Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Courtesy for children - resources

Our homeschooling has tended to be done in waves, due to the ages of our children. Therefore, I often think that I've taught a child something only to realize that I haven't. I taught/read/did that particular fact/book/activity ten years ago with another child or group of children. The children of the first wave are now 27 and 29. The children of the second wave are now 14, 16, 18, and almost 20. The children of the third wave are 5, 9, and 11.

Years ago, I taught Glenn and Aric basic courtesy for boys/young men using nothing but a list I made and consulting Steve to fill in any gaps I might have.

For Tom, Jacy, Sarah, and Joan, we used some material from Rod & Staff, and filled in the gaps with my list.

About a year ago I realized I'd not assessed the manners and habits of the younger children. It is to be hoped that they have learned most everything they need to know about how to behave in a courteous and deferential manner from observing their siblings and Steve and me. And for the most part, I think they have. Still, it was evident that I would have to go over a few things with them so I looked for some books on manners that we could use along with the Bible.

We have to go to the Bible as our primary resource because all courtesy really is the working out of various admonitions in Scripture, and are evidence of our obedience to God and our love for one another. This is just as true for our five-year-old as son it is for his fifty-one-year-old father.

Finding verses that relate to courtesy makes a good Bible study. I've done it alone, and with the children, going from the general to the specific. Today we went over some of those verses again, as a review for everyone, and so that we could compare the Scripture to the books I have David and Marley reading.

Here are a few general verses that guide us in how to behave courteously - what it looks like, so to speak - and why we want to do it:

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:8,9)

Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (I Corinthians 10:24)

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10)

Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Romans 12:16)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil. (I Corinthians 13:4,5)

One thing we agreed upon in our discussion this morning: etiquette is not always the same thing as courtesy. Etiquette is a custom or tradition that a culture or society decides. Courtesy is - or should be - the result of doing unto others as you would have them to you, esteeming others as better than yourself, humbling yourself, putting the comfort and well-being of others ahead of your own comfort and well-being, overlooking offenses, and being a servant, just as Jesus Christ acted as a servant.

Some of our verses that show courtesy more specifically are these:

You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)

Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)

If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. (I Corinthians 10:27)

David is reading Stand Up, Shake Hands, and Say "How Do You Do" It is primarily a book of etiquette, but we've enjoyed discussing it and why we differ on some points in the book. It also contains information he may never use (like whom one should tip or not tip on a cruise), and some information a bit obsolete (to have a good party with girls, one should have a record player and some popular records!), but he's enjoying it and as we keep going back to Scripture I think it's useful enough to continue reading.

Marley is reading A Little Book of Manners: Courtesy and Kindness for Young Ladies. While covering etiquette and manners, this book bases it all on the premise that "Love has manners." Some of the advice differs slightly from what we have our children do, but not substantially. I really like this book, and Marley is enjoying it, too. Covered in this small, prettily illustrated volume are: how to greet others; how to answer and use the telephone; what to do when you're a visitor; mealtime behavior; how to host or be a guest at a party; how and why to write thank-you notes.

Recently I saw that the same authors have written a similar book for boys. I think I may get one for Sam.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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A Vicar's Diary

This book reminded me of James Herriot's books. Perhaps it was the Yorkshire setting, or the many animals that made me think of Herriot. It doesn't matter, because the book was enjoyable in a pleasant, non-demanding way. I think Amazon.com described it as a mix of Jan Karon and James Herriot, and I can see how it would appeal to readers of both of those authors.

A Vicar's Diary is fiction based on fact. David Wilbourne was newly installed as the vicar of Kirkwith in 1965. This book chronicles his first year there, or part of the first year (the book is not set up in true diary-form, so it requires some attention to follow the time covered - from September to April), as he comes to know the people of the village and grows in his love for them and in his love for Christ.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Tasty treats

This recipe is from Kristi and these cookies are so good that they disappear quickly.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided in half
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oats
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 sticks (1 c.) butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. unrefined granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs
1 - 2 c. walnuts
Melt 2 c. of the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Beat butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs. Beat in melted chocolate. Then add the dry ingredients (previously combined together). Add remaining chocolate chips and nuts last, then drop by spoonfuls on the cookie sheet and bake. (350 degrees for 10 -12 minutes.)
I think Kristi may have added 1/4 or 1/2 c. wheat germ, but I could be wrong. Wouldn't hurt to try it!

Jana used to make these muffins and bring them to our food co-op sometimes.

Bran-Flax Muffins
1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
3/4 c. flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
3/4 c. oat bran or All Bran cereal softened in a little milk
1 c. light brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 peeled and shredded apples
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
3/4 c. milk
2 beaten eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 T. vegetable oil or olive oil
MIx first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, apples, raisins, nuts. Combine milk, beaten eggs, vanilla, and oil. Pour into carrot/flour mixture. Stir until ingredients are moist. Do not over-mix. Fill muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Yield: 18 muffins.

Meg's mom, Pat, served this to us once and it was delicious. It's very easy to make for a breakfast treat.

Baked Oatmeal
2 c. uncoooked quick-cooking oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. raisins
1 T. chopped walnuts
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. fat-free milk
1/2 c. applesauce
2 T. butter, melted
1 lg. egg, beaten
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375. Combine first five ingredients in a bowl. Combine milk, applesauce, butter and egg. Add milk mixture to oat mixture; stir well. Pour oat mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

(The heat pump has been repaired.)

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The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Steve and I listened to this last week as we drove to Florida and back. We are just starting to venture into buying audio books, rather than checking them out of the library. This book is only the fourth one we've bought, and we enjoyed it and will keep it.

I think we're very picky about the voice of the reader when we listen to audio books, and that, plus the price, has made us hesitant to purchase books on CD in the past. This reader's voice was well-suited to the story (the reader was Lisette Lecat, a South African) and because I had read the book several years ago, I knew we'd like the plot.

It was pleasant to listen to the book with Steve and hear his reactions. I'd forgotten how slow and sometimes confusing is this first book in the series by Alexander McCall Smith. He really sets the groundwork in setting and characters in this book. I think the rest (except for The Full Cupboard of Life) were all better, but it still was good enough to "reread" again.

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Cold day - no heat pump

The title tells it all. The heat pump is not working and it's 38 degrees outside. The low last night was 20; tonight's low is supposed to be 21 degrees. We are loving the fireplace, and are doing all schoolwork and lounging around in the living room.

Jacy has a basketball game tonight. I think Mom and Dad are going to go watch her play. Sarah and Joan will probably go also. I'll bet that drafty old rec center gym will be warmer than our house!


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Family - lots of it

Last Thursday we made a quick family trip to Florida to visit relatives. We arrived at our destination Thursday night, and came back home Saturday.

Because we've spent the last six years figuring out what we're going to be when we grow up, and moving every year to a new address, we hadn't seen some family members in a long time. Some of the younger cousins couldn't remember one another (or their Aunt Laura - Oh, the horror!) Some cousins (Julian, Sam, and Darrin's newborn son, Rylan) weren't even born the last time we were all together. One cousin will be born in April, but we saw his ultrasound picture. We had a great time - all 48 hours - together, and promised to make more frequent visits in the future. They'll come to us in Alabama, and we'll go to them in Florida. And those that are too elderly to make long trips any more assured us we are welcome to come stay with them now. Twenty-three of us ate, talked, and played together. It was a mini-reunion.

We were all so surprised at how similar Marley and Alyssa are - both in appearance and mannerisms:

Glenn, Amy, Tom and Karin were all missed. Maybe this summer we can make it a full family get-together.


Bible reading

I think every believer has a Bible-reading plan of some sort. For me, that plan includes daily Bible-study and daily Bible reading so as to read through my Bible at least once each year. For the past fifteen years I've tried to read a different Bible each year - both the plain, and the fancy ones. One year it was the King James Version I'd received in Sunday school when I was 6 years old (that's a plain one). Another year it was an NIV study Bible (that's a fancy one). Then I read an old American Standard Version my parents gave me when I was 22. After that was another study Bible... and so on. Some years I'd reread the version/edition I just read. Two years ago I got two new Bibles for Christmas:

The Reformation Study Bible in the English Standard Version...

and the NASB Giant Print Reference Bible.

I decided to use the study Bible to read through for the year, and the NASB for daily study. However, more and more I found myself picking up the NASB giant print for both study and read-through-the-year. At first I thought it was due to my increasingly poor eyesight. The giant print is much kinder to my weak eyes. Today, though, I decided that I'm permanently shelving the Reformation Study Bible to be used for reference, but not daily reading.

Here are my likes and dislikes about the Reformation Study Bible:

1. The English Standard Version is not a version that appeals to me. The language for some reason seems abrupt or choppy in too many places. I'm willing to believe that it's not the fault of the translation, but my upbringing. Old habits die hard, and having memorized scripture in KJV, NKJ, and NASB, my mind trips on familiar verses in an unfamiliar translation. And they usually aren't huge differences, just little minor things. But it's like belting out a familiar hymn only to find they've changed a word and you bawled out the version you've known since you were itty-bitty and couldn't even read. (The hymnal at one church we visited had changed a word in "Come Thou Fount." Steve and I were happily singing - loudly, off-key, and tunelessly - "Here I raise mine Ebenezer..." while the rest of the congregation sang "Here I raise my sign of Vict'ry... .")

2. The study notes seem thin in content. I have read three or four books by R.C. Sproul and was so excited that he was the editor of this Bible. I assumed the notes would be meaty and dense. They aren't.

3. The hardback edition is awkward to haul about and to read at any and every place. It's more suited to stay in one spot, and to be read there. That's my mistake. I should have asked for a leather-bound edition.

4. The pages are so thin that I have to use a pencil to make notes, rather than a pen. Ink bleeds through the page and makes the next page difficult to read. Because I like to underline, star, and make notes in the margins of my Bibles, and because I have more pens than pencils at hand for note-taking, the thin pages are a great disappointment.

5. The doctrinal notes are great! If I need a refresher on justification, sanctification, the greatness of God, divine omniscience, Christ the mediator, etc., I can find it in this Bible.

6. For Bible study, this Bible can be used without extra commentaries.

Dearly beloved family members:

If I bought you a Reformation Study Bible in the past year or two and you are not finding it a joy to read, let me know and I will get you a different Bible.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dishcloths - sneak peek for Marla

I'm shipping these off to Marla today. Guess which one is my favorite.

If you guessed the blue one with the USMC eagle, globe and anchor, you guessed correctly!

I had knitted only one dishcloth before knitting these. Have I been missing out! They were fun, quick knits, easy to do while reading or watching a show on HGTV.

Now I have to get back to work on Mom and Dad's cardigans.


Homemaking meme

This homemaking meme comes from Sallie via Donna. My current reading has included books on housework and housewives, so I was delighted to do this meme, too.

Aprons – Y/N? If Y, what does your favorite look like?
Yes, I prefer aprons that cover the entire torso - like chef's aprons, I guess - and have pockets. I have two favorites, both from sheep and wool festivals. One is tan, and the other is red. Both have sheep on them.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake.

Clothesline – Y/N?
I had one in Virginia, but the one here is still forlornly waiting for the posts to be cemented in the ground and to be strung with new line.

Donuts – Have you ever made them?

Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day.

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
Used to. It died and we haven't replaced it.

Garbage Disposal – Y/N?

Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
Hints from Heloise

Ironing – Love it or hate it? Or hate it but love the results?
Not crazy about it, but I do love the smell of cotton or linen as it is pressed.

Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it?
Yes, in the laundry room.

Kitchen – Color and decorating scheme.
Off-white, white, and brown. No decorating, just as it was when we moved in a year ago.

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?
Those moments when everything comes together - the laundry is all done, the floors are clean, all rooms are tidy, a tasty nutritious meal has been enjoyed by the family, and the kitchen is clean. (I also get a kick out of sweeping the porches.)

Mop – Y/N?
Sometimes. Usually it's a bucket and rag, though.

Nylons – Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
Try to avoid them completely.

Oven – Do you use the window or open the oven to check?
Both. Look in the window, then open the door.

Pizza – What do you put on yours?
Family likes cheese and meat.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?

Recipe card box – Y/N? What does it look like?
No. I have a tatty green folder stuffed with recipes instead.

Style of house – What style is your house?
1875/1906 hybrid. Very plain Victorian without any folderol.

Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?

Vacuum – How many times per week?
We have heart pine floors downstairs, painted hardwood upstairs with a few area rugs. We vacuum maybe once a week.

Wash – How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
Per week? Per day it's 2 to 5, depending on events and how many I did the day before.

X’s – Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?

Yard – Y/N? Who does what?
Steve keeps it looking great, with help sometimes from the children or from Mr. G.

Zzz’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Making sure the thermostat is set low enough for everyone to sleep comfortably.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Just a Housewife"

Glenna Matthews has chronicled the changing views of housewives in America in this book published in 1987. She asserts that the colonial home of the 1750's was taken for granted as an entity, along with the roles of men and women in the domestic sphere. By the 1830's home and the nurturing role of wives and mothers had begun to be sentimentalized, and the duties of housewives in keeping a household running smoothly and providing meals for the family were lauded.

Matthews calls the mid-nineteenth century the "Golden Age of Domesticity." She refers to and quotes from works by Lydia Maria Childs, Horace Bushnell, Henry Ward Beecher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Catherine Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe to support her argument.

Matthews sees industrialization as helping housewives with new inventions for cleaning and cooking, but as not helping relieve much of their labor burdens - chiefly because the automobile added the role of chauffeur to a housewife's list of duties.

From the early 1900's on until the 1980's, this book shows how the role of housewife became more and more devalued, even opposed by both men and women. The feminist movement takes some of the blame, as does the media, advertisers, and popular literature. Although I didn't agree with all of Ms. Matthews' arguments, I appreciated her attempt to show what attitudes towards housewives used to be, how those attitudes changed, and what they were when this book was written twenty years ago.

The book concludes with this:

"We cannot go back - nor would we want to - to the nineteenth-century home. But we can learn from history, and we can be sustained by the heritage of women and men like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and Samuel May. It seems to me that the essence of what they have to teach us is as follows: the good society and the good home are inextricably intertwined."


Martin Chuzzlewit

I hesitate to say write anything about this book by Charles Dickens because I do such a poor job of reviewing what I read, generally sticking to such witty and erudite communications as, "Umm, it's a really good book!" Or, "Bad book. Burn it."

However, I'm very sorry I waited so many years to read this book. It is delightful! I generally describe Dickens's works as urban, dark, and filled with grotesque caricatures. They are enjoyable because he weaves so many subplots together and creates so many mysteries in each book, yet still manages to settle it all neatly and solve each mystery by the end of the book. I'm sure that writing in serial form helped, because each chapter always ends in such a way as to leave the reader anxious to read the next chapter.

I avoided this book because I knew part of the story was set in America, and I could not imagine a Dickens novel with an American setting. I should have gotten over that prejudice sooner. His caricatures of the Americans are hilarious and I'm sure I've actually lived in that swampy, dismal "Eden" he describes.

This story takes place in a village (not London, although the characters make trips to London and the last part of the action takes place there) and is lighter and funnier than most of the other fiction by Dickens. The characters are not such caricatures that they aren't recognizable as someone I might know. The story is marvelous, and two of the characters have to be the best Dickens ever thought up and put on paper.

There are various subplots and minor characters woven in and out, but the basic story is this: Martin Chuzzlewit, Sr., an elderly, wealthy gentleman, is ill and all his relatives - both close and distant - gather to jockey for position as the one who loves him best, thus deserving to inherit his riches. Martin is no fool, and is disgusted by these vultures. He has attending him a young, orphaned woman, whose sole job is to care for him. He has made known to her that as long as he lives, she will be provided for, but when he dies she gets nothing. His grandson, Martin, Jr., is in love with the girl, Mary, and this angers the old man. Harsh words are exchanged between grandfather and grandson, and each quits the company of the other, vowing to have no more contact.

One of the distant relatives is Mr. Pecksniff. He's odious, but not as odious as Dickens could have made him. Sycophantic, but not as sycophantic as Uriah Heep. Falsely pious - but I am ashamed to admit some of his actions and words could have come from me. Pecksniff is a major character in the book, and his rise and ultimate downfall - which he nevers acknowledges, believing himself to be saintly and correct in all his doings, even when unmasked and revealed to all - was the backbone of the story.

Dickens also created two of the sweetest, best men in this story: Mark Tapley and Tom Pinch. Both are selfless, compassionate, and kind to all. No act of mercy or grace is too small for either of them, and Tom is a paragon of virtue for always seeing and believing the best about anyone and everyone. Mark never complains, no matter the circumstances, but finds cause for rejoicing in every trial. They are what I as a Christian should strive to be.

At the end of the book old Martin Chuzzlewit sums up the fatal flaw in his family that caused all sorts of mayhem (including murder) - love of self.

"The curse of our house," said the old man...."has been the love of self; has ever been the love of self. How often have I said so, when I never knew that I had wrought it upon others!"

Good book. Read it.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The sanctity of life

Today is the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which made abortion legal and wide-spread.

As we sat in church Sunday, we listened to a brief presentation from a representative from a Save-A-Life center our church supports. I looked at the pews packed with 18 to 25-year-olds and was so thankful that their mothers did not abort them.

During my child-bearing years Steve and I chose to have most of our babies at military hospitals. Steve was on active duty in the Marine Corps, and military hospitals did not do abortions - ever, under any circumstance. We did have a couple of babies at civilian hospitals which routinely did abortions and the difference in the care and the attitudes of the medical professionals was startling and scary. One of those babies was born alive after natural labor and an intervention-free delivery, and Steve made it a point to get us both released from that hospital as quickly as possible.

The other baby was born dead (at 20 weeks) a few years later at a different hospital. For that baby, my doctor insisted on inducing labor. This was my second baby to die at 20 weeks gestation, and for the first one I had been at an Air Force hospital and where they did numerous ultrasounds and blood tests for hours and hours to make certain that there was no life at all. The nurses, doctors, and technicians were kind and compassionate and kept repeating over and over that they knew this was hard for us to bear, but they must be absolutely certain this infant was dead before they would proceed with any kind of treatment or procedure. If the baby was clinging to life, they would fight to preserve that life as long as possible. If not, then the doctor wanted to go ahead with a D&C because I was already starting to bleed, and he feared I could hemorrhage hours away from a hospital. I was scared, Steve was praying, friends at church were praying, and God ministered to us both through the kindness of these strangers at the hospital.

We were living in a different state a few years later, and had had a healthy living baby after the one that died in utero. I was pregnant again, and again was half-way through the pregnancy when I noticed the same symptoms that had occured when the other baby died. This time I was unable to get military care for the pregnancy, and when my civilian doctor realized that my baby had died, he decided to induce labor immediately at the local hospital. I did know that they did abortions there, but I wasn't really considering what that would mean to me - a woman not aborting her baby, but one losing the child so desperately desired. I was put in a bed in a room and hooked up to an I.V. Two nurses bustled around, but rebuffed my small efforts at conversation. Finally I asked them what was in the I.V. and one rattled off a list of chemicals and medicines and finished up with "... standard ____ Clinic procedure." My entire body felt nerveless, I felt as though my heart stopped, and my face surely expressed the horror I felt as I screamed, "What?! Is my baby alive? Let me go from here!" I knew the ____ Clinic was one of several abortionists in town. The kinder of the two nurses gently pushed me back on the bed and said that, no, my baby was not alive, but this was the method used to induce labor.

The rest of that experience - labor, birth, and the "care" I received afterwards were just as unpleasant. I was grateful that I had God! He was the only one with me throughout. The nurses and doctors were busy, Steve had 5 little children at home and couldn't get away until/unless he could get babysitters, and we told my parents not to make the 10-hour drive because a hurricane was supposed to hit our area in a day or two. There were complications after the birth, and I hemorrhaged and had to have emergency surgery. The hospital was unable to reach Steve before the surgery because our line was tied up (with people calling wanting to know what was going on and how they could help) so he didn't even know about the surgery until after it was all over. That was around midnight, and he couldn't come to the hospital - even with the children - at that time. The difference in the actions and attitudes of medical professionals at a hospital that routinely did abortions and those at a hospital that never did abortions, even accidentally, was striking (and obviously memorable).

I've had 18 pregnancies and from those God has given us 7 living children. I'm grateful. Life is a gift from God. It is precious - from start to finish.


Monday, January 22, 2007


All family members will henceforth address me by my particularly peculiar title:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Noble Excellency Laura the Chimerical of Molton St Anywhere
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title


Friday, January 19, 2007

Baby Island

I first read Baby Island when I was nine. I loved it, reread it numerous times, and eagerly looked forward to the day when I would be allowed to babysit babies on my own.

When my children came along, I read aloud to them the story of Mary, her sister Jean, and the babies: the toddler twins, Elisha and Elijah Snodgrass; infant Jonah Snodgrass; and baby Ann Elizabeth Arlington. The adventures of the girls and babies after being shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island greatly pleased my children, just as they had me.

Today the children and I were discussing what I should read aloud and Jacy and I both said, "Baby Island!" (Other suggestions were Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, and Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson. ) It has been twelve years since I last read Baby Island to the children, so I decided to go with it. Now David, Marley, and Sam get to enjoy the story of Mary, Jean, and their little charges for the first time while Jacy, Sarah, Joan, and I get to delight in a favorite again.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fanny's Dream

(Joan agreed to review one of our favorite picture books, Fanny's Dream.)

I'm 14 years old, and I still like to read Fanny's Dream. Fanny is a farm girl who is dreaming of marrying a prince. Or at least the mayor's son! So when word gets out that the mayor is throwing a ball, of course Fanny has to go. No one thinks she has a chance with the mayor's son, even her own family. But she'll prove them wrong. All she needs to do is go outside and wait for her fairy godmother. Right? Wrong. Fanny ends up waiting for hours and hours for her "fairy godmother" when she finally hears a voice. But that's not her fairy godmother! It's just Heber Jensen. Heber is a nice guy, and he's always liked Fanny, but he was short! Fanny's night wasn't going at all like she had planned. Heber stays outside and talks with Fanny for awhile, but then, he proposes to Fanny! It took her an hour to finally give up her dream, but she decides to marry him.
They marry. Heber is a good husband. He tries to make Fanny feel like a princess at least once a day. They have twin boys. They farm together. They have another baby, a girl. When the twins are 5, they accidentally burn the house down, and Fanny and Heber rebuild it.
One night Fanny goes outside to pick a melon and meets her fairy godmother, years too late. The fairy godmother gives her the opportunity to go to another ball, but what does she choose? She chooses to go back inside to her husband and her children. She realizes that her reality is better than her dream was.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Like aunt, like niece

Fifteen years ago Sarah (age 1 year) climbed into the bathtub where Jacy was taking a bath.

This week Abbey (age 1 year) climbed into the bath where her sister, Mady, was bathing.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's the small things...

... that make life so pleasant and remind me of God's goodness.

When David was younger (maybe 5 or 6) he would say at the end of the day, "This was the best day of my life!" Then he would proceed to list everything that made the day great. All of the events were small, insignificant things, but they filled David's heart with so much thankfulness that he had to share his joy with his family. His recitation would go something like this: "Tom played cars with me; I saw the baby birds in the mailbox; we had bread and cheese for lunch; and Daddy let me go with him to put gas in the car. It was the BEST day EVER!" For about three years we enjoyed these daily exclamations of gratitude for little things, then he gradually stopped. I don't think he's stopped being thankful, but now that he's almost 12 he rarely tells us all about it.

Today has been a "small things" day, and I'm reminded that every day is really a "small things" day. Here are my small things that are making today "the BEST day EVER!"

1. Dad dropped by this morning on his way to Wal-Mart, and since I was also planning to go to Wal-Mart, I went with him. I got to go on an errand with my Daddy. Yeah, I'm 45 and he's 73, but it still feels special to do something with my father. On the way home, we stopped to get gas for the car and got a diet coke for me and a caramel cappuccino for him. It was a great treat for both of us.

2. Along with the food items I bought at Wal-Mart, I also picked up a few fun things and enjoyed my children's expressions of delight over those items as they unpacked the groceries. Jacy, Sarah, and Joan were happy about the red nail polish and the conditioner. David hugged me and said, "I LOVE you, Mommy!" when he saw that I'd bought tea bags for making iced tea. Sam and Marley were excited to see the bottle of bubble bath.

3. The temperature outside is dropping and it's cold enough for a fire in the fireplace. We brought in wood and are enjoying reading and doing schoolwork by the fire.

4. Tom called after he got out of his religion class. He wanted to tell me about his professor and let me know that he was on his way to his next class. This is his second day of classes, so I'm looking forward to hearing about his schedule.

5. I am preparing and serving supper to the high school girls' Bible study group tonight. I like what I'm making (pasties and salad) and am happy to provide a meal for the girls and their leaders.

6. Miss Ruth, an 80-something widow from our church, told me Sunday that she wants to come and help me with the supper tonight. Miss Ruth encourages and inspires with her quiet, kind ways and I always enjoy working together with her and never fail to come away refreshed.

7. Steve will be home tomorrow night - Yippee!


Monday, January 15, 2007

Not pretty, but it works

Last week I took my small knitting project (a dishcloth) with me to Jacy's game. I watched the game and left the needles, yarn, and dishcloth in the bag on the bleachers beside me. Someone stepped on the bag. My beautiful Brittany needles were cracked. Unfortunately, they were my only size 7 straight short needles. Unfortunately I have no yarn store nearby, and the one about 40 minutes away doesn't carry Brittany needles.

So I decided my only option was to repair what I had. I looked around for duct tape, but found none. Asked Steve where he kept the duct tape, and he said we had none. (Which made me wonder what kind of American family are we anyway, with no duct tape on hand?) I did find some electrical tape and carpenter's glue, and with those I mended my needles.

It doesn't look so good, but I can knit.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Cheeseburger pizza - courtesy of Donna

Donna mentioned a bacon cheeseburger pizza today, and since we'd planned to make some kind of pizza for tonight's supper (and because once the idea of a pizza with mustard and pickles on it was in my mind I couldn't think of anything else) we made Donna's pizza, with a couple of tweaks.

I made the dough for the crust while Sarah chopped onions, sliced pickles, and grated extra sharp cheddar cheese. We had the ground beef cooking in a skillet while we worked. Sarah got out the mustard, and we decided we'd try adding ketchup, too. Sarah also made the customary tomato sauce with garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes for a "cheeseburger" pizza for Steve and David, which was made with the sauce, ground beef, onion, and cheese - and nothing else.

After I pre-cooked the crust (400 degrees for 10 minutes) I squeezed ketchup on it in a rough spiral.

Sarah followed with mustard.

Next we added the pickles.

Then we added the cheese, followed by the beef, and topped it all with onion (we had no bacon, much to Sarah's dismay). We baked it just long enough to melt the cheese, then ate it.

It was so good, it was gone within minutes. We (Joan, Sarah, Sam, and I) loved it, and Steve and David sniffed the aroma wistfully and said they wished they could have had some. It tasted like a Krystal burger - only better!

David says that next time we should make one with all of the above ingredients, except for the pickles. "But the pickles are what made it so tasty, David!" Sarah and Joan exclaimed, but they were unable to persuade him.

Thanks so much, Donna! This is going in the family book of favorite recipes.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Knitting mysteries

Over the past few years I've enjoyed most of the needlework mysteries by Monica Ferris. Some were better than others; some I could have missed and been none the worse for it. All the books in the series have featured needlework shop-owner Betsy Devonshire as the sleuth. When the series first began, cross-stitching and needlepoint were the main focus of the fictional shop, Crewel World, and the mysteries.

The latest mystery in the series, Sins and Needles, seems to be the best. This mystery features knitting and cross-stitching/embroidery, and describes a sock-knitting class held at the shop. Throw in a middle-aged woman adopted as an infant looking for her biological family, an elderly wealthy woman who dies (No! - is murdered!), family members looking forward to their shares of inheritance, a satisfactory, neatly-tied-up ending, and you have a book great for a Saturday afternoon when your wrists are hurting too much to knit. When you finish reading, you can knit the "Flag of the United States of America" for a pillow top. The pattern by Denise E. Williams is included, with the star-field printed in chart form.

A Deadly Yarn is the third book in Maggie Sefton's knitting mystery series. These books are fairly innocuous. The murders are delicately off-stage, the corpses are discovered without gruesome descriptions of gore, and the reader has a good time eliminating suspects along with the sleuth, Kelly Flynn. Kelly is an Easterner recently transplanted to Colorado. She inherited her beloved aunt's house, then later received another inheritance from a relative of her aunt. The house is next door to a yarn shop, House of Lambspun, and the second inheritance is a ranch in Wyoming with cattle, sheep, and oil rights. (Real life is never this tidy!)

In this third mystery, the details of Kelly's life move right along, but not too quickly. She's still knitting on a rose-colored cotton/silk sweater knit in the round, and longing to buy new yarn and start something new. She's still seeing Steve, but no romantic entanglements. She's still playing in the softball league, and still addicted to the coffee that is served in the cafe next to the yarn shop, and still enjoying her Rottweiler, Carl.

Kelly solves the mystery of the death of a designer of wearable art (not much weaving content, though it's obviously alluded to) and at the end of the book the reader is rewarded with the pattern for a triangular shawl and two recipes for Chiles Rellenos, one of my favorite foods!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pancit Bihon

Okay, Dy, here's my recipe for Pancit Bihon. It's really an amalgamation of pancit recipes that four friends have taught me to make. Any mistakes are mine. All the good yummy parts are thanks to Ann, Naty, Janet, and Mary. (And for our family of 9, I double this recipe, and we might have leftovers!)

Pancit Bihon

2 packages bihon noodles (Canton or the very thin rice noodles - Naty used the canton; Janet used the rice; Ann used both)
4 celery stalks sliced diagonally
2 cups snow peas, trimmed (or fresh green beans, trimmed)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup carrots, either sliced diagonally or match-sticked
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips (I freeze them slightly, then cut - much easier!) OR 3 cups pork, cut in strips OR use both
1/3 cup oil (I use olive oil), more if needed
1/2 cup soy sauce
salt and pepper
chicken broth

(Mary would use a mix of pork and chicken, and boil them together until tender, then save the broth to use later in the recipe.)

If using rice noodles, soak for a minute or two in water, drain, then cut into smaller segments with kitchen shears (or clean scissors) and set aside. If using canton noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil, dump noodles in for one minute, then drain and set aside.

In a skillet, brown meat in a small amount of oil and some of the soy sauce. I usually cover with a lid so the meat steams while it's cooking and I can be sure it's thoroughly cooked.

In large skillet pour oil and saute vegetables and garlic until vegetables are bright and crisply tender. Add the meat, then the noodles, and stir in the rest of the soy sauce. At this point you need to constantly stir the noodles to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the skillet. Add some broth if you need more liquid, or if the noodles are sticking, use a spatula to move the noodles, veg, and meat over while you pour more oil into the bottom of the skillet. Cooking time from the moment you add the noodles is maybe 5 to 7 minutes. Then supper's done!

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O frabjous day!

Sarah got her driver's license! On the way home we discovered a Thai restaurant, and an Asian market, where we bought some noodles to make pancit bihon.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Good Wives

Ahhh! Nothing like a book that tells all in the title!

Last week I finished Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650-1750. This is another good book by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who also wrote A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 and The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth.

The book is divided into three parts, named after three women from the Bible. Part One is Bathsheba. This first part explains the domestic economy of colonial New England households. Part Two is Eve. Here are details of the intimate side of marriage. Part Three is Jael. In this last third of the book Ulrich tells how religion was sometimes used in strife or discord between neighbors, and how women were able to shape religious practices.

Although I was hoping to follow Down the Common with a similar work of fiction, this non-fiction book was better. I enjoyed the bits and pieces from the lives of ordinary women, several of them descendents of the poet, Anne Bradstreet.

Ulrich writes in the preface, "[Readers]... will find much about housekeeping, childbearing, and ordinary churchgoing, about small conflicts experienced by forgotten women, and about little triumphs that history has not recorded."

These "little triumphs" and notations of the small, ordinary things of daily life make for amazingly rich reading.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Ten things I love that begin with "y"

This meme comes from Sherry, who assigned me the letter "Y."

1. YHWH or Yahweh. I love God. I love imperfectly, and never enough, but by His grace I am loving Him more each moment of each day.

2. Yuletide. I love Christmas. The amazing enormity of John 1:14 always overwhelms me with wonder.

3. Youngsters. I love my children. I thank God for them daily, and am so grateful for the rewards and challenges they bring to my life.

4. Yarn. I love to knit. Since Penny and Meg taught me how to knit five years ago I can't imagine life without yarn of various fibers and pointy needles. What did I do before then?

5. Yardage. As in, cloth, to be cut. I love fabric. When I have the time I enjoy sewing, but I am a very simple seamstress. To my shame I admit that I have lots and lots of yardage waiting to be made into useful garments or furnishings.

6. Yeast. I love to bake, especially breads with yeast. I love the smell of yeast and I love the incredible way it transforms a lump of dough into an air-filled, light loaf.

7. The Year at Thrush Green by Miss Read. I love to read, and this book is one of my favorite re-reads. It's soothing, gentle, mild - perfect for when I'm stressed, or Steve's away on a business trip and the night seems suddenly spooky, or when I don't have the energy to concentrate on something profoundly deep and serious.

8. Yakitori. I love Japanese food, and yakitori is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I think the last time I had some was when I was in labor with Marley - that would have been over nine years ago. Time for more yakitori!

9. Yard. I love our yard. It's not fancy - just a good place for the children to play. I have a bench under the cherry tree where I can sit and knit while I watch them.

10. Yogurt. I love yogurt, especially plain yogurt made with whole milk. That's another treat I haven't had in years.

If you want a letter, leave a comment and I'll select one for you, or go to Sherry and she'll give you one.


Enjoying January

We've got rain coming down all day today. It's very dark outside. It's a perfect day for sleeping in late (every now and then there's a rumble of thunder), reading Dickens, spending the day slothfully in pajamas or sweatpants, knitting, making bread, etc.

I really prefer to bake bread on dry, sunny days because the dampness makes the bread so heavy, but my family loves the dense, stodgy bread we make on damp days, so we'll bake today.
This article on five ways to enjoy January appeared in our newspaper a few days ago, and I'm posting a link to it that I found here.

(And the GAS LEAK was successfully repaired yesterday - Hooray!!)


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Word association

Last night Steve said, "We can't park any vehicles to the right of the driveway because the men will be here tomorrow to work on the gas leak." And then he started talking about something else entirely. I could not focus. All I could think was GAS LEAK! KA-BOOM! RUN AWAY!!! RUN AWAY!!! (As in: Monty Python - coconuts optional.)

Later I questioned Steve about this heretofore unknown (at least to me) GAS LEAK, and he was very off-hand ("Oh, this town is riddled with gas leaks... " What?!) and didn't have a whole lot of information for me, and seemed very unconcerned. I asked if we should vacate the house in the morning, seeing as how said GAS LEAK is only 10 feet from the side of the house with the family room, laundry room, and our bedroom and bathroom. His response? "Nah. I guess you could if you wanted to, but it's not necessary."

My plan was to get all the children up early, take Joan to her orthodontist appointment, then go to the lake for a few hours and play and work there. At 7:50 a.m., I decided not to take all the children, but to get them after the appointment. So I left the van in the carport and took Steve's car. Came home to find the GAS LEAK men blocking the driveway with massive equipment, so we won't be running away to the lake - at least not in the van. Maybe if I could find enough coconuts... .


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Abbreviated reading list for 2007

As usual, I am running behind and am too late to take part in Sherry's blogger's reading lists. But I do have a short list of books I want to read this year. It's only a dozen books - one for each month of the year. That way, I have plenty of room to fit in other books that catch my eye as the year progresses: books I read about on other blogs, or have recommended to me by family and friends; books I see as I wander through bookstores; books from the library; books I find at book sales; books I see while browsing on-line.

Laura's Book List 2007

1. Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens. I love Dickens. I have read almost all of his fiction, but I've held in reserve for the past five years four of his novels that I've yet to read (Martin Chuzzlewit, The Pickwick Papers, Little Dorrit and The Mystery of Edwin Drood). This month I'm reading Martin Chuzzlewit and although I haven't met Sairey Gamp yet, I have been introduced to Mr. Pecksniff and his daughters, Charity and Mercy, Tom Pinch, Mark Tapley, the senior Martin Chuzzlewit, Mr. and Mrs. Spottletoe, Mary Graham, and Mrs. Lupin. Only five chapters into the book, and the story has me enthralled already - who wouldn't be? Just the promise implicit in those characters' names has me wanting to ditch all responsibilities and do nothing but read.

2. Odds Against - Dick Francis. My grandmother loved anything by Dick Francis and she had just about every book he wrote. When Grandmother died I asked for her collection of Dick Francis books, thinking that they must be pretty good because she read and re-read them. (Grandmother was a reader, too. Her tastes were truly eclectic: biographies, theology, classics, mysteries, science, mathematics, political science, current affairs, etc. Her house was stuffed with books - books in every room. Her family room was almost unnavigable because in addition to the books in all the bookcases, there were towering piles of books in every chair - except hers - and stacks of books covering almost every inch of floor space, save a narrow path from the kitchen to her chair and to the hall. She read a book a day for many years until the last few months of her life - she lived to be 97. Grandmother is the only person I know in real life who actually read every volume of the Great Books set, many of them more than once.) Last year I read two books by Dick Francis and enjoyed them, so this year I will at least read one, maybe more. They are decent mysteries.

3. A Woman Doctor's Civil War - Esther Hill Hawks. I cannot resisit diaries, journals, and letters, and this is the diary Mrs. Hawks kept as she lived and traveled about Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina during the war.

4. The World Is Flat - Thomas L. Friedman. I bought this book at the beginning of the school year because I needed something to read while eating lunch. Unfortunately, I quickly reverted to my usual habit of reading the paper while eating lunch, so this will become bedtime reading.

5. Never Done: A History of American Housework - Susan Strasser. Aaah, domestic life! I'd much rather read about scrubbing the linens in a zinc washtub and roasting a chicken in a wood-fired oven than actually doing it, although I do enjoy housework in my 21st century life. This non-fiction book is purely for pleasure-reading.

6. The Birth House - Ami McKay. I think I may have heard about this book through Sarah's blog. It sounded interesting, so I bought a copy. On the back of the book a blurb from the National Post reads: "Poignant, compassionate, bittersweet and nostalgic.... McKay examines the close rural communities in a time when women held families and society together through friendships, shared stories and comfort proffered over pots of tea at knitting circles.... Like Austen, McKay is interested in the personal: daily life, customs and social norms.... A sophisticated storyteller."

7. Witness - Whittaker Chambers. This book has been recommended to me enough times that I'm ready to take the plunge and read it already. It's also a nice, thick book. I'm thinking it'll be good for July, if I haven't started it before then.

8. A Faithful Heart: The Journals of Emmala Reed, 1865 and 1866 - Robert T. Oliver, ed. Emmala Reed was 25, unmarried, and living in a small town in South Carolina when she wrote this journal. I'm interested in this chronicle of her life at the end of the war and the beginning of Reconstruction. Apparently, she waited for her long-time suitor to return home after the war, but when he did come home he married someone else.

9. Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier. I'm probably the only person not to have read this yet. I saw parts of the movie years ago and was so repulsed by it that I had no desire to read the book. However, last year I listened to Frazier's latest book, Thirteen Moons, on CD and liked it so much I decided I needed to give this book a try.

10. Clementine Churchill - Mary Soames. This book caught my eye as I was running through Books-A-Million a few days before Christmas. I bought it, brought it home and handed it to Steve with the whispered plea, "Will you give this to me for Christmas?" It's by the youngest of the Churchill children, Mary Soames. From the back cover of the book: "Clementine Churchill - shy, passionate, high-strung - shunned publicity but was in the limelight throughout her adult life. As a young woman, her character, intelligence, and good looks won the attention of the impetuous Winston Churchill. Their courtship was swift, but their marriage proved immensely strong, spanning many of the major events of the twentieth century. Written with affection and candor by the Churchills' daughter Mary Soames, this revised and updated biography of a lionhearted couple's life together is not only of historical interest but also deeply moving."

11. Victorious Christianity - D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This is the third volume in Dr. Lloyd-Jones's series on the book of Acts. The first two were wonderful, and I'm sure this one will be wonderful also.

12. The Illustrated History of the Housewife - Una A. Robertson. Again, a look at domestic life. This one covers the housewife's role in the home from 1650 to 1950. I just read Good Wives by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and am now reading "Just a Housewife" by Glenna Matthews. This should help round out my studies on housekeeping in a pleasant way.

What's on your list?

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

(The ladybugs remind me of Beth - I think she'd like this print.)

Steve's birthday was yesterday and while it was busy, it was busy in an enjoyable, relaxing way. We all stayed up to see in the new year, but because it was raining we didn't set off fireworks at the lake.

Everyone slept in this morning, then each did whatever he wanted to do. It was very nice. This evening we went out to the lake and Tom and David set off fireworks for our enjoyment. Mom and Dad had Ed and Joanne over, so they came out and helped to swell our little audience for the pyrotechnics. It was so cold, and the wind was biting, but there were moments of stunning beauty. Joan pointed out the break in the clouds that allowed moonlight to shine on the lake, even though we couldn't see the moon. The greens, reds, and yellows of the fireworks were brilliant against the backdrop of the ragged gray and black clouds. We huddled together under blankets on the beach and ooooh-ed and aaahh-ed for the show.

Auburn won their bowl game. Steve watched, and is continuing to watch, bowl games. Jacy went to Mary Beth's. Tom got living room furniture from Chuck and Kim. David, Sam, Marley and Joan filmed movies with David's little camera. Sarah read, listened to music, and IM'ed. I worked on adding more of our books to LibraryThing. (I think if I work on it tonight and tomorrow I can finish the downstairs books, and I think that when I have all the downstairs books done, I'll be over half-way with all our books!)