Tuesday, November 18, 2008

List of 26: To Read

Of course this isn't exhaustive. After all, I'm working with a set number. Since I don't like to feel I've come to the end of good books, it's nice to keep a running list. If anyone has a recommendation for something to add, I'd love to hear. That's what the comment box is for. ;)

  1. Nicholas Nickelby --Dickens
  2. Orthodoxy --G.K. Chesterton
  3. Unpopular Opinions --Dorothy Sayers
  4. Confessions --St. Augustine
  5. Persuasions --Douglas Wilson
  6. Jane Eyre --Charlotte Bronte
  7. Beowulf
  8. Unfinished Tales --J.R.R. Tolkien
  9. Autobiography --G.K. Chesterton
  10. St. Francis of Assisi --G.K. Chesterton
  11. Mind of the Maker --Dorothy Sayers
  12. Jungle Book --Kipling
  13. Standing on the Promises --Douglas Wilson
  14. Future Grace --John Piper
  15. Passionate Housewives Desperate for God --Jennie Chancey/Stacy MacDonald
  16. Linnets and Valerians --Elizabeth Goudge
  17. The Dean's Watch --Elizabeth Goudge
  18. The Pursuit of Holiness --Jerry Bridges
  19. A Good Man is Hard to Find --Flannery O'Connor
  20. Bound for Glory --R.C. Sproul, Jr.
  21. Against Christianity --Peter Leithart
  22. The Little Boy Down the Road --Doug Phillips
  23. Family Driven Faith --Voddie Baucham
  24. Surprised by Joy --C.S. Lewis
  25. Mere Christianity --C.S. Lewis
  26. The Abolition of Man --C.S. Lewis
This is the end of the lists of 26. Next time I make a list, I think I'll work with an easier number. Say, 3. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

List of 26: Books I Didn't Like

When I read a book, I write it down in my reading log, and rate it according to a color system. These books got yellow--the lowest possible rating. It's interesting to note that half of the books on the following list were read at least ten years ago. There are several possible conclusions I can come to from this: (a) I read a lot of bad books when I was younger. (b) My pre-reading weeding system is better now (c) I'm not so picky anymore (d) There are more bad children's books that adult books. Probably none of these is true. And if I was up on my logic, I'd know what fallacies these represent!

Anyway, I've listed these in reverse chronological order. (most recently read first) I've tried to note why I didn't like a book, but after number 13 I simply couldn't remember.

  1. Reading Like a Writer --Francine Prose (Valuable insights mixed with poor choice of examples. Ugh! These moderns!)
  2. And There Were None --Agatha Christie (see my review)
  3. The Moving Finger --Agatha Christie (mystery unfair to reader; uncalled for appearance of Miss Marple 3/4 of the way through)
  4. Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet --Gayden Metcalfe (reads like a gossip column)
  5. Thrones and Dominations --Sayers/Jill Paton Walsh (see my review)
  6. Manners --Kate Spade
  7. A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove --Laura Schenone (Bleak feminist outlook.)
  8. Do Butlers Burgle Banks? --P.G. Wodehouse (it's awful when a good writer is evidently trying too hard!)
  9. Style --Kate Spade
  10. The Revenge of Anguished English --Richard Lederer (I actually got quite a few laughs from this. But the off-colour humour and profanity spoiled the book for me. That stuff stays in my head.)
  11. There and Back Again --Sean Astin (profanity)
  12. Biffen's Millions --P.G. Wodehouse (another title that just doesn't compare to his best stuff)
  13. A Matter Of Trust --T. Elizabeth Renich (poor writing and choice of subject matter considering age of target readership)
  14. Smeller Martin --Robert Lawson
  15. Belles on Their Toes --Frank Gilbreth
  16. I Discover Columbus --Robert Lawson
  17. Texas Tomboy --Lois Lenski
  18. A Picture of Freedom --P.C. McKissack
  19. Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie --Kristina Gregory
  20. A Daughter of Zion --Bodie Thoene
  21. Struggling Upward and Other Works --Horatio Alger
  22. The Glorious Conspiracy --Joanne Williamson
  23. Mandie and Joe's Christmas Surprise --Lois Gladys Leppard
  24. The Fabulous Flight --Robert Lawson
  25. Paddington Takes to T.V. --Michael Bond
  26. I Will Adventure --Elizabeth Janet Gray

List of 26: Favorite Poems

I've been somewhat obsessed with the number 26 recently. Why, I prefer to leave a mystery. Although, anyone who has known me for a while probably won't find it that hard to guess. ;) Anyway, I've been amusing myself by adjusting various lists to this particular length. Since I don't have any new book reviews, I'll post a few of these instead. Enjoy. Or not. Depending on whether you happen to be list lover like myself.

These poems are not in any particular order. If I've mentioned a favorite of yours, please comment. If I've left yours out, share it. Maybe it will turn into a new favorite! I've purposely left out hymns, because those make up a whole list in themselves.

  1. Alter? --Emily Dickinson
  2. I sing to use the waiting--E. Dickinson
  3. The Thousandth Man --Rudyard Kipling
  4. Given in marriage --E. Dickinson
  5. He ate and drank --E. Dickinson
  6. Sonnet 116 --Shakespeare
  7. Afterflakes --Robert Frost
  8. Jabberwocky --Lewis Carroll
  9. Rime of the Ancient Mariner --Coleridge
  10. Sonnet VI --Elizabeth Browning
  11. Sonnet XXVI --E. Browning
  12. Halfway Down --A.A. Milne
  13. There is no frigate --E. Dickinson
  14. Eletelephony --L. Richards
  15. Father William --Lewis Carroll
  16. My Love --James Russell Lowell
  17. Sonnet 18 --Shakespeare
  18. The Village Blacksmith --Longfellow
  19. The Walrus and the Carpenter --Lewis Carroll
  20. Little Orphant Annie --James Whitcomb Riley
  21. When the Frost is on the Punkin --J.W. Riley
  22. I Never Saw a Moor --E. Dickinson
  23. It Dropped so Low in my Regard --E. Dickinson
  24. At Least to Pray is Left --E. Dickinson
  25. That I Did Always Love --E. Dickinson
  26. Sneezles --A.A. Milne
Maybe this should have been the "Emily Dickinson (and a few others)" list. Must be pretty obvious who my favorite poet is!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Birthday of a great man

Today is Martin Luther's birthday. Here are a few of my favorite quotes, in honour of a man who was used by God to bless so many who came after him.

"It is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoicest or laughest from the bottom of thy heart." --Martin Luther

"To be gloomy before God is not pleasing to him, although he would permit us to be depressed before the world. He does not with me to have a long face in his presence, as he says, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked [Ezek. 33:11] and 'Rejoice in the Lord'. [Phil. 4:4] He desires not a servant who does not expect good things of him." --Luther, Table Talk #122

And lastly, a long quote from the only major work that I have read by Luther, The Bondage of the Will:

"...God has surely promised his grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realises that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another--God alone. ....he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Need something humorous?

I recommend reading Umberto Eco's essay, How to Organize a Public Library. I laughed my way through it for the first time this morning.

Finishing books has not been my strong point this fall. Hence my lack of posts on the blog. However, I am beginning to make some headway. Currently, I'm working through Here I Stand, a bio of Martin Luther. And of course, A Passion For Books, where I discovered the above-mentioned essay. :)

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Poem for the Season

I've been thinking about this poem for a week now, ever since the change of seasons. I memorized it (well, tried!) back in 6th grade, and can still remember most of the 1st stanza. I enjoy the rhythmic writing and dialect that James Whitcomb Riley employs. Hope you do too!

HEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here--
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries--kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below--the clover over-head!--
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me--
I'd want to 'commodate 'em--all the whole-indurin' flock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!
James Whitcomb Riley, from the Poetry Archive

My mom's apple butter

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

List: Favorite Words

Lately at the Farmer's market (where my brother, sis and I have been helping a family friend this summer), there has been more down time. So last week while studying my Latin, I got distracted and started making a list of my favorite words. Some of these I like because of the meaning, but most for their sound:

toile de Jouy (I suppose this is technically a phrase)

What are some of your favorite words?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thoughts on Get Married by Candice Watters, Part 2

Read Part One

The rest of Get Married can be summed up in three imperatives: “Live like you’re planning to marry”, “You need a network”, and “Pray boldly”.

It is easy to slide through our single years thinking there is all the time in the world. But, as Mrs. Watters points out, how you live now deeply effects your future: “To suggest that regardless of how you live, God will bring the right man along when the time is right if marriage is His will, is at best na├»ve, and at worst presumptuous….Women must do all they can to prepare. Then we can trust God for the rest, knowing we’ve been faithful to do our part.” (p. 71,77)

She lists four hindrances to good opportunities for marriage that women need to be aware of: procrastinating, aiming too high, hyperindependence, and avoiding risk.


God designed us with a prime time for marrying and having babies. That may be controversial but it is indisputable: Our biology, fertility, sexuality, energy, and beauty all reinforce that we have a window of opportunity to form a family well. This is not to say that if you are past a certain age, God can't bless you, but there is a season when some things--especially children--are more likely. Tragically, in our current culture, many women don't realize it until their window starts to close. (p. 134)

Aiming Too High

“We’ve lost our perspective of what a reasonable opportunity for marriage is….We may think what we want is a male version of us, but that’s not what God designed men to be. …I’m not saying you should lower your expectations; I am saying you should realign them.” (p. 136, 137)

This point has prompted me to take a fresh look about what God has to say in His word regarding the qualities a good man should exhibit. I realize that my expectations have been shaped more by the culture around me than by the Bible.


Even women who deeply desire marriage find themselves pouring themselves into their life as a single woman with little thought or planning for their future as a married one. They're hard at work on their careers and financial goals--their "Plan B" as many call it--just in case Plan A is delayed or never happens. It's understandable, and in our culture, praised, to make the most of your singleness. The problem is that Plan A requires moving toward oneness--interdependence--with another person in marriage. Plan B finds you becoming increasingly independent so you don't need another person. It's easy to see how actively investing in B could undermine A. (p.139)

This is something I’ve had to seriously consider as I choose how to spend my time.

Avoiding Risk
"It's tempting to wait until there is no risk, until there is no chance you could be hurt. Or hurt again. Your fears are real, but you can't let them have the last word. To live like you are planning to marry is risky because love is risky." (p.141)

“Living like you’re planning to marry means intentionally resisting these cultural traps and instead cultivating community, stewardship, and purity—the elements of Christian discipleship that can best help you recognize and embrace opportunities.”(p.141)

I found much food for thought in chapter five, “You need a network”. I’d never considered the idea of formal mentoring. Yet it makes sense to ask for help from those who are older and wiser. If what you’re after is a strong, healthy marriage relationship, strong healthy relationships within your Christian community are the best way to get there.” (p. 90) If I make any big changes in my life because of this book, most likely they will be in this area.

The book concludes with a chapter devoted to what I am learning is one of God’s greatest gifts: prayer. The simple act of prayer is a powerful reminder to me that I am not in control. It focuses my thoughts on Another’s power and Another’s purposes. God is the source of all that I have—even my faith. I was reminded in this chapter of my great need for faith in prayer. And as we ask in faith, Mrs. Watters gives a timely warning to remember what it is we’re asking for: “Asking God to help you find a mate is asking Him to take you from a place of single focus to one that will require selflessness. Far from being the answer to all your dreams and fantasies, marriage will be a crucible for making you more like Christ.” (p. 152)

It is exciting to look forward to God’s work: Imagine in the midst of our postmarriage culture, small countercultures springing up where marriage is honored, men are respectfully motivated, women are cherished, mentors are working on your behalf, purity is esteemed; in short where everyone is striving for the set-apart life Paul described in Thessalonians 3:11-4:8.”(p.150)

If you wonder whether it’s right to desire marriage, read this book. If you’re a single woman, wondering if waiting is the only thing you can do, read this book. If you’re actively preparing for marriage, but losing hope as you see nothing on the horizon, read this book.

You’ll be encouraged.

Thoughts on Get Married by Candice Watters, Part 1

Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen
Candice Watters
Moody Publishers, 2008

I wonder if I’m doomed forever to the task of reading through a book twice before I learn something from it. When I saw the initial promotional literature for this book, I was excited. Having recently read Debbie Maken’s book Getting Serious About Getting Married, I was in serious need of some encouragement! But perhaps my expectations were too sanguine, for after the initial read I felt more frustrated than anything. I wasn’t exactly hoping to find a quick and easy 10-step marriage plan, but I was hoping to gain more insight into what my life should look like now in preparation. The book almost got left in disgust, but because of my friend Lydia’s enthusiasm over it I had the nagging feeling I should give it a second chance.

So I did. And I found that, while I may not have gained any bright new ideas, what I have gained is something worthwhile: a reaffirmation of the truth that the desire for marriage is God-given and that intentional prayer and preparation are not wasted efforts.

In chapters one and two, Mrs. Watters covers the origin of marriage as God’s gift to man. She addresses the need for Christians to rethink their attitude towards this gift, to honor rather than disparage it. She also outlines the Biblical doctrine of celibacy, and examines what prominent Biblical singles had to say about marriage. (E.g. Christ, Paul, John the Baptist)

Chapter two concludes with a rather shocking perspective on the common fear that a strong desire for marriage could turn into idolatry. Here’s what she says: “Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not in worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about.” (p. 48) And if that isn’t shocking enough, Mrs. Watters goes on to say that, “Not only is it unlikely that a godly woman’s desire for a biblical marriage would become an idol, biblical marriage is the antidote to much of the idolatry—‘Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed’—that plagues our culture…our desires for biblical marriage, if anything, aren’t strong enough.” (p. 51, emphasis mine)

In times past, I have fallen into the trap of a debilitating focus on self, learning firsthand that, “Idolatry has everything to do with our earthly nature, evil desires, wrong motives, and pursuit of our own pleasures.” (p. 50) It is freeing to know that, when my focus is back on God and my motives are realigned with His design, my desire for marriage is good. I like this quote: “‘Marriage’, writes [C.S.] Lewis, ‘is the proper reward for the real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it.’” (p. 51)

Chapter three is one of the main reasons I initially left this book frustrated. Here, Mrs. Watters catalogs how far both men and women have fallen from God’s standards as a consequence of the Original Sin and the resulting anti-marriage culture:

How do women, in their fallen state, react to the damage? Instead of relating to men as their helpers, they view them as competitors; instead of viewing home as a noble responsibility, they shun it and look to the workplace as the only legitimate arena for their talents; instead of embracing their fertility, they debilitate it; instead of heeding wisdom’s call, they hear only folly; and instead of becoming like a crown of glory to their husbands, they are a disgrace. (p. 60-61)

This we need to hear. These are things, with God’s help, I can turn away from. But it was the next problem she mentions that left me feeling very helpless: men who do not embrace their role as leaders, men who have no apparent belief in the need for personal initiative in finding a wife. It is a problem that Mrs. Watters says is due in part to the lack of Biblical teaching in many churches today:

It’s one thing to tell a woman to stop looking for a husband and just trust God to bring you one, but to tell a man to stop looking for a wife is a big part of why so many singles who’d like to be married aren’t. To tell a man “stop looking for a wife and then she’ll appear,” is like telling him to stop studying , stop looking for a job, and stop house hunting in order to get a college degree, land a job, and buy a house. Sentiments like these may be well-intentioned and even sound spiritual, but they’re not biblical. (p. 63)

If I’m honest, my feelings of frustration have nothing to do with the book. They have everything to do with my tendency to become pessimistic when confronted with difficulties, rather than seeing them as opportunities to call out to God. It’s not all hopeless: there is excellent advice later on to become an encourager: “What men need is to have someone who believes in them more than they believe in themselves. They need women who see in them, and encourage, what God designed men to be before the fall.” (p. 98)

Read Part 2

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Goal Worth Having

"I want to take such good care of my husband that whatever he is doing, he can do it better, because he has me."

Jacqueline Kennedy, as quoted in A Thousand Days of Magic by Oleg Cassini

This quote encapsulates for me what being a "help meet" is all about. This is what I, Lord willing, aspire to be.

*cross-posted from my Sister-Blog, because this quote was too good to miss.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Author Meme

I really can't resist filling them out...tagged or not. :) This one I found most recently at A Banner Of Crimson.
So here goes:

Who is your all-time favorite author and why?

This is hard. Because if I pick my favorite author of today, I would have to say J.R.R. Tolkien. Beauty mixed with longing. Yet I've known his writings for a mere five or six years. If I dig deeper into my past, then I would say Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her storytelling amazes me each time I revisit Little House.

Who was your first favorite author and why? Do you still consider him/her to be among your favorites?

I think it must have been Marguerite Henry or C.W. Anderson, both authors of horse stories. As a child, I read any horse story I could find. M. Henry's books paired exciting stories based in history with excellent illustrations. I still count Marguerite Henry as tops on my favorite children's author list. C.W. Anderson I love for his pencil drawings, but not for his writing, which falls flat for me now.

Who is the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

James Herriot
. I never thought I'd be reading books about icky doctor stuff. But I love his stories! They make me laugh every time. His books have rekindled my old love for animals which I'd almost forgotten.

If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth?

J.R. R. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. G.K. Chesterton. P.G. Wodehouse. Douglas Wilson. Jane Austen. R.C. Sproul Jr. Elizabeth Yates. And my mouth is still open.... ;)

Anyone else want to take a stab at it? Leave a comment or a link to your post if you do!

No time to read?

Once upon a time in the dead of winter in Dakota territory, with the temperature well below zero, young Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat, accompanied by two of his ranch hands, down-stream on the Little Missouri River in chase of a couple of thieves who had stolen his prized row boat. After days on the river, he caught up and got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered. Then, after finding a man with a team and a wagon, Roosevelt set off again to haul the thieves cross-country to justice. He left the ranch hands behind to tend to the boat, and walked alone behind the wagon, his rifle at the ready. They were headed across the snow covered wastes of the Bad Lands to the rail head at Dickinson, and Roosevelt walked the whole way, 40 miles. It was an astonishing feat, what might be called a defining moment in that eventful life. But what makes it especially memorable is that during that time, he managed to read all of Anna Karenina.

I often think of that when I hear people say they haven't time to read.

--David McCullough in a commencement address at the University of Connecticut

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Clip Art for Bibliophiles

If you've ever searched for clipart, you know that finding just the right image among the available millions can be quite time consuming. So I'd like to share a great source for antique book images which are copyright-free: Pictures from Old Books
I've already used one of the images on my other blog, and plan on keeping this site in mind for future use.
Also of interest is Antique Clipart. (Though I wasn't able to find any book images)

Announcing a new blog

It's called Sewing Sisters. Not that my sister and I will write exclusively about sewing. It just seemed the right title at the time. :) I expect it won't be of "general interest" (as Father says in Cheaper by the Dozen), but if you like to work with your hands, appreciate beauty in the everyday things of life....or just want to see what two sisters could possibly come up with to write about, check us out! It's been fun so far.

And just so you know: I have absolutely no intention of letting this blog fall by the wayside. Anymore than it has already, anyway! Comforting, aren't I? But really, I do intend to write some more serious reviews. In a cheerful fashion. Soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting Serious About Getting Married: Audio Book

I just learned that Canon Press has produced an audio book version of Debbie Maken's Getting Serious About Getting Married. I read this just a little over a year ago, and highly recommend it. It helped to cement my thinking on several topics (including what the "gift of singleness" is), and provided much conversation fodder for my friends and I! Definitely a bit of a shocking book, and one, now that there's an audio version, there's no excuse not to check it out. :) You can even listen to the first chapter for free.

Go to my book review here.

Note: It looks like you might have to wait for your copy of the audio book if you order...it's listed as a pre-order item.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

This is my first experience of Wodehouse via an audio book. (Courtesy Librivox) It's the story of Jeremy Garnett, aspiring author, and his adventures running a chicken farm with his enterprising but unscrupulous friend Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge.
The bottom line: this was Wodehouse's first attempt at a novel for adults. So if you're new to him, start with one of his better works, such as any of the Jeeves stories. Because Love Among the Chickens has none of the zip, verve or punch I've come to expect from him.
Interestingly, P.G. Wodehouse later rewrote and republished this 1906 novel nearly 20 years later. I'm not sure which text was used on the Librivox recording, as at first glance I saw no dates on the Project Gutenberg entry .

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Source for free audio books!

I'm so excited! This weekend I found an online source for free audio books: LibriVox (HT to Crystal) It's a great concept: volunteers record books that are in the public domain, the files are posted to the site, and voila! Books anyone with an internet connection can listen to.

Although I love to read books from the printed page, I'm also a big fan of audio books. There are many times when I want to read, but my eyes are tired, I'm driving, or I'm doing some sort of hand work like knitting. But I'm a bit of a penny pincher. I'd much rather check a recording out from the library than buy one. Problem is, not many of the titles there interest me. (I'm not into the latest best sellers :) After browsing LibriVox's catalog, I think I'm set for life! Old books galore. My first download: Love Among the Chickens. Wodehouse, of course.

Since anyone can record for this site, the quality of readings will vary. But all the samples I've listened to so far have been, if not top-notch "Hollywood style", at least very clear and well-paced. This would be a fun project for homeschoolers to do, actually!

Check it out. From Shakespeare to Jane Austen, science fiction to poetry, you're sure to find something that interests you.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When Life Doesn't Slow Down....

How do you find time to read? I feel like I'm starving for lack of books! In the past 4 weeks, I've only been able to finish (horrors!) three titles. This is a bit depressing. But I have to remind myself that this is only a season. And it will soon be only a dim memory.

Looking on the bright side, I've been able to squeeze in time reading aloud to my little brother. A bit of a new experience, and one I've enjoyed immensely. He has discovered the world of Little House on the Prairie for the first time. I love it when we get to the end of a chapter and he asks for "one more, please?"!

Reading aloud at the park

I've tried my hand at bargain shopping. Best deal last week: 26 individual cups of organic yogurt and 2 boxes of herbal tea for $2.50. I could get hooked on this!

My first big Walgreens experiment. It came to about $4 after sales, coupons, Register Rewards and rebates.

Watched four baby robins grow up. First they were naked and helpless. Then they were open-mouthed and ugly. Just when they started looking like birds, they were gone.

The baby robins in one of the ugly stages

Took care of one horse, two dogs and fifteen-plus cats. Weeded the garden. Had a piano recital at my house. Accompanied at an opera rehearsal. Played for a wedding. Saw the flowers of my peony plants after waiting for two years.

Biscuit and I

Life is good. But bring on the books!

One of the many cats

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Portrait of Jane Austen by Lord David Cecil

A Portrait of Jane Austen
Lord David Cecil

This fascinating book is one of the most sensible biographies I've read. Sensible, because the author sets his subject in context and refuses to apply modern philosophy to his understanding of her life and art. Too many biographers are eager to impose their own pet ideals on those they write about.

My picture of Jane Austen was rather sketchy prior to reading "A Portrait". From her books, I knew her to be a humorist well grounded in Christian morality. From my study of fashion history, I knew what she was likely to have worn. But of her personal life and motivations I knew little.

Drawing primarily from personal letters, Lord Cecil paints a picture of a woman surrounded by a large family, educated at home, and eager to write from an early age. Jane's father was particularly influential in encouraging Jane's literary bent, providing her with good books to read. It seems all the family shared a common sense of humor, amusing each other through the writing of plays, stories and parodies of popular literature.

Despite an early start in writing, her books were not published until much later in life, under a pseudonym. Even after they became best sellers, Jane Austen was loathe to be known as an author. It was a proud brother who shared her secret, and soon she received letters of congratulation from her surprised relations. I found the poem written by one of her nephews on learning Jane was a famous authoress quite amusing.

Since reading this book, I feel I have a much better grasp of the life of Miss Austen, one of my favorite authors. I highly recommend this biography as an introduction to her life. It is well written, and (at least in hardback), beautifully illustrated with period paintings.

Related: Miniatures and Morals by Peter Leithart ( a study guide focusing on Christian themes in the novels; remarkable for a persuasive essay, "Real Men Read Austen". Highly recommended!)

Soon to be released: Writer of Fancy: The Playful Piety of Jane Austen by Peter Leithart
I'm looking forward to reading this new volume from the Leaders in Action series this summer.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Quote of the day

In this vain and fallen world, a man who cannot laugh has no business undertaking to cure the world's ills, because he is chief among them.

--Doug Jones and Doug Wilson in Angels in the Architecture, as quoted in For Kirk and Covenant: The Stalwart Courage of John Knox

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

So I finally got around to reading this popular author! Couldn't help it...after all, in my crowd of friends it was "Dave Ramsey says this...", "Dave Ramsey says that"...and there I was. Clueless.

It took a bit of effort, though. I'm not much of a numbers person. I always thought I'd leave that stuff to my husband. Then I remembered: it's the wife that does a lot of the shopping. Hmm. Maybe I needed to study up on this finance stuff after all. I'm glad I did!

Dave Ramsey's main point throughout the book is "stay out of debt!" Nothing new there. I've been taught that for years. In fact, I can probably quote most of the Bible verses that talk about money, debt and servitude. So I knew how bad debt was in theory. But here's the deal: Dave Ramsey puts a face on it. I'd be pretty surprised to hear that someone borrowed after reading his book. How could they ignore all those horror stories?!

Second point: save, save, and save some more. I like this. In fact, I was quite inspired after reading the plan for "financial peace". As a stay at home daughter, a lot of stuff in the book I can't really apply. But the saving part I can. So I decided to start my $1000 emergency fund. This might be hard! I tend to save for a particular purpose, spend it all, and then start over. It works...but it's a bit discouraging, after 10+ years of teaching to have a bunch of memories and not much in the bank!

Another thing emphasized over and over is the importance of a written budget. "Tell your money where to go, or you'll wonder where it's gone."

I learned a lot of things, reading this book. All about different types of mortgages, insurance, investments. Things I'd never really looked into. I feel smarter now!

Dave Ramsey's humor is diverting. His advice is practical and easy to understand. And I appreciate how he stresses the importance of the spiritual in bringing true peace to a life. Highly recommended.

Related: The Total Money Makeover
"Financial Peace" tells why. This book shows you how. A lot of the same information, but more detailed in the practical application.

For practical money-saving tips, read Crystal's blog. Inspiring.

Nothing to Wear? by Joe Lupo

Nothing to Wear?: A Five-Step Cure for the Common Closet
by Joe Lupo

I skimmed this book in an afternoon...actually, just over lunch. Nothing new here, just common sense advice like "get rid of the clothes you don't like" and "find your style". That's pretty much it. What I will remember most are the three questions to ask when weeding your closet:
1."Do I love it?"
2. "Does it flatter me?"
3. "Does it project the image I want of myself?"

One interesting idea was to take photos of outfit combinations to keep near your closet, to save time when you're in a hurry. A bit to organized for me, but it might work for some.

I wouldn't buy it. But it's worth a glance at the library. I was inspired to get rid of a few things. ;)

And just in case you wondered what my style is: Whimsical Classic

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two Are Better Than One by Carol Ryrie Brink

Two Are Better Than One
Carol Ryrie Brink
MacMillan Co. 1968

This is a story within a story, within a story. It spans many years and continents, venturing even into the land of make-believe. Two diminutive pocket dolls, Lester and Lynette, are the connecting link. For, "you only had to put Lester and Lynette in your pocket and the dullest day turned into something special." (p.3)

The dolls entered the lives of Cordy and Chrystal, two little girls from a small Idaho town, on a Christmas day near the turn of the century. Over the course of the next year, the girls and the dolls went everywhere together--to school, on horseback rides--even into the pages of a childhood novel.

It is this novel that adds so much charm to the story. As I read the melodramatic scribblings of Cordy and Chrystal, I was reminded of my own childhood days when I wrote stories with my best friends.

There were many moments--the rag doll costumes, the cartwheel hats--that made me laugh aloud.

This story shows the joys of childhood and the transition to maturity with wit, sympathy and wisdom. I set down the book with a sigh--for once, perfectly happy with an author's ending.

It is interesting to note the many parallels to the author's life in this story. To find more about her, go here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Latest treasure hunt

I love shopping for books. Especially when they are 25 cents each, as at the latest used book sale at my local library.

For an investment of about $15, here's what we got: (minus some that have already made it to the bookshelves)

As my family and I were driving to the sale, my dad mentioned that we needed to keep an eye out for Edwin Tunis titles. Early in our homeschooling years, we loved reading his books describing the Colonial period and have been saddened to find them gradually disappearing from the library shelves. Not only that, but the prices have been going up dramatically on used copies...far above my budget, anyway!

After spending an hour or so looking through boxes and boxes of books, I thought I was finished. But my dad was still browsing the children's area. So I glanced around to pass the time---imagine my surprise when I found not one, but two Tunis titles! I couldn't help hurrying to my family and triumphantly proclaiming "I win!"

So here are my favorite buys, beneath an addition to our Clara Ingram Judson biography collection:

It was definitely a worthwhile hour and a half!

To find book sales in your area, try the Book Sale Finder. Happy hunting!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guest Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Here is another in my series of guest book reviews, this time by my brother Matthew. He has gained renewed interest in his school work this year, and diligently labored to produce this review of a book he read as part of our Bible curriculum. Encouraging comments, please!

The Screwtape Letters

This book is a supposed correspondence between a devil and his young, inexperienced nephew. The main focus of the letters is the advice and reprimands given by the uncle, on the progress (or lack thereof) of the nephew in tempting a young man.

Although this story seems to set the young man in and around the numerous life changing events of World War II (which causes no little excitement to the young devil), the author does not mention it specifically. The author does mention in the preface, that some of the events might seem to correspond with that time in history.

Even though this story can be fascinating, a warning to the reader is made in the preface, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them”. This warning is a real and essential one.

While reading I also noticed the parallels between the things I have faced and the temptations the young devil challenged the man with. No matter what the devil did, something or someone always countered it. This detail reminded me that through Christ you can overcome any temptation. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”– 1 Corinthians 10:13-14.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quick Post: Currently Reading

Blogging had to be put on hold, as our family went through a month-long round of illnesses.
Hopefully we're on the other side of that now! I'm playing catch-up with a lot of things, so until I have time to write, here's a "filler" update on my latest reads:

The Greatest Horse Stories Ever Told: Thirty Unforgettable Horse Tales by Steven Price

The title is a bit hyperbolic. That aside, it has been a nice change of pace from my normal reading fare. My favorite so far has been an article from Sports Illustrated entitled "Pure Heart" about Secretariat, an amazing racehorse who won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by over 30 lengths!

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2
by Scott Kelby

Short, one page articles on how to get professional looking shots.

Mood, Ambience & Dramatic Effects by Joseph Meehan

This beyond-the-basics book from Kodak makes me want to run outside with my camera. Many of the photos are almost drool-worthy. ;)

The Book of Matthew

I'm studying this in Bible Study Fellowship, and being challenged in so many ways. I tend to read my Bible much to quickly, and have loved focusing on one chapter at a time for a change.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wodehouse on Aunts

One of my all-time favorite Wodehouse quotes, said in a moment of exasperation by the character Bertie Wooster (in conversation with valet Jeeves) after being pulled into yet another doubtful venture by an overbearing aunt:

If I had my life to live again, Jeeves, I would start it as an orphan without any aunts. Don't they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorus?
Odalisques, sir, I understand. Not aunts.
Well, why not aunts? Look at the trouble they cause in the world. I tell you, Jeeves, and you may quote me as saying this: Behind every poor, innocent, harmless blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it.
There is much in what you say, sir.
It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.
--The Code of the Woosters, chapter 2

Funny thing is, Wodehouse himself had a comparatively easy time as far as female relatives go; although he was technically raised by his aunts, the majority of his childhood was spent at boarding schools.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Eva's Book Meme, my answers

I saw this meme while browsing book blogs, and just couldn't resist. Thanks go to the author, Eva, for making one of the most interesting lists of book-related questions I've seen!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Anything by Charles Dickens. Yes, I know he wrote "classics" that oh-so-may people rave about, but I have an aversion for them. Irrational, because I probably haven't read even one of his novels completely.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

I would invite Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, and Father Brown to go with me on a walking tour across England.

Lord Peter, because I would love to hear him talk (oh-so-wittily), because he's resourceful in a tight spot,and because he'd be sure to know some history; Harriet Vane because of course by now they're inseparable (plus she has walking tour experience); and Father Brown, because what they both need is a dose of practical Christianity. And I do think that he would be a Christian, his Catholicity notwithstanding.

I'm just asking for excitement on this tour!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

The fact is that most books I would expect to kill me would probably be somewhat interesting. Darwin or Tolstoy, for instance. I suppose in the end, any of the Hardy Boys would do. (despite liking them in childhood, I'm sure their low-quality prose would just about kill me now! ;)

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Ha ha. I'm not that fond of adventure. I'd be sure to be found out within seconds, if I tried a trick like that!

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

Not that I can recall.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

Let's say he's a Christian, but just doesn't see the need for reading past his Bible and whatever technical things he needs for his job. And let's further assume that he's intelligent and likes to take on a challenge. I'd give him a book of essays by Chesterton. This would whet his appetite for the beautiful, in literature as well as life.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Latin. Then I could understand all the quotations in old books, AND I could understand scholarly tomes written during the 1500's. Even Martin Luther wrote in Latin!

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Given that I already read the Bible daily, I would pick The Lord of the Rings. I can't get enough of the beauty of Tolkien's language!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I think I found Dorothy Sayers via the internet. A wonderful addition to my favorite author list!

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

My library would consist of one end of a long room. The wooden shelves would go from floor to ceiling, with one of those rolling ladders so I could reach the very highest ones. The shelves would have lights recessed along their edges, so that in dim light I could still find what I needed. The nonfiction would be organized first by subject, then author, with a separate section for history in chronological order. Most all of the books would be hardbacks, but I'd have double copies (paperback) of my favorites. There would be comfortable chairs to read in, a table to place my teacup on, and a cozy fireplace. I'd have some nice paintings on the wall somewhere, probably a Waterhouse (maybe one of the lady of Shallot or The Soul of the Rose), N.C. Wyeth, or Norman Rockwell.

The other end of the room would be a music room, glass-enclosed, with a baby grand piano in the middle. Bosendorfer or Steinway. I can dream, can't I?!

Oh, and while I'm dreaming, the view out of the class-enclosed portion of the room would be if not actually the English countryside, at least reminiscent of it.

Oh, and I'm supposed to tag 4 people. But I don't think I know that many bloggers who would actually do it. So I'll just tag Lydia and Natalie. No pressure, ladies!

Book reviews on Semicolon

I don't remember how I found the blog, but I've been heading over to Semicolon for the past few weeks to participate in the Saturday Review of Books. Every Saturday, the author puts up an interactive post where visitors can place a link to the books they've reviewed during the past week. It's a great idea--check it out!

Friday, February 01, 2008


Just thought I'd share a list that my dad compiled for my birthday last year. Enjoy!

  1. Doc note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
  2. May a moody baby doom a yam?
  3. Murder for a jar of red rum.
  4. Never odd or even.
  5. Too bad! I hid a boot!
  6. Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts!
  7. No trace, not one carton.
  8. Rise to vote, sir!
  9. Stressed? No tips? Spit on desserts!
  10. Live not on evil!
  11. Dennis and Edna sinned.
  12. Nurse, I spy gypsies. Run!
  13. Niagara, O roar again!
  14. Draw, O coward!
  15. Knits stink!
  16. A nut for a jar of tuna.
  17. Rats live on no evil star.
  18. Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna.
  19. Oh, who was it I saw? Oh, who?
  20. Madam, in Eden I'm Adam.
  21. Don't nod.
  22. Look, sire, paper is kool!
  23. Go hang a salami; I'm a lasagna hog!
  24. Some men interpret nine memos.
  25. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
I can't help laughing when I read these! My favorite is the advice to the tip-less waiter. ;)
There's a long list over at Palindromelist.com, if you care for more. And I learned something new while searching online; did you know it's possible to make "2-D" palindromes? Find out about them here.

Does anyone want to create their own? I'd love to see them! The palindromes above are the type that read the same backwards, letter by letter, but you can also make sentences that are the same backwards and forwards, word by word, e.g. "Women understand men; few men understand women." (which, by the way, I disagree with!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Books for Kansas Day

January 29, 1861 is the date that Kansas became a member of the United States of America. In honor of my native home, I recommend three interesting reads:

Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier by Joanna L. Stratton

This is probably the very first adult nonfiction title I read as a child. I have always been fascinated by the history of the West, and this book satisfied my desire to read accounts from people who were "really there". My young eyes devoured the horrifying tales of John Brown and Quantrill's raiders, as well as the more mundane stories of everyday life. This collection of first-hand accounts of Kansas' early days is well worth a peak.

The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement by Otto Scott

Otto Scott is one of my favorite historians. I enjoy his blunt style and no-nonsense approach to history. It has been several years since I read this particular volume, so rather than try to dredge up my impressions, I will say only that after I read this, I realized John Brown wasn't the hero I'd thought he was!

The Secret Six is part of the Sacred Fools Quartet, books about men who "created conflagrations but were revered despite their mischief." Here's what Mr. Scott said about John Brown and the subjects of this book:
The more I looked at him, the less there was to write a book about. A low-level swindler was all Brown was -- a Bible quoter, true, but everyone quoted the Bible in his time. The main story turned out to be the six men who put him up to it, who put him on their payroll, who hired him to do what he did. Nobody wrote or talked about that.

Curious? Read the book to find out about some of the origins of the War Between the States, as well as the life of an American terrorist.

And lastly, I recommend an old favorite, Little House on the Prairie, a fictionalized account of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life as a child on the Kansas prairie. I am reading the series to my little brother and discovering again the joy of these masterfully written tales.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians) by Agatha Christie

Someone has said that we read mystery stories because for a brief time we can lose ourselves in a world where every question has an answer and where all the wrongdoers are brought to their just deserts. None of that solace is found in this book. Justice is not served—it is usurped.

It is a closed-room mystery. Ten people are invited to a private island by a mysterious host. They arrive expecting to enjoy a brief holiday from day to day life, only to find that someone has a much more sinister plan: a permanent holiday for each from life itself.

There may be some literary merit to the book. I didn’t take the time to find out. The whole situation was too horrible to dwell on. Instead, I read as fast as I could to find out “what happened”. I found no satisfaction in the ending, and I can’t think of a thing to recommend the creepy volume. Unless you need nightmare fodder.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Try This!

A quote from my current read:

Go ahead and throw another log on the fire. Read like reading is supposed to be done, not with a hand on a mouse, not slogging your way through hyperlinks that only serve to make you hyper, but simply. Sit back with the drink of your choice--as long as it is not some industrial sludge--and have a nice read, remembering that real change comes when real people have real conversations about really important things.
--R.C. Sproul, Jr., Eternity in our Hearts

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Following of the Star by Florence Barclay

I've been reading The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. One of her pieces of advice to writers is to break free of the endless round of niggling: “To constantly print out, reread, and perfect your prose is usually a trap: after a month of writing, you often have perfectly laid out phrases that say very little, because you paid attention to their sound far more than their purpose."

I'm very prone to fall into such a trap: this particular piece is nearly a year old, and has no less than 3 very different versions running around loose. So here's to a more productive writing life!

The Following of the Star

I’m afraid my attitude towards Christian fiction is rather cynical. I’m tired of reading dull, pietistic, shallow and saccharine stories. I want to read something that shows Christianity as a real, vibrant, and victorious way of life. And I wouldn’t mind a high level of literary quality, either. Yet stories like these seem few and far between. And so I look upon any new find with a jaundiced eye, cynically wondering whether I will once again be wasting my time.

This book is different. Tainted with an omnipresent 19th century sentimentalism, yes, but still different. For in The Following of the Star I've found a story that takes Christianity away from the sermons and applies it to the perplexing problems of life. Here I've found characters who struggle, make bad decisions, learn from them, and ultimately come to see the Providence of God working in their lives.

The Following of the Star was published in 1911 by Florence Barclay, a pastor's wife and invalid author distantly related to the founder of the Salvation Army. The story is built around a Christmas sermon given in the 3rd chapter, in which the gifts of the wise men are applied to the Christian life as symbolizing giving, worship, and death. How these gifts are lived out in the lives of the preacher and the “Lady of Mystery” makes a very fascinating story of growth, love and devotion to God.

I am at a loss on how further to describe the plot without completely giving away the story. Let me just warn my readers to refrain from reading the ending prematurely. This is the voice of impatient experience speaking!