tend toward the disordered.

I know that I am capable of denying myself certain foods and restricting how much and how often I eat. I have done it before, with some success. Yet the bottom line is, I don’t want to, especially not at this time of year.

Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another. ~Shauna Niequist~

I get panicky when I think about never allowing myself to eat some of my favorite foods again. I feel sad when I think about missing out on relationship-building social opportunities in favor of healthy eating. The moderator in me says there must be a balance you can strike.

And so I’ve concocted a mental Do Eat list, rather than a Do Not Eat list. The Do Not Eat list could quickly grow to epic lengths. The Do Eat list is shorter, so it’s easier to honor. And of course, Do Eat includes the built-in Do Not Eat Corollaries.

I will eat good chocolate.
I will eat dessert from fancy restaurants or that was made from scratch with love.
I will use Stevia and the occasional flavored creamer in my coffee.
I will indulge around the communal table.
I will imbibe quality drinks in good company.

I won’t eat the crummy free candy at work just because it’s there.
I won’t eat the grocery store layer cake, no matter how tempting.
I won’t drink fake-flavored, $5 lattes.
I will limit myself when left to my own devices for my meals.
I won’t drink crappy cocktails or beer for the sake of drinking a drink.

I’m no angel, and I’ve yet to follow this perfectly. There’s likely more to the Do Eat list—I think I’ll know the contenders when I see them. The flaky croissant, the crusty bread with butter, the handmade pasta. But I was recently reminded by a splitting headache the morning after eating WAY too much sugar that it can be an addiction just like anything else, and I think I’ve got it. The more sugar I eat, the more I want to eat.

I won’t expect to lose 10 pounds over the holiday season. I don’t want to make the life choices it would take to do that. But I will savor what I choose to eat, and relinquish my panicked hold on the rest of it. (Coincidentally, Niequist’s next book was called Savor, so I think I’m on to something there.)

I will savor the table, the food on it, and the hands that prepared it. Because that’s what food is about to me.


Okay, I guess that’s not really a thing. But forget Mr. Darcy. I just re-read all The Little House books, and seeing them through adult eyes has me enamored of Almanzo Wilder, husband of our esteemed author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Why? Read on.

Here's the man of the hour.

1. He makes a mean pancake.
In Farmer Boy, we’re enticed throughout the book by Almanzo’s mother’s cooking. He’s forever pulling donuts out of his pocket to munch on, and the description of his school lunch that she packed made my mouth water. But when he and his brother Royal move off to a homestead, we learn that Almanzo has taken on the cooking for the two bachelor brothers, and pancakes are his specialty.

Royal had to agree that not even Mother could beat Almanzo at baking pancakes. […] He was making pancakes, not because Royal could boss him any more but because Royal could not make good pancakes and Almanzo loved light, fluffy, buckwheat pancakes with plenty of molasses.

Well okay, Almanzo, just butter me up and call me a buckwheat pancake!

2. He respects Laura.
In These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo takes it upon himself to drive Laura to and from her post at a distant homestead school. She worries constantly that he’s going to think he’s her beau now, and on one ride she impulsively tells him that she won’t go on sleigh rides with him anymore after her post is completed; she only appreciate them for the fact that they got her home, while he appreciated them for her company.

I am going with you only because I want to get home. When I am home to stay, I will not go with you any more. So now you know, and if you want to save yourself these long, cold drives, you can. […] After a startled moment, Almanzo said slowly, “I see.”

He’s surely devastated, but after dropping her off for the final time, Almanzo says goodbye.

Not until she had thanked him nicely and said good night and was in the sitting room taking off her wraps did she remember that he had not said, “Good night.” He had not said, “I’ll see you Sunday afternoon,” as he had always said before. He had said, “Good-by.” Of course, she thought. It was good-by. This had been the last sleigh ride.

(Though also of course, we realize it wasn’t.)

3. Similarly, he lets Laura be her strong and strong-willed self.
On one of those sleigh rides, Laura lets her love of his fast, sleek horses (which she’s been nursing since the first day she laid eyes on them) bubble up.

Laura drew a deep breath and exclaimed, “How beautiful!”

“What is beautiful?” Almanzo asked.

“The horses. Look at them!” Laura answered. At that moment, Prince and Lady touched noses as though they whispered to each, then together they tried to break into a run. When Almanzo had gently but firmly pulled them into a trot again, he asked, “How would you like to drive them?”

“Oh!” Laura cried. But she had to add, honestly, “Pa won’t let me drive his horses. He says I am too little and would get hurt.”

Yet Almanzo risks it and carefully teaches her to drive. Later in the book, he even entrusts her with helping him break a new set of horses because he knows she won’t be afraid!

And, in what was surely a provocative move for the era, they chose together not to use “obey” in their wedding vows.

Laura was silent again. Then she summoned all her couraged and said, “Almanzo, I must ask you something. Do you want me to promise to obey you?” Soberly he answered, “Of course not. I know it is in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something that women say. I never knew one that did it, nor any decent man that wanted her to.”

“[…] I cannot make a promise that I will not keep, and, Almanzo, even if I tried, I do not think I could obey anybody against my better judgment.”

“I’d never expect you to,” he told her.

You, sir, are a decent man.

4. He cares deeply for others.
In The Long Winter, the entire town is close to starving after the trains have been snowed in all winter and supplies haven’t come. Almanzo risks his life to go after a wild claim that a homesteader has some wheat. He saw a way to keep families like Laura’s from starving and took the chance, even though he and his brother had plenty to keep them until spring.

5. He thinks of everything.
Almanzo had some seed wheat that he built into a special hidden wall in his and Royal’s store. He was worried about being able to get seed in time to sow the fields, and, good farmer boy that he was, he couldn’t fathom that.

When he built his and Laura’s first house, he decked out the pantry with an elaborate set of drawers.

One whole long wall was shelved from the ceiling halfway down. The upper shelves were empty, but on the lowest was a glass lamp. […] Beneath this drawer were many drawers of different sizes. Directly below the spices, and above the window shelf, were two rather narrow drawers. laura found that one was almost full of white sugar, the other of brown sugar. How handy!

There’s almost an entire additional page of description of the pantry, but I won’t re-type it all here. Suffice it to say, Almanzo could come build me a pantry any darn time he likes.

6. He respects Laura’s relationship with her family.
On one of their many delightful Sunday afternoon rides, Almanzo asks Laura for a song and says something to the tune of, “You’re just like your Pa, you have always have the right song for the moment,” which must have warmed Laura’s Daddy’s girl heart.

When they’re first married, Almanzo listens to Ma’s advice about having Laura’s things set out in their new home when she first arrived to help it feel more familiar, which Laura notices and appreciates. And throughout The First Four Years, Almanzo sends for Ma when he senses Laura needs her, and they make sometimes treacherous visits to the home folks even when Rose is just a baby.

7. He knows about leaving and cleaving.
When Almanzo realized that his mother and sister were concocting a plan for a big church wedding, he suggested to Laura that they get married quickly. He neither wanted to cave to their whims nor to incur the expense of a big wedding for himself or for Laura’s Pa. Sensible and independent-minded.

Though Almanzo pursued Laura for quite some time (two novel’s worth of time!), and her family enjoys and respects him, Ma is understandably concerned when Laura comes home from a drive sporting a shiny new engagement ring.

“If only you are sure, Laura,” Ma said gently. “Sometimes I think it is the horses you care for, more than their master.”

“I couldn’t have one without the other,” Laura answered shakily.

Then Ma smiled at her, Pa cleared his throat gruffly, and Laura knew they understood what she was too shy to say.

THAT SHE LOVED HIM! is what she was too shy to say. I will take Almanzo’s quiet strength and steady pursuit of Laura over Mr. Darcy’s ardent love and admiration any day.


I read 9 books in October, mostly because I flew through books 4-8 of the Little House books. Ahem. It’s wonderful to be as enthralled by that world as I was as a little girl! I ordered The First Four Years from Amazon over the weekend, because it was not part of my collection. I bet when I was a kid I couldn’t have cared less to read about grown up, married Laura, and yet now it’s one I’m very much looking forward to. Once I consume that one, I’m planning to read Pioneer Girl, the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder that came out this year, and The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. And, next up, I may just have to make a pilgrimage to the Ingalls homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. Sorry not sorry.

This was probably my least favorite of the books, because, I guess, how are you going to make an endless winter where you barely leave your house all that interesting to read? It sounded horrible. But it’s also where we got to start falling in love with Almanzo, so…

Or, wherein we fall completely in love with Almanzo. Full post to come. (Mr. Darcy ain’t got nothin’ on him.)

I read a few non-Little House books, too.

Not as good as Fangirl but I LOVED getting to read Baz and Simon’s love story. Yay. It was so meta—Harry Potter fan fiction that was a novel from within another novel about fan fiction. Read it if you loved Fangirl.

Also not as good, to me, as Me Before You, the book this one is a sequel of. But again, I enjoyed getting to read more of the main characters’ stories. Me Before You was just so perfectly romantic and heartbreaking that it was a tough act to follow.

I sort of forgot I read this one at all until I looked back at Goodreads, which is not a rousing recommendation. It was an engrossing enough YA read, but it won’t go down on any of my favorites lists.

I enjoyed this one. I haven’t read any of Murakami’s novels, and I’m not sure if that would have made me enjoy this peek inside his mind more or less. It did sort of inspire me to go running. I impulse bought a paperback copy of this one at Book Man, Book Woman in Nashville, and the clerk got really excited when I asked about it.

“Are you a writer?! Are you a runner?!”

To which I answered, “Yes, and kind of.” He hadn’t read the book but had heard good things about it and was assuming I would like it if I were both of those things. And I think he was right.

I’m at 62 books and hoping to hit 75 by the end of this year, which is doable at this rate! It’s kind of fun to see that paying more attention to my reading has helped me up my number from in the 30s the past couple of years. We each make time for what matters to us!