Monday, December 31, 2007

Steve is 52!

Today is Steve's birthday. He's had a pretty low-key day, despite having to work. Best of all, Auburn won over Clemson, 23 to 20!

And thus ends our month of December birthdays.

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Abbreviated reading list for 2008

Selecting only a dozen books to be on "my list" last year worked so well I'm going to do it again this year. In 2007 I was able to read 93 books, and read through my Bible twice. Having only one book per month that was a must-read gave me lots of time to read other books reviewed or mentioned on various blogs, books I read about in the newspaper, and books recommended by friends and relatives. And I still felt a teensy bit virtuous for having worked some structure into my reading for the year. (Self-congratulation obviously comes very easily to me.)

Laura's book list 2008

1. See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America by Logan Ward. I read about this book in the newspaper last year, ordered a copy, then didn't have time to read it. It's the account of one couple's decision to leave Manhattan and spend a year in rural Virginia with very little technological aids (no phone, no computer) and do some serious agrarian living. I'd rather read about it than do it.

2. The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman. Last year I read Mr. Ruhlman's book, The Making of a Chef, and loved it. This book appears to pick up where the last one left off, detailing what happens after a chef graduates from the Culinary Institute of America and begins work in a restaurant.

3. South to Bataan, North to Mukden: The Prison Diary of Brigadier General W. E. Brougher edited by D. Clayton James. Journals and diaries always make great reading, and this book is the diary of a friend's father from 1941 to 1945 while he was a prisoner of the Japanese. I've already read a book of poems and a book of short stories by General Brougher and I anticipate enjoying his diary, too.

4. Tuning the Rig: A Journey to the Arctic by Harvey Oxenhorn. I found this at a library book sale and it looked interesting.

5. London 1945: Life in the Debris of War by Maureen Waller. After reading The Book Thief I'm ready for more books about World War II, and I think Maureen Waller has garnered some praise for her work in history.

6. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One by Thomas Sowell. Mr. Sowell's book, Basic Economics, was so good I bought several copies and have used it to teach economics to my children. I also plan to read Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson and learn from Dana and Cindy as they discuss that book. Mr. Sowell's book can't help but further my understanding of economics. Besides, I've yet to read a book by Thomas Sowell that wasn't good.

7. World without End by Ken Follett. The last Ken Follett book I read must have been Eye of the Needle. I was in high school back then, and I really liked that book. I probably should read Pillars of the Earth first, so it's a good thing this book is not first on my list.

8. Blooming: A Small Town Girlhood by Susan Allen Toth. I read a couple of books of essays by Ms. Toth this year and found them quite pleasant. This should be perfect for August.

9. The House of Lanyon by Valerie Anand. Sarah blogged about this book. A few days later while standing in line at Books-a-Million I saw it on the shelf beside me and bought it on impulse. I hope it's good.

10. The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing by Thomas McGuane. Over a decade ago I was completely taken by surprise by Isaak Walton's book, The Compleat Angler. I realized that although I don't like to go fishing, some fishermen can really write! - and make reading about fishing a worthy pastime.

11. America's British Culture by Russell Kirk. Dana has made me realize I need to read more books by Russell Kirk. Hopefully, this won't be the only one by him I read this year.

12. The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott. I have very little fiction on my list. I haven't read a novel by Scott in a long time. This should be a real treat!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

My favorite books read in 2007

Sherry at Semicolon is hosting a year-end book list round up. She asks readers to send lists of books read in 2007, or books to be read in 2008, or other book lists.

From the list of books I read this past year, I've selected my favorites. Some I have reviewed, others I haven't. My only criteria for "favorite" is that I have to have recommended it several times to friends or family members.

1. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.

2. Flight Path: A Biography of Frank Barker, Jr. by Janie Buck and Mary Lou Davis.

3. Last Harvest by Witold Rybczynski.

4. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith.

5. Witness by Whittaker Chambers.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

7. T is for Treason by Sue Grafton.

8. The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry.

10. Morning and Evening Daily Readings by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

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The Illustrated History of the Housewife

Una A. Robertson's book, The Illustrated History of the Housewife was very similar to another book on my 2007 reading list, Never Done: A History of American Housework, by Susan Strasser.

There are fifteen chapters which detail:
"Who Are the Housewives?"
"Fuels and Fireplaces"
"Lighting the Home"
"Water and Drainage"
"The Workforce"
"Cleaning: Methods and Mixtures"
"The Means of Cooking"
"Provisioning the Household"
"Storage and Preservation of Food"
"Meals and Mealtimes"
"Pastimes and Pleasures Around the Home"
"Pastimes and Pleasures Outside the Home"
"The Housewife in the Wider World"

Each chapter has lovely illustrations and pictures. It certainly can stand alone as a competent history of housework, or be enjoyed as a companion to Strasser's book.

In fact, I think that Ms. Robertson's book is more of a history of housework and the household in Great Britain from 1650 to 1950, rather than that of the housewife. I do appreciate her desire to praise the housewife for her labors. She writes:

"Generations of housewives have come and gone and many of the tasks that were once part of their daily routine have been eradicated. The tasks that do remain have been considerably eased with the development of user-friendly materials of every description and equipment designed to obviate much of the physical labour related to running a home. Yet the fact remains that a house and those living within its walls still have the same needs as in previous generations. Someone must be responsible for the comfort, health and well-being of its members and, historically, that has been the duty of the housewife. The altered perception of the role is a phenomenon of the later twentieth century and what the current generation make of it will be a study for the historians of the future."

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Victorious Christianity

Victorious Christianity by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is the third volume in his series Studies in the Book of Acts. Just like the other volumes, this book consists of a set of sermons Mr Lloyd-Jones preached from the book of Acts. This book covers only a few verses from the fifith and sixth chapters of Acts, but there's so much to think about in those few verses.

I think these sermons were delivered in an election year, because politics, government, and voting are mentioned quite often. One of my favorite passages (and I marked up and dog-eared this book quite terribly) was this one from the chapter entitled "A Prince":

"Oh, yes, render your vote! 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.' But in the name of God, I warn you, I plead with you, do not stop at that. 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.' (Matthew 22:21). The really vital question for all of us is not which party we will vote for, but which kingdom we belong to. Do you only belong to the kingdoms of this world, or do you also belong to the kingdom of our God and of His Christ? This is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. The day is coming when Christ will put the whole cosmos in order. He will destroy eveil and sin and all that belong to them, and if you do not belong to His kingdom, you will partake of that destruction and that eternal misery.
"Here is the great question: Are you aware of God's history, of God's purpose, of God's kingdom? Are you being governed by God's Prince, the Prince of Peace, the King of righteousness? Are you looking forward to the day when 'the earth' - the entire cosmos - 'shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea' (Hab. 2:14)?"

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Year-end knitting

I finished EllaRee's socks. They're knit from Austermann Step sock yarn. This is my second time to knit with that yarn, and while it's not my favorite, it's growing on me.

A pair of socks for Miss Betty have been started. I'd like to get two pairs done for her by the middle of January.

The back of Sarah's Ribby Cardi is finished, and I'm well on the way with the left and right front panels. I LOVE this pattern!


Gingerbread house

This year, for the first time since moving away from North Carolina, the children made a gingerbread house. It was actually a kit that Barbel brought us from Germany. I wouldn't allow anyone to pick at it until after the family Christmas dinner, because we used it as a centerpiece for one of the tables. We're going to host the youth group for New Year's Eve, so I think we may eat it then.

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Christmas with the family...

...was terrific! We had rain. Everyone found our house with no problem. No one minded eating off disposable plates. Everyone brought tasty food, and everyone took a bag of favorite foods home with them so we didn't have tons of leftovers to deal with.

And Chuck, in a kind, brotherly fashion, took me aside and informed me that because I hosted Christmas dinner for the family, I had finally entered the rank of "Grown-up." Wow! I think this means that from now on, I can always sit at the adult table!

And here's Helen (who, even though she's the oldest of the cousins, and is nine months older than me, still hasn't officially been designated a "grown-up," to the delight of all my children, who adore her!) with Marley and Sarah:

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Glenn is 30!

Happy Birthday, dear Glenn! You are a blessing and a delight to us. You are an excellent son and a loving brother. We'll see you and your family in a few weeks!


Christmas Eve

"The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." ~Isaiah 40:5.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Miss Betty and socks

Miss Betty is in Louisiana until after Christmas, so I have no one to knit with or with whom I can discuss books until she gets back. Before she left I learned that she has no hand-knit socks. She knit (and is knitting) socks for every one of her children, their spouses, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and quite a few nephews and nieces, too. When her husband, Bill, was alive she knit all of his socks. But she has never made any for herself.
So I think before too many weeks pass I need to knit a pair of socks for Miss Betty so she can enjoy the feel of hand-knit socks.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ribby Cardi

Last week I finished Jacy's Ribby Cardi and gave it to her. I'm very pleased with the fit and it was fun to knit. Unfortunately, I was in no hurry to do the seaming or the sewing in of the zipper, otherwise it would have been finished last month.

But here is Jacy wearing her sweater (looking a bit pained because it was cold and she was standing bare-footed on the porch early last Friday morning):

(Knit with Peruvian Highland Wool from Elann on size 7 Denise needles.)


Jacy is 19!

Today is Jacy's birthday and she's celebrating it in Virginia with her other family - Lars, Sarah, Kim, Josh, and Lizzie. Last week she opened her gifts from us, and the week before that her friends at Auburn threw a surprise party for her.

Happy Birthday, dear Jacy!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

*Note to myself

A wine bottle with a screw-top isn't necessarily an inexpensive wine.

Steve was late getting home Monday night, and I decided I'd like a small glass of wine to sip while I read a book. I looked through his wine cooler and saw two bottles with screw-tops. I grabbed one, poured about 4 ounces into a glass and slowly enjoyed it for the next two hours.

When Steve got home I told him I'd had a glass of wine and offered to show him the bottle I'd opened so he'd know it needed to be drunk or used in cooking within the next few days.

He asked, "What did you open?"

I answered, "I don't know, something with a clown on the label."

"Was it good?"

We walked out to his office, I pulled the bottle out of the cooler and he staggered back clutching his chest with a look of utter horror and disbelief on his face.

Me: "What?!"
Steve: "You didn't open THAT!"
Me: "Yes. I did. See, you can tell. It's not full now."
Steve: "Laura. That's $80-a-bottle wine! It's supposed to be worth hundreds in about twenty years!"
Me (speaking very slowly, because now I feel awful): "You might be dead in twenty years. Maybe it's a good thing it's open now so you can enjoy it."
Steve: "I can't believe you drank that."
Me: "There's a lot left. Here - let me pour you a glass!"
Steve: "Robert Parker gave that wine a 97." [Actually, he gave it a 99 - I looked it up last night.] They sold out of it almost immediately. There's no way to replace it."
Me: "Wait! If he gave it a 97, then that means he drank it NOW. That wine is great now, and might NOT be that great twenty or even ten years from now, right?"
Steve: "The rating also is based on what he believes the wine will be like when it's more mature."

At this point I very unwisely started trying to bring in various Bible verses on planning one's future, and Steve warned me not to even go there.

So... I don't know what the future holds for us, but I'm pretty certain it holds no "clown wine."

(And just for the record, MollyDooker Carnival of Love Shiraz is a good wine. Now I wish I'd drunk more than 4 ounces!)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sam is 6!

Six years ago today we welcomed Sam to the family. As with the rest of the children, Sam's birth was a greatly anticipated, much-prayed for event. God surrounded us with helpful friends and family to encourage and help us. Jong and Naty took our six older children to stay at their house all day, and most of the night. Ilene, Kristine, and Ashley played with the children and kept them occupied while they waited for us to call and tell them the baby was born. One of the Navy corpsmen was a former football player for Clemson, and he talked to Steve for most of his shift, thus keeping Steve from being bored. I was happily surprised to see my labor nurse was an old friend I'd last seen years before in Beaufort, South Carolina when she was a Navy dental tech. In the intervening years she'd gone back to school and trained to be a labor and delivery nurse, and come back to serve in the Navy - and she was there for me! As I walked the halls of the naval hospital, I saw several other old friends. And at 8:00 p.m. Sam was born - safely and with no complications. The nurse from the nursery who took him to be weighed and measured was the same nurse who had taken care of Marley when she was born, and had been there with us when we had Christine!

All these people rejoiced with us when Sam was born. Jong and Naty cheerfully kept the children until late that night, when Steve finally got over there to get them. That night I stayed awake, holding Sam in my arms and reading Oliver Twist. Steve and the children came the next morning to see Sam (and me).

This morning Sam opened his birthday gifts in bed. Then he played with them with the help of David and Marley. This afternoon he'll help Joan bake and decorate his cake (chocolate with chocolate frosting) and he wants Chinese food for supper.

Happy Birthday, Sam!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Kissing Christmas Goodbye might be the best Agatha Raisin mystery M.C. Beaton has written. Agatha is fairly calm and mellow. She allows her staff to work, and doesn't fret about it. She hires a new detective, a seventeen-year-old girl named Toni, and in doing so helps Toni out of a tough family situation. She solves the case for which she was hired, and not in too melodramatic a way. Although there was not a lot of Christmas in the book, it was a pleasant, enjoyable mystery. (And the dust jacket is festive.)


Friday, December 07, 2007

Baggy Pants and Other Stories

My knitting friend, Miss Betty, loaned me a copy of Baggy Pants and Other Stories, written by her father, Brigadier General William E. Brougher. The title story was written for a Reader's Digest contest and was published in the January, 1956 edition of that magazine.

The story was a true experience of General Brougher while he was a prisoner of war during World War II. He wrote poetry to keep himself busy, but the Japanese guards were quick to confiscate papers and writings of the prisoners, then to punish the prisoners by beating them. One day, some time after one of those episodes of confiscation, one of the more brutal guards approached the General. In his hand were some notebooks in which the General had written some poetry. General Brougher steeled himself for a beating, but what happened next surprised him.

The guard, nicknamed "Baggy Pants" by the prisoners, asked General Brougher if he had written these poems in the notebook. Then "Baggy Pants" said he had read the poems and liked them, some very much. He then recited from memory in halting English this poem by General Brougher:


The sun has slipped the noose of night,

Now pricks the mist with spears of light;

The rays bend high against the sky

And flash the herons drifting by;

Where beams break thru the mountain pass,

The drops of dew are beads of glass;

Arise! O sluggard, bring your cup

For morning's nectar, sun is up!

After telling the General that he liked many more of his poems, especially the ones about family, "Baggy Pants" confessed that he also wrote poetry. General Brougher asked to see one of the poems by the guard, and this is what he read:


The moon is high in the autumn sky

The light is like silver snow on the grass

My body is weary with much striving

My soul is at peace.

General Brougher read the poem aloud, and nearly choked up with emotion as he came to the end of it. The guard then gave the General back his notebook of poems, and as he was turning to leave, asked to shake the General's hand.

The rest of the stories in this little volume vary in length and content. I greatly preferred the ones that were about military life, but all were enjoyable.

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My favorite commercial

This ad is my current favorite - not that I really have seen enough to compare, but I really like this. Tom Jones belting out those lyrics just cracks me up!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Through the looking-glass

As I was walking into the living room to read the paper, I caught this view in the mirror by the front door. Why does the room in the mirror look so much more interesting than the actual room?


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage

Last year while doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at a local bookstore, I saw Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage. I thought the title was interesting, so I bought the book and asked Steve if he would give it to me for Christmas. Then I put it on my reading list for 2007.

Before reading this book, I knew nothing at all about Clementine Churchill - not even the correct pronunciation of her name. (It's "ClemenTEEN.") I'd read William Manchester's excellent, though unfinished, biography of Sir William Churchill years ago, and I'm sure Mrs. Churchill was mentioned, but if so, she didn't stay in my mind.

Clementine's youngest child, Mary, wrote this book, and it's actually an updated and revised edition of an earlier biography she wrote of her mother. It's thorough, interesting, but not ugly. Although some unpleasant events or characters are in this book, Mary chooses to dwell on the positive, not the sad or scintillating. I believe this biography not only gave me a true picture of Clementine Churchill, but also a more complete picture of her husband. He was ten years older than Clementine when they married, and had already begun a famous and illustrious career as a politician and a writer. She was young and from a very dysfunctional family, yet she made the perfect wife for him, to the surprise of many. Mary writes, "Right from the start of her married life she learned to live with crisis and controversy. Looking back, one can see that this period was a fitting training for the more sombre, deadly days that lay further ahead in their lives."

Throughout their lives Winston depended on Clementine's good sense and her self-sacrificing love for him. After he left politics and was truly retired, he still had many hobbies and outlets for his energy, particularly painting and writing. Clementine didn't really have any hobbies to fall back on when their lives slowed down, but as her daughter points out:

"If she had been more egotistical, more pleasure-loving or more personally ambitious, she might have been less at a loss when the calls of duty ceased to be so imperious and consuming. But if she had been any or all of these things, the history of her relationship with Winston, and her influence over him, would certainly have been different - and so, to some extent, might have been the history of our times."

They really had a happy marriage, and left a treasure-trove of letters and notes to one another that confirm their deep commitment to each other. Fortunately, they lived before telephone calls were common-place, (and before e-mails, instant messaging, and texting) so they wrote to each other almost every day - whether apart geographically, or together in the same house!

Mary was obviously close to her mother, but she says she learned so much about her parents after her mother's death when she went through mountains of correspondence and various diaries. I'm grateful that she made the effort to do so. This biography of Clementine Churchill was uplifting and encouraging, and it's a book I'll recommend often to anyone wanting to read something good.

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Hard Fighting Soldier

Last week I read Hard Fighting Soldier by Chette Williams, the chaplain for Auburn's football team.

I was expecting a memoir emphasizing Mr. Williams' years playing under Coach Pat Dye and his current role as the Auburn Tigers' chaplain under Coach Tommy Tuberville. But it was much better than that. This was a book about God, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This book was a testimony - not about Chette Williams - but about God. Mr. Williams wrote of God's mercy and grace as seen and lived by many different men who played for Auburn.

It was so good, I bought three more copies to give as Christmas gifts.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas lights

Today while shopping at Piggly Wiggly I found the perfect lights for Christmas - red and green and quick and easy to install! So now Steve's office, the old servant's quarters, and Tom's cottage are ready for the holiday season:

Steve says it looks like port and starboard to him. Maybe if we get wreaths for the bare doors it will help him think "Christmas!"

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sarah is 17!

When Sarah was born Steve was in Bahrain for the Gulf War. He didn't get home until she was almost 4 months old. Sarah was born on a Sunday. I knew I was in labor that morning, so friends took Glenn and Aric to church. Mom had already arrived to help me with postpartum life, and to drive the children and me to AL after the baby was born so we could spend Christmas with the extended family. She watched Jacy and Tom while I walked around the neighborhood on the base in Beaufort, SC. After church, the same friends took the boys, including Tom, to see the Christmas parade in downtown Beaufort. Before they got home we had to leave for the hospital, where Sarah was born 45 minutes later.

She was my Christmas gift that year. My friend Mary Ann stayed with me through labor and Sarah's birth. I sent Steve some pictures of Sarah, but he never received them. A few weeks later my friend Trish took pictures of me holding Sarah and sent them to Steve, and he got those. They were all he had until he got home and saw Sarah in person.

Those seventeen years have blown by so quickly. We've enjoyed every day of life with Sarah, and thank God for giving her to us.