2017 Second Quarter: What We Read

April

Skimmed
Give them Grace Elyse Fitzpatrick
I just skimmed this one because there are SO many parenting books and I had heard so much about this one from people that both like and don’t like it so I wanted to get a feel for it myself before deciding if I wanted to read it more or not. There were some very helpful parts, but there is a fair amount of ambiguity where you can read in certain things depending on where you are coming from that could lead to permissiveness. Overall, though, I would say that their main message isn’t giving them grace as in letting off the hook or not giving law, but grace as in offering them gospel when they fail to obey.
We haven’t finished it yet, but I would recommend Paul Tripp’s “Parenting” book over Give them Grace since I feel like it says a lot of the same things but more succinctly and without the ambiguity.

Give Your Child the World
This isn’t really one to sit down and read fully, but I did get some good ideas. I wrote down a fair number of books from the book lists to check out of the library, but I was expecting less book list and more practical on ideas for helping your kids have a global perspective. That may just be because most of the practical things she mentioned are common sense to me from the way we were raised. Not one I think I would own, but I would get it from the library in the future to get more ideas.

Hints on Child Training Turnbull
This is an often recommended book in Charlotte Mason books. There was a lot of helpful stuff in it, but I think you’d be better off reading “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer McCaulay since it has similar philosophy but doesn’t feel as Victorian/focused on outward behavior and politeness. I feel like that’s a weakness in the Charlotte Mason stuff in general – it talks so much about character but often feels moralistic.
Most helpful to me were reminders on whole person, individuality, not repressing polite questioning, and directing, not breaking, the will of the child, as well as teaching them self-denial and self control.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner (and a few others, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Hungry Planet

Always Ready (Bahnsen)
Not what I was expecting… I walked away being convinced that presuppositional apologetics is the way to go but not really knowing how to do it.

The Singer, The Song, and The Finale (Calvin Miller)
These are favorites of mine and I read them aloud to Ezra in the car.

Missional Motherhood (Furman)
I picked up some helpful tidbits from this book, but overall ended up skimming a fair bit. It would probably be more helpful to someone who hasn’t read and studied a lot about biblical womanhood.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows (Eswine)
Mentioned this book before, but I can’t recommend it enough to anyone in the midst of depression, counseling depression, supporting someone with depression, or just curious about it and wanting to know more.

The Land I Lost
Ezra remembered reading this as a kid and it was a nice break from heavier reading.

May

The Genius of Ancient Man
Fascinating!

Messy Grace (Kaltenbach)
Another one that I highly recommend. Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents and has solid insights in how to show grace and love to the LGBT community without compromising conviction.

Better Late than Early
I ended up skimming most of this one. The first half is explaining why it’s better to start education later than earlier, including some facts like kids being far sighted until 7 or 8 and that making learning to read more difficult and even detrimental to eye health. The second half is some ideas of what to be doing until formal schooling. A lot of it was common sense and long winded.

Holy Labor (Aubri Smith)
A review of this is coming in a separate post!

None Like Him (Jen Wilkin)
SO convicting, one I will read again in the future! It made me realize how often I try to be God in how I act and live, how much I fail at trying to be God, and how great He is.

June
How to Read Literature Like a Professor
I was really disappointed by this book. The writing style was too casual (almost blog-style), a lot of the examples were PG-13+ and from literature I had never heard of, and it was SO repetitive.

Music Through the Eyes of Faith Harold Best
Really really good. Probably the first thing I’ve read that discusses truth and beauty and worship and what kinds of music are acceptable for the Christian in a way that goes beyond “we shouldn’t listen to rock because it has bad associations,” etc. Some of his comments were a little Spurgeon-esque in the sense of “I see how you got there, but I don’t really know if that’s what the text means, but I guess it could.” But it was never to a degree that I felt extrapolated too much from the text. Highly recommended!

A Time of Gifts
If a highschool dropout traveled the world today and wrote about it… it would be a far cry from this book, about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travels (mostly on foot) from Holland to Constantinople. It made me feel SO uneducated – his writing is so rich with description (it had to be; he didn’t have a camera to remember things by!), full of phrases in many languages, literary references, historical knowledge and references… not as light of a read as I had been looking for, but I really enjoyed it and do plan on reading the second part sometime.

in the middle of Parenting (Tripp), The Hidden Smile of God (Piper), 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Reinke)

Children’s Books we enjoyed
Balloons Over Broadway about Tony Sarg and the story behind the Macy’s Day Parade!
One Day, One World
The Ology Machowski
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping S loved this more than us. 😉
Swan a beautiful, poetic book about Anna Pavlova
Where Did My Clothes Come From? a bit above S’s level right now but she would look at it and on the page about rubber say “That’s my rain boots!”
How to make an Apple Pie and See the World
anything by Ezra Jack Keats (especially the Snowy Day and Clementina’s Cactus)
Compost Stew
Pinkerton
My First Day
St Patrick (Tomie De Paola) – the best one we’ve found on St. Patrick’s day that our library has
In the Sea
(David Eliott, Holly Meade)
Curious George & the Alphabet
Children Just Like Me

National Geographic Children’s Atlas
Abuela (I am trying to learn some Spanish with the girls – this one had some Spanish phrases thrown in with mostly English)
The Night Gardener (Fan)
What Can You Do with a Paleta? (another bilingual one! Also “What Can you do with a Rebozo?”)
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Messner)

Me? Teach Piano? – Book Review

About the Book (from Amanda)
“You play piano? Could you teach my daughter?” The parent looks too desperate to turn down, yet your thoughts run wild. “Me? Teach piano? I can barely play myself! Do they know what they’re trying to get themselves into?!”

“Me? Teach Piano?” is a simple guide to clear up some of your questions as you learn a down-to-earth approach to creating piano policies, interacting with students, and choosing the correct curriculum. This booklet contains ideas, suggestions, and advice based on Amanda’s experience.

Review
I wish I had had this when I first started teaching piano! I’ve written more about my piano teaching journey here, but to sum it up I started teaching my little sister and neighbors heard and so I ended up with more students, not really being a pianist myself, and only having had experience with the books my family had. There was a lot of floundering and learning things by experience that Me? Teach Piano? could have helped me avoid! I really could have used the section on different curricula, as well as about having a studio policy and tips on writing and implementing one.

Me? Teach Piano? focuses more on the practical side of things than on ideas for engaging distracted students or creative ideas for helping them understand new concepts or review things without getting bored – struggles that were bigger for me than the practical side as a teacher, but beyond the scope of a booklet.

The booklet is easy to read, perhaps more like a blog than a book, and full of good, practical tips from Amanda’s experience. Sometimes that differs from my preference or experience, but getting another perspective was helpful and may be just what someone else needs!

My only critique is that the way she uses “cadence” isn’t the technical theory definition but just a chord progression (she seems to mean teaching students how to find/use I-IV-V in any given key).

You can get the book on Amazon here! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teaching piano.

About the Author:
Amanda Tero is a Christian music teacher, currently residing in Mississippi. She has played piano since the age of seven, studying classical performance, theory, and arranging from various teachers. She began teaching private piano and violin lessons in 2007, equipping church musicians with a balance of classical and hymn education.

Connect with Amanda
Website: http:// withajoyfulnoise.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/withajoyfulnoise
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/wajnmusicvideos
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/withajoyfulnoise/
Blog: http://www.withajoyfulnoise.blogspot.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AmandaTero
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/amandatero

HypnoBirthing: Comparing other methods

Whenever I read a book about birth, I often find myself thinking “that’s just like in the Bradley Method” or “Ina May says the same thing!” There often are a lot of similarities in natural birth books. Much of this has to do with the influence of people like Ina May Gaskin, as well as Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, who influenced Ina May, Marie Mongan, and Dr. Robert Bradley. His book is “Childbirth Without Fear,” which I read while pregnant with S. It was geared more towards birth providers, but was still very interesting and focused mostly on the fear  tension  pain connection.

HypnoBirthing, Bradley Method, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth all center on the fear/pain connection, with part of that including being informed about birth and your options and what is actually medically necessary, as well as building a positive birth culture. TV and movies most often portray birth as dangerous, frightening, and painful, which influences people’s view of it, although the media portrayal of birth was influenced by the medicalization of birth.
I was surprised the first time I read about how our culture views birth, since my mother had four natural births and didn’t talk negatively about them or about pregnancy, and that mindset was further solidified for me by my mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law before S was born.
But it brings up a good point – why don’t we teach our daughters and talk to our friends positively about birth? The opinion of friends and mothers are huge in how a pregnant woman looks ahead to birth, both things that are said in passing and the often lack of any sort of mentoring and teaching in that area.

Some more similarities: a focus on learning to relax your body, visualization, finding good positions to labor and deliver in, and pre-birth exercises to prepare your body. They also talk about pain and how our expectation of what labor will be like greatly affects it (because I had learned through Bradley method to really assess pain and think about whether or not something was painful or just uncomfortable, the only time I would say I was in pain during labor with S was the second half of pushing). All hold that our bodies are designed to birth, and one thing that is not always clear but implied in all is that birth pain doesn’t say flee, but relax, and with that, to remember that the pain of contractions is not BAD but is GOOD and is your body working to get the baby out!
Some of the differences:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is not a method like HypnoBirthing and Bradley are. It is a collection of birth stories – not picture-perfect or all the same, but very truthful and raw yet still positive, and then chapters on birthing naturally. There is a lot in there to help you prepare and be informed, but not a lot towards practically practicing for labor.

HypnoBirthing was covered in detail above so I won’t go into it more here. The biggest difference is that HypnoBirthing is less physical and more mental, and that they don’t have you actively push.

Bradley Method goes into the physical processes more than HypnoBirthing, and the visualization in Bradley Method is also more physical – imagining what your body is doing rather than imagery of a flower opening, etc. I couldn’t stand the side-lying/lateral position recommended for labor, and after labor felt like we didn’t really use the method in general, but everything on pregnancy, preparing your body for birth, the husband’s role, and the physical side of what is actually happening in labor were all SO helpful to us, as were the emotional road map (the only way we had any idea I was in transition), and the Six Needs of a Laboring Woman (since then I’ve read numerous articles that support this, especially the darkness part).
My personal preference would be Bradley Method, but would want more info on different labor positions, emphasis on the power of reminding yourself of truth, and breathing the baby out instead of pushing.

However, they all fall short regarding spiritual preparation for birth.
I read “Redeeming Childbirth” during both pregnancies, and while there is a lot I really don’t like about the book, the overall message of viewing difficulties in pregnancy and birth as a time to grow in your relationships, particularly with God, and worship Him is very true and important. I re-read it after reading HypnoBirthing, hoping it would be the “renewing your mind” part I was looking for, but I found that aside from the big-picture ideas, it was even less helpful to me than it was when I read it while pregnant with S.
But I think that learning how to focus on God in birth or any other painful or difficult circumstance is not something that can be taught like a birthing method, as it is so much more individual, and applies in whatever kind of birth you’re having.
Some things that can be helpful to encourage that mindset:
– having a birth playlist of Christian music (I didn’t use this in labor with S, but it was so helpful with minor complications afterwards and also for struggling with postpartum depression)
– verses or phrases up where you will be laboring or for your labor partner to remind you of
– Praying and journaling through fears and worries, and then having truth to remind yourself of when those fears come on, in or out of labor.
In many ways, I feel like this is the “Christian HypnoBirthing” – renewing your mind, by submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth. And if you’re going for a natural birth, it can easily be paired with techniques found in HypnoBirthing or Bradley Method.

Ultimately, our goal should not be a natural or painless birth, but to birth in a way that turns to God for our help and strength, no matter what our circumstances are.

HypnoBirthing: Some Thoughts on Hypnosis

It seems that when a lot of Christians hear about hypnobirthing, they immediately write it off because of hypnosis. I had felt the same way myself, but also had never been able to articulate scripturally what was wrong with the kind of self-hypnosis put forth by hypnobirthing, before or after reading the book. So we did some research.

The most common arguments against hypnosis:
-The Bible condemns hypnosis directly (I have yet to find a verse condemning hypnosis itself as much as hypnosis-like things that are condemned because of their use in pagan worship)
-Hypnosis opens a person up to demonic influences (If it a self-hypnosis that is controlled by the person being hypnotized, and is not pagan or “mind emptying” this argument may not be valid, but is still a big concern).
-Hypnosis is a step away from the alertness and self-control that Christians are supposed to operate under (However with self-hypnosis you are in control and aware of what is going on, thus less likely to be influenced by bad teaching or thought. But in a state where you are withdrawn from reality and have altered perception, there is still need for great caution).
– The way it has been viewed historically. (Often associated with the occult, why is it only now becoming fine for the church? Or has it always been linked to new age/occult, or is that the new thing?)
– It closely parallels mysticism, which is also a tough subject for Christians. We don’t believe that mystical experiences are wrong (if defined as simply supernatural experiences), but we do believe that the kinds of mystical experiences in oriental and catholic mysticism, not to mention the occult, etc. are evil. Paul was a mystic; he reaches places in his epistles where the logic goes away and gives way to doxology. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a mystic experience in a sense; it is supernatural. Having a deeper sight of the glory of God or the love of God can lead to a mystic experience. But these are truth-driven spiritual reality-drive experiences, not simply good-feeling experiences or vague spiritual experiences that we then later define as having been a gift from God. And we are not seeking these experiences so much as we are seeking God, and sometimes it may cause such an experience.

Arguments Christians make defending hypnosis:
-The bible contains positive examples of hypnosis (often referenced is Paul’s vision in Acts 10, where he falls into a trance, but there is no indication that this was any form of self-hypnosis – the only physical indication we have is that it may have been hunger-induced)
– Jesus wants you to have an abundant life, and we have studies showing that this helps, so we should use it. (This is used more in reference to using hypnosis for weight loss, etc. But that’s not what Jesus meant when he was talking about an abundant life, nor is it the most biblical way to change your life).

Some critique of self-hypnosis applies less to birth than to other things it is used for (like weight loss, breaking habits, etc). In those cases, hypnotherapy does not match up with the biblical system of sanctification and mental/spiritual healing. It would seem to “short circuit” the process of the renewing of the mind, which involves submitting the whole person to the truth in prayer, reading the word, and meditating on truth, so we would urge Christians to step away from using hypnosis beyond an analgesic.

For HypnoBirthing, I’m totally on board with deep relaxation and reminding yourself of truth to speed and ease labor (while remembering it’s not a magic bullet!). The shady area is when it gets into altered consciousness (discussed more in my previous post) and repetitions that aren’t entirely true and become the mind-emptying mantra-like meditations related to eastern religions. It also becomes dangerous when it is used as escapism (a pitfall I see more outside birth/pain) – our first resort and our escape should be crying out to God and looking to Jesus, not self-hypnotizing. I think that if the focus within the hypnotized state is God (ie, the “affirmations” are biblical truth) then the two can become intertwined.
But if you aren’t comfortable with the self-hypnosis part, there is still much that can be learned from HypnoBirthing, not just the information in the book, but even the method itself.
The idea that our minds affect what our bodies are doing, especially with regard to fear/stress/tension making birth more difficult and painful (something that is common throughout Ina May’s book, Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, Childbirth Without Fear, and Redeeming Childbirth) so reminding yourself of truth is going to help, like it would calm any anxiety or stress (“My body is designed to do this,” – however one disagreement I have with most crunchy birthing method stuff is that it doesn’t take into account the fall, “God is in control,” etc).
However, to me this falls more into the prayer and renewing your mind category so I feel like it’s something that while it may have the same effect is entirely different at root. Our goal shouldn’t be a result of pain-free childbirth, but the truth. For the Christian, truth brings peace, whether it brings relief of suffering or not, and any discomfort in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can be met with worship if we have prepared ourselves to do so (I’ll give some ideas in my next post).

HypnoBirthing: Summary

I had heard about HypnoBirthing before I was pregnant with S, but hadn’t looked into it that much and didn’t look into it much during that pregnancy. It seemed like it would be weird and new age, so I avoided it. But a friend that teaches it said that while some people use it that way, it really isn’t, which got me interested in it, especially after I talked with her about S’s birth and how much I hated pushing. She looked at me and said “you didn’t have to push at all,” and talked about HypnoBirthing’s breathing the baby out technique. So I borrowed the book from her to learn more.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method is not hard to read, and not that hard to understand, but like Bradley Method, would take a lot of practice if you’re really going to utilize it. I was reading it more from curiosity than with a plan to utilize it in labor, and many of the concepts were familiar to me from Bradley Method, Childbirth Without Fear, and Ina May.
Its basic philosophy is that childbirth is normal, natural, and healthy, and therefore can be calm. It focuses a lot on the power of the mind and words, neither of which can be denied, and are things that are emphasized by many other birthing methods. It sees the birth provider as a lifeguard, there for problems but otherwise as uninvolved as possible.
HypnoBirthing traces the history of childbirth, especially how it became negatively stigmatized in the 2nd Century AD, and with that fear of it increased and so did pain, and when chlorofoam became popular, birth moved to the hospital so that it could be used, and from there anesthesia, analgesia, and medicine to speed and ease labor became the norm. It focuses on the fear = taut cervix= pain idea, that a perceived threat puts our bodies into flight/freeze/fight mode, which when you’re in labor leads to tension and thus more pain as the baby needs space and opening to get out.

This all leads to the method part of HypnoBirthing: teaching your body how to relax so that your muscles can do their thing and the more relaxed you are, the less painful birth will be – some HypnoBirthing mothers say their births were painless, which I don’t think is contrary to the curse as what we often translate “pain” is the same word used for Adam that is usually translated “toil.”

HypnoBirthing teaches relaxation through breathing patterns, massages, music, etc, that will help you relax, and having an “anchor” to help you go into relaxation mode (think Pavlov’s Dogs). It reminded me a lot of the Bradley Method’s emphasis on relaxation, at least at first.

My biggest surprise while reading the book was how little of it was anything beyond relaxation. It defines hypnosis as the same thing we go into when we daydream or are so absorbed in something we lose track of time or stop paying attention to what’s around us. This is consistent with a lot of the techniques in the book, as the teaching is on how to deeply relax and not how to hypnotize yourself in the way most people think about hypnosis. But while the book uses “hypnosis” and “relaxation” synonymously most of the time, it does eventually move from deep relaxation techniques into things that would be more generally considered as hypnosis, so its definition isn’t completely accurate. Later on, there are exercises for “numbing” parts of your body and things like that which are more of how we generally think of hypnosis, a transition into an alternate reality. This seems to be the danger with hypnosis, where the lines between what is real and what isn’t are blurred, and in a state where you are so deeply relaxed you are unaware of a lot of things, this could lead to acting on things that aren’t true (like a woman who, in hypnosis, thought her pain was gone and began to run around, damaging her spinal cord and dying). HypnoBirthing’s use of hypnosis is more than just what you find yourself in when you zone out and does get into a slightly altered state of consciousness – not one that we find so completely altered that the method should be thrown out, but altered enough that caution is urged.

Another word of caution: I had already returned the book before I was made aware of this so I can’t remember how it was talked about, but HypnoBirthing does mention Harmonious Attraction/the Law of Attraction, which is a New Age version of Karma.

While hypnosis and relaxation have more to do with the mind and body, HypnoBirthing also focuses on the power of word. This comes in having a positive view towards birth (mentioned above, with pregnancy and birth being normal, healthy parts of life) and knowing that the female body was designed to birth. It also includes “birth affirmations,” which some people use as mantras, but they don’t have to be used in a repetitive/mind emptying way. Some of them are also odd and things that I would debate the truthfulness of (“your birthing will unfold exactly as you see it now. You have defined your birthing in this way, and your birthing will happen as you have defined it”). This can be taught and used in a new age way, with the idea that you can not only affect your body by what you say, but even alter reality by your words, especially when you are in hypnosis, which is something we are not comfortable with.
That said, the idea that words are powerful and can affect the physical body is not wrong, but we need to make sure that they are TRUTH. As Christians we should be preaching truth to ourselves whether we are in the pain of labor or not!
With this, I want to note that HypnoBirthing talks a lot about the design of the body for birth, and how our bodies are not flawed. I agree with this in part: the design of the female body to birth a baby is not flawed. However, we live in a fallen world, so we do have to be careful in how we think about all that. That said, the uterus is a powerful, well-designed muscle and the way the physical birthing process works is amazing to study. Ina May says that if men had such a muscle they would brag about it… and while I don’t usually do that it IS my favorite muscle.
A third aspect of the HypnoBirthing method is visualization, picturing things like the opening of a rose (in relation to your cervix opening, etc), which I would categorize similarly to words and the effect words can have on our physical bodies. However, I don’t think I would give words and visualization quite as much power as HypnoBirthing does.

The book is also full of other stuff:
– pre-birth nurturing and connecting with your baby
– Nutrition (pretty standard recommendations)
– Exercise (again, pretty standard for pregnancy, with an emphasis on posture/positioning)
– It talks about perineal massage as “mandatory,” but more recent stuff has shown that it may or may not really help.
– Sample birth preferences (love the wording choice there – preferences, not plan)
– Breathing the baby out instead of pushing (see video here).
– some talk about postpartum – breastfeeding, fourth trimester, etc.

It brought up a lot of wondering for me about S’s birth and the way it progressed – especially if her birth was so easy because we were on our own and unhindered for most of labor and really quite unaware of how far along I was. But also it has me wondering about pushing and tearing – since I hated pushing so much, and I know that rather than loosening when she crowned my reaction to the midwife saying “this is the part we talked about where you stop pushing,” was something that caused more tension and thus tearing. So I am hoping to “breathe the baby out” but we’ll see what my body wants to do… with S the natural expulsive reflex got pretty strong and there were times I definitely wanted to push!

HypnoBirthing was a helpful book for me to read, and I think it definitely could be a very useful, pain-relieving method. But it did leave me with questions, mostly as I worked through the feeling of hypnosis being wrong, which led to really thinking about WHY it is viewed that way in Christian circles and if it’s a proper view for the self-hypnosis in HypnoBirthing that goes beyond deep relaxation.

Book Review: Resounding Truth

Jeremy Begbie’s book “Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music” had been recommended to me a few years ago. I read the first few pages on our West Coast road trip this summer since a friend had it on her bookshelf, and then put it on my list to read in 2016. It took me a while to get through it, but was very good. It’s probably the most academic and technical book I’ll read all year, but was still very easy to follow and understand, and very accessible to my level (or memory ;)) of music theory and history – background that you wouldn’t absolutely need to read the book, but that was very helpful and meant that I didn’t have to stop and look things up while reading. I enjoyed that side of it, though, because it’s been a while since I did anything that engaged me with music theory and history so my brain was eager to have those thoughts again.

A few times I commented aloud “this is so good!” while reading it, and Ezra would ask “what’s it about?” and I found myself struggling a bit for answers, since it was about a lot more than I had expected. Resounding Truth is about how our theology should affect our music, but also pulls a lot from music that helps understand theology more. But that’s an overly-simplistic summary because it’s about a lot more than that, as Begbie traces aspects of music history and church history, applying it to life as a Christian Musician as he builds on things he talked about in previous chapters.

In his conclusion, Begbie asks questions that I think summarize well what the book is about –
“Are music making and music hearing to be understood as embedded in and responsible to an order wider than that which we generate? One that is worthy of respect and trust? … even if not raised with theological concerns in mind, this issue inevitably presses us strongly in a theological direction – if the world is given, then by what or whom, and to what end?” (page 307)
On page 308, he says “my prime concern has been… to jolt the imagination by setting every aspect of music in the context of the breathtaking vision of reality opened up by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Begbie looks at a lot of pitfalls in how Christians think about music, how having God as Creator should affect the kind of music we write/perform/listen to, and how as Christians Musicians we can take part in the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28), discovering, respecting, developing, healing, and anticipating together as the body of Christ, musicians and non-musicians.

I am glad I read Resounding Truth more slowly than I read most books, but even so I feel the need to go back over many parts of it and re-read the book from time to time to really grasp everything Begbie writes. And I have some listening to do that I didn’t get around to while reading… like listening to Messaien’s “Quartet for the End of Time” with a better understanding of its history and Messaien’s approach to music.

If you’re a musician I can’t recommend this book enough, and if you have little to no background in music I still recommend it, but you may want to read a book about music history first, or something about art and worldview, like Nancy Pearcey’s “Saving Leonardo” before you read Resounding Truth to be more familiar with some of the music history Begbie builds on.

Ottolenghi: Jerusalem

My brother-in-law gave my sister Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, and my parents saw it while visiting them. Then Ezra and I visted them and loved looking at the recipes – and then my parents gave it to me for my birthday. We decided pretty quickly that we didn’t just want to try some of the recipes, but we wanted to cook through the entire cookbook. So in August 2014 we started cooking through it, taking a break for a bit after S was born and when we first got to Japan. We finished in May 2016 (but if we’re honest there is one pickle recipe in the back we haven’t made because I can’t find turnips out of season).


(date and almond spinach salad)

A large number of the recipes are spectacularly delicious. Quite a few are also rather labor intensive and very few are quick, weeknight meals. Some call for odd ingredients that we had to substitute or order online (especially when we moved to Japan and lost our International Market!). The International Market was a huge help in finding some of the odder ingredients or finding higher quality tahini than the American grocery stores carry and getting a better deal on spices and fresh herbs. But even with the market it wasn’t the most budget-friendly book to cook through, although it made having meatless nights easier because his vegetable, grain, and side recipes are so delicious you can use them as a main and don’t even miss the meat.


(maqluba)

There were only one or two recipes did we not like (and those were ones we had expected to not like). Some weren’t spectacular but were delicious for what they were – like wilted chard. Our most common substitutions were using honey instead of sugar and using ground spices instead of whole ones. We couldn’t find quince so used pears, and iinstead of Jerusalem artichokes – which I have never seen – we used water chestnuts. A budget-minded substitution was using canned artichoke hearts instead of 12 artichoke bottoms.


(chocolate krantz cake)

Most of the time the recipes went off perfectly, but the one thing we always had trouble with was the dishes where rice is cooked in with other things. Our guess is that he had a gas stove, but we did have a gas stove for part of the time we had trouble with it. So I’m not entirely sure what was going on. But we usually ended up adding more water and extending the cooking time a bit. Otherwise we didn’t have any trouble with following the directions or recipes flopping. That said, they never looked quite as beautiful as the pictures, but were still usually safe to make for guests even if we hadn’t cooked them before, and it’s still our go-to for guests.


(ma’amul was the one more labor intensive recipe I gave up on and made into bars)

The cookbook itself is gorgeous, and one of my regrets is not having a cookbook stand that would cover it. We did write notes on all the recipes, but I also got a lot of splashes and grease marks on pages.


(the result of a confused cooking time)

It really grew my cooking, too. Using allspice as a savory spice was new to me but now something I love with ground beef. There were also a variety of new techniques (like confit) and skills I learned making things, especially working with phyllo dough. We were introduced to some new ingredients and vegetables (like kohlrabi, although I usually couldn’t find it and used jicama), and used cuts of meat we wouldn’t normally use (I never would have purchased lamb neck, nor guessed it would be so tasty!).


(hummus and tabouleh)

He was often very clear about weights and measurements even of produce, which was very helpful, especially as onions come in all sorts of sizes!


(fig compote)

For me, having grown up around a lot of these dishes, cooking through was very nostalgic, and there were times I didn’t recognize a recipe but as soon as I bit in memories came flooding back. Some things have a unique twist to them, but some, like his hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush, mejadara – are just like my childhood.


(ka’ach bilmalch)

Favorite recipes: (the asterisks are the “best of the best”)
*Roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs (pg 26). Fresh figs are delicious but not necessary. Oddly enough, they were easier to find *in Japan than in Cali!
Baby spinach salad with dates and almonds (page 30).
Roasted butternut and red onion with tahini and za’atar (page 36) – one we’ve made about 3 times!
Lemony leek meatballs (page 44).
*Pureed beets with yogurt & za’atar (page 53).
Fried cauliflower with tahini (60).
*Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad (page 62)
*Butternut squash & tahini spread (page 69).
spicy beet, leek, and walnut salad (73).
roasted potatoes with caramel and prunes (page 86).
sabih (page 91) – but DON’T fry the eggplant! Eggplant just soaks up the oil and it’s gross. Much better grilled!
*balilah (page 102)
basmati and wild rice with chickpeas, currants, and herbs (106)
hummus with lamb neck (page 118)
*burnt eggplant and mograbieh soup (page 141)
spicy freekeh soup with meatballs (page 148)
*lamb stuffed quince with pomegranate (page 155)
*turnip and veal cake (page 156)
*stuffed onions (page 157)
kubbeh hamusta (page 162)
*stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts (page 166)
*chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice (page 184). One of Ezra’s top recipes!
*chicken sofrito (page 190). I think our favorite! We have plans to combine this with the veal cake recipe, using the veal cake one but subbing chicken for veal and adding whole cloves of garlic.
*lamb meatballs with barberries, yogurt, and herbs (page 199)
*turkey and zucchini burgers (page 200) – quick for Ottolenghi!
*slow-cooked veal with prunes and leek (page 206) probably my favorite meat one aside from sofrito.
fricassee salad (page 227).
prawns, scallops, and clams with tomato and feta (page 233).
marinated sweet and sour fish (page 238). I didn’t love this, but Ezra did, mostly for how unique it is.
ka’ach bilmalch (page 248)
burekas (page 254)

And we’ll just say ALL of the desserts because I would be listing practically all of them.
We also did all the condiments, and our only issue there was that we’re not big fans of his pickles. The dukkah (page 300) is absolutely delicious and great on salad with dates.