Monday, July 24, 2006


This is the last week in July. I've had a great spring and summer, and summer's not over yet! But it will end too soon for the children and for me.

I have put off, and put off, and put off planning next year's lessons. I can't put it off any longer. Trish and I want to get together again soon, and Penny is coming for a weekend visit. The children have friends coming for a week. If we want to be able to play without worry, the planning for the academic year has to be done and in place so that we're ready to start our work as soon as our guests have gone home.

So I'm turning off the computer, unplugging the phone and the TV, and boxing up my summer reading (except for Middlemarch), and maybe even restricting the knitting to car-knitting only! For the next few days, and probably the first part of next week, I'll be buried in stack of books with reams of paper and half-a-dozen pens.

See you later!


Saturday, July 22, 2006

My favorite "House" books

While Steve was seeing the doctor yesterday I set aside the knitting in favor of reading. I enjoy books about houses, architecture, and domestic life, and my current read is House by Michael Ruhlman. Shortly after we moved into this house I read a review of this book and asked for it at the library. They didn't have it and couldn't get it for me, so I decided to take a chance and buy it. I haven't been disappointed. Up until now my favorite house/home books have been House by Tracy Kidder, and Home by Witold Rybczynski. In fact, I'll read anything by those two writers because they make their subjects so interesting. Ruhlman appears to be in the same class as those two. He and his wife bought an old house in Cleveland Heights and spent much time and money making it a home for their family. Ruhlman's ability to describe all that goes in to making their old house the type of home his family needs has drawn me in, and I don't think it's only because we're living in an old house that needs some work, too. For example, he explains why it's important for his wife to have a sunny, bright laundry room on the second floor, instead of having to wash the clothes down in the dirty, dark, damp basement, and I nod my head in agreement. His wife finds order and comfort in being able to provide her family with clean, folded clothes, and laundry is a chore that never ends. He believes that a place where she spends a lot of time providing a service to her family should be a place that will have a positive effect on her thoughts. I'm about half-way through the book and I'm thinking I'd like to read more of Mr. Ruhlman's books.

The work on our house is on-going, and I wish I could make it sound interesting or fun. I'll be glad when it's all done, because we don't enjoy the process as much as the finished product.

Unfortunately, I don't have "before" pictures of the upstairs rooms of our house (especially for Glenn and Amy) to post alongside the "after" - or more appropriately the "now" - pictures. When we moved in the rooms that the girls have now were all a kind of sage green color. It was dark. I love white walls (a friend once said that I am the only military wife she ever met who prefers white walls to color or wallpaper) and white ceilings, so I begged the children to allow us to paint all the upstairs white. They kindly agreed to humor me, so we painted and brightened up their space. The windows had been replaced before we bought the house, but not framed, so wind and insects came in constantly. Steve, Tom, and David framed the windows and now we need to prime and paint them - white, of course. Here's how Jacy's room looks now. We still don't have a door up - it was gone when we moved in - but we're working on that:

The black curtain is the door that divides Jacy's room from Joan's room.

Jacy's room has no closet, and it's rather small, so we got her a wardrobe from Ikea. On the upside, she has eight windows: three facing east, two facing south, and three facing west. She has lovely natural light even on gloomy days.

Steve needs to change the light fixture in that room. When we moved in there was a broken fan hanging from two wires. The ceiling in there is low, especially compared to the rest of the house, so we put in a cheap light until we decide what to do. It illumines the room at night, but only feebly.

And that's an almost 360-degree tour of Jacy's room. See the dark brown painted wood floors? Someday Steve wants to refinish all the floors upstairs, but it can wait a while.

I learned something new today. If I tell my children I'm taking pictures of their rooms to put on my blog, they clean their rooms without being asked or told to do so.

Here's the progress on Dad's Aran:

That's the ribbing and one complete section of the pattern. It's a 16-row repeat. I'm enjoying the pattern, and I'm really glad I switched to the cream yarn before I started!

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

This & That

Steve has another doctor's appointment in Montgomery tomorrow. I'm bringing the shawl and the socks to work on - only mindless knitting for me! Last night I talked Jacy into modeling the shawl, still on the needles, for a picture. I've used 1 1/2 skeins of the Lion & Lamb and have one more skein. I think it'll be enough, but the shop owner that sold me the yarn thought I'd need at least 4. Piffle! Four would be a blanket, thank you very much!

(Jacy wants you to know that her hair is wet from the shower, not dirty.) So I'll knit on the shawl tomorrow while in the car and at the doctor's office.

Joan has been knitting purses for the past year. Last summer she knit a lot of scarves and purses to sell. The scarves ended up as gifts, but the purses all sold. Now she's knitting more. Last year I helped her by sewing the linings for the purses, but this summer she's sewing her own linings. Here's the first one she's finished:

She made the little heart pin out of Filo clay and pinned it to the purse. Her lining is fabric with butterflies:

She's made several without linings (I think the lined ones are nicer) and used vintage buttons from the '50's and '60's that she got from the button collection of my grandmother to embellish the purses.

On another note, I always enjoy reading Dy's posts at her weblog. She makes re-doing a house sound like so much fun! It's like a private peek at an HGTV show. (I think I may watch HGTV too much because Marley will walk into the room where I'm knitting and watching a show and exclaim, "Oh! It's 'House Hunters' - my favorite show!") Earlier tonight I was working on Dad's Aran (I'm on row 11 -out of 16- of the cable pattern) and If Walls Could Talk was on. Marley wandered in and was enthralled. I lost track of the show, and started thinking about our house. We don't really need the walls to talk because we know a lot of the history of our home. It was built by Mr. V, who, with his wife, raised his four children in the house. One of his daughters and her husband moved in with Mr. and Mrs. V. when she married. That daughter and her husband were Mr. and Mrs. A. They had their only child in this house, and that only child married and brought her husband here to live. That child, Mrs. T., had no children. She was the last owner of the house, and she died in 2003, at the age of 97. We bought the house from the daughter of her cousin, and she told us a lot about the people who lived here before us.

Before we moved in, the former owners did a great job of cleaning out the place. If we had to be on a show we'd be hard-pressed to make the walls talk. The only things left in this house when we moved in were these Glasbake custard cups and jelly-jar juice glasses:

And in the attic David found this lamp, sans the lampshade, which we bought at Target:

So I'm thinking, "If my the walls of my house could talk, they'd say, 'The people who lived here loved baked custard, were frugal, and liked the Sears early Americana look.' "

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On the (knitting) needles

I started the Aran cardigan for Dad and got the back ribbing done yesterday. Today I'll begin the pattern, including the cable design. I also have a pair of socks started for Aric using some Interlacements Toasty Toes yarn and size 3 needles. (I keep trying to get Glenn to let me knit him some socks, but so far he has declined. Maybe if I could find some sock wool in blaze orange he'd let me knit him a pair for hunting season...)

Meg asked me if I had anything on the needles for me and I told her I didn't. I realized later that that's not true. I have a shawl going that I started last October. It's a simple pattern knitted with Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb yarn. (It's 50% silk and 50% wool, and Meg said that it should properly be called "Worm & Lamb.")

I found it in a knitting bag yesterday when I was gathering my stuff for a day out with Steve. I always take knitting so I can work while riding in the car. I always take a book in case he needs to run in to some place (like a computer store) for a few minutes and I could wait in the car. I always take two magazines for us to peruse over lunch. (We read and eat and talk about what we're reading as we eat and read. What can I say? We're goofy, but it works for us.) I always take a sweater in case the places we go are too chilly.

I had my knitting for Dad and was looking to see if I could cast on a mindless knitting project - one that wouldn't require concentration - when I found the shawl. It was just the thing I wanted, and I do want to finish it. Steve had a doctor's appointment and I knitted on Dad's sweater in the waiting room, then switched to the shawl when we had to go back to the doctor's office. Then last night we decided to watch a movie with the children in Steve's office, so I toted it out there and knitted away while watching Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Today I have some errands to run, so it will be some time before I can get out Dad's Aran. Tonight or late this afternoon I'll sit and work on my 4 rows (but I think I really need to try to do more like 20 each day.)


Monday, July 17, 2006

Finished cardigan and on to the Aran

Over the weekend I finished Mom's cardigan. Sarah took a couple of pictures of it on me (none of the girls would model for me) and now I'll wrap it up and set it aside for Mom's birthday in November.

I probably should have worn it buttoned up, but it's so hot that I couldn't bear the thought. (Note to Jeannine: the books in the bookcase behind me are poetry books, books by C.S. Lewis, books by Miss Read, and my favorite picture books.)

Yesterday I saw Mom and Dad and showed Dad the traditional cream-colored Aran yarn and the swatch I'd started knitting. Immediately he said, "I like it better than the tan." I knew it! I'm so glad I went ahead and ordered the yarn. I'm casting on tonight.

We have still had no rain. Our grass is burning up. The garden is already gone. In the newspaper yesterday there was an article that said the long-term forecast for us is little to no rain for the next 6 to 12 months. Six to twelve months?! How can they predict that far out?

Jacy and Sarah volunteered at the library today. Most of the Friends of the Library are elderly women, and the girls go and do the toting of books up and down the stairs that the women can't do. While there, I had a look around and picked up a few books from the "free" table. Among my finds was a set of The Confederate Veteran. Each volume contains a year's worth of the magazine (facsimile) and there are about 10 or so volumes. The girls demanded to know what I thought I was going to do with them. I'll read them. Then I'll give them away or donate them to the local historical society when they get their building renovations done - if they want them... .


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Old things

Steve and I both like old things - old books, old furniture, old houses, each other. (Small joke, there!)

A lot of our furniture is old, though for the most part we got the pieces as hand-me-downs or from junk stores. We never had the $$$ to spend on new furniture, and with young children the old wooden pieces held up better, so we kind of drifted towards "antiques."

Our house is old. The first floor was built in 1875, and the second floor was added in 1906. The first floor was renovated and remodeled about 8 years ago, but the upstairs still has the tongue-and-groove walls, the doors have china doorknobs and skeleton-key locks, and the floor creaks and rocks.

These pictures of the front of the house and the western side of the house were taken back in the spring before everything got so dry and burnt.

A few blocks away is a little antique store owned by Barbara. She always has neat things, and if I ask her to keep an eye out for something she will. She also bought a lot of the furniture that belonged to the former owner of our house. One day while browsing her wares, I saw two of the fireplace mantels that used to be in our house. I told Barbara that we had bought that house, and she delightedly gave us a very good price on them so we could put them back in the rooms they'd been in before.

I've also gotten two tables from her - one small for the front porch so that we have a place to set our coffee, tea, newspapers, books, knitting, etc. when we're sitting out there in the rocking chairs; and a larger one for the upstairs landing to be used as a sort of library table for the children. She also sold me a dresser with a mirror that I put in the living room.

It's not really living room furniture, but I love the mirror and how it reflects the light and brightens up the room. And Barbara even found the skeleton key for the drawer locks so we can lock the drawers if we want to.

Last weekend I ran into her shop after dropping off the clothes at the drycleaners next-door. I was only going to say "Hi!" when I saw something. I said hello to Barbara and gazed at the "something." Barbara told me about the piece, and then I saw another something, and a third something. The first thing I saw really isn't a useful piece, but I can make it useful. The other two are very useful, perhaps even necessary.

Here you can see what I brought home:

This is an iron "gathering basket." It's the perfect place to keep my yarn. It's necessary.

Marley's sitting on the little stool. It's a milking stool from Japan. I'm a bit skeptical about that, but the stool is perfect for Marley and Sam to use in the playroom. It's necessary.

This is the top of a lectern. Isn't the sliding door and the compartment for papers, etc., neat? I'm thinking this is the perfect accessory for the homeschooling mom. Forget the fact that I've homeschooled perfectly well for 16 years without one of these, or even being aware of the lack of such a thing. This is sure to make me teach better, explain more lucidly, correct papers faster, and always speak to my little lambs in dulcet tones - no sharp words or snapped retorts from the teacher with this in front of her. (I'm not even convincing to myself - now maybe if I keep a Bible open on the top of it... .) But I'm determined to make it useful.


Friday, July 14, 2006


Today was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A and my girls dressed for the occasion.
They got free combos for their costumes. Not bad, eh?


Thursday, July 13, 2006


A few mornings ago the phone rang. Steve answered it and I heard him greet the other person on the line. It was a friend from our church in Virginia. I guessed she had news of some sort for us, but I figured Steve would get the information and pass it on to me if it was for me, so I started to leave the room. Then he said, "Trish... yeah... We know her... Okay, here's Laura."

There's only ever been one Trish in my life, so I eagerly grabbed the phone and took the information from our Virginia friend. She said Trish had called the church office saying she was looking for a friend she thought might go to that church. The secretary took Trish's contact information and promised to pass it on to me, but wouldn't tell Trish whether or not I was the Laura she was looking for. I asked where Trish was living, but the friend on the phone didn't know.

I called the phone number for Trish, left a message on her voicemail and settled down to wait. Very soon I got a call and I recognized the voice right away before she identified herself - it was Trish!

Trish and I met 25 years ago. I had just graduated from college and had recently met Steve. I got a job in a local restaurant so I could make enough money and have a rather flexible schedule so that I could occasionally fly to Virginia to see Steve while he was at The Basic School at Quantico. Trish worked at that restaurant and was kind enough to befriend me and helped me get used to being in a long-distance relationship. She was a true and faithful friend. If I wanted fun, I'd call Trish. If I needed help, I'd call Trish. If I was upset and needed to talk, I'd call Trish. Trish was what Penny terms a "2:00 a.m. friend." If I were in the ER at 2:00 a.m., I could call Trish and she'd come immediately. When Steve and I married she served punch at our reception. A few years later she delighted me by making me her matron of honor at her wedding. We stayed in touch and continued to see each other from time to time until about 15 years ago. Then I moved again, she moved again, my parents moved, her mother died and her father remarried. We lost touch with each other and had no way to contact either of our parents to find one another.

About a year ago I googled her name and the last place I knew she'd lived and read through several pages without finding what I thought was a credible match. I gave up the search.

Trish (faithful friend that she is) googled my name recently and read through many, many, many pages until she found a review of a book I'd written a few years ago. I had posted a link to our church's website and Trish clicked on the link. She went to the photos page and looked through dozens of photos. She saw Steve and knew she had the right Laura. Then she called the church and here we are.

Today Trish came to my house to visit. We don't live too far apart - she's in Georgia, about 1 1/2 hours from me. We caught up on each other's lives - husbands, children, extended families, our former co-workers and friends. It was an incredible 4 hours. I'm still feeling the adrenaline rush! My jaw actually hurts - poor Trish, her ears must hurt from all the talking I did! She brought us a pound cake she made and it was delicious. My children met her and were reasonably well-behaved. The last time I'd seen Trish the only children we had were Glenn, Aric, Tom, Jacy and Sarah. Sarah was a baby.

Trish is just as beautiful, just as cheerful, just as gracious as she was fifteen years ago - and as she was twenty-five years ago. And you know what? She still feels like a "2:00 a.m. friend."


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Precious in the sight of the LORD...."

Yesterday the mother/mother-in-law of some friends died. She was a Christian and is now with her Lord in Paradise. I looked for a card, but Hallmark didn't have any that said, " Your loved one is with Christ now! We're rejoicing with you!" I called the family today, but they are busy with all the details that come with death, so I'll write a brief letter and mail it out tomorrow.

Death comes to us all sooner or later, and even before our own deaths we are touched by the deaths of those who die before us. I do love the verse from the Psalms that states, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones." (Psalm 116:15)

The Bible says so much about death and about life afterwards for believers. The passage in the gospel of John where Jesus comforts His disciples with these words, also comforts me:

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way I am going." (John 14:1-4)

A dwelling place in heaven prepared by Christ for those that believe in Him - now that's a thought worth thinking about! (I love square rooms and square houses and my stray thought is that I'll have a square place in heaven!)

I also like to think about the far better country, that heavenly one, that Christians are to desire:

"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

A dwelling place and a city prepared. My mind staggers sometimes at the thought of that.

I can rejoice when a Christian dies, but even in the rejoicing I often grieve. I know I'm going to miss the person who has died. I grieve for the time we won't have together. Death doesn't have to be feared by a Christian, but death is still an enemy.

Six years ago we were expecting a June baby. A few days after her due date, but before she was born, she died. Several days later I gave birth to our stillborn daughter, Christine. Her death took us completely by surprise. The pregnancy had been perfect and I'd even listened to her strong and regular heart-tones a few hours before her death. We grieved because we'd longed for her and happily anticipated her place in our family. But we rejoiced because God is good. Because we know that God planned her little life, just as He planned ours (Psalm 139:16). Because God is so compassionate and gently leads us through our time of mourning, and never allows us to be overwhelmed with grief (Lamentations 3:21-32). Because death so close makes us examine our hearts and lives (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). Because we want to be refined, to be made holy (Job 23:10; James 1:2-4; I Peter 1:6-9)

Death is our enemy, but it is a defeated enemy:

"Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from my sight." (Hosea 13:14)

"For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:53-57)

(I used the New American Standard Bible for these verses.)


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Yeah, TV

I enjoy reading about other homeschoolers and what they do in their daily lives. Now I read weblogs, but I used to read every homeschooling magazine I could find. Jeannine and Cindy just told about their TV-watching and non-TV-watching habits.

I'll admit we watch TV. And movies. And DVD's. And we probably have enough cable channels to shock a good homeschooling family senseless. We read a lot. We have a lot of books. We subscribe to and read lots of magazines and three newspapers. And we still watch TV. And it might be on at any time of the day - not tuned to public television.

I think we may be the ugly duckling of homeschooling families, and we're unlikely to ever grow into a swan. We don't go to bed at dusk or even at 8:00 p.m. Our crew is more likely to be awake at midnight or later. You may then correctly surmise that we do not rise at what Steve terms "zero dark-thirty" or what Marley calls "dawn strip." Our normal out-of-bed time is around 8:00 a.m. - later if we stayed up late watching a DVD or something on... TV.

I don't shudder at standardized tests and test all my children annually, and the 10th or 11th graders take the ACT and the SAT. I really don't like manufacturing a paper trail of work samples, report cards, and progress reports, and I admit that my favorite states for homeschooling were those that left me alone to educate my children without requiring me to report to someone. (Texas was heaven, and Virginia ran a close second.)

We don't dress alike when we're in public, so we look like a motley crew rather than candidates to grace a homeschool publication. (Now that I think of it, we never dress alike, even when we're not in public.)

We're definitely not Luddites! We greatly enjoy our air conditioning, our digital camera, our cell phones, our TV's, our dishwasher, microwave and (you may want to quit reading or at least shut your eyes for a moment) processed food! I used to grind wheat and hand mix dough for bread every day. What happened? I had a few more babies and more children to teach and less time for baking rustic loaves of bread. We're actually sick less often than we used to be, but I don't think it has anything to do with the food we eat and much more to do with where we live (more rural, less metropolitan) and the age of my children (older kids don't touch everything and then put their fingers in their mouths, noses, or eyes like younger ones do).

I rarely meet families who don't gasp in horror when they hear that we're late to bed and late to rise. And many others politely avert their eyes from the TV in the family room and the basket on top of it that's bursting with remote controls. But I live in hope that God will continue to bring into our lives and into our circle of friends these lovely swan homeschoolers that encourage and befriend us despite our shortcomings.


Monday, July 10, 2006

About the Aran...

I'm really NOT trying to procrastinate on this, but look at this yarn, the pattern, and the swatch:

Doesn't that look quite dark to you? It's a heathery tan, but I'm afraid I'll lose any stitch definition with it, and Dad wanted something he could wear with both browns and blues.

Dad told me earlier that he liked the traditional Aran cream, too, so I'm thinking I should rush off an order for Galway worsted yarn in color #1 (cream) and do it in that instead of the current color, "heathered oatmeal."

Am I just putting off the inevitable, or am I worrying for the right reasons? I believe that Dad should love his cardigan, and get the maximum usage from it, and I should love knitting this garment that will take several months to knit. What do you think?


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tom's at OCS

Yesterday Steve and I drove Tom to a motel in Montgomery where he and seven other Marine candidates spent the night. This morning they flew to Atlanta, then to Washington, D.C., where they were met and bused to Quantico, Virginia. They will spend the next six weeks there at Officer Candidate School.

If you think of him, please pray for Tom and the other young men at OCS for this period. It's very hot and humid there in July and August. We lived there for the last 3 1/2 years, right next to the base, so Tom knows what sort of sultry mugginess to expect. And he's aware of the ticks and other bugs he's likely to encounter. But he and the other guys will be pushed to their physical limits, and I'm praying for his physical safety, his mind to be alert, and his heart to be compassionate toward his fellow candidates.

Steve said the next six weeks will fly by... for us. For Tom, he said, they will seem like forever. On Friday night Steve and my dad prayed over Tom. Last Sunday our church prayed for him during the Sunday morning worship service. I've been praying for him constantly, and will continue to do so. Steve warned Tom that he most likely will not have time for a regular Bible study, or even time to read his Bible. He encouraged Tom to pray fervently and remember what he already knows of the Word.

Steve went through OCS 26 years ago. He was 24 years old and had already been in the Marine Corps for 6 years, but he says it was harder for him than boot camp, and boot camp was tough. Tom thinks he'll be okay because he grew up as a Marine's kid. (Steve wasn't exactly like Robert Duvall in "The Great Santini," but he came pretty close for a few years before he became a Christian!) Tom knows his two older brothers "breezed through" Air Force basic training and Army basic training because, in their words, "We grew up with Steve as our dad!" (They were bragging when they said this - NOT whining about their childhood.) But Steve worries that Tom will find it a lot harder than he anticipates. For his part, Tom confessed that he's looking forward to going through the next 6 weeks with other men. Up till now his Marine journey has been quite solitary.

So if you think of Tom, please pray for him... and for his mama and daddy!


Friday, July 07, 2006


In the past week both Penny and Meg have called me. They are incredibly loyal friends and talented knitters, and both need to pack up their families and move to Alabama, preferably next-door to me.

Penny and Meg taught me to knit 4 1/2 years ago and have guided me through my first clumsy efforts on to more complicated knitting, all the while encouraging me and patiently and kindly praising my projects. They have refrained from laughing hysterically at my boo-boo's and instead have made me (erroneously) believe that I can knit anything, given enough time and persistence.

I confessed to Penny that I'm procrastinating starting my dad's Aran cardigan. I know that in order to finish it by Christmas I needed to start it back in May, and here we're almost 1/2-way into July. Not good. I'm avoiding it. Penny told me to get the needles out and cast on and commit to 4 rows a day. Just 4 measly rows. Today I told Meg what Penny had said, and Meg concurred. So I guess I'll hurry up and finish Mom's blue cardigan this week, and then start Dad's.

Here's what I've got on Mom's Everyday Cardigan as of last night:

Not good lighting, but you see two finished fronts, a finished back, and two sleeves almost completed. I should be able to finsh the sleeves tonight, then wash and block all the pieces tomorrow. Monday I can seam it, and maybe by Wednesday I'll be knitting the collar and button bands.

Then on to the dreaded Aran cardigan for Dad.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Book meme

I saw this book meme at Beth Spera in Domino and decided it would be fun.

1. A book that made you cry: The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock. Kristi recommended this book to me and I read one chapter each night. It was my "dessert" book. At first the story-within-a-story annoyed me, but I got over it quickly and enjoyed the stories of Father Peregrine and the Brothers in the monastery. Each chapter moved me to tears as each Brother's story showed how he learned to be more Christ-like through the daily trials of life.

2. A book that scared you: The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. I actually could see Steve or my dad doing the same thing!

3. A book that made you laugh: Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse. Anything by Wodehouse makes me laugh, but the Blandings Castle books are my favorites, and of them I like this the best.

4. A book that disgusted you: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. A trusted friend recommended this to me and I read it to the very end expecting some sort of redemption. I was horribly disappointed.

5. A book you loved in elementary school: The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. I read all the Narnia books over and over, but I especially loved this one for the cut-away diagram of the ship as illustrated by Pauline Baynes.

6. A book you loved in middle school: King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard. One weekend I was wretchedly ill with a stomach bug and while I languished in bed I read this book and several others - but this one was the best. It's a great adventure!

7. A book you loved in high school: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I read this while I was supposed to be reading something else in my high school economics class. Luckily for me, the teacher didn't care what we did, as long as we kept our place in the textbook well enough to answer questions when called upon. I remember nothing from that class, but I remember how horrified I was by the atrocities in the meat-packing industry that Sinclair fictionally chronicled.

8. A book you loved in college: The Splendid Century by W.H. Lewis. C.S. Lewis's brother, Warren, did a fantastic job with this book. My father had this on his book shelf and I picked it up one day when I was bored. The court of the Sun King and his France came alive and I didn't stop reading until I finished the book.

9. A book that challenged your identity or faith: The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink. This book didn't really challenge my faith, but it did put so beautifully into words what the Bible tells about God. I read it about eight years ago, then had my two oldest children read it. Later, when we had a full-term stillborn daughter, we used snippets from that book to explain to several people that we could rejoice in such hard circumstances because we know that God is sovereign, and He is good.

10. A series that you love: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the rest in the series by Alexander McCall Smith. Only one in the bunch (The Full Cupboard of Life) was a bit of a dud, but he rebounded afterwards with the next two!

11. Your favorite horror book: House of Fear by Russell Kirk. I read this over 19 years ago while in labor with my first-born, Tom. It's also the last horror book I read - having children made me dislike horror and like happy. But I'd probably re-read it because it was by Kirk, and I remember thinking that I hoped the baby wouldn't arrive before I finished the book.

12. Your favorite science fiction book: The Zero Stone by Andre Norton. I read this over and over again as a child, then bought it (twice) for my children, who also love it.

13. Your favorite fantasy book: The Princess Bride by William Goldman. This is another one I enjoy re-reading and of which I have several copies.

14. Your favorite mystery book: The Complete Uncle Abner by Melville Davisson Post. Post's book is really a series of short stories, and Uncle Abner is an unusual detective. He solves crimes not so much by the clues left behind, but by his knowledge of man's innate sinfulness and God's holy justice. This description from the story "The Angel of the Lord" about sums Abner up:
"I ought to say a word about my Uncle Abner. He was one of those austere, deeply religious men who were the product of the Reformation. He always carried a Bible in his pocket and he read it where he pleased. Once the crowd at Roy's Tavern tried to make sport of him when he got his book out by the fire; but they never tried it again. When the fight was over Abner paid Roy eighteen silver dollars for the broken chairs and the table - and he was the only man in the tavern who could ride a horse. Abner belonged to the church militant, and his God was a war lord."

15. Your favorite biography: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester. Manchester was such a liberal, but he was also very talented as a writer. This book is one I recommend because it's so well-written and the subject is a fascinating character. It was supposed to be volume two in a trilogy, but Manchester died before finishing the third book. I read that Manchester tapped a writer in Miami to finish the book, and that it was to be published in 2006, but I'm still waiting.

16. Your favorite coming-of-age book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I have vicariously enjoyed again it for the first time each time I've handed it to whichever child of mine was about 12 and watched/listened to his or her reactions. Almost as good as reading it for the first time myself.

17. Your favorite book not on this list: Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown. This book took me by surprise. I passed it up several times. Saw it recommended by librarians at our library in Virginia and even checked it out once, but returned it without reading it. Finally I decided I'd read it and it was a delight - a love story between two middle-aged people. The man secretly and anonymously woos the woman, and she has no idea who is pursuing her. At the same time, he openly seeks to befriend her and get to know her and let her get to know him. Good book, good ending, and I'm nowhere near to giving it justice!

And just because I want to, I'm adding these -

18. Your favorite Western: Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. Several years ago we briefly lived in Texas and I went all out reading books about Texas, books by Texans, and westerns. The little library in our tiny Texas town had a good selection of novels by Zane Grey and I read about 5 or 6 before we moved. Riders of the Purple Sage wasn't the best, but it was the first, so I remember it fondly.

19. Your favorite fiction or non-fiction book on the War Between the States: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. (Some day I'd like to immerse myself in more of this literature, but until I can I'm making a list of must-reads.)

20. Your favorite WWI or WWII book: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Okay, so technically most of the story happens after the war, but the events during the war set the stage beautifully for the rest of the novel. About three years ago I started reading Shute's books and I want to read them all now, yet I want to always have one waiting for me that I haven't read. Not sure how to solve that dilemma....

21. Your favorite exploration/adventurer book: Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure by F.A. Worsley. The hardships Shackleton and his men faced were incredible, yet they didn't lose a single man.

If you read this and want to do it, consider yourself tagged. But please let me know so I can enjoy your selections!

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

At last, a decent summer read!

Last night I finished The Curse of Treasure Island. Written by Frank Delaney under the pen name, Francis Bryan, this book was a pleasure to read. With pirates, treasure, a secret mission, a chase on the high seas, and the mystery solved in the very end, what more could I ask for in a summer read?

The book did get a little thin in places, but overall it was good. It had no objectionable words or situations - I can recommend this to anyone, especially my children.

The story opens at the Admiral Benbow Inn about seven or so years after the events recorded in Stevenson's book, Treasure Island. Jim Hawkins narrates the entire story, so yeah, we know he'll survive all the harrowing adventures he encounters. A lovely young woman with a young son in tow asks Jim to take her to Treasure Island to find the pirate Joseph Tait. The woman, Grace Richardson, won't divulge the reason she needs to find Joseph Tait, who may or may not still be alive after being marooned seven years ago. Jim is smitten by Grace's loveliness and likes her son, Louis, well enough that he agrees to help her. Lots of the original characters make appearances: Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, Ben Gunn, and Long John Silver. Jim even uses the Hispaniola to get back to the island. The island is still a sinister place, and there's lots of danger for Jim to face. The ending surprised me a bit - it surprised Jim Hawkins, too! But it wasn't a bad ending, and I am glad to have found this book and will buy it for us to keep and reread.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Tomorrow we'll be eating with Mom and Dad at the lake. They're doing all the cooking and grilling (what a treat!), but Mom asked me to bring black bean and corn salsa. She and I went grocery shopping at Bruno's this morning, and that store is too much fun!

Here's the salsa recipe:

2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans shoepeg corn, drained
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. Cavender's Greek seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Best if made and chilled 6 to 24 hours before serving, but we often eat it as soon as it's made. Serve with tortilla chips or over rice, or plain.

I usually double the recipe and we eat it for several days. If your local grocer doesn't have the Cavender's, it can be ordered through

I also got the items for tomato/basil salad, which we'll probably eat tonight.

4 to 6 large tomatoes, chopped
4 stalks of basil with lots of leaves, chopped
1 large lump (about the size of two eggs) of mozzarella, chopped
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
coarse-ground pepper to taste
a sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve with crusty baguettes.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Home again

We made our quick trip and arrived safely home last night. I was able to see Triny and Sue briefly, and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Meg and Dan ( and slept soundly in Victoria's bed on her lovely clean sheets!) before we headed back to Alabama. No knitting - I drove the entire 1500+ miles - but I listened to a lot of western music and conversed with Tom, Joan, and David.

Listening to western music was a new, but not unpleasant, experience for me. Before we left for Virginia I bought a couple of CD's of theme music from western TV shows and movies to take with us on the trip. That was an impulse-buy sparked by a couple of nights of movie-viewing by Steve and me. Last week we watched A Year in Provence and several times in the movie a famous piece of western music played whenever seven contractors drove up to Peter Mayle's house. The music was so familiar, but I couldn't name it. I searched the internet, implored Steve to use his powerful brain to identify it, all to no avail. Finally we found it by listening to countless bits of music on; it was the theme from the movie The Magnificent Seven.

I had never seen the movie, but I knew the music. Before we left for our trip I ordered the movie from, and asked Steve if he'd watch it with me when I got back this weekend. He's seen it several times, but very kindly agreed to watch it with me.

I loved it! Joan watched it with us, and she liked it, too. Part of the appeal for Steve and me was seeing James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, and other old (or dead) actors young again. It was fun to recognise Eli Wallach ("Hey! That guy's "The Ugly" in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!") and Robert Vaughn ("Look! It's Napoleon Solo from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.!") and I just found out that of the "Magnificent Seven" they are the only two still alive as of 2006. But it was a darned good western, too.

While we watched it we snacked on Utz pumpernickel pretzels and Steve opened up a bottle of red wine for us to taste. I think it was one of the bottles he meant to send to Dan via me, but forgot. (Meg, if you read this please tell Dan it was a very good wine, with a rich, fruity aroma, mellow notes, many bouquet thingies, etc., etc., and Dan would have savored it mightily if only Steve had remembered to send it.... C'est la vie, right?)

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