Saturday, December 31, 2011

And Christmas is OVER!

That is right - the tree is down, everything is dusted, the floor is swept and Christmas 2011 is in the history books.  But, before we leave it altogether (and head out for a New Year's Eve party), let's look at some of the highlights.

Always, always, the Twin City Educators' Mom Christmas Party is a night to be remembered.

Everyone has eaten their fill of appetizers and desserts, and now we are gathering 'round for the gift exchange.

Now, our gift exchange is not a simple choosing of names, or matching numbers.  No, we steal.  We plot. We strategize.  All this, for gifts that are still wrapped.  That's right, we are stealing packages, and we don't have any idea of what is inside.  So what do we do?

We shake.

And listen, hefting the weight back and forth.

Look at that, Suzy is shaking her own gift, just to throw us off.  Clever, clever girl.

When we are done, everyone opens theirs one at a time.

Here is mine - I love it!

Thanks, Kris - you did good!  This is something I will treasure forever.

So now, off to prepare to ring in the new year.  The guys are all in back doing some target practice with rifles and pistols.  I already had my turn, you may see pictures of that, you may not! 

Family Christmas pictures will be up as soon as I get them all cropped/cleaned.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading Goals, Anyone?

I try not to do resolutions.  However, I am a list-maker, and do subscribe to the "tomorrow is another day" philosophy of planning, so I end up with goals, lists, resolutions. 

Some, I do really well with.  This year I did well with my closet project.  That's the one where I hang up my clothes in order that I wore them, and when I switch out the closet for the seasons, all the things that didn't get worn need to leave.  I managed to keep that up for a year now, and actually have gotten rid of a lot of clothing.

The personal health and fitness goals......not so hot.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Reading goals, though - those I usually manage wonderfully.  My goal is always 100 books a year, which I have determined is unrealistic (though I did make it several years in a row).  This year I am up to 83, and still one day left! 

The quantity should not be important, though - the quality is the key.  Now, I do like to read fun books - especially cozy mysteries, usually set in England.  Usually there is very little gore, the victim is found bludgeoned, or poisoned, or with a single bullet-hole through the forehead.  No dismemberment, or very few, anyway.  I can read one of these in about 24 hours, so that has racked up the numbers the last few years.

For a few years I tried to do a classic a month, and that was a lot of fun, until I ran out of classics that I wanted to read.  Once I got past A Tale of Two Cities and Pride and Prejudice, and started heading into Moby Dick and The Odyssey, my interest level dropped.  Considerably.

One thing I keep hearing over and over is to read GOOD books that are PROFITABLE to me.  I am assuming that anyone who says that does not consider Agatha Raisin or Hamish Macbeth mysteries to be either good or profitable.  Whatever. 

But I do realize that a steady diet of Oreos, no matter how tasty, does not make for good health.  And books add to my (and your) intellectual health.  I have shelves of healthy books that have not been touched, while the Oreo books have been making a steady trek from the library to the house and back.  So, today I made a list of "Ten Theological Books To Read In 2012".  These all come from my own collection, and we have owned all of them except two for at least a year. 

And now, without further ado, here are my "Ten Theological Books To Read In 2012":
(not in any particular order)
  1. Don't Waste Your Life - John Piper
  2. A Praying Life - Paul E. Miller
  3. Spiritual Depression - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  4. Desiring God - John Piper
  5. First Christians - Paul Maier
  6. Early Christian Writings - a collection of writings of Clement, Ignatious and Polycarp
  7. The Church of the East - ed. John Holzman
  8. Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
  9. Surprised By Joy - C.S. Lewis
  10. Knowing God - J.I. Packer

A couple of these are pretty iffy - Early Christian Writings being "least likely to get read".  But we'll see.  These are goals, not mandates, after all.

Next, I am going to make a list of ten other books, fiction and non-fiction, that are on my shelves collecting dust.  I think I have some great books - I just need to get my lazy brain to reading them. 

But I am not going to make that list today.  After all, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A "Periodic Evaluation" For The School Year To Date

In the great state of Missouri (and I do actually think it is great!) we homeschoolers have to do what the law calls "periodic evaluations".  What form this takes is left up to the parents.  How often a "period" occurs is also left up to the parent.  I try to do them twice a year, at the end of the fall "semester" (ie, Christmas!) and at the end of the "school year" (ie, sometime in May or June).

Mine are in the form of a brief paragraph or two on each subject.  I just write down what grade they are getting (though I only grade in science and math), what we are using for each subject, and how they are doing, generally in comparison to last year.

I wrote up the two older boys' a few days ago, and I still need to do the two younger ones.  I have found it helpful to do these evaluations (even though I balk at anybody telling me I HAVE to do anything!) because it gives me time to pause, reflect, and do my own evaluations.

If one of the boys is not progressing - why?  Is it them?  Is it the curriculum?  Or is it me? 

So....what is working, what isn't working, what can we do differently?

Science is going great.  I am doing my first-ever co-op this year.  We are using Apologia's General Science course.  Every Wednesday morning, 14 students ranging in age from 10-15 gather in my breakfast area to review what they read the week before, do the experiments, and hopefully learn something.  We also manage to get in some socialization for those poor homeschool kids who never get to leave the house (yes, that was sarcasm). 

Look at this crew!
Science experiments in the kitchen, how much more traditional can you get?

We do let them out occasionally - this is a field trip the St. Louis University Medical School

Getting ready to dissect a sheep brain.

And how about that socialization, anyway?  One of the moms made a cookie cake to celebrate some birthdays - mine and Britney's.
So, as the pictures demonstrate (!) science is going well.  Having something that we HAVE to do consistently is helping with our other schoolwork as well.  The older boys are doing above-average in most subjects.  We have been lacking, I fear, in language arts this year.  We did a unit on poetry and have done a little grammar.  That is going to be added in and get a little more focus the rest of the year.  Same for the younger boys.  They are harder, though, because they need me for everything, while the older boys can do most of their work on their own. 

It's all this socialization, I'm telling you.  We go-go alot.  Probably too much.  I don't plan to cut back on "real" field trips, chess club, that sort of thing (ie, things I can log hours for).  But....we have been having an awful lot of fun.  Not that having fun is all bad, I am for fun, I promise.  However, as it gets colder and the weather grows yuckier, I think it will be easier to stay hunkered down at home more, and to focus on getting more "book work" done.

Such as grammar. 

It is like this most years, though.  The first half of the year the weather is good, there are holidays and parties.  From January to the end of March, it will be cold and usually wet or overcast.  A good time to do school.  Then in April and May it gets nice, and our focus can go back to more social events. 

We always manage to get in all our hours (1,000 hours that must be logged in Missouri per calendar year).  We don't always manage to finish all our books.  But what doesn't get done this year either a)gets done next year or b)really wasn't all that important, anyway.

And with the short amount of time we have, I'd like to do what is important.  Sometimes we just have to figure out what that is!

Monday, December 26, 2011

So, what did you do today?

I have accomplished next to nothing today. We watched The Incredibles (my favorite movie) and I thought about how I'd like my hair cut like ElastiGirl's. That is a sad state of affairs, when you really want your hair like a cga character.

Then we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I don't want my hair like Hermione's.

Now we are watching Blindside. I could actually get my hair like Sandra Bullock's, but not blond (though really, neither is she).  Of course, she is like a size 2 and the whole effect will be different.

I do like how her nails are always pale matte color in the movie, though. That is classy. I could manage that.

I read most of a book (Wonderland Creek, by Lynn Austin.  So far, it is okay.  Started good, but is meandering.  Full review in the December reading log), texted with friends (so what are you doing.  nothing. me neither.), and ate candy.  Why did they buy me so much candy, anyway?

Nevin went hunting. I am considering cleaning the kitchen, making a meal of leftovers and doing some laundry. I will have to let you know how that worked out.

I don't do well with a lot of days off.  I did make a list, but very little of it got done today.  Tomorrow I promise to be motivated, to accomplish much and to make the best use of my time. 


Don't you wish I still had Facebook to share all this mindless jabber with?

The 2011 Reading Log Superlatives! (Or, My Year In Books)

These are some of the books I have read this year - and I would like to hear about what you have read!  Take some time, think it over, if you have anything really good you want to finish, please do so! But share your best of the best (and worst of the worst!)! All categories are not applicable to all readers, and I know some of these categories may overlap - actually, your best-of-the-best will most likely show up twice! So, pick and choose which apply from your own list.

And the winners are........

Best History:
Bohhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes. I originally gave this 4.5 out of 5, only because parts of it bogged down in the middle. I know the discussion of politics and parties in Germany was crucial to the story, but it was hard for me to follow. I actually had to set the book aside for a bit and read something light and come bask to it later. Overall, though, an incredibly well-done biography of one of the great heroes of the faith. My runner up is Jesus, Made in America: A Cultural History From the Puritans to The Passion of the Christ by Stephen J. Nichols.

Best Homeschooling Book:
Didn’t read one this year. Odd.

Best Parenting Book:
Hmmm. Didn’t read one of these this year, either. Started Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp and Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp, but haven’t finished either yet.

Best Theology/Doctrine Book:
Justification and Regeneration by Charles Leiter. Gave it 4.5 in my original review. Excellent resource for understanding these two critical doctrines. Written in simple, compelling language.

Best Current Event Book:
I think I am going to take a “health” book for this topic: The No-Fad Diet by The American Heart Association. Very helpful, boils it down to the basics – you have to use more calories than you eat, otherwise you gain weight. No fads, no certain foods to avoid. Basic counting calories, exercise, making good food choices. I got it from the library, but I think this is going to be a Christmas present to myself to help me with my health goals for the year. A 5, in the original review. My runner-up would be My Life From Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Sandra Bullock’s sister, tells of leaving the world of Hollywood (working with her sister’s production company) and starting a bakery in a small town in Vermont.

Best Biography/Autobiography:
A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall. Biography of Peter Marshall, who was known as the most beloved pastor in America in the 1940s. Catherine Marshall, who wrote Christy and Julie was married to Peter. Originally received a 4.

Best Mystery:
A Trick of the Light: An Inspector Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny. This will probably show up again – worth waiting a year for. These are some of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. Detailed, not gross and gory, very real characters that you come to feel like you know. Original review was a 5.

Best New-To-You-Author:
This is difficult, as I have read a lot of series this year, with not many really new authors. I will say it is a toss-up between Jack McDevitt (Time Travelers Never Die, a 4.5) and Mignon F. Ballard (Miss Dimple Disappears, a 4)

Best New Book in a Series:
I will have to go with A Trick of the Light: An Inspector Gamache Mystery by Louise Penny again. There were several good ones, including A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia deLuce) by Alan Bradley, Who Is My Shelter? (House of Hope Novel) by Neta Jackson, A Heart For Home (Home To Blessing #4) by Lauraine Snelling, and Naughty In Nice (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen.

Most Disappointing New Book in a Series:
There were several bad ones, but overall, I was MOST disappointed in The Pirate King: A Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes Mystery by Laurie R. King. I love these books, and after waiting a year for a new one, was sadly underwhelmed. A silly plot with no connection to the other books, Holmes missing for half the book, characters running amuck…..hopefully Ms. King will be back in form for next year. I think runner-up would be One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Another hard-to-follow mess.

Biggest Let Down Outside of a Series:
Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova. Still Alice is one of my favorite books, and a hard act to follow, but this one just wasn’t that great.

Best New-To-You Series:
The Edwardian Murder Mystery series by Marion Chesney. Marion Chesney is M.C. Beaton, who writes the Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin mysteries. I was sorry that this series only had four books. It was a nice little tide-me-over this fall while I was waiting for the next Agatha Raisin to arrive.

Book That Made You Laugh Out-Loud:
No big laughs this year. Maybe a few chuckles from Of Thee I Zing by Laura Ingaham (a December book, so the review for that has not yet been posted). The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is always good for a few laughs. Those Herdman kids!

Book That Made You Cry:
The end of Bonhoeffer and Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody.

Best Series Overall:
This was my year of Hamish Macbeth. I read 16 of the books, up to the current one (which will appear in February of 2012).

Best Classic:
I am going to go with Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. I read this aloud with my two older boys. Parts of it were quite….wordy. Overall, though, a great story of one families’ faith and survival.

Best Plot Twist (beware of spoilers!):
John Grisham, The Confession, which got a 5. Not a great book technically – heavy on melodrama, light on character development, but a page-turner that gave me food for thought and had several unexpected twists and turns. I have read many of Grisham’s books (A Time to Kill is still one of my all-time favorite thrillers). Many of them are okay, several I haven’t been able to finish (his newest, The Associate got added to that stack this year). But this, while not in the same category as A Time To Kill, stood up with say, The Pelican Brief.

Most Over-Hyped Book:
A toss-up between Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and The Help. I had a hard time with Voskamp’s meandering (I guess she writes that way because she is a poet) but after reading articles and interviews in WORLD Magazine I was really expecting life-changing prose. I gave it a 2. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett was good, fast-paced, and interesting, in a voyeuristic sort of way. I had tried to read it when it first came out, and then put it down. After the movie came out I managed to read and finish it. I gave it 4.25 for being a page turner, but it still was just not my cup of tea.

Worst Book-To-Movie Transition:
I didn’t see any that would qualify.

BEST Book-To-Movie Transition:
Definitely True Grit by Charles Portiss. I had never seen the movie, and read the book first. The new version of the movie is very, very close to the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t enjoy many books-made-into-movies. I then watched the original movie with John Wayne. Still a good movie, but nothing on the book. Another good book-to-movie was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I read that with the two older boys this year, and then watched the movie. Of course a lot had to be left out, but overall, still a good movie. I love Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Best Historical Fiction:
A Country of Strangers by Conrad Richter. This is a companion book to his more well-known book A Light in the Forest (which was turned into a Disney movie and did NOT end up like the book, go figure). The story of Stone Girl, a white woman who was captured by Indians in the late 1700s. She is now a grown woman with a husband and child, and as part of a negotiation is being returned to the white people. A heart-wrenching story, told from the viewpoint of the Indians. I highly recommend both of these books for high school students.

Best Contemporary Christian Fiction:
Bound By Guilt by C.J. Darlington. A stand-alone book, but it continues the storylines of some of her characters in Thicker Than Blood. 4.5 in the original review. C.J. has finished the third book in the trilogy, and I am anxiously awaiting its’ publication.

Best Childrens’ or YA Book:
We read a lot of good ones this year. I am going to go with Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. Described as Little House on the Prairie for boys, but grittier. We gave this a 5.

Book You Hated So Much You Almost Couldn’t Finish It:
Lucifer’s Flood by Linda Blood Rios. Just plain stupid, bordering on heresy. I only finished it because it was a book club read.

Book You Hated So Much You Actually DIDN’T Finish It:
That is a really long list….the most recent was of all things, the latest Aunt Dimity mystery, Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree.. It was just borriiinnng. And it looked like it was going to be a madcap caper of mixed-identity. I hate that sort of thing. There were a LOT of books, though, that were just boring. I actually managed to finish a few that I hated, just because I wanted to find out how they ended.

Best Book-You’ve-Been-Meaning-To-Read-For-Years:
I am going to go with the 4th, 5th and 6th books in the Anne of Green Gables series. I read the first three, and then set them aside for a year or so. Everything else was fairly new.

Best Re-Read From Years Gone By:
A tie between Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the older boys and The Wizard of Oz and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with the younger ones.

And, Last But Certainly Not Least……

Your Number One Favorite Book of the Year:
I am narrowing this down by books that received a 5 out of 5:

True Grit by Charles Portiss

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

The No-Fad Diet by The American Heart Association

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Lord, Is It Warfare? Teach Me To Stand by Kay Arthur (Bible study)

The Confession by John Grisham

The winner is:

TRUE GRIT by Charles Portiss

Note – I reserve the right to change any and all, since there is still a week left in the year and I plan to finish at least a couple books on Christmas break!

Have at it – comment away! I am also posting this at The Homeschool Library if you are a member there (and membership is FREE, btw, to the Best Homeschooling Forum On The Web!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Plans, Christmas Plans!

So far, this year has been an awfully easy Christmas season.  If I were a superstitious person, I'd be expecting the other shoe to drop, but I am not, so I think I will just be happy!

I am very blessed to have a very flexible family.  I know so many who have stress upon stress because Mom MUST have the dinner on Christmas Eve and mother-in-law MUST have everyone at her house to Christmas dinner, everyone MUST buy gifts for each other.


My mother-in-law has three daughter-in-laws.  I think being the mother of all boys makes you flexible (if not insane, but that is another post, based on my own experience with my four boys!).  Anyway, she has us all over the weekend before Christmas, on whatever day works best for everyone.  We do gifts for the kids, but the grownups just do small things - I bake breads and cookies, one always gives everyone coffee, the other does a craft and some little Italian cookies.  My in-laws give us money.  I like them a lot! 

Christmas Eve we are going to church, then I am not sure what the night holds.  There is talk of getting hot chocolate and fancy coffee or eggnog and driving around looking at lights.  When we get home we will have appetizers instead of dinner (smoked sausage, cheese, crackers, shrimp cocktail, good stuff!).  Last year we got on Gospel for Asia's site and bought gifts for missionaries.  I think we will do something like that again this year. 

We are also going to do something very different - we are going to open presents Christmas Eve.  We have church on Sunday, but only the service, not Sunday School.  So we will open gifts Saturday, then we can sleep in and have a big breakfast Sunday, and head up to worship.  After church, home to fix dinner and my mom and stepfather come over and enjoy a meal with us, then open a few more gifts together. 

My mother has also gotten very flexible, as we now do Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve together, and it is at my house, not hers.  My entire life, Christmas Eve was with Mom's family.  Out with the old, in with the new!

So, we have attended some parties, the Christmas band concert is over, the big family gathering is just a memory, everything is bought and wrapped and I even have all the food in the house.  All that is left is to enjoy - to take this time and relax.  To be able to breathe, and to think of Christ, the blessing of our salvation, and this blessed Christmas time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Few Recipes to Tide You Over...

I have lots to say, but not time to say it all.  However, I have been told that in order to keep up traffic to the blog, there needs to be regular posts. 


I thought I'd post a few of my recipes.  Just until I have time to post some thoughts.  Though maybe you'll appreciate the recipes a lot more!

2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cup flour
tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil (I used ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and ½ cup oil to reduce fat)
2 cup cooked and mashed butternut squash
Cook and mash the butternut squash (you can also use frozen). Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake 350 for 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.

8 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 reduced fat and it was fine), room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb (2 cups) powder sugar (I cut this to 1 cup powder sugar and it was fine)

Mix together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until creamy. Add the sugar ¼ cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Enough to frost top of cake generously.


This dessert is lower in fat than most, but is still very rich and creamy tasting. You can substitute full-fat/sugar ingredients if you prefer and get the same results – but just more fat! It is also attractive in the serving bowl, and very easy and quick to prepare.

1 ½ cold fat-free (skim) milk
1 package (1 oz.) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
2 cartons (8 oz each) frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1 prepared angel food cake (16 oz.), cut into cubes
4 Butterfinger bars (regular size 2.1 oz each), crushed

In a large bowl, whish milk and pudding mix for two minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes, or until soft-set. Stir in 2 cups of whipped topping. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped topping.

In a trifle bowl, layer 1/3 of the cake cubes, 1/3 of the pudding, 1/3 of the crushed candy bars, in that order. Repeat layers two more times, ending with the candy sprinkled on top. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

I have also substituted chocolate pudding and Heath toffee bits, but the vanilla and Butterfinger is best!


This is a very pretty, fine textured cake.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Lemon juice (bottled is okay)
½ cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen work too, but let them thaw out and drain them well)
2 tsp. Sugar
2 tsp. flour

Mix the berries with the small amount of sugar and flour, set aside. The sugar/flour keeps the berries suspended better in the batter. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar till light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Combine the next 4 ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well. Gently fold the coated berries into the batter. Pour into a greased/floured 10'' tube pan. Bake at 350° for 70 to 80 min.

Let cool in the pan 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen. Gently lift the cake out and set on a platter. Cover with glaze while still warm.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No More Facebook

I can't believe I did it.  But I did.  I deleted my Facebook account. 

Not just deactivated, but deleted.

I could no longer handle the drama.  I could no longer have such huge chunks of my time (in five minute increments, all day) being taken up.  I could no longer have a whole day shot thinking about other peoples' issues.  It felt like I had all these people with me, all the time. 

And if I wanted that, I guess I could live in a commune.

There are things I will miss.  I like seeing pictures, I like the ease of communicating with someone via chat or facebook message.  But, I can text, or send an email. 

Some of my closest friends, women that I admire greatly, are either not on facebook at all, or have accounts and just never use them.  And yet, they manage to run their homes and have time to minister to others. 

Here is when I knew it was a problem.  When I would get up in the morning and get my cup of coffee and check facebook on my phone before getting into the Word.  Instead of prayer, I would get on facebook. 

I put it before God.  That is an idol, folks.

I was then reading the Word, and posting verses from my ESV app onto Facebook.  That counts, doesn't it? 

I want to have time to read.  To pray.  I don't want to be so terribly concerned with what other people think.  I don't need to tell everyone what I am fixing for dinner.

I don't need to know what you are fixing, either.  Or what deodorant you just got a free sample of.  Or what politician you "Like" (does anyone really like any of them, anyway????).  None of that is offensive, it is just more than I need to know. 

FB won't actually and completely delete my account for 14 days.  If I go on and login and re-activate my account, it will all be back where I left it.

Right where I left off.

So now, like and addict, I must do it one day at a time.  For today, I will stay off Facebook. 

Okay, enough of this already!  Deep thoughts are good, navel gazing, not good.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reading Log, November 2011

This was NOT a heavy reading month - life has been busy, and I have relaxed with some fun, light mysteries.  Some months are like that.  I think my resolution for 2012 will be to read at least one "deep thinking" book a month.  But sometimes, I just need some brain candy.  In any event, here is the list for November!

67. Naughty in Nice: A Royal Spyness Mystery – 4.5 – Rhys Bowen – oh, this was a fun one! This is a pretty basic “cozy” mystery series. Lady Georgianna is 34th in line to the throne of England in the early 1930s. She is impoverished, but still part of the royal family and expected to live as such. Fun series, no deep thought involved, but a nice little escape.

68. Snobbery With Violence: An Edwardian Murder Mystery – 4 – Marion Chesney. This is M.C. Beaton, who writes my favorite mysteries, Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. This series takes place in Edwardian England and focuses on Lady Rose Summer, a member of the aristocracy who has been disgraced by her support of the sufferagettes; Captain Harry Cathcart who takes care of private investigations (unpleasantness) for the aristocracy and their servants, Becket and Daisy. Again, no deep thought, but Chesney really makes her characters come to life. They are all so flawed, one minute you are rooting for them, one minute you want to smack them. Another cozy mystery.

69. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party – 3.5- Alexander Smith McCall – next in the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Not one of the better ones, but still a pleasant, easy read with characters you’ve become comfortable and familiar with.

70. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – 4 – JK Rowling – read this aloud to the older boys. I read this years ago, when it first came out. The guys loved it, and we are reading the rest of the series, and watching the movies AFTER we finish each book.

71. The Wizard of Oz – 4- Frank L. Blum – the classic, read this aloud to my younger boys. I read this many times as a child, and also read it to my older boys years ago. It was fun to read this, then watch the movie, and see how much was changed and left out! You know Dorothy’s slippers are really silver, don’t you??

72. One of Our Thursdays is Missing – 2.5 – Jasper Fforde – blech. I loved the first five books (some more than others) but this was a jumbled mess. It took me over a week to read – I kept going, thinking I would get to the good part. The last twenty pages or so, when it was all wrapped up were good. The rest of it…again, blech.

73. Hasty Death: An Edwardian Murder Mystery – 4 – Marion Chesney – 2nd book in the Lady Rose Summer/Captain Harry Cathcart series. Same as the first, though I enjoyed it more as the characters develop and become more familiar.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why not on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving…….let the competition begin!

No, surely not – surely no one is competing over who has the most home-cooked food, the most guests, the cleanest house, the most elaborate napkin rings. Surely not.

Really? Oh, you know it happens. I know. Been there, done that. Pride, not pleasure, in providing the nice meal and hosting the family gathering. Not every year, but some years, that pride and one-upmanship has crept in. Why do women do that to each other? We will leave that topic for another day, for today, though – Thanksgiving.

For the last several years, I have hosted the family Thanksgiving, and I have enjoyed it. There are fifteen of us, everyone brings something, we do buffet-style with the casual plates – it is as simple and easy as you can get for fifteen people. It helps that we all live in the same area, so there is no pressure to make the most of the day, cram all the eating and fellowship into one day. It is still a lot of work, though, and as much as I looked forward to it, I was also glad when everyone left and I could finally rest.

This year, that was the plan again. But you know, as it got closer and closer…..I just didn’t feel like doing it. I have been busy this fall. Good busy, but still busy. I have chosen to host a LOT at my house. Science co-op every week, Labor Day party, Geography Club, Game Day, an air soft war, plus various “come on over for lunches”. We’ve also been running-running with fellowships, field trips, outings with friends, camping trips….and I am tired. It is a good tired, but still, I know when I am running out of juice. So, as Thanksgiving was coming up, I began to not look forward to it, but to look forward to it being over.

That usually doesn’t make for the best of parties, you know?

Last week, I talked to my sister-in-laws. Three of our family is going to be out of town over Thanksgiving, which brings us down to twelve. I had an idea..I asked the other sister-in-law, my mom, my mother-in-law, and they all agreed.

We are all going to Ryan’s for dinner for Thanksgiving. After dinner, we are going to my in-laws’ to hang out for a while. (They live closest, and her house is already clean, you know!).

I know this is not traditional – I promise, I am not boycotting Thanksgiving. We are also not becoming Communist, the other opinion that was (jokingly, I hope) expressed. I have noticed too, that the only people who have questioned this plan are MEN who are not doing the cleaning/shopping/planning/cooking for their families’ meal, but I digress. We will leave that for another day, as well.  We are also not doing this because no one invited us over, I promise.  We have CHOSEN this for today.

So really, what is wrong with going to Ryan’s? No one has to clean. The food is already there. No one has to do dishes. We get to eat together, enjoy each other’s company, and then relax together afterwards. I have no big expectations of Thanksgiving, no traditions that I am not putting a lot of weight on making this “the best year ever” or anything. It is a day to relax, to think of God’s mercy and goodness to us, to praise Him. To enjoy being with family, wherever that may take place. I cannot reflect on the peace of the Lord when I am frantically cleaning my baseboards. Or yelling at the kids for not helping. Or hot-gluing my centerpiece together, one eye always on the clock because, “It is almost time for them to get here!” Right now I would already be off and running, if everyone was showing up here. I would be exhausted from yesterday as well.

But instead, I have a whole day off, and I had yesterday off, too. Actually, I have had the whole week off. Since I was not mentally overwhelmed with all the things I “needed to do” I had time to make and deliver dinner to a family with a new baby. I got to have breakfast with a group of ladies, and then do a little shopping with a friend, to get my hair done and hang out and chat at the beauty shop. I did not have to spend yesterday frantically cooking and cleaning. I puttered about, got caught up on laundry and some paperwork, and then cooked a little food and went to a church fellowship. Today I slept in a little.  Later this morning Nevin and I will process the deer he got last weekend, and then we will head out to dinner. It is a treat, to get to go out, everyone always says so, so why not on Thanksgiving?

I said, “Why not on Thanksgiving?” Why not, indeed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reading Log for October, 2011

Only three this month, and all fiction.  What can I say, my brain was busy and reading was recreational this month!

64. The Pirate King: A Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Mystery – 2.5 – Laurie R. King. I can honestly say that I was soooo disappointed in this book. I have been waiting a YEAR for the next book, and then this nonsense. Besides being implausible (okay, they are all implausible, but this was silly, too) there were way too many characters to keep track of, and it was just plain dull. I usually read these books in less than 48 hours. This one took almost two weeks. I would literally fall asleep reading. Holmes doesn’t even show up until the middle of the book, and the best part of the books is the interaction between Russell and Holmes. Oh well, better luck next year.

65. The New Year – 4- Pearl S. Buck – an oft-told tale, but maybe Buck told it first – American soldier fathers child while serving in Korea and then returns to his life in the USA. All is peachy, until twelve years later, when he gets a letter from the child. I love Buck, anyway, but what I really liked was the twist in this – the story is not told from the father’s point of view – it is from his American wife’s. She is the one who goes to Korea for the boy. Opposite of Miss Saigon. Anyway, all wraps up a little too neatly in the end, but still a very good story about what it was like for these children in Korea after the war.

66. The Help – 4.25 – Kathryn Stockett – I tried to read this when it first came out, and only got about 50 pages into it. Since the movie, and since everyone else seems to love it, I decided to try again. It was very fast-paced and interesting, but the characters never really grabbed me. Still, it kept my attention.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I am still here...

Just a post to keep my foot in the door, I guess!  All sorts of activities have filled up the first two weeks of October, and now I am looking toward a much slower rest-of-the-month.  I have so many things I want to share (I like to talk about myself, hence the blog), so hopefully I will have time to sit down, reflect and write soon.

Maybe even later today....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wisdom from a text message

This morning I got a text from my friend Liyah. She sends out texts based on something she is studying in scripture almost every day. She hits right on the mark frequently. Thsi one was too good to keep to myself.

“There is nothing more attractive than a woman who has this look of wisdom, and discretion, and nobility and simplicity.” Paul Washer
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

I then wrote her back,

“You are such a blessing. Last night Nevin and I had another talk about my vanity and insecurities, so this text was very applicable. There are some aspects of aging that really stink, and I am having a hard time moving gracefully into middle age (you know I am going to be 46 in two months, it seems so very old) especially since I think I am only 35 or so!”

Liyah responded,

“I don’t understand it all yet, but I know what God considers beauty. The flesh will die away, but godly character is priceless and that is what is valuable in His sight, and any truly godly man. We haven’t got long to go and we will be home. It seems to me, the inner condition will always accentuate and overshadow the outer. Don’t forget, ma’am, there was a day when it was considered an esteem and honor to be older. Our culture has stolen that joy from a lot of women. Their definition of beauty and womanhood has done women no favors. I’m glad today’s scripture was a blessing. Liyah xx”

I was taken aback at her point about our culture having “stolen that joy from a lot of women.” Isn’t that true? I know when I am fussing about my roots coming in, or my little meno-pot belly, or what is that under my chin that I sure don’t take joy in how God made me. And I have come to the realization of my sin of vanity, and how it pulls me away from God – how I spend more time worrying about my OUTSIDE than working on my INSIDE – my relationship with the Lord, my time in study and prayer.

Anyway, just some deep thoughts before bedtime. Or not deep.  I seriously moisturize, I want to eat healthy and exercise, but I am trying to keep it in perspective. I just thought Liyah’s words were too good to not share.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What's In a Name?

Like everything else with me, there is a story behind the name of my blog.  You ready?

I had what I called "trust issues" with God.  I know now a big part of that was that I thought I was saved for years, lived an unregenerate life, and wondered how come I had so many problems.  Even after the Lord saved me in 1993, it took years for me to understand His grace, and what He had done.  It took years for my pride to finally be demolished enough for me to understand that it was nothing I did - not that walk down the aisle, not the baptism, not even the re-dedications.  None of that mattered, those were all my own work, trying by the force of my will to be good.  And not good to be pleasing to God, but good so that my life would be easier, and maybe for the admiration of man as well.  But, I could not live like a Christian because I was not one.  I was not saved.  A little aisle walking after an emotional experience does not equate salvation.  Salvation is a work of the Lord, who brings a person dead in their sins to life.  How can a dead man decide to come to life? 

It actually wasn't until a little over a year ago (5/30/11, actually), sitting in the pew at Rockport Baptist Church (as a visitor, even), holding the cup during the Lord's Supper that it finally hit me, the things that had been starting to come together over the last few years, and had begun to explode in my mind and heart that spring.  The Lord opened my eyes to the work He had done, and when he did it.  And that all my years of trying to make myself good enough, and worthy enough, of praying during Lord's Supper and gripping that little cup so tightly, "getting right with God" was of no avail.  I am not good enough on my own.  My righteousness comes from Christ alone.

But I digress.

About 2005 or so I got involved in a homeschool forum, Sonlight.  On that forum, you had to have a username, of course.  People had very descriptive names, and I wanted one that described me and my walk.  So, I became Learning To Trust.  LTT, to my friends in Lifelong Learners and Bibliovores.  That is where I was - I was learning to trust God.  I was starting to explore WHY I believed what I believed, and study scripture to see what it actually said in context, and not what some cherry-picked verses in a Sunday School quarterly said.   I learned from all kinds of apologists - Roman Catholic, especially.  Can I say something here about those Roman Catholic women?  I know that sometimes RCs get a bad rap about not knowing their Bibles, but I have to tell you, these ladies who had converted to RC as adults knew their Bibles and their church doctrine frontwards and backwards.  I don't agree with them, but I would never disparage their scholarship, they are head and shoulders above me.  But I am gaining...!  Anyway, it was at this time that I was also introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, and begun studying as much as I could. 

So, long story (I said it would be, didn't I?) that brings us to now, today.  I am no longer Learning to Trust.  I have learned to trust.  I am learning more about God and His plans each day, about the incredible work He has done, and this amazing Bible He gave us.  I see more and more each day His hand in my life, and the life of those around me.  And I see so clearly what I was saved out of. 

So, now I trust.  Perhaps this should be called "Learning About God" or "Trying to Understand God" because my understanding falls so short.  But right now, I am so filled with gratitude.  I have a life that was redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ.  He has saved me.  He has forgiven me.  Not of my own works, but through his kind mercy.  And I want anything I do, even this little blog, to always reflect that gratitude.

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!

Reading Log for September, 2011

Definitely not going to make 100 this year, but I think that is okay.  Life has gotten very busy, and it is taking me longer to finish anything!  Plus I am finding that I have started and not finished a lot of books this year.  Life is too short to read bad books, I always say!


56. Stronger Than Dirt – 4 – Kimberly Schyae and Christopher Losee – story of an urban couple who buys a piece of land in upstate New York in the 90s and starts a farm, selling veggies and mainly fresh cut flowers in the New York City farmers’ markets. Very enjoyable “fish-out-of-water” story.

57. Bunnicula – 3 – is the new pet bunny a vampire? The cat says yes, the dog says let’s see….cute, short chapter book, read aloud to my 7 and 8 year old boys.

58. One Thousand Gifts -2 - Ann Voskamp – I guess I just didn’t get it. I loved parts of it, but parts of it went on and on and on…..perhaps I don’t have a poets’ soul. I had a hard time following the circles that her mind went in. Everyone else I’ve talked to loved it, so I guess it is just me!

59. A Trick of the Light – 5 – Louise Penny – Inspector Gamache returns. I just love these people.

60. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers – 5 – Ralph Moody – excellent coming of age story, set in Colorado in the early 1900s. Described as a “Little House on the Prairie for boys”. Grittier than LHOTP, though. Excellent boys’ book, read aloud to my 11 and 13 year old sons. We will probably read some of the other books that follow this one.

61. Devil’s Food Cake Murders: A Hannah Swensen Mystery With Recipes – 2.5 – Joanne Fluke – dumb. Figured this one out right away. The mysteries in these books are getting lamer (more lame?) with each book, but the characters keep me coming back. Hannah needs to ditch both these guys and move to Florida or something.

62. My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir – 4 – Dick Van Dyke – Good story, but disappointing. Yes, he wants to only do family-friendly projects and he succeeds in that, yes he is kind and generous and supports lots of community service and peace projects. But he is still lost – all paths lead to God, as long as we love. Manages to excuse his adultery, his children living with people, their divorces, etc. and puts a happy face on it. And he is a left-wing liberal. The sad part is, that he is lost. He thinks he is being a good person and earning his way to Heaven because God is all love. Entertaining story, but in the end – pretty meaningless.

63.  The No-Fad Diet - 5 - The American Heart Association - extremely helpful book.  Those who know me, know I've done Weight Watchers, tried Sparkpeople, etc., all with some degree of success.  Especially WW, where I lost 25 pounds a few years ago.  Then the menopause hit, and it all came back, with a vengeance.  I love this book, though.  It goes through what is healthy, normal eating and exercise and discusses calories.  It all boils down to more energy being expended than calories coming in.  No only eating certain foods, or any of those trends- just good, common sense for establishing good habits.  It has you figure how many calories a day you need to eat to maintain your current weight at your age, weight and activity level, and then if you eat 500 calories a day less than that, you can lose 1/2-1 pound a week.  Gradual, maintainable.  I hope so, anyway!  So far, so good.  The week that I followed it I lost 1.6 lbs, the week that I didn't I gained a pound back.  So, we will see how it goes.  I am really tired of obsessing about my weight and trying to learn to accept "the new me" - but I need motivation to continue to eat well and get exercise.

And so...What did YOU read this month?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reading Log for August, 2011

A good reading month, overall.  I have several books going right now - life is getting so busy, who knows what I'll manage to finish this month!

51. A Red Herring Without Mustard – 4.25 – Alan Bradley – another fun mystery/adventure with Flavia de Luce. I love this kid.

52. Justification and Regeneration – 4.5- Charles Leiter – excellent resource explaining these doctrines in words even the simple-minded can understand. A very clear, straightforward teaching.

53. You Know When the Men are Gone – 4.5 – Siobhan Fallon – I didn’t realize when I started this book that it was a collection of short stories, all tied together at Fort Hood, Texas. I guess it was well-written because most of the stories end with all the loose ends…still loose. I really wanted to know how they were resolved. That is why this book is not a “5” for me – no completion.

54. Unjobbing – the Adult Liberation Handbook – 4.5 – Michael Folger. Generally, I would not agree with him on most aspects of life – he is not a Christian, he is way liberal/ peacenik/environmentalist/earth-is-our-mother. I got a lot out of this short little book, though. The basic premise is that we prepare ourselves for “jobs” – for work that often we don’t like, isn’t fulfilling, and we spend a huge chunk of our lives at it in order to pay for all the stuff we need/want. His take on it is that we should find what we love and try to earn some living doing that (as a homebased business), meanwhile freeing up the rest of our time to devote to other things we love, and live as minimally as possible in order to survive on the amount of money that brings in. I will add the note that while he was formulating this plan (he achieved a degree in classical guitar, and had never worked full-time in this field or any other) he did have a WIFE with a job and benefits. She did end up leaving that position, though. To them, living minimally meant not eating meat or dairy, only buying used clothes, living in a small home and only having one child. Like I said, we have almost no points of agreement philosophically. However, while I would not be willing to take the un-jobbing approach to his extreme, I think it is something we have done in our own lives to the point that we are comfortable with. We have a home-based business, where my husband is free to set his own schedule (as much as a contractor can) and we homeschool, so the boys can be involved in his daily life – his work is not something he goes away from us to do. I am at home, so I can help with aspects of the business. Since we are all here together, we are able to have more time as a family, and more time to do the things we enjoy. So, in conclusion – I really liked this book, liked his overall philosophy of living a life you love, but wouldn’t take it to the point he does. I guess that is why he gets a book published and I don’t!

55. Love Finds You In: Lahaina, Hawaii – 2.5 – Bodie Thoene – Well, this was just plain dumb. I generally would not get a Christian historical romance, but since it was by Bodie Thoene I thought it would be good. Plus, it is about the end of the Hawaiian monarchy, and I know nothing about that and thought it would be interesting. The history part was sort of interesting – it made me want to go find a real book about it, anyway! The story of the Princess Kaiulani was lame-o. I only finished it because I wanted to find out how it ended – and that was fictionalize as well! There are 50 books in this series, by different authors, all taking place in a small town in the United States with some historically interesting aspect (I think Missouri’s is Branson). The book was so full of clich├ęs…it reminded me more of a Lori Wick book than a Thoene one. I am most definitely skipping the other books in this series!