Monthly Archives: March 2016

What I Learned: Food is Culture and Setting Myself Up to Win


Food is Culture

We tried some new foods while we were in Peru.  It reminded of our visit to Mexico three years ago when my husband coined the phrase, “Food is culture”

We have eat tamales at our church every year at Easter.  It’s become a tradition.  Church culture, organizational culture, even family culture is shaped by culinary traditions.

I like the thought that we can intentionally shape our cultures.  Centuries of tradition, ritual and culture are handed down to us.  We can accept or reject what we’ve been given.  Food can be a tool in shaping the culture that we pass on.

More about Food is Culture here.

subtle shift

An insight into my psyche

Something strange happened to me on our trip to Peru.  It took days to figure it out.  But, I think I finally got a handle on it.  Read more about it here.


Setting myself up to win

I’m a sucker for self-improvement.  If I’m not implementing a new system, then I’m depressed, discouraged and too disheartened to try again.  When we got back from Peru my routines were shot. Staying up till midnight talking to our hosts (some nights we didn’t eat supper till 10) and sleeping till 7 or 8 meant the habit of getting up at 5:30 had to be re-implemented. I evaluated how to get back on track without losing the ground I’d gained in the past year.

First of all, a little tidbit from Michael Hyatt influenced my thinking.  He said that it’s a myth that it only takes 21 days to establish a new habit. (I knew that– it’s 28.)  He said it’s more like 66 days. What?!  At that rate, it was going to take 6-9 months to re-establish the habits I already had in place.  That’s no good.

So, I decided to “batch” my habits and focus on accomplishing three every morning for 66 days: getting up at 5:30, thank you note to Pete and devotions.  My reward would be 20 minutes of  reading for fun after those three things were accomplished.  (The idea of rewarding a good habit comes from Power of Habit.)  That meant exercise time would be hit and miss, as would blogging.  But, you have to start again somewhere.  This was doable.

One another little tweak that set me up to win.  In the past, I wrote the numbers 1-28 on the big calendar in my kitchen when starting a new habit and crossed them off when I succeeded for the day.  This time I’m writing in 1-66 on each day I succeed. What difference does it make?  If, for some reason, I don’t make it one day, there will be a blank space rather than a number not crossed off.  Maybe it’s subtle.  Maybe it won’t make any difference.  But, it feels less like a “fail” to me.

So, that’s where I am.  Starting over.  Setting myself up for a win.

What have you learned this month?

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What I’m Into: Food is Culture and Great Read Alouds

March has been an unusual month.  Pete and I went to Peru at the beginning of the month then spent a couple of days in Mexico before coming home.  Getting back into routine after our trip has been a bear.  But, time away from home meant more time to read!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer for “What I’m Into”

Penderwicks Buy it now from Amazon

The Penderwicks

I loved reading The Penderwicks so much last month that I decided to read it out loud to the teens in my car pool.  It’s getting chuckles and snickers from the teens and more enjoyment for me the second time around.

I appreciate the great values and the timeless feel of the book.  I also love how she captures the quirkiness of childhood.  Plus, I can’t get away from feeling the word “whimsy” sums it up the best.

BoysintheBoat Buy it now from Amazon

Boys in the Boat

I’m reading this out loud to my 16-year-old son, and appreciating it at a deeper level the second time around.  Joe Rantz is my hero.  His life story goes to prove you can be a winner even if life dealt you a crummy hand.


International travel means new culinary experiences and some reflections on food as culture.


Another series on Your Move with Andy Stanley, Breathing Room.  The idea here is don’t max yourself out.  Arrange your schedule, your finances and your life with some breathing room.

It reminds me of one my all time favorite books, Margin by Richard Swenson.  It’s a book that made an impact on me years ago and sill influences my thinking regularly.

Margin Buy it now from Amazon

(Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a small portion of your purchase will go to support this site. )

What are you into this month?

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Food is Culture


When Pete and I went to Mexico three years ago with our ministry team, we were inhaling tamales, atole, tacos arabes– eating everytime we turned a corner. One of the main purposes of the trip was to learn the culture, but we were doing so much eating that my husband coined the phrase “food is culture”.


When we were in Peru earlier this month, we got to try Ceviche for the first time.  Ceviche is raw fish marinated in lemon juice till it “cooks”.  It sounds strange, but actually tastes good.  It’s often served with Yucca, which is very much like a potato in taste and texture.


Another culinary first for us in Peru. I can’t remember what these were called, but picture ground meat wrapped in mashed potatoes and deep fried.  Yum.  Also, deep fried donut thingies. Yep that’s technical.


On our way back from Peru, we spent a couple of days in Mexico, and were able to experience some more “culture”.

Tacos Arabes are made from meat cooked on an upright spit and then shaved off.


On the table.


And ready to eat.


That is the pinkest tamale I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was also one of the best–sweet with a great flavor.

I’m fascinated thinking about what it takes to build a culture:  tradition, ritual, expectations, norms, celebration, punishment.   We are born into a culture and we adopt it or reject it, surrounded by others adopting and rejecting.

But, then, we reach a point when we become the culture shapers.  We lay foundations and sculpt a family culture.  We shape the culture of our churches, schools and organizations.  We decide, “This is how we do it here.  We will establish our traditions, rituals, expectations, norms, celebrations and punishments.”

And food is interwoven into it all.  Some traditional foods are associated with celebration.  In our church we eat tamales on Easter Sunday morning.

In our family, we have a few favorite recipes for special occasions.  I’d like to be more intentional about preserving and passing on those recipes, those traditions, those memories.  Because, essentially, we’re passing on culture.  We are the culture shapers.

What culinary traditions do you have that shape your family culture?

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What I’m Reading March 2016

ReadingMar16There’s nothing like international travel for creating more time to read. (Especially when you book economical flights with long layovers.)  It took us almost 24 hours to get from our home in Indiana to Trujillo, Peru. Lots of good reading time and an insight into my psyche.

My favorite read of the month was The Penderwicks.  Since, I’m not homeschooling any more and my youngest is 16, I’m looking for ways to share this great book.

Bonus: Today, I had a 4-year-old crawl up on my lap with a book to read.  This doesn’t happen often anymore.

girlonthetrain Buy it now from Amazon

The Girl on the Train

I’m probably one of the few people on the planet who didn’t like Girl on the Train.

Yes, it was a riveting page turner.

However, the depravity of the characters left me depressed.

The grinding life of an unemployed alcoholic takes a turn when an acquaintance goes missing.  The tangled  relationships leaves you wondering who’s good, who’s bad, who’s lying and who’s not. Lots of mystery, lots of ugly secrets.  Like I said, depressing.

Penderwicks Buy it now from Amazon

The Penderwicks

5 Stars!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this whimsical story. (That’s a lotta love.)  I’m thinking about reading it to the teens in my carpool, since I don’t have any little kids to read it too.  I’ll be giving it to my nieces and nephews, too, when I get the chance.

Four motherless girls on vacation with their father and chronicles their romps with pets, neighbors and each other:  a simple, but satisfying plot.

I loved the uplifting, engaging characters.  Real heroes.  Great values.   Whimsical.

HowtoFlyaHorse Buy it now from Amazon

How to Fly a Horse

I got bogged down in the middle of this tome, but parts of it were fascinating.  I didn’t follow the progression of the argument till the end.

The bottom line:  There’s no such thing as creative genius.  Only hard work, partnership, team work and motivation to create.

My favorite section was the raw spaghetti noodle tower challenge, in which groups of kindergarteners built higher towers than the groups of CEOs,  lawyers or business school students.

BigMagic Buy it now from Amazon

Big Magic

I have not read Eat, Love, Pray, Elizabeth Gilbert’s best selling memoir.

Big Magic is not a memoir, though it does include personal stories.  Instead, in delves into the life of creatives.  There’s a lot to like in this book, including exceptional writing.

I’m a little confused, though, about Gilbert’s main thesis.  She started out saying that ideas roam the earth looking for a person to inhabit.  They come and go as they please and are swapped out from one person to another.  She ends the book saying that the keys to creating are discipline and perseverance, whether the muse strikes or not.  Which is it?

WalkintheWoods Buy it now from Amazon

A Walk in the Woods

Bryson tells the story of hiking the Appalachian Trail with a friend or two.  (Well, he hiked part of it.)  Lots of history and wildlife lore interwoven with the story.  There were a few funny moments.

Occasionally rude passages and a sprinkling of language almost kept me from finishing it.  I’m still not sure if it was worth the time I spent reading it.

Unknown Buy now from Amazon

The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating

I appreciate Andy Stanley’s position on a controversial subject.  But, as he talks honestly where people are today, it’s discouraging to see how far the culture has strayed from Judeo-Christian values.  Lots of good information for different ages, but I’d say this book is geared to young adults who have messed up their dating life.  I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to young teens or not.

I’m still gleaning picks from the best of 2015 lists, because, why not?

(Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra expense to you, a small portion of your purchase will go to support this site.)

What are your great reads this month?




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The Itch I Couldn’t Reach

subtle shift

Something strange happened on our trip to Peru.  Like an itch you can’t quite reach or the name just out of reach of conscious memory, I couldn’t figure it out.

On our first layover after leaving Chicago, the plane bumped onto the runway in San Salvador.  I looked out of the window and saw palm trees.  I felt something I couldn’t identify: just a twinge;  a small whisper.

After puzzling about it for days, I figured it out: there was a subtle shift in my spirit and my international alter ego awoke.

I know there are palm trees in Florida.  I know there are palm trees in California.  (We lived in Southern California as newlyweds, but in a Hispanic neighborhood– so almost international.)

But, something about seeing those palm trees connected with the memories of living in the Philippines as a teenager and the memories of living in Mexico as an adult.

Something about seeing those palm trees said, “We’re not in Indiana any more.”  Time to shift to your Latin personality.  (Which isn’t necessarily the best version of myself, I might add.)

I have trouble expressing myself in Spanish.  To be embarrassingly frank, I have trouble expressing myself verbally in any language.  (Okay, in English.  It’s not like I speak a lot of languages.)

Did you know your personality changes in another culture?  Okay, all your basic tendencies remain the same.  But, a different environment will bring out or suppress some of the ways you are naturally wired.  This has been a slow realization.  But, being a Psych geek, it’s one that fascinates me.

Anyway, ever since that experience of looking out of the plane window in San Salvador, I’ve been trying to figure out why I had that strange twinge in my soul.  Mystery solved.  Elementary, my dear Watson.

What’s your latest light bulb moment about yourself?







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